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This article is from
Creation 13(4):5–8, September 1991

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Focus: News of interest about creation and evolution

Archaeopteryx not ‘missing link’

Archaeopteryx, that strange fossil bird which some evolutionists have claimed was a ‘missing link’ between reptiles and birds, was not a direct ancestor of modern birds at all, the author of a report in the Royal Society’s journal, Philosophical Transactions, argues. Professor Sankar Chatterjee, of Texas Tech University, says two bird-like skeletons found in a quarry in West Texas in 1983 are much older on the evolutionary time-scale than Archaeopteryx. The skeletons have been called Protoavis texensis (‘first bird from Texas’).

More details on this claim are awaited. If established, it means that on the evolutionary timetable birds were around at the same time as dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs, turtles, and mammals.

Nature, June 27, 1991 (p. 677-8).

Daily Telegraph (London), June 21, 1991 (p. 1).

‘Big bang’ theory still crumbling

The evolutionary idea that the cosmos began with a perfectly symmetrical explosion about 20 billion years ago—known as the ‘big bang’—continues to lose credibility.

Plasma physicist Eric J. Lerner says, ‘The Big Bang theory is crumbling. But many of my colleagues refuse to believe it.’

Lerner says that huge conglomerations of galaxies are too big to have formed in 20 billion years. ‘But,’ he says, ‘as in Galileo’s day, entrenched ideas are difficult to change.’

He says cosmologists meeting at the American Astronomical Society in Seattle recently were full of ‘quick fix’ ideas to try to rescue the ‘big bang’ theory. ‘It does not bother cosmologists that there is no evidence for such speculation or that none of these ideas solves the problem’, he says.

Manila Bulletin, June 5, 1991 (p. 7).

Lerner thinks the ‘big bang’ theory may be replaced with the idea that the universe evolved from a past without beginning to an unlimited future. The true explanation, that God created the universe as the Bible says, does not seem to have been considered.

Bright babies

The sounds of ‘goo-goo’ and ‘da-da’ that young children make when they begin babbling at about seven months are also made by deaf infants in sign language, Canadian researchers say.

This ‘manual babbling’ is not simply random formations of signs. It reflects strict linguistic rules associated with vocal babbling, the researchers say.

The finding provides strong support for the arguments of some linguists that the human brain has specific biological programming that gives humans the innate capacity for language.

The West Australian, April 8, 1991 (p. 16).

Unlike animals, including apes!

Fossils racket

Recent thefts of Australian fossils may be part of an international fossil smuggling racket, the curator of the South Australian Museum, Neville Pledge, believes. The best specimen yet found of a seapen fossil (a relative of corals and jellyfish) was stolen from Bunyeroo Gorge in the Flinders Ranges National Park between February and May 1991. The thieves removed a large slab of quartzite rock and broke it to steal the fossil.

Mr. Pledge said unscrupulous museums and private collectors in Japan, Germany, and the Unites States were offering high prices for some fossils. On Kangaroo Island, a property owner allowed visitors to inspect some fossils, and later found broken rocks and fossils on the site.

The Advertiser (Adelaide), June 13, 1991.

Creation magazine urges readers not to smash rocks or collect fossils from National Parks and sites of scientific interest. Photography is the easiest means of collecting and storing fossil evidence.

Doubts on fossil identification

Identifying fossils from skulls and teeth alone may lead to wrong conclusions, American researchers say. Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, examined 77 skulls from seven modem lemur species. Each species has distinctive outer features, but identifying the species from skull and teeth alone proved extremely difficult, Tattersall reports.

He argues that cranial and dental analyses of hominids (man and man-like fossils) may have led to wrong identification of species. Other researchers point out that problems such as the limited fossil record and body-size differences between male and female can confuse evolutionary reconstructions.

Science News, April 13, 1991 (p. 230).

Seven days after this report. Science News noted that a fossil skull found in Greece, which was at first identified as hominid, has now lost its hominid status. The skull and teeth seemed, to some, more like those of an orangutan, but are now thought to be more like chimpanzees or gorillas.

Hippo puzzle

Bones of a woolly rhinoceros and a hippopotamus found together in England are puzzling geologists. Experts are baffled because they say the woolly rhino and the hippo could not have lived in the same climate. Yet they were found together when the base of a gravel pit in Peterborough was being cleared. Also found were remains of a mammoth, horses and reindeer.

Museum deputy curator Gordon Chancellor said: ‘The hippo would not have lived with the other animals because it liked a warm climate while the others needed cold. But all the evidence suggests hippos were living alongside rhino and reindeer in Peterborough.’

Daily Telegraph (London), April 13, 1991.

‘Missing link’ bones returned

Hundreds of Australian Aboriginal skulls and other bones—sent to scientists in Britain and Europe last century in fruitless evolutionary studies—are being returned to Aborigines in Australia for burial.

One of the main international holders of Aboriginal remains was the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. It has promised to return about 295 skulls and cranial fragments and four complete skeletons. During the nineteenth century, thousands of Aboriginal bones were dug up and sent overseas to scientists intent on finding an alleged ‘missing link’ between primitive and modern man. Aboriginal groups are trying to get back all the remains.

The Australian, April 29, 1991 (p. 3).

Mastodon germs

Researchers have found living bacteria in the intestines of a mastodon carcass—thousands of years old—which was discovered in a peat bog in Ohio.

Scientists believe the find may help them unlock the mystery of genetic evolution.

New Scientist, June 1, 1991 (p. 12).

Toledo Blade, May 4, 1991.

A specialist in bacteriology at the University of Illinois, Carl Woese, said he was skeptical about what the bacteria would show. He said the bacteria are so prevalent that it could be difficult to prove their origin.

‘Missing link’ in Namibia?

Teeth found in Namibia may prove Darwin’s theory that apes and humans had common ancestors, a leading anthropologist believes.

The fossil teeth were the creature’s right molars, or grinding teeth. They were found in Namibia’s Otavi Mountains in June. Anthropologist Philip Tobias said the teeth were enough to establish the creature’s probable prehuman and pre-ape identity.

‘This animal probably walked on all four feet and was covered in thick hair’, Professor Tobias said. ‘He probably had a long back sloping upwards to his head, his forearms being longer than his back legs.’

The Advertiser (Adelaide), June 22, 1991 (p. 6).

All this from just a few teeth! Reminiscent of ‘Nebraska man’.

New planet discovery?

Astronomers believe they have found the first planet outside our solar system.

The object was detected through a radio-telescope at Jodrell Bank in Britain. It is said to be 10 times the size of earth and is orbiting a pulsar, or neutron star, named PSR 1829-10.

Conditions on the ‘planet’ would be too harsh for life to exist.

The Australian, July 25, 1991 (p. 1).

A planet outside the solar system is of course no threat to a biblical worldview. It may exist, but it has not been directly observed. Certainly variations in radiation from the pulsar have been interpreted as requiring the existence of a planet.

Massive science fraud?

Up to half the scientific papers in the United States may be contaminated by data manipulation, an American scientist believes. Molecular biologist Dr. Thoru Pedersen says the well-publicized cases of scientific fraud that have damaged science’s credibility in the US are only the tip of an ethically dubious iceberg.

He says some of the most brilliant scientists he has known ‘have a very clear vision of what they want to find. They can already see the title of the brilliant paper.’

The Age (Melbourne), June 5, 1991.

A recent famous case in the United States involved immunologist Thereza Imanishi-Kari, who was found to have fabricated study data in a paper co-authored by Nobel Prize-winning biologist David Baltimore. A junior researcher who reported the fabrication was first told not to challenge the study, and was later sacked by her employer, Tufts University. The junior was ostracized by some scientists and officials at two universities. Finally, in March this year, the US National Institutes of Health vindicated the junior and found Imanishi-Kari guilty of falsifying information.

Volcano wiped out dinosaurs?

A volcanic eruption in Siberia may have killed off the dinosaurs, two American scientists suggest. Paul Renne, of the Institute of Human Origins in California, and Asiah Basu, of the University of Rochester, believe a volcano spewed out enough lava to cover 33,000 square kilometres of Siberia. This would have cooled the earth suddenly and killed off most animal species, they say.

They believe their theory is correct, but admit it is not absolute. ‘We can’t step out and say the eruption caused the extinction’, Mr. Basu says.

The Australian, July 16, 1991 (p. 40).

There are almost as many evolutionary dinosaur extinction theories as there are dinosaur fossils!

New planet discovery?

Scientists analysing data about Venus which have come from the Magellan spacecraft are amazed that the planet’s surface looks so young. Project scientist Steve Saunders, from Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says Magellan’s results are ‘spectacular’. ‘They continue to amaze everyone’, he says.

The data reveal a landscape that shows little evidence of either crater degradation, highly eroded terrain, or local volcanism. The lack of ancient terrains has come as a surprise, Saunders says.

Conditions on the ‘planet’ would be too harsh for life to exist.

EOS, Vol. 72 No. 25, June 18, 1991 (p. 265-7).

A planet outside the solar system is of course no threat to a biblical worldview. It may exist, but it has not been directly observed. Certainly variations in radiation from the pulsar have been interpreted as requiring the existence of a planet.