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Creation 36(4):7–11, October 2014

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Sand dunes give up greener pastures

sand-dunes
©iStockphoto.com/ZambeziShark

Under the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, archaeologists are unearthing evidence of a former rich green environment. Researchers have found evidence of stone tools and the 2.25-m- (7.4-foot-) long straight tusk of a giant elephant “remarkably preserved and embedded by an ancient lake”. Its owner was Palaeoloxodon, which at 6–7 tonnes was much bigger than living elephants and most mammoths, although smaller than the Columbian mammoth. Other remains included an extinct jaguar, oryx and a “member of the horse family”. The researchers, headed by Prof. Michael Petraglia of the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology, expect to find many more fossils at that site, and elsewhere throughout the region.

Although they would not describe their finds in such terms, the researchers have actually uncovered a legacy of a time that most likely existed for some centuries after Noah’s Flood. Many of the places that are now deserts would have been green and lush, still ‘waterlogged’ from the Flood, and still enjoying high rainfall due to high evaporation from warm post-Flood seas. (The seas were still warm due to volcanic activity associated with the breaking open of “the fountains of the deep” during the Flood.) Although only some animals can survive in deserts now due to the hot dry climate, in the lush conditions of the first millennium or so after the Flood it is logical that all kinds of creatures could have thrived there.

  • Tusk clue to Saudi desert’s green past, bbc.com, 2 April 2014.

Fast-forming galaxies keep astronomers guessing

The universe keeps on confounding astronomers. Despite contrary predictions, a team of researchers has found that massive, mature galaxies formed quickly.

One science website reported the discovery this way: “An international team of astronomers has discovered the most distant examples of galaxies that were already mature and massive––not just young, star-forming galaxies in the nursery-room of the early Universe but also old, ‘retired’ ones—‘granny galaxies’.”

Professor Karl Glazebrook, director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, who was involved in the discovery , described as ‘holy grails’ of astronomy the 15 galaxies which are 12 billion light years distant.

Prof Glazebrook admitted they were predicted not to even exist 15 years ago ‘within the cosmological model favoured at the time’. In 2004, he wrote a paper on the discovery of such galaxies existing ‘only three billion years after the Big Bang’. “Now, with improved technology we are pushing back to only 1.6 billion years, which is truly exciting,” he said.

Fellow team member Dr Lee Spitler from Macquarie University said: “While the Milky Way still forms new stars at a slow rate today, the galaxies we discovered must have formed very rapidly in a relatively ‘short’ time—roughly one billion years—with explosive rates of star-formation. These must have been several hundred times higher than in the Milky Way today.”

Dr Spitler also said: “This is the best evidence to date that these galaxies grew up in a hurry. People have reported ‘old’ galaxies before, but it was never clear until our data that they were actually ‘old’.”

The presumed billions of years aside, the key points are that the galaxies formed quickly and that star-formation ceased early as well. All this ‘close’ to the alleged Big Bang—just where it wasn’t expected according to long-age theories about the origin of the universe.

  • Granny galaxies discovered in the early universe, phys.org, 11 March 2014.
  • Galaxies in the early universe mature beyond their years, sciencedaily.com, 10 March 2014.

Sea monster pigments found

Extinct marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and others are technically not dinosaurs, which lived on land and had characteristic skeletal features. But they are often associated with dinos in the popular mind since they are supposed to have lived during the so-called ‘age of dinosaurs’.

Up to now, no one had any idea what colour such animals were in life. However, Swedish researchers have now found skin pigments preserved in fossil marine reptiles alleged to be tens of millions of years old. These are of a mosasaur, an ichthyosaur, and a leatherback turtle—supposedly 190, 85 and 55 million years old, respectively.

Head researcher Johan Lindgren from Sweden’s Lund University called the finds “fantastic”. He explained, “20 years ago, it was unthinkable that we would ever find biological remains from animals that have been extinct for many millions of years.”

Actually, it’s still ‘unthinkable’ that pigment molecules could last over these huge supposed timespans, given the laws that govern the decomposition of such chemicals.

This find is akin to the stunning discovery of cells, proteins and DNA in dinosaur remains. Such preservation makes sense in the context of just 4,500 or so years since the creatures were buried in the biblical Flood.

  • Fossil pigments reveal the colors of ancient sea monsters, sciencedaily.com, 8 January 2014.
  • Skin pigmentation provides evidence of convergent melanism in extinct marine reptiles, Nature 506(7489):484–488, 2014.

©iStockphoto.com/AlexMotrenko shrinking

Are we shrinking again?

Anyone looking at medieval suits of armour can see that today’s people are on average much taller than those centuries ago. The average Australian 12-year-old girl in the 1990s was some 10 centimetres (four inches) taller and 10 kilograms (22 pounds) heavier than her counterpart in 1911.

Our previous reports on this (Creation 14(4):917(2):7) cited academics who explained that, contrary to what some might think, this was not an evolutionary (i.e. inherited) change. Rather, such changes are environmental, likely from improvements in things like nutrition and control of childhood diseases.

In fact, the trend was once in the opposite direction. We have previously reported (Creation 20(1):7) on a 1997 Nature study that fossil humans (so-called ‘archaic Homo’, i.e. early post-Flood people) were some 20% bigger and stronger than modern people.

This all means of course that, given the appropriate environmental factors, the trend towards height increase could go in the other direction once more.

So it is interesting to see a newspaper report in Australia that its young women seem to be losing height again. The article, while allowing for the impact of migration on height averages, blamed this new trend on the poor diet and lifestyle choices of this ‘on-the-run’ generation.

  • Young Australian women’s growth stunted by poor diet and busy lifestyle, ABS figures reveal, news.com.au, 1 March 2014.

‘Living fossil’ surprise

Fossils of the marine tubeworm Protulophila, previously known only from fossils in the northern hemisphere (Europe and the Middle East) and said to have been extinct for four million years, have recently been found in New Zealand. They were found in ‘geologically young rocks’, prompting scientists to consider the possibility that the creature might not actually be extinct yet. And indeed it isn’t, having been found alive in waters off New Zealand’s South Island.

This is yet another example of the sorts of problems an evolutionary framework causes for those seeking to interpret the ‘fossil record’. Out-of-place and out-of-sequence fossils, along with other anomalies, abound—see creation.com/fossils-out-of-order.

  • Northern hemisphere fossil discovered living in New Zealand, niwa.co.nz, 29 May 2014.

Universal flood of evidence

Researchers have found that a canyon system cut through basalt in the United States constitutes evidence of massive flooding. They say it points to similar occurrences elsewhere on Earth as well as on Mars.

A team from the California Institute of Technology studied an area known as Malad Gorge in Idaho. By analyzing the kinds of atoms in various rock samples, they concluded that the two canyons were not subject to long ages of erosion.

They then proposed that the canyons about 11 miles (17 km) apart were formed quickly about 46,000 years ago (in their long-age timescale), around the same time as a nearby volcanic eruption.

That event, they believe, built up a massive headwall in an existing river which burst and triggered flooding, forming the canyons.

The canyons have steep walls and are similar to many other amphitheatre-headed canyons throughout the world and beyond. The team also suggested a controversial (their term) diagnostic link could also be made to similar formations on Mars and other planets.

Biblical creationist geologists have long seen a catastrophic event such as Noah’s Flood and the runoff from the continents thereafter, along with volcanic activity, as likely scenarios for canyon formations.

©iStockphoto.com/La_Corivo xonkey

As well, they point to the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption in Washington State and the canyon formations it produced. Some of the large canyons in that area, now containing small streams, did not take ages to erode but were carved by catastrophic mudflows in less than a day. Rocky surfaces with grooves and striations were on this occasion not chiselled by glaciers, but scraped by rock blasted along the ground. (See: Volcanoes shaped our planet, Creation 34(2):20–23, 2012; creation.com/volcanoes and creation.com/flood.)

  • Study of Idaho canyons suggests they were the result of massive flooding not erosion, phys.org, 17 December 2013.

Zoo birth of ‘zonkey’

In April 2014, a male ‘zonkey’ with a donkey father and zebra mother was born at a Mexican zoo—an indication that such animals are descendants of an originally created horse (equine) ‘kind’ (Genesis 1:25). This means Noah didn’t need to take on board the Ark two zebras, two donkeys, two Shetland ponies, etc.—rather, he only needed two ‘horses’ (Genesis 6:20).

(See our earlier reports: Zenkey, zonkey, zebra donkey!—creation.com/zonkey; Zebra or horse? A zorse, of course!—creation.com/zorse; and Shetland-zebra hybrid—creation.com/shzeb.)

  • Zonkey born at Mexico zoo: Zoinks! Extremely rare zebra/donkey ‘Zonkey’ born, examiner.com, 26 April 2014.

Praise Darwin, says professor enraged by anti-evolution Gospel message

If there were ever any doubt that some academics are deeply challenged by the rejection of evolution, combined with the Gospel message, the actions of James Boster, a professor of anthropology at University of Connecticut, should dispel that.

In an unsavoury incident captured on camera and available online, Prof. Boster spent about two hours trying to disrupt some campus evangelists with shouts of “Praise Darwin” and asked one if he had “accepted Darwin as lord and savior”.

One of the evangelists, Scott Smith of Schoolmaster Ministries of Raleigh, North Carolina, said: “As I was pointing to Christ—I was talking about the sin nature—I said, ‘There’s probably some people out there—maybe even professors—who think they descended from monkeys’. [Boster] jumped off the ground and came running over and basically started screaming, ‘I did not come from a monkey! I came from an ape!’”

Since the incident, Prof. Boster wrote of his actions: “Darwin’s message that all humans are our brothers and sisters, all mammals our cousins, and all life our kin is much closer to the loving affirmation of life found in the gospels than the hate, bigotry, and ignorance preached by these rude guests to our home. It is a moral duty to be outraged by the morally outrageous. I am proud to have done my duty to defend my students from attack.”

It’s bizarre that he should use the terms hate, bigotry and ignorance to describe evangelical attempts to point people to Christ and away from harmful life-decisions.

And to suggest the evangelists were “morally outrageous” for speaking love and kindness to those on the campus is a mystifying position to take. Just how does the godless philosophy of evolution provide any basis for a ‘moral duty’ to do anything? Rather, it’s the Bible (e.g. Romans 1:18) which explains the vigour with which Darwin evangelists worldwide endeavour to suppress any dissent to the evolutionary paradigm.

  • ‘Praise Darwin!’ UConn professor goes ape during campus preaching, christiannews.net, 23 April 2014.
  • UConn professor who went ape on campus evangelists: ‘I’m in deep trouble’, christiannews.net, 25 April 2014.
  • See also creation.com/creation-why-it-matters.

Food for thought as crocs branch out

Mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) are no mugs when it comes to subterfuge to obtain a meal, as researcher Vladimir Dinets from the University of Tennessee discovered while observing them at an Indian zoo.

Dinets saw crocs with twigs across their snouts remain still for hours under nesting egrets and, when a bird went to pick up one of the twigs for its nest, it became lunch.

After further research revealed the same behaviour in American alligators, Dinets said:

“This study changes the way crocodiles have historically been viewed. They are typically seen as lethargic, stupid, and boring but now they are known to exhibit flexible multimodal signaling, advanced parental care, and highly coordinated group hunting tactics.”

Scientists blinded by evolutionary thinking often both overstate and underestimate the capabilities of animals that are endowed with purpose by the Creator.

For instance, despite the alleged ‘genetic closeness’ between humans and chimpanzees and an expectation that chimps could gain language skills, African gray parrots have far more creative language use and complexity of reasoning. (See, e.g., Bird-brain matches chimps (and neither makes it to grade school), creation.com/alex.)

Birds aren’t supposed to be our close evolutionary cousins because of smaller brains but—as crocodiles have shown––their smaller brain size doesn’t mean less complex skills.

  • Crocodiles twig how to grab a free meal, The Times, 5 December 2013, p. 41.
  • University of Tennessee study finds crocodiles are cleverer than previously thought, tntoday.utk.edu, 5 December 2013.

©iStockphoto.com/vadkoz hand

‘Ancient’ date for ‘toolmaker’ bone find

The reason apes are unable to fashion and use complex tools is not just that they lack our brainpower. Their hands do not have the necessary power and precision of grip, either.

The suite of features that makes our hands suitable for this includes a little projection of bone called a styloid process on the third metacarpal bone. It helps the bone lock into the wrist, and both modern and ‘archaic’ humans (e.g. Neandertals) have it. By contrast, those ‘apemen’ (australopiths), which creationists regard as non-human, lack this process.

So it was out of sync with evolutionary expectations when a team led by the University of Missouri’s Carol Ward recently reported a fossil third metacarpal which had the styloid process. That’s because the ‘dates’ made it 1.4 million years old, way before our ‘toolmaking hand’ was supposed to have evolved such features.

The bone was found close to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, near where stone tools such as hand axes and cleavers had been recovered. Since people have always been people, designed for complex tool usage from the start, then if one ignores the dating, there is nothing surprising or unusual about finding a human hand bone in association with tools made by humans.

  • Early Pleistocene third metacarpal from Kenya and the evolution of modern human-like hand morphology, Proc. National Academy of Sciences USA 111(1):121–124, 7 January 2014.

‘Primitive’ bacteria use advanced quantum mechanics

Photosynthesis is one of the most important chemical processes on earth. This is how plants harness the sun’s energy to make food for other life on earth, and produce oxygen. In green plants, it works by storing the energy of four ‘packets’ or quanta (singular quantum) of light, called photons. Only then is there enough energy to break the water molecule (see Journal of Creation 19(1):14–15, 2005; creation.com/greenpower). If we could duplicate this, it would solve our energy needs, but it has proven elusive to top chemists so far (see creation.com/plantpower, 2012).

There is amazing ingenuity in even the supposedly most primitive photosynthesis in purple bacteria. Even these tiny germs can use 95% of the light that strikes them. They use a complex array of tiny antennae to harvest light. But in living cells, this array is constantly changing shape and direction, so why doesn’t it become mis-aligned to the light?

The answer involves a phenomenon called quantum coherence. The incoming light photons have both wave and particle properties. So when the photon hits the complex, its wave nature means that the photon is briefly everywhere in the antenna complex at once. This means that it is interacting with all possible pathways of absorption. Then of all possible pathways, it is absorbed in the most efficient manner, regardless of any shape changes in the complex. This occurs almost unimaginably fast: about 400 femtoseconds (1 fs = 10–15 sec), and if it didn’t, the energy would be lost in fluorescence.

This is especially amazing, because quantum coherence is normally observable at extremely low temperatures, close to absolute zero. But these bacteria manage at ordinary temperatures in the dynamic conditions of life. Photosynthesis is one of many examples of designs in nature using quantum mechanics (so creationists should welcome this; see creation.com/qm).

  • Quantum coherent energy transfer over varying pathways in single light-harvesting complexes, Science 340(6139):1448–1451, 2013.
  • ‘Ancient’ Bacteria Use Quantum Mechanics!, blog.drwile.com, 11 July 2013.

Godless meet for ‘Sunday Assembly’

An article in New Scientist entitled ‘Losing our religion’ highlights the emergence of ‘nones’, and a movement known as Sunday Assembly.

Established by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the assembly is “all the best bits of church, but with no religion, and awesome pop songs!” According to New Scientist as well as the Sunday Assembly website, adherents are embracing the concept in increasing numbers and ‘congregations’ are springing up the world over. ‘Nones’ are non-believers of all stripes and include atheists as well as those who “simply don’t care about religion”.

  • The New Scientist author saw the assembly as a good way to articulate “secular values”.
  • Losing our religion, New Scientist 222(2967):30–35, 3 May 2014.

©iStockphoto.com/Spotmatik scientist

Scientists buy their way to the top

Police in China have uncovered an academic fraud operation that is part of an “industry of plagiarism, invented research and fake journals”.

The suspects in one raid threw a bag of money from a window, the proceeds of a growing criminal enterprise in China estimated to be bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars––and growing. Their ‘clients’ are scientists seeking to circumvent the Chinese evaluation system by having papers published which in turn helps them to gain research grants and promotions.

Doubts about the quality of some published papers are not confined to China. Worldwide, even the much-touted peer-review system is under scrutiny. An article in The Economist noted “Careerism also encourages exaggeration and the cherry-picking of results”, and that peer review often failed to pick up mistakes.

  • Looks good on paper—a flawed system for judging research is leading to academic fraud, economist.com, 28 September 2013.
  • Problems with scientific research—How science goes wrong, economist.com, 19 October 2013.