Friday, 30 October 2009

New Evolution Survey Suggests More People Say No To Darwin

Darwin Now, a new international evolution survey, suggests that many people no longer welcome the Darwinian monopoly in science education.

Joel Kontinen

To celebrate Charles Darwin’s double anniversary, British Council commissioned a global evolution survey. The researchers interviewed 11, 768 adults in ten countries (Argentina, China, Egypt, Great Britain, USA, Spain, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia), asking them to state their views on the teaching of evolution in science classes.

Supporters of Darwinian evolution might find the results somewhat disappointing: 43 per cent of all respondents hoped that in addition to evolution, alternatives such as intelligent design (ID) and creationism would also be taught at school.

On Darwin’s home turf in Great Britain, where the researchers interviewed 973 people, 54 per cent wished for alternatives to evolution. It is probably surprising that the percentage is slightly higher than that in the USA, where 51 per cent hoped for “other possible perspectives”. In Russia (1600 interviewees) a mere 10 per cent opted for the evolution only approach and 53 per cent wanted it to be accompanied by either intelligent design or creationism.

Globally, 20 per cent of the respondents thought that only evolution should be taught at school.

The Darwin Now survey also suggests that the more people know about evolution, the more they want alternatives for it. In Egypt, only 19 per cent of the respondents wanted alternatives to the Darwin only approach. It is probably significant that of the 1277 Egyptians interviewed, 36 per cent said that they did not know about the issue.

The results of the study agree with other similar surveys (see, for instance here and here. )

Darwinists are busy searching for reasons for their lack of popularity, as they did in March in Great Britain when they were not exactly pleased with previous survey results.


British Council Global Education Darwin Survey .

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Atheism 3.0: Religion Is Good for Individuals and Society

Bruce Sheiman is an atheist who defends religion.

Joel Kontinen

In the past few years, militant atheists have vociferously attacked religion in general and Christianity in particular. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have hardly admitted seeing anything positive in faith.

However, a new generation of atheists does not take an aggressive approach to religion. Bruce Sheiman, for instance, wrote a book entitled An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off with Religion than Without It (2009).

According to Sheiman,

Faith provides meaning and purpose for millions of believers, inspires people to tend to each other and build communities, gives them a sense of union with a transcendent force, and provides numerous health benefits.

More than any other institution, religion deserves our appreciation and respect because it has persistently encouraged people to care deeply — for the self, for neighbors, for humanity, and for the natural world — and to strive for the highest ideals humans are able to envision

Sheiman is by no means the last of the Mohicans among his ideological comrades who reject faith in God but espouse the blessings that religion brings.

There are so many atheists who think religion is beneficial for both individuals and society that USA Today coined the expression atheism 3.0.

Greg M. Epstein, a humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and Austin Dacey , a former UN representative, also belong to this new generation of atheists who feel that religion has an important role in society.

This kind of ”evolution” is welcome, especially as we are celebrating the double anniversary of Charles Darwin.


Burke, Daniel. 2009. Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for religion. USA Today. (19 October)

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Ida: From Human Grandmother to Lemur Grandmother

Goodbye, Ida! Image credit: Franzen JL, Gingerich PD, Habersetzer J, Hurum JH, von Koenigswald W & Smith BH (2009). Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005723.

Joel Kontinen

Fossils found in Egypt that are assumed to be 37 million years old are robbing Ida of her status as a potential human ancestor. Erik Seiffert of Stony Brook University and colleagues analysed over 100 teeth and jawbone pieces and gave their find the name Afradapis longicristatus. They published their research in Nature.

Afradapis longicristatus is said to be Ida’s younger relative.

The new discoveries suggest that the ado caused by Grand Aunt Ida was premature. Published in May in PLoS ONE, the fossil known as Ida or Darwinius masillae graced the covers of myriads of magazines and stared at us from the front pages of countless newspapers. However, many experts already doubted her significance.

Ida, whose remains are assumed to be 47 million years old, was able to enjoy the limelight for a while. Now, however, she has to make do with her less prestigious role as the grandmother of lemurs.

Sic transit gloria mundi, said Thomas à Kempis, the 15th century Dutch monk who authored the classic Imitatio Christi, ’so passes away the glory of the world’.


Dalton, Rex. 2009. Fossil primate challenges Ida’s place. Nature 461: 7267, 1040.

Gibbons, Ann. 2009. New Primate Fossil Poses Further Challenge to Ida. ScienceNOW Daily News. (21 October)

Seiffert, Erik R., Jonathan M. G. Perry, Elwyn L. Simons and Doug M. Boyer. 2009. Convergent evolution of anthropoid-like adaptations in Eocene adapiform primates. Nature 461: 7267, 1118-1121.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Famous Monkey Trial Presented in London

A parody of the famous monkey trial of 1925 is being presented at the Old Vic in London. Image from the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.

Joel Kontinen

Inherit the Wind is a court drama written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee in 1955. It flagrantly misrepresents the 1925 Dayton monkey trial.

At the time John Scopes, a football coach and substitute teacher, was accused of breaking the Butler Act of Tennessee that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the state’s schools. The purpose of the trial (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) was to ascertain whether he had claimed that man descended from apes.

The stage version currently playing at the Old Vic in London is based on this 1955 production of Inherit the Wind.

In reporting the play, Celeste Biever of New Scientist fails to mention that Inherit the Wind was an attempt to re-write history. Although John Scopes, who is known as Bertram Cates in the film, was accused of teaching evolution, he later admitted that the entire case was a hoax and that he did not even reach the part of the biology textbook that discussed evolution.

The trial was a ploy. The Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was looking for a teacher who would challenge the Butler Act. They also wanted to propagate evolution. Moreover, local politicians hoped to make Dayton more widely known.

Ms. Biever mostly uses the play as a ruse to attack Intelligent Design in general and Michael Behe in particular.

Defence lawyer Clarence Darrow, who in the film is called Henry Drummond, was anything but an objective defender of the truth. He insulted the judge during the trial and instructed both Scopes and his students to lie that he had taught evolution. Scopes acknowledged this later.

William Jennings Bryan, one of the prosecutors in the case, who is called Matthew Harrison Brady in the film, was not a simple-minded fundamentalist as he is described in Inherit the Wind. Bryan was one of the most popular speakers and politicians of his time. He served as Secretary of State during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and he had been the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States three times.

It is perhaps revealing that Ms. Biever is absolutely silent about the evidences that evolutionists at the time (in 1925) used in trying to convince people that they are descended from apes. Their two outstanding fossils were Nebraska man or Hesperopithecus haroldcookii, consisting of one single tooth that was later identified as belonging to an extinct pig, and Piltdown man or Eoanthropus dawson, one of the greatest hoaxes in science of all time.

The book that Scopes used in his classes was Hunter’s Civic Biology (1914). It includes some interesting details about humans:

"At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; The American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America."

It seems that the ”facts” of evolution have changed quite a bit since the days of the Dayton monkey trial.


Biever, Celeste. 2009. 'Monkey trial' drama is more than a defence of evolution. New Scientist (19 October)

Excerpts from Hunter's Civic Biology (1914).

Menton, David. 2003. Inherently Wind: A Hollywood History of the Scopes Trial. Answers in Genesis DVD.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

National Geographic News: A Third of Dinosaur Species Never Existed

According to a National Geographic documentary there were far fewer dinosaur species than we thought. Image: dinosaurs at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky.

Joel Kontinen

Dinosaurs Decoded is a new documentary that challenges our views of dinosaurs. The film, produced by the National Geographic Channel, claims that a third of dinosaur species never existed.

Young dinosaurs differed in many ways from their parents. However, researchers have not always taken this into account. Science thus ”knows” species that have never existed.

Mark Goodwin of the University of California, Berkeley, and Jack Horner of Montana State University, are prominent palaeontologists who present their discoveries in the documentary. They suggest, for instance, that the relatives of T. rex were often classified as distinct species although they actually were juveniles that lacked the traits that are characteristic of adult Tyrannosaurs.

Nowadays many researchers regard Nanotyrannus as a young T. rex. They know that dinosaurs changed as they got older just like many present species do. For instance, deer get their antlers when they are full-grown.

Dinosaurs Decoded has important ramifications for the reliability of fossil finds. It suggests that we should perhaps take a more skeptical approach to them – or at least to headlines that advertise a discovery as the fossil of the century.

Later research almost always brings to light features that refute the original claims of the importance of the discovery. Recently, we saw this happen in the case of the Ida fossil.

Finding a new species brings prestige and fame to its discoverer. Is it any wonder, then, that scientists habitually defend the importance of their fossil and discount the significance of rival discoveries? Richard Leakey, whose research team found Turkana Boy, the famous Homo erectus fossil, for instance, moved Lucy or Australopithecus afarensis to a side branch of the hominid tree.

Seen from a creation perspective, Dinosaurs Decoded is a welcome innovation. Noah did not have to take as many dinosaurs on board the ark as evolutionists assumed. In addition, it is good to keep in mind that the average dino was as small as a sheep or a calf.


Barras, Colin. 2009. Richard Leakey: Passionate, prickly and principled. New Scientist 2730 (14 October)

Handwerk, Brian. 2009. A Third of Dinosaur Species Never Existed? National Geographic News (9 October)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Thou Shalt Not Criticise Climate Change!

Nature and the mainstream media argue that Earth’s anthropogenetic or man-made global warming is one of the holy issues that should not be criticised. Image courtesy of NASA.

Joel Kontinen

BBC’s climate correspondent Paul Hudson recently wrote an article in which he also let critics of global warming present their views. Hudson did not even say that he doubts long-term global warming but he suggested that the debate on the reasons behind climate change is expected to heat up.

According to Hudson, Earth’s climate has not become any warmer in 11 years and we might face a cooler period that could last 30 years. UN’s climate models did not predict anything like that.

Hudson’s article caused quite a stir. First, Guardian entered the fray. The British daily asked why on earth BBC published such an article. Next, Nature took umbrage at Paul Hudson for quoting Piers Corbyn and Don Easterbrook, who are known to be climate skeptics.

According to Nature, climate skepticism is a fringe phenomenon. As a prestigious science publication it naturally has the heavy responsibility of reminding its readers that the overwhelming consensus view within the scientific community is that the man-made increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is the root of all kinds of evil and that dissidents are heretics who should be avoided at all costs.

The commotion caused by one critical article probably reveals more about the worldview of climate change advocates than about anything else. Has climate change become a holy dogma that cannot be challenged?

Nature’s article would at least suggest this. It reminds me of the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 1:25:

" They … worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. "

You can read Paul Hudson’s article here.


Carmichael, Bill. 2009. Weathering a climate of hate. Yorkshire Post. (15 October).

Cressey, Daniel. 2009. Climate sceptics celebrate BBC story. (12 October)

The Newest Just-So-Story: Monkeys Invented Music

Before anyone had heard of Mozart, I made music. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Music has its origins in monkey drumming, claims a new study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers came up with this not-so-novel idea when they noticed that rhesus monkeys used to bang the doors of their cage and other objects.

Recently, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen scanned the brains of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) while these monkey listened to either drumming or the calls of other monkeys. They noticed that the sounds activated the brain’s temporal lobe that in humans has been associated with speech and vision.

According to Christoph Kayser, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute, drumming was invented as a means of communication in the dawn of primate evolution.

Humans often use non-verbal communication. For instance, we clap our hands, knock on doors and drum. We use our limbs to form repetitious sound patterns or beats.

Kayser and colleagues thus conclude that as Darwinian evolution progressed, drumming became that for what we now need earplugs in order to preserve the remnant of our faculty of hearing.

However, the observed behaviour of monkeys does not necessarily say anything definite about the origin of music.

There seems to be nothing new under the sun. Charles Darwin already speculated that music evolved from the calls of ape men.

Monkey tales or Darwinian just-so-stories still flourish in science journals although it is questionable whether they have anything to do with real science.


Choi, Charles Q. 2009. Monkey Drumming Suggests the Origin of Music. LiveScience (16 October)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The Spider That Eats Vegetables

Bagheera kiplingi. Image courtesy of Maximilian Paradiz, Creative Commons(CC BY 2.0).

Joel Kontinen

The diet of the Bagheera kiplingi does not match our assumptions of the culinary habits of spiders. We would expect it to use its web to capture insects. However, its favourite food consists of the tips of acacia leaflets.

The spider has got its name from the panther called Bagheera that Rudyard Kipling wrote about in his Jungle Book.

In 2007 Eric Olson and Christopher Meehan studied the Bagheera kiplingi in Mexico. To their surprise, they noticed that the spiders did not capture ants living in symbiosis with the acacias but they ate the nutritious Beltian bodies found at the tips of acacia leaflets.

For evolutionists, this was weird. However, seen from a creation aspect this is not at all surprising. The Book of Genesis states that in the beginning all animals were herbivorous, i.e., vegetarian, before the Fall brought death and suffering into the world.

Moreover, B. kiplingi is not the only ”weird” animal. At least one cat and two lions are known to have been vegetarians. This suggests that even animals that we would regard as predators do not necessarily need meat to survive.

Olson, Meehan and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Current Biology. Scientific American, a popular magazine, also reported on the discovery.

Both publications were a bit late. In September, Dr. David Catchpoole, an Australian plant physiologist, already wrote an article in Creation magazine about the eating habits of B. kiplingi.


Catchpoole, David. 2009. Vegetarian Spider. Creation 31 (4): 46.

Harmon, Katherine. 2009. Unusual Spider Species Passes Up Live Prey for Plants. Scientific American. (12 October).

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

BBC: Climate is not changing but the discussion is getting hotter

According to new data, Earth’s temperature has not risen for 11 years. Image courtesy of NASA.

Joel Kontinen

Earth’s climate has not become any warmer in 11 years. Up to now, the warmest year was 1998. Although there is more man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, temperatures have not risen.

Surprisingly, this news item was not published on a blog that takes a skeptical approach to climate change but on the science pages of BBC news. According to climate correspondent Paul Hudson, our planet warmed rapidly in the 20th century but now this warming has stopped.

Hudson does not mention Ian Plimmer, the controversial Australian geologist who was known as a fierce critic of creation but is now a self-proclaimed climate skeptic. Instead, he quotes more moderate experts.

Atmospheric scientists do not agree on the reason for the cooling. Dr. Piers Forster of Leeds University, who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that the warming during the past few decades was not due to the sun.

However, solar scientist Piers Corbyn says that the sun’s effect has actually been underestimated.

Hudson also quotes Don Easterbrook, a professor at Western Washington University, who suggests that the oceans have a greater effect on climate than was supposed. The 1980s and 1990s were exceptionally warm. Now we have entered a cooler period that he expects to last 30 years.

Professor Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC, admits that we might indeed be on our way towards a cooler period. However, he does not expect it to last as long as Easterbrook suggests.

The forecast? According to Hudson, the discussion on the reasons behind climate change is expected to heat up.

Al Gore and the Nobel Committee might also get something to think about. Barack Obama probably got this year’s peace prize partly because of his believe in man-made global warming.


Hudson, Paul. 2009. What happened to global warming? BBC News (9 October)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Obama’s Peace Prize: Once Again, a Bizarre Choice

In 2003 belief in a literal Adam and a literal Eve most probably cost Raymond Damadian the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Image from the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.

Joel Kontinen

The Nobel Committee’s decision to grant this year’s Peace Prize to Barack Obama has given rise to much debate about the motives of the Nobel Committee and the political nature of the choice.

In addition, the names of some past Nobel laureates, such as Jasser Arafat and Al Gore, might suggest something about the speculative nature of the Peace Prize.

Obama got his prize by talking. Last year’s laureate, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, actually brought peace to several war-torn countries, for instance Namibia. In contrast, Obama has not brought peace anywhere.

While Obama’s nomination was bizarre, it was by no means the first outlandish decision the Nobel Committee has made. At times, its choices have been anything but noble. In 2003 the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Paul Lauterbur and Sir Peter Mansfield for their breakthroughs in Magnetic Resonance Imaging ( MRI). However, Raymond Damadian, the pioneer of the field who invented the MRI scanner, was overlooked.

Michael Ruse, a Canadian philosopher of science known for his agnosticism, thinks that the Nobel Committee did not want to bestow the prize on Dr. Damadian since he is a creationist who believes that God took six days to create the world and that the flood of Noah’s day was a real historical event.

It seems that the Nobel Committee did not want to award a scientist who takes a critical view of Darwinian evolution.


Wieland, Carl. 2004. The not-so-Nobel decision. Recognition denied for achievement of great scientist Raymond Damadian—who is also a creationist. Creation 26 (4): 40-42.

God Did Not Create the World in the Beginning?

Gustave Dorén: Creation of Light. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Ellen van Wolde, a Dutch professor of Old Testament studies, claims that the first verse of Genesis has been mistranslated. In her view, the Hebrew word bara (‘to create’) does not mean what we think that it means.

Professor Van Wolde, who used to work with novelist Umberto Eco, concedes that bara does technically mean ’to create’. However, she explains that the writers of the Bible did not mean that God would have created everything but that he only created people and animals.

According to her, Earth already existed in Genesis 1:1. She believes that bara refers to separating. She suggests that the verse should read, "In the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth." He also separated the dry land from the sea and the sea monsters from the birds and land animals.

Van Wolde says that her view stems from what the Bible as a whole and other ancient creation stories say about the beginning. She rejects the traditional Judeo-Christian creatio ex nihilo (‘creation from nothing’) view as erroneous.

In reality, the expression heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1 is a figure of speech called merism in which individual parts refer to the whole. Thus, by heaven and earth the writer of Genesis means the entire universe.

Van Wolde’s view differs diametrically from that of other Old Testament scholars.

James Barr (1924-2006), who was Oriel Professor of the interpretation of the Holy Scripture at Oxford University, wrote:

"Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:
1. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience
2. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story
3. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark."

According to professor Barr, bara in Genesis 1:1 means exactly what we believe it to mean, i.e. God created everything from nothing by His word.

In contrast, van Wolde reads into the Genesis text something that is not there. She says that according to other ancient creation writings, it was dark in the beginning and sea monsters dwelt in the big waters.

Bible scholars call this kind of interpretation eisegesis. Exegesis is an explanation that rises from the Bible text. In contrast, eisegesis (’bringing into’) means that the reader brings his or her own ideas into the Bible text.

Skeptics have occasionally brought naturalistic explanations into the Bible. During the past few years we have heard the following stories: ”Jesus walked on an ice floe , ”Moses suffered from hallucinations” and ”Jesus’ family tomb was discovered” that all made headlines.

Re-interpreting the first verses of Genesis belongs to the same category. While one might make headlines with wild hypotheses, they have little if anything to do with academic Bible research.


Alleyne, Richard. 2009. God is not the Creator, claims academic. (8 October)

Barr, James. 1984. Letter to David C. C. Watsonille, 23 April 1984.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Richard Dawkins Used Ernst Haeckel’s Fake Embryo Diagrams as Evidence for Evolution

Ernst Haeckel’s embryo diagrams were known to be fraudulent 135 years ago. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Richard Dawkins used Ernst Haeckel’s fake embryo diagrams as evidence for evolution in the TV series The Genius of Charles Darwin, which was filmed in 2008. At least some episodes are on You Tube.

In 1866 Ernst Haeckel published his notorious embryo diagrams in the book Generalle Morphologie der Organismen. He speculated that different species resemble each other during the early stages of their development. According to this hypothesis, humans go through a fish stage before birth.

During Haeckel’s lifetime, some scientists doubted his explanation. Already in 1874 professor Wilhelm His said that the drawings were fraudulent.

In 1997 Michael K. Richardson and colleagues published images of what the embryos really look like in the journal Anatomy and Embryology. They differed diametrically from Haeckel’s illustrations.

Both Science and New Scientist reported on Richardson’s findings. This should have been the death knell for Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings.

Unfortunately, high school and college biology text books continued to include embryo diagrams modelled after these fake drawings.

Now it seems that either Richard Dawkins does not read science journals or he does not bother to look at articles that pose hard questions for Darwinian evolution.

Or perhaps he thinks that it is permissible to use misleading evidence in a struggle between worldviews.

Recently, Richard Dawkins turned down an invitation to debate Stephen Meyer on evolution. Doctor Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell was published a few weeks ago.

This was not the first time when Dawkins refused to discuss Darwinism with its critics. For instance, a year ago he turned down the chance to debate the Turkish evolution skeptic Harun Yahya.

Dawkins would hardly have been successful in any debate had he used Haeckel’s embryo drawings as proof of Darwinian evolution.


Grigg, Russell. 1998. Fraud rediscovered. Creation 20:2, 49–51.

West, John. 2009. No Joke: Richard Dawkins Still Peddling Haeckel’s Fraudulent Embryo Diagrams! Evolution News & Views (8 October)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Stone age people wore colourful clothes

The stone age people of Gran Canaria were skilful pottery makers. New research reveals that our knowledge of stone age haute couture also needs to be updated.

Joel Kontinen

In the film One Million Years B.C. (1966) Raquel Welch wears leather bikinis. The clothes of Fred Flintstone were not exactly bright and glaring, either. Like film makers and cartoonists, many others have also assumed that stone age people wore drab animal skins.

However, Science recently suggested that this mistaken view deserves to be discarded since it stems from either a lack of knowledge or from persistent prejudice – or both.

Archaeologists found pink, black and turquoise fibres in the east European (or west Asian) republic of Georgia. They now believe that stone age people used them for making clothes. The finds were dated at 34, 000 years BP (before present). They are probably much younger since dating methods are notoriously unreliable.

The researchers found the flax fibers in a cave. They suggest that in addition to clothes, the people who lived there might also have used them to make ropes and baskets.

Living in caves does not necessarily mean that mankind’s history would stretch back hundreds of thousands or even a million years. The Bible tells us about Lot who lived in a cave with his daughters for a while after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah some 4,000 years ago.

For instance, caves are still used as houses in parts of the Canary Islands.

Our knowledge of stone age people has changed considerably during the past few years. We now know that they wore shoes, and made musical instruments , tools and weapons.

These discoveries do not support the Darwinian view of a gradual evolution from extremely primitive savages to sophisticated Facebook and Twitter users.

Ape-like cavemen who could barely utter a few monosyllables are figments of Darwinian imagination. The real early history of man can be read in the Book of Genesis.


Derbyshire, David. 2009. Our Stone Age ancestors wore bright and garish clothes. Daily Mail. (11 September)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

New Scientist: Charles Darwin erred on the time it takes to domesticate wild animals

The domestication of wild animals, such as otters, takes much less time than Charles Darwin assumed. Image courtesy of Bernard Landgraf, Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

How long does it take to domesticate an animal species living in the wild? Charles Darwin assumed that domestication was an extremely slow process.

New Scientist reports on the experiments that the Russian geneticist Dmitry Belayev initiated 50 years ago. He obtained 130 silver foxes from a fur farm in Estonia and began conducting breeding experiments. While the foxes were wild, they were ”relatively friendly”. In just four generations, some of the foxes began to wag their tails. After 20 years Belayev and his colleagues had domesticated the foxes.

Belayev also experimented with rats, mink and river otters. Some rats became tame in 30 years. The mink were even faster: they began to show signs of domestication in four generations. In addition, over a third of the river otters that were completely wild in the beginning were tame after 13 years.

The long eras speculated by Charles Darwin are thus not necessary at least for the domestication of these animals.

New Scientist could not resist including a little just-so monkey tale into the article: According to the magazine, Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropologist at Harward University, believes that humans were also domesticated. From a chimpanzee-like ancestor we became the ”relatively tame species” we are now.

Who, then, domesticated man? We did it ourselves, Wrangham says.

This is how it goes. When an article in an out-and-out evolutionary magazine ends with an ape-connection, the readers will no longer dwell on Darwin’s error.


Nicholls, Henry. 2009. My little zebra: The secrets of domestication. New Scientist 2728 (30 September)

Friday, 2 October 2009

Much Ado About Ardi

The discovery of Ardipithecus ramidus, recently published in Science, changes man’s pedigree –once again. Image courtesy of Science via © 2009, J.H. Matternes.

Joel Kontinen

In Ardipithecus ramidus we have the second fossil to be touted as the discovery of the century this year. The first was the case of Ida or Darwinius masillae that turned out to be a flop.

Before Ida, we had the Hobbits or H. floresiensis. And during the dark ages, i.e. the 1970s, we all became acquainted with our grandmother Lucy a.k.a. Australopithecus afarensis.

According to Science, Ardipithecus ramidus, found in Afar in Ethiopia, is 4.4 million years old or 1.2 million years older than Lucy. Ardi is touted as the oldest hominid discovery of all time.

Putting together the fossil bones has been like trying to fit the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, as for instance the skull was badly crushed and it had to be put together from over 60 broken pieces that had spread over a large area.

Ardi was found in 1994. It took 15 years to reconstruct Ardi’s extremely fragile bones and put them together, which might say something about the speculative nature of the outcome. describes the condition of Ardi’s earthy remains, quoting Penn State paleoanthropologist Alan Walker:

"One problem is that some portions of Ardi's skeleton were found crushed nearly to smithereens and needed extensive digital reconstruction. 'Tim [White] showed me pictures of the pelvis in the ground, and it looked like an Irish stew,' says Walker."

It seems that the researchers’ basic assumptions decided which pieces they put where. While the bones were extremely fragile to the point of breaking apart in their hands, they nevertheless succeeded in putting together the remains of a female hominid estimated to be 47 in or 120 cm tall and weigh 50 kg.

Andrew Hill of the University of Yale says in a video released by Science that only four or five hominid fossils have been found. Most of our assumed ancestors are only known from skull fragments like in the case of Sahelanthropus, or from a few teeth or a bone or two.

What is obvious, however, is that evolutionists have been teaching a history of our past that is not true and man’s genealogical tree will have to be re-drawn. The discovery of Tim White and colleagues has awakened the Darwinists to realise that the assumed ancestor of man and the chimpanzee does not primarily look like a chimpanzee.

Hill disclosed that since very few chimpanzee and gorilla fossils have been found, researchers had not expected them to have changed considerably.

There is much less glory to be had in discovering a chimpanzee or gorilla ancestor than in getting a human forefather on the cover of a prestigious science journal. Perhaps for this reason few would even want to look for them.

Ardi has a typical ape’s foot, i.e. its big toe is sticking out sideways. Many evolutionists believe that Lucy or Australopithecus afarensis left the Laetoli footprints that do not considerably differ from those left by modern man although Lucy’s big toe most probably also stuck out sideways like Ardi’s. Ardi was definitely not able to leave such marks.

Dating old fossils is a game that is anything but precise since scientists will not date the fossils but rather the age of the place where they are found and since the methods include many assumptions. Thus, we cannot be certain whether Ardi really is the oldest hominid.

In addition, there is something suspicious in keeping extremely fragile fossil pieces out of the public eye for fifteen long years.


Dalton, Rex. 2009. Oldest hominid skeleton revealed. Nature News. (1 October)

Science. 2009. Before “Lucy,” There Was “Ardi”: First Major Analysis of One of Earliest Known Hominids Published in Science.

The Analysis of Ardipithecus ramidus--One of the Earliest Known Hominids. Science Video.

Lemonick, Michael D. & Dorfman, Andrea. 2009. Ardi Is a New Piece for the Evolution Puzzle.,8599,1927200-2,00.html

Luskey, Casey. 2009. Bones of "Ardi," New Human Evolution Fossil, “Crushed Nearly to Smithereens”. Evolution news and views.

White, Tim D. 2009. Authors' Summary: Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids. Science 326: 5949, 64, 75-86. (2 October).