This article is from
Creation 24(1):7–9, December 2001

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Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution

Mumbo jumbo

The latest twist in evolutionary thinking is that elephants (thought to be closely related to manatees and dugongs) evolved from aquatic creatures.

Evolutionists note that elephants can stay underwater by breathing through their uplifted trunks, which they use like a snorkel.

Unlike most mammals, elephants do not have a pleural cavity (a fluid-filled space between lungs and chest wall)—which is just as well, for otherwise the pressure gradient when elephants are snorkelling could burst small blood vessels in the pleural membrane, proving fatal.

This feature, say evolutionists, ‘fits neatly with the idea that elephants were once water babies.’

New Scientist, 8 September 2001, p. 17.

But this adds an additional snag to an already unbelievable tale in an already over-compressed timeframe.

The evolutionary path would be sea creature (fish) >> land mammal >> back to the sea (proposed ancestor of elephants and dugongs) >> back to land (elephants).

‘Young’ moon

The lunar landscape shows that the moon may be much younger than is commonly believed, according to one researcher.

Signs of possible volcanic activity in the Northern lunar hemisphere would indicate the moon formed ‘just a few million years ago’—i.e. about 0.1% of previous ‘billions of years’ estimates and radiometric ‘dates’—or else it would have ‘cooled off’ more.

New Scientist, 9 June 2001, p. 13.

The true age of the moon (<7,000 years) fits comfortably within this revised maximum age of a few million years. See also The Moon: The light that rules the night

Long-life blood platelets

Inspired by a trick used by hardy organisms to survive dehydration, researchers have developed a technique that might end the constant shortage of blood platelets (essential for blood clotting) for transfusion.

Until now, blood platelets could only be stored for up to five days. But researchers have found that by incubating blood platelets for several hours in trehalose (a sugar found in many drought-resistant organisms) followed by freeze-drying, platelets can be stored at room temperature for long periods (so far, seven months). When rehydrated, 85% of the platelets proved healthy—‘better than most blood banks provide after only five days’ storage.’

This breakthrough means that platelets could now be stockpiled in blood banks and transported to remote locations. People could even set aside some of their own platelets— minimizing the risk of diseases.

New Scientist, 28 July 2001, p. 19.

The sugar trehalose is found in tardigrades, one of the organisms featured in Life at the extremes on p. 40.

T. rex, the scavenger

Paleontologist Jack Horner thinks the popular view of T. rex as the ultimate predator is wrong, with mounting evidence suggesting it was a scavenger.

The first obstacle to being a hunter, Horner believes, is that T. rex couldn’t run, as its thighbone was longer than its shinbone. This is probably just as well, because if it had tripped, its spindly little arms could do nothing to break the fall, ‘and tons of dinosaur would crash to the ground amid snapping bones.’

Studies of T. rex skulls show, while it had a very small optic region (so probably couldn’t see very well), it possessed a huge olfactory lobe similar to that of vultures, which can detect carrion from 40 km (25 miles) away. And its teeth appear better suited to a scavenger’s diet of bone and cartilage than to fresh meat.

Dinosaur Magazine , <www.dinosaurmag.com/t_rex_the_scavenger.htm>, 26 September 2001.

Originally, of course, all dinosaurs were vegetarian, along with all other animals, as well as people (Genesis 1:29–30).

Ancient Mayans tracked Mars

The ancient Mayans of Central South America are renowned for their meticulous time-keeping abilities; e.g. they knew the solar year to be 365.2420 days long (see Amazing Story). Now analysis of the pre-Columbian Maya book, the Dresden Codex, shows that they not only knew the Mars synodic period (i.e. the Martian orbit as seen from Earth) to be 780 days (modern astronomy says 779.94 days), but were also interested in its sidereal motion (i.e. relative to the Sun), which is not directly observable.

While modern astronomers addressed the sidereal problem of Mars by proposing an elliptical orbit (686.98 days), the ‘equally ingenious’ Mayan astronomers discovered two Martian cycles hitherto unknown to western astronomy: a more frequently occurring long cycle (702 days) that includes a retrograde loop and a less frequently occurring short cycle (approx. 543 days) that excludes it. Not only does this accurately describe the planet’s motion, but the Mayans could also relate Martian cycles to terrestrial seasons as well as the movements of other planets (e.g. Venus).

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 13 February 2001, pp. 2107–2110.

The ingenuity of ancient man continues to surprise evolutionists and delight creationists.

Fossil skin impressions

Dinosaur skin

Paleontologists have made the ‘startling’ discovery of fossil skin impressions on a crested hadrosaur skeleton being excavated in Utah.

Patterns of thumb-sized impressions of fossil skin were evident on the tail and pelvic areas.

Other dinosaur skeletons with skin preserved have previously been found in Montana, Wyoming, Canada and Australia (pictured).

Bureau of Land Management Utah News, <www.ut.blm.gov.NewsReleases/nrmay17/.html>, 30 July 2001.

Preserved impressions of intact skin implies that these dinosaurs must have been buried quickly (not over millions of years)—e.g. in the worldwide Flood of Noah’s day.

Ancient society cared

Anthropologists report that pre-Neanderthal society cared for the elderly and disabled. The discovery of a human jawbone scarred by severe gum disease indicates that its toothless owner survived by being fed soft food.

The jawbone, estimated to be 200,000 years old, is four times older than previous [evolutionary] estimates of when ‘this level of social awareness’ first appeared. As one archaeologist said, ‘It suggests pre-Neanderthals had significant elements of fully human behaviour.’

In contrast, studies of monkeys and apes show no such level of social care, as individuals starve after losing their teeth.

Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences USA, 25 September 2001, pp. 11097–11102.

Nature Science Update, <www.nature.com/nsu/010913/010913-9.html>, 26 September 2001.

Humans were created ‘fully human’ on Day 6 of Creation Week (<7,000 years ago), with suffering and death coming into the world later, i.e. after Adam sinned. Misguided notions that ‘God used evolution’ to bring man into existence, over millions of years, put suffering and death before sin, thus undermining the whole basis for the Atonement .

The ‘walkie-talkie’ theory

According to a [evolutionary] developmental neuroscientist, humans must have started walking upright before they developed speech.

He noted that when quadrupeds run they must take a breath with each step, making it impossible to develop the sophisticated respiratory control necessary for talking.

Therefore, walking on two legs, which allowed redirection of breathing for sound-making, was, this researcher maintains, ‘the key event in human evolution necessary for the emergence of speech.’

Science, 29 June 2001, p. 2429.

In contrast to the above, Genesis 2:19–20, 23 make it clear that the first man, Adam, created in the image of God, was capable of fully developed, complex speech from the outset.

On cannibalism

Tom White, Professor Emeritus of Ecology at Adelaide University, South Australia, has criticized biologists who consider cannibalism among humans to be an abhorrent and unnatural aberration. Many scientists today say anthropophagy (man-eating) is brought on only in times of extreme stress or deprivation.

Saying his colleagues ‘should know better’, Professor White highlighted the strategic evolutionary survival benefits of cannibalism, referring to a 1974 study of isolated people groups in Papua New Guinea which showed that cannibalism contributed 10% of the dietary protein intake. In Professor White’s own words: ‘surplus young male humans were recycled’.

ABC Radio National, ‘Ockham’s Razor’, <www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s360370.htm>, broadcast 9 September 2001.

Dr White is at least consistent; his evolutionary belief system says we simply result from differential survival of genes, so with that mindset, how can one say that anything is ‘wrong’?

Carbon dating rethink

British and American scientists have demonstrated that past carbon dating reports could be wrong by thousands of years.

Originally, carbon dating results were based on the assumption that the ratio of carbon-14 and carbon-12 in the atmosphere stays constant.

But now, comparison of carbon dating against a newer uranium dating technique shows that there must have been ‘extremely large’ variations in atmospheric carbon-14 in the past.

Science, 29 June 2001, pp. 2443–2444, 2453–2458.

All man-made dating techniques are fallible and dependent upon assumptions about the past.

Every matter ought to be established on the testimony of witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1), so we should look first to the eyewitness account in the Bible, rather than dating methods, for the true history of the Earth.

Arctic was not always icy

The recent discovery of stone tools along with wolf, reindeer and horse bones in northern Russia shows the region may not always have been covered in ice, say archaeologists.

Considering these artifacts from the dig at Mamontovaya Kurya to be the oldest documented evidence of human activity so far north, scientists are unsure who the mystery Arctic inhabitants were.

‘Either the Neanderthals expanded much further north than previously thought, or modern humans were present in the Arctic only a few thousand years after their first appearance in Europe,’ they said.

Reuters, <http:www.enn.com ewswire-stories200199072001 eu_44865.asp>, 26 September 2001.

Nature, 6 September 2001, pp. 33–34, 64–67.

These findings fit what many creationists have been saying about population dispersal after the Flood and Babel, and the climatic conditions during the Ice Age—see interview with Michael Oard in Creation 19(1):42–43, and his book, An Ice Age caused by the Genesis Flood, ICR, California, 1990.

Still buzzing over flies

Flies should not be able to fly—at least, that’s what conventional theories of aerodynamics said until 1996, when a new theory was proposed to explain the hovering flight of insects (see Insects: Defying the laws of aerodynamics?, Creation 20(2):31).

However, now a team of researchers using a scaled robotic ‘insect’ has shown an error in that theory, which held that flapping insect wings generate a spiral vortex similar to that of delta-wing aircraft such as the supersonic Concorde.

Instead, the researchers demonstrated that a whirl of air like a little tornado sits on top of the wing, creating a region of low pressure that sucks the fly upwards.

Nevertheless, some of the new ideas are subject to further testing, as the researchers admit they cannot yet explain all the complexities of insect flight.

Nature, 16 August 2001, pp. 688–689, 729–733.

The sophistication of insect flight is such that man still has trouble explaining it, let alone duplicating it—testifying to a Master Designer.


Fast-growing dinosaurs

Analysis of dinosaur bone tissue has overturned traditional ideas that dinosaurs were typical slow-growing (large) reptiles.

Instead, dinosaurs had growth patterns similar to today’s birds and mammals, rapidly attaining their adult size in growth spurts.

The researchers report that a 26–tonne (28 ton) Apatosaurus could have exhibited growth rates up to around 14 kg (30 pounds) per day, while a 100–tonne (110 ton) Argentinosaurus could conceivably have grown at around 55 kg (over 120 lbs) per day.

Nature, 26 July 2001, pp. 405–408; 429–433.

If correct, this negates arguments about young (i.e. small) dinosaurs coming off the Ark being vulnerable to other, faster-growing animals.

Shetland-Zebra hybrid

A Shetland pony surprised its UK owners by giving birth to a half-zebra foal. They had earlier purchased the pony from a wildlife park, where it had shared a field with a male zebra.

Such hybrids have an interesting genetic heritage, as horses have 64 chromosomes, zebras 44, so this foal would have an intermediate number of chromosomes.

BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1408000/1408717.stm, 9 July 2001.

The fact that hybrids between zebras and horses (zorse) and zebras and donkeys (zeedonk, zonkey, zebrass) readily occur indicates that horses, asses and zebras (all of them species of Equus) are the descendants of one created kind which left the Ark (see Ligers and wholphins? What next? Creation 22(3):28–33 and Sheep-Goat hybrid 23(2):5).