This article is from
Creation 23(4):7–9, September 2001

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Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution

Same old salamanders?

The discovery in China of what are claimed to be the oldest-ever salamander fossils shows that their body plan has not changed in over ‘150 million years’.

The exceptionally large number of well-preserved specimens (even soft tissues left an impression) indicated ‘catastrophic mass mortality’ occurred when their pond was smothered in volcanic ash.

Nature, 29 March 2001, pp. 574–577.

Fossil discoveries consistently show:

  1. identical living and fossil forms—no evolution has taken place;
  2. ‘astonishingly’ detailed preservation;
  3. death by drowning or burial by some catastrophic event.

All are consistent with conditions on the Earth when the ‘fountains of the great deep’ broke open (Genesis 7:11), smothering creatures with layers of sediment—which evolutionists misinterpret as evidence for millions of years.

Fossil re-count limits diversity

Evolutionary thinking has recently been shaken by a reanalysis of the fossil record. ‘We may have been misled for 20 years’, one paleontologist admitted. Another evolutionist commented, ‘For the first time, a large group of people is saying paleobiology has been making a mistake.’

When paleontologists carefully went back over all the fossil-bearing rocks documented throughout the world over the past 180 years, they did not find the ‘ever-upward’ trend in species diversity that they expected. Instead, life has long been on a plateau, with ‘evolutionary innovations’ unable to break through ‘some set ceiling on diversity’.

Science, 25 May 2001, p. 1481.

Plant and animal breeders certainly encounter limits to which desired attributes (e.g. size) can be selected for—consistent with the ‘kind’ barriers of Genesis 1. But the evolutionists’ new thinking here is still based on a wrong interpretation of the ‘fossil record’, which does not reflect millions of years of evolution, but is evidence of rapid burial and fossilization during the global Biblical Flood and its aftermath.

‘Stone Age’ brain surgeons and ‘prehistoric’ dentists

A human skull unearthed on the Arabian peninsula, allegedly ‘dated’ to 5,000 BC, shows clear evidence of delicate brain surgery. Not only did the surgeon successfully tunnel into the patient’s brain in an attempt to remove a tumour, but may also have used a herbal anaesthetic. Bone regrowth shows the patient lived on for at least two years after the operation.

Archaeologists working in Pakistan were also surprised to find evidence of sophisticated dentistry in societies they ‘dated’ at over 8,000 years.

Under the microscope, perfectly rounded holes in molars are lined with concentric grooves left by what was probably a drill with a tiny stone bit.

One archaeologist commented that, ‘[I]t is very tantalising to think they had such knowledge of health and cavities and medicine to do this.’

Dispatch Online, <www.dispatch.co.za/2001/04/27/editoria/LP.HTM>, 14 June 2001.
New Scientist, 14 April 2001, p. 19.

Evolutionary notions of ‘primitive, prehistoric, stone-age man’ have no place in the Bible—an eyewitness account of history from the beginning of time, showing man has always been inventive and intelligent.

Darker skin healthier?

Many people think that dark skin’s advantage in tropical climates is purely because extra melanin protects against cancer and sunburn. But melanin does not protect well against the most damaging short-wave ultraviolet (UVB) radiation.

In insects, melanin is known to protect against attack from disease, by engulfing and killing invading micro-organisms. Researchers now suggest that melanin might have the same function in humans. This would help explain why the throat and nasal passages, mostly hidden from direct sunlight, are packed with melanin cells. And it might also explain why fair-skinned soldiers in humid jungle environments are three times more likely to contract serious skin diseases than their darker-skinned comrades.

On the other hand, melanin is made from the amino acid tyrosine, so in cold areas with fewer skin diseases and scarcer food, it could be an advantage to have less melanin.

New Scientist, 28 April 2001, p. 7.

Note that the same principles as in the book One Blood still apply, but the strongest selective factors may be temperature and humidity rather than sunlight strength, although the latter may still be important in pale-skinned people’s avoidance of rickets in high-latitude areas.

More troubles with clones

A major problem for proponents of cloning is that only a few percent of cloned animal embryos survive till birth; those that do last full-term are often not healthy.

Geneticists have now found an important reason for this—abnormalities in their DNA (present even in apparently ‘normal’ cloned animals). While further work is needed to determine how these abnormalities affect gene function, researchers concede it illustrates a basic problem in cloned embryos.

Not surprisingly, then, reports continue to surface of an increasingly wide range of defects in cloned animals, including enlarged tongues, squashed faces, defective kidneys, intestinal blockages, immune deficiencies and diabetes.

New Scientist, 2 June 2001, p. 6.
The Daily Telegraph, 17 May 2001, p. 15.
Science, 6 July 2001, pp. 95–97.

Reefing in the years

Researchers drilling into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have debunked the accepted view that the reef is at least 20 million years old.

They say that sediments recovered from the boreholes suggest the reef started to form about 600,000 years ago.

The researchers now suspect that reefs worldwide may all date back to a ‘global reef initiation event’. They surmise that as water flooded into the oceans from melting glaciers, rising sea levels provided an opportunity for substantial upwards coral growth.

Geology 29(6):483–486, <www.geosociety.org/pubs/bulletin.htm>, 12 June 2001.
BBC News, <news.bbc.co.uk>, 12 June 2001.
Science, 25 May 2001, pp. 1451–1453.

If the previously-accepted age of 20 million years can so readily be trimmed by 97%, can the present estimate of 600,000 years be considered any more reliable?

Though their age estimate is wrong, the ‘global reef initiation event’ idea has merit, and probably relates to the global Biblical Flood. As the Earth began to stabilize after the global Flood of around 4,300 years ago, coral reefs fringing the new land masses would have begun to appear. The spectacularly tall growth of many coral formations around the world fits beautifully with creationist dates for the Ice Age and a subsequent rise in sea level. (See Creation14(1):15; 16(3):15; 19(1):42–43.)

Intergalactic transport?

Microbes could be transported from one solar system to another on rocks blasted from Earth-like planets by asteroid impacts, an astronomer claims.

Organisms inside the meteorite would be well shielded from life-destroying radiation, and the discovery of suspected long-lived bacteria (see ‘Salty saga’, p. 15) is cited in support of the idea that life could survive the millions of years a meteorite would take to travel between stars.

The astronomer concedes that the likelihood of the meteorite going on to collide with a terrestrial planet is slim.

New Scientist, 17 March 2001, p. 4.

In order to overcome the many insuperable problems with the idea of life evolving from non-life on Earth, evolutionists will consider almost any alternative—except abandoning evolution.

Man redesigned?

An article in Scientific American says that ‘flaws’ in the human body are the result of evolution, which does not aim for perfection but instead ‘cobbles together new features by tinkering with existing ones … .’ Highlighting the disabling body malfunctions that worsen with age, such as varicose veins, wearing joints, osteoporosis and slipped disks, the authors propose radical redesign to overcome such deficiencies.

Their idea of a superior body plan would be a shorter, forward-tilting person with larger ears, extra muscles and ribs, thicker bones, and knees able to bend backwards.

Scientific American, March 2001, pp. 42–47.

A frequently-used ploy of evolutionists, who ignore the historical account of the Fall of man through Adam’s sin and its consequences for the creation, is that design ‘deficiencies’ rule out the existence of an all-knowing, perfect Creator God. The critics have yet to design a better knee-joint, eye, heart or anything else!

Red hair from Neandertals

Researchers think the ‘ginger gene’, a mutation responsible for red hair, fair skin and freckles, could have originated in Neandertal man.

This would suggest that ‘modern’ man and Neandertal man not only lived side-by-side, but also intermarried—demonstrating that ‘Neandertals were more similar to us than we previously thought.’

The Sunday Herald Sun, 22 April 2001, p. 22.

This refutes the idea that they were ‘soul-less non-humans’ as promoted by Hugh Ross and other long-age Christians.

Brain mysteries

A few rare individuals are geniuses at maths, art or music, despite being afflicted with severe mental disabilities such as autism.

There is increasing evidence that such mental brilliance is not despite brain damage or neurological disadvantage but because of it.

For example, elderly patients suffering dementia can occasionally display genius-like abilities.

Also, new research has shown that when certain areas of the brain were temporarily ‘shut down’ artificially, volunteers showed enhanced memory, calculation and drawing skills.

Researchers conclude that genius-like skills ‘are innate to all of us’, but normally are ‘swamped’ by other brain functions.

New Scientist, 9 October 1999, pp. 30–34; 17 March 2001, p. 7.

Evolutionists have no satisfactory explanation for such ‘over-design’. This is because natural selection can only select characteristics necessary for immediate survival. For Christians, though, it is not surprising that God designed us with certain built-in capacities (which would be redundant until needed) to compensate for injury to a particular part of the body.

Humans wiped out large animals?

Increasingly, researchers are saying that man, rather than other factors such as climate change, was the primary agent in the demise of many of the large animals.

Computer simulation of the population dynamics of humans and 41 large herbivores in North America indicates that mass extinctions were ‘unavoidable’ once people showed up.

And an Australian study reports that the bulk of the evidence clearly aligns the extinction of the ‘megafauna’ (including giant kangaroos weighing 300 kg) with the appearance of humans on the continent.

Science, 8 June 2001, pp. 1819, 1888–1892, 1893–1896.

With mankind refusing to spread out and fill the Earth until after Babel, birds and animals would have spread out from the Ark (i.e. ‘filling the Earth’) ahead of man.

As humans began to settle more distant areas, hunters are likely to have preferentially targeted larger prey—Aboriginal accounts of such ‘megafauna’ persist today (e.g. Creation 19(1):50–51).

The extinction of the dinosaurs may also have been contributed to by man, but of course long-agers cannot consider this.

Brainy religion?

Public debate has been stirred by a new book called Why God Won’t Go Away: brain science and the biology of belief.

Author Andrew Newberg took brain scans of people meditating or praying, and identified alterations in brain chemistry associated with such practices.

Atheistic scientists readily say the research proves that God is just a figment of the imagination.

New Scientist, 21 April 2001, pp. 24–28.

This evidence could be seen as God having designed the brain for religious experience. Regardless, Christianity does not depend on ‘religious feelings’ but on the historical truth claims of the Bible.

Musical appreciation

Researchers have found that the ability to distinguish between music and noise is ‘hard-wired’ into the Broca’s area region of the human brain.

This area is probably also involved in the understanding of complex language—the capacity to distinguish a meaningful sentence from nonsense.

New Scientist, 28 April 2001, p. 27.

What would be the survival value of the ability to appreciate music, so how could it have evolved by natural selection?