This article is from
Creation 12(4):5–7, September 1990

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Focus: News of interest about creation and evolution

Artificial life?

A Massachusetts chemist has designed a simple molecule which does something only living organisms have been known to do—it reproduces itself.

Julius Rebek, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says his simple, two-part molecule could be considered ‘a primitive sign of life’. The molecule can attract copies of its two constituent molecules and hold them together long enough for them to join and form a copy of the ‘parent’. The copy and the original molecule then split apart. Each can then make another copy.

Mr Rebek’s molecule is truly self-replicating, but is totally different from anything in a living system. The self-replication of real life is vastly more complicated.

The Australian, 1 June 1990, p. 8.

This intelligently designed molecule has no relevance to the origin of life on earth by chance. Nothing it does is even surprising, given the known properties of its constituents. Yet it seems fallen man is so desperate to escape the implications of intelligent design in the complexity of a living cell that there is already talk of a Nobel Prize for this experiment.

Bombardier beetle’s ‘buzz bombs’

Some species of bombardier beetles have been found to deliver their defensive sprays in pulses like World War II German V-l ‘buzz’ bombs. Chemical ecologist Thomas Eisner and colleagues from Cornell University used high-speed film to photograph the amazing beetles in action. They found that when the beetles were attacked they squirted their chemical defence sprays in trains of millisecond-length pulses, rather than in continuous streams.

When a bombardier beetle is attacked it contracts muscles in glands that store chemical reactants in separate compartments. This forces the reactants through a valve in each gland into a reaction chamber. Enzymes convert the chemicals into the spray’s active ingredients, while releasing lots of heat. The explosive spray fires at the attacker.

‘You see a little puff of smoke’ and hear a pop, says Eisner. The puffs and pops are actually composed of short pulses, each lasting about two-thousandths of a second.

Science News, 9 June 1990, p. 356.

The well-designed bombardier beetle has a special ‘inhibitor’ chemical to stop the mixture inside it from exploding too soon and blowing it up. Its amazing cannon system could not have evolved piece by piece. All its ‘bomb’ features had to work perfectly the very first time—or all hope for the beetle and its children would have gone up in smoke!

Bible’s influence

A recent survey of major American company heads and university presidents found that the Bible was the book which most influenced them. One thousand major company heads and 1,200 university presidents were asked which book most affected their lives. One in four said the Bible, one in 25 said Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and one in 50 said the Book of Mormon. No other books were mentioned twice.

The Cairns Post, 7 June 1990, p. 11.

Bye-bye comet theory?

The evolutionary theory that comets enter our solar system from an unseen ‘Oort cloud’ is possibly wrong, say researchers. The Oort cloud theory is that comets looping around the sun have been loosed from a comet-laden cloud surrounding the sun. This cloud has never been detected.

Researchers T.A. McGlynn and R.D. Chapman say that if the Oort cloud theory were correct some jostled comets should escape our solar system. Likewise, we should have seen about six comets in the past 150 years from other stellar systems, they say. But we have seen none. ‘This lack of detections of extra-solar comets is becoming an embarrassment to the theories of solar system and cometary formation’, the researchers say.

Science Frontiers, May – June 1990 (p. 1).
Sky and Telescope, Vol. 79, 1990, p. 254.

If the Oort cloud doesn’t exist to ‘restock’ the solar system with comets, evolutionary timespans are embarrassed by the fact that short-period comets such as Halley’s ‘burn up’ within 10,000 years. In other words, if the solar system is more than 10,000 years old, there should be no short-period comets left.

The date’s off!

Some radiocarbon dates may be off by thousands of years, according to some geologists in New York. The geologists are from the Lamont-Doherty Geological Laboratory in Palisades, New York. They tested coral from a reef off the Caribbean island of Barbados, by using carbon-dating and also uranium-thorium dating. The two dates differed by 3,500 years. The scientists prefer the uranium-thorium dates because carbon-14 levels in the air have varied over time.

Science News, 9 June 1990, p. 356.
Time, 11 June 1990, p. 51.

Whales with feet?

Fossils of a whale with tiny ‘feet’ have been found in an Egyptian lake bed. But the scientist who found them says the ‘feet’ could never have been used for walking or even as rudders to stabilize swimming. Philip Gingerich, from the University of Michigan’s museum of palaeontology, made the find in the Zeuglodon Valley southwest of Cairo. He believes the limb bones are a vestige of a time when the whale’s ancestors walked on land. But he doesn’t know what they were used for on this whale. ‘It seems to me that they could only be some kind of sexual or reproductive clasper’, he says. ‘But even that may be too strong a word because the bones are so small.’

The Press-Enterprise, 1 July 1990, p. A-15.

This find in no way proves whales evolved from land creatures. It is misleading to call the bones on this snake-like creature (one was described last century as a ‘king lizard’) ‘feet’ when they could not be used for walking or swimming. It is not surprising that this bony clasping organ would have the basic vertebrate limb pattern, as do those designed for swimming, walking and flying. In the diagrams, note [diagram only available in Creation magazine]:

  • the small relative size of the rear organs;
  • they are not joined to the vertebral column;
  • the terminal bones show a three-digit pattern, rather than the usual five. The pieces shown in diagram (ii) came from different specimens and tome have not even been found yet, just ‘reasonably inferred’!

Four-storey tyrannosaur

The world’s largest and most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex has been dug from sandstone atop the sediments of a catastrophic flood in Montana. It was almost as tall as a four-storey building. The tyrannosaur was preserved lying on its left side in the Fort Peck reservoir on the Missouri River in north-eastern Montana. It was missing only one arm, toe bones, some ribs and the end of its tail.

It is being moved to Montana’s Museum of the Rockies where it will be reassembled over the next two years.

Greg Erickson, from the museum, said ‘This will be the animal you’ll see in the textbooks.’

Only seven Tyrannosaurus rex fossils have ever been found.

San Francisco Chronicle, 19 June 1990, p. A5.
USA Today, 29 June 1990, p. 7A.

Are guppies evolving?

Researchers in California say that an 11-year experiment with guppies has shown that these fish have evolved. The researchers set out to test a theory that might explain why some species have many offspring to whom they give little care, yet others have few offspring and devote their lives to caring for their young.

The theory is that animals that are preyed on as adults will have as many babies as possible starting early in their life. Animals whose main predator attacks their young will have fewer but larger babies later in life. To test the theory the researchers transferred guppies from a river in Trinidad to a tributary of the river. In the river the fish were chased as adults. In the tributary the only guppy predator fed on their young.

After 30 to 60 generations the transferred fish now mature later and have fewer and larger offspring. Douglas Futuyma, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said: ‘To my knowledge, this is the first such experiment that looked for a real evolutionary change in life history under natural conditions.’ He said this theory ‘is central to almost defining evolution.’

San Francisco Chronicle, 26 July 1990, p. A7.

This experiment shows no evolution at all. The guppies are still guppies. There is no evidence that this was not simply natural selection acting on the normal (Mendelian) variation already present in the guppy population. No new, functional genetic information means no upward evolution.

Piltdown hoaxster no jokester

An American professor says he knows who masterminded the 1912 ‘Piltdown man’ hoax—and the fraud wasn’t done as a joke.

Anthropologist Frank Spencer, from City University in New York, says he studied old diaries and other documents at the British Museum. He says the documents clearly point to eminent British scientist Sir Arthur Keith as the hoaxer.

‘Piltdown man’ was, for 41 years, believed by many evolutionists to be a missing link between ape and man. In 1953 it was exposed as an ape’s jaw attached to a human skull. The bones had been stained and the teeth filed down. Spencer says the general feeling was that it was contrived to make someone in the scientific community look silly. But it didn’t. ‘It makes far more sense when beginning to look at the evidence that Piltdown was something made to withstand scientific scrutiny’, Dr Spencer says.

The Beacon Journal, 7 June 1990, p. A9.

‘Piltdown man’ was not used so much to promote a particular view of evolution as it was useful in promoting evolution against creation. It was evolutionists’ star attraction for more than 40 years and helped brainwash an entire generation into abandoning special creation. Not surprisingly, during this time church membership in the West, particularly in the United Kingdom, plummeted dramatically.

T-rex works out

The latest tyrannosaur fossil is showing scientists that the huge creature’s tiny forelimbs do not mean it was a wimp. Evolutionists have generally thought that the massive dinosaur’s forelimbs were almost vestigial—of little use.

Palaeontologists now say the forelimbs were incredibly powerful. ‘This guy had whopping big arm muscles’, says Kenneth Carpenter from the Denver Museum of Natural History. ‘Tyrannosaurus was truly the Schwarzenegger of dinosaurs.’

The Peninsula Times Tribune, 2 July 1990, p. A-4.

Would sleeping dogwoods lie?

Another ‘living fossil’ has been found. This one is a species of the nut-bearing dogwood tree which was thought by evolutionists to have become extinct some four million years ago. Palaeobotanists from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., compared the fossilized pecan-shaped fruits of a dogwood subfamily (Mastixioideae) with a rare modern East Asian Diplopanax. The shape of their seed chambers, a key feature in identifying dogwoods, proved nearly identical.

Science News, 9 June 1990, p. 359.

As with other so-called ‘living fossils’, this discovery is good evidence for creation. It shows that the plant’s genetic code has remained stable over time, and/or that the presumed vast timespans of millions of years are illusory. Like other plants and animals, the dogwood has reproduced after its kind just as the book of Genesis says life-forms would.