Focus: News of interest about creation and evolution
Fears for fossil bird after owner suicides
Anxious fossil experts in Europe fear that one of the world’s most controversial fossils may now be on sale on the black market.
The fossil is one of only six known specimens of the bird Archaeopteryx lithographica. It is valued at up to $5 million.
The specimen disappeared after its owner and discoverer, Eduard Opitsch, suicided in 1991 at the age of 91. Opitsch removed his fossil—the Maxberg specimen—from public display in 1974 and then refused all access to it.
Peter Wellnhofer, from the Bavarian Palaeontological Museum in Munich, has warned museums and scientists to be on the lookout for the missing Archaeopteryx. He asked anyone learning of its whereabouts to ‘be cautious, but inform either us or the police.’
Nature Vol. 357, May 7, 1992 (p.6).
Many evolutionists regard Archaeopteryx as an example of an evolutionary transition between reptile and bird because it has features common to both. Creationists point out that the crucial distinguishing features between these two classes are all perfectly formed—it shows no part-scales/part-feathers, part-wings/part-legs, etc., which would need to have been part of any real transitional series.
Prince Charles sparks Genesis uproar
Prince Charles, heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and potentially the next head of the Church of England, has sparked controversy in the church by suggesting that the Muslim Koran gives better guidance on creation than does the Christian Bible.
Prince Charles wrote a preface to an environmental book called Save the Earth. In it he said that Genesis provides a licence to exploit the environment by implying that the world was created to be at man’s disposal.
‘By contrast,’ he wrote, ‘the Koran specifically mentions the fact that the natural world is loaned from God.’
The Christian News, April 6, 1992 (p. 3).
The Bible in fact says man was given ‘dominion’ over the earth. But ‘dominion’ does not mean ‘exploitation’ or ‘ownership’. Psalm 24:1 says, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Do three teeth make an ancestor?
Three fossilized teeth found in the Algerian desert have been hailed as the discovery of man’s earliest ancestor, shared with apes, monkeys and baboons. The teeth are claimed to be 50 million years old.
Professor J. Jaeger, head of evolutionary science at France’s Montpelier University, says that based on these three teeth this creature was monkey-like, had a long tail with which it swung on tree branches, weighed about a kilogram (two pounds) and lived on fruit and leaves.
Dr Peter Andrews, of the British Museum of Natural History, disagrees about the diet. He insists the creature would have eaten only leaves because it was not intelligent enough to locate fruit trees.
The Daily Telegraph Mirror, May 29, 1992 (p.28).
This would be funny if it wasn’t sad. It appears that the lessons of ‘Nebraska man’ (in which a pig’s tooth was reconstructed as our ‘ape-man ancestor’) have been forgotten in a new rush of evolutionary enthusiasm. (See also the ‘Singing bones’ quote on p. 50.
New UFO theory
Some UFO sightings may be simply glowing balls of electricity that appear near the epicentres of impending earthquakes, a geophysicist has suggested.
Dr John S. Derr of the US Geological Survey said he had done a computerized study of UFO reports throughout New Mexico in 1951 and 1952.
He said that dozens of the reports were clustered within a 60-mile radius of the epicentres of three earthquakes which occurred only months after the UFO reports.
Dr Derr said that reports of unidentified flying objects which weren’t such things as satellites, meteorites, planes or planets may be ‘earthquake lights’. These were glowing spheres of electricity about the size of a basketball caused by the crushing of rock or changes in groundwater flow as underground stress built up prior to an earthquake.Press Enterprise, April 15, 1992 (p. A-5).
Octopuses are smarter than many people think, two Italian researchers say.
The researchers took two groups of octopuses. They placed one group in a tank and trained them to attack a red ball in the tank. They then trained the other group to attack a white ball in the tank.
After training, the researchers placed groups of untrained octopuses in an adjacent tank to witness the trained group attack either the red ball or the white ball.
The ‘observer’ octopuses were tested after four demonstrations. The researchers found that the observers not only attacked the correct ball, but they learned faster and made fewer errors than did their octopus tutors.
This imitative ability had previously been thought to be present only in more sophisticated social animals.
Science News, April 25, 1992 (p. 262).
Animals were created with at least the intelligence they need to fulfil their unique roles in life. It just takes us a while to find out about some of it.
Dinosaur deaths not from asteroids
A team of geologists from Dartmouth College say they do not believe the widely held theory that asteroid impacts killed off the dinosaurs.
The impact theory has been widely touted as fact. Its so-called ‘proofs’ include the discovery of large features alleged to be impact craters massive enough to have thrown up sunlight-blocking clouds of dust, with catastrophic climate changes.
However, the Dartmouth geologists claim that many craters, thought to have been caused by falling meteorites, might have been caused by simple erosion. They believe the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by gradual climate change.
San Diego Union Tribune, May 6, 1992.
The history of geology is littered with discarded theories once pushed as virtually indisputable ‘fact’, especially to the layman. Readers should always be aware that the ‘proofs’ of theories offered in such historical sciences may, like the clues in a murder case, be capable of many different interpretations.
Women get bigger but don’t evolve
Virtually no woman today would fit into her great-great grandmother’s clothes, social historians say. The average modern woman is five centimetres (two inches) taller than a century ago and has gained about 6½ kilograms (14 pounds).
This was evident at a recent planned exhibit of part of a collection of 7,000 costumes. The idea of getting young women to wear some of the costumes had to be abandoned. Even the thinnest of today’s supermodels has a massive waist compared to the 46 centimetre (18 inch) waists in such collections.
Even since the 1970s, the change is noticeable, with today’s women about an inch (2.5cm) taller. Also, the average woman today is bigger than many of the soldiers of World War I.
However, this is not an evolutionary change (a permanent change in inherited characteristics, that is, in the DNA). Professor Roderick Floud of the City of London Polytechnic says that the main reason is a better diet and higher standard of living. Rib bones, too, are thicker and stronger from proper calcium intake during childhood.
The Australian, June 29, 1992 (p.7).
Such environment-induced changes can clearly be dramatic. The implication is that if our grandchildren went back to the same diet as their great-grandmothers, they would be smaller again. Dietary influences have long been suggested as a possible factor for some of the allegedly ‘primitive’ features of the bones of large-brained fossil humans such as Neanderthal and Cromagnon types.
Pandering to a change in tastes
China’s giant pandas are vegetarians, eating virtually nothing but bamboo. Stories have circulated, though, that they would occasionally choose to kill and eat small animals.
In Sichuan province, home of the last remaining 1,000 or so wild pandas, puzzled researchers have tried to explain why one of these cute cuddlies ran amok, killing and eating 26 goats before being captured and studied.
New York zoologist George Schaller would have raised eyebrows with his claim that ‘pandas like meat when they can get it. What surprises me is that this doesn’t happen more often.’
TIME, May 4, 1992 (p. 19).
This may be of interest in discussions about the mechanisms of dietary change from an Edenic to a post-Fall world See the chapter on ‘Fangs in Eden?’ in The Answers Book (advertisement on back cover of this issue of Creation magazine).
8 billion years vanish
Stars very far from earth have their distances measured by the amount their light has been shifted to the red end of the spectrum. This same red-shift has been interpreted as resulting from an expanding universe, which in turn is used to imply that the universe began from one point more than 15 billion years ago.
To convert the red-shift to distance, you need to know the value of the so-called Hubble constant. However, recent results of imaging the Virgo galaxy cluster, announced at Britain’s National Astronomy Meeting, indicate a different value to this constant. If accepted, this would knock around seven or eight billion years off the age of the universe, inferred from the standard ‘big bang’ interpretations.
The results puzzle astronomers, who insist that ‘some stars seem to be 16 billion years old’. However, the results are consistent ‘with an independent measurement of the Hubble constant, based on supernovae.’
New Scientist, May 23, 1992 (p. 14).
These days we are bombarded with dogmatic assertions that a 15-to-16-billion-year-old ‘big bang’ has been proved. When a minor adjustment in one figure can slice eight billion years of) these beliefs, it’s a healthy reminder of the fact that such ‘proofs’ rest on a foundation full of unproved assumptions.