Focus: creation news and views 39(2)
‘Unconventional’ body plan of Drepanosaurus puzzles evolutionists
Newly discovered fossils of the extinct reptile Drepanosaurus reveal it had most unusual forearms.
In four-legged creatures (tetrapods), the forelimbs almost always have the same consistent pattern, including two slender, elongate and parallel bones, known as the radius and the ulna (red, left side of diagram). But in Drepanosaurus that pattern is absent. In fact, the pattern of all the bones in the forearm is so radically different from the normal tetrapod plan that without the notion of ‘common ancestry’ superimposed upon the data, it is difficult to see the resemblance at all. The most massive bone in the whole forearm is a gigantic claw upon a huge finger, well suited to digging.
Lead researcher Dr Adam Pritchard of Yale University says of Drepanosaurus, with its “unconventional” body plan: “So all of these consistent patterns that we see across a huge range of tetrapods, regardless of their ecology, regardless of their ancestry, are violated by this animal.” Other scientists are cited as saying it “defies the convention on how reptiles evolved”.
Perhaps that is a prompt to consider that the body plan of Drepanosaurus was actually planned, by an Intelligent Designer—One who perhaps threw an ‘unconventional’ body plan into the mix to thwart naturalistic explanations of origins?
Putting a positive (evolutionary) spin on the finding, Dr Pritchard said it “extends the bounds” of what evolution was thought capable of doing in regard to the body plan of four-footed animals.
In other words, evidence challenging evolutionary notions can force a rewrite of evolutionary theory, but evolution itself is never questioned.
- Strange reptile fossil puzzles scientists, bbc.com, September 2016.
- Extreme modification of the tetrapod forelimb in a Triassic diapsid reptile, Current Biology 26:2779–2786, 2016.
Cold slab graveyard in Earth’s mantle points to Noah’s Flood
Using earthquakes to image the inside of the earth, scientists have inferred for some time that there are large slabs of (relatively) cold rock from the earth’s surface that have penetrated deep into the mantle. Conventional theory says that they were thrust down extremely slowly over many millions of years. Now researchers are slowly piecing together a better ‘map’ of these cold slabs, showing a veritable ‘graveyard’ of cold rock near the bottom of the mantle.
But how can slabs survive intact at the bottom of the mantle, and how could they have remained cold for millions of years there—and during their slow descent—when the temperature of their surroundings is as much as 3,000–4,000°C hotter? There are also numerous ‘barriers’ in the mantle that would be hard for sinking slabs to break through, suggesting a sizable force would be needed.
All this fits well with the idea that slabs of cold oceanic crust from the earth’s surface sank through the mantle much faster than the slow movement of crustal plates seen today, and much more recently than long-age researchers imagine. This is powerfully consistent with the global tectonic catastrophe of Noah’s Flood (see creation.com/cab11).
- Voosen, P., Graveyard of cold slabs mapped in Earth’s mantle, Science 354(6315):954–955, November 2016 | doi: 10.1126/science.354.6315.954.
Oil from sewage could help fuel future
An experimental process that turns human waste into biocrude oil in minutes may provide part of the answer to the world’s need to fuel its millions of machines.
A US Department of Energy researcher said of the technique: “The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions the Earth uses to create crude oil … using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years.”
The researchers forced sewage sludge through a tube at a pressure of 20.7 MPa (3,000 lb/in2 or 204 atmospheres) and heated it to 349°C (660°F). This produced something very similar to fossil crude oil, which the laboratory said could be refined to make gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.
Creation magazine reported on a similar process in 1990 in which heated sewage sludge—to which alkali had been added—was converted into the long-chain hydrocarbons of crude oil.
Most scientists accept that crude oil is produced by long-term heating and maturing of organic matter subjected to enormous pressures, but the fact that it can be mimicked by a process that takes only minutes suggests that long ages aren’t needed.
Conditions such as heat, pressure (and the absence of oxygen) would have been widely available for the vast quantity of organic material buried deeply in the sediments of the global Flood.
- Szondy, D., Mimicking nature turns sewage into biocrude oil in minutes, newatlas.com, November 2016.
- Mott, N., The government wants to turn human waste into biocrude oil, inverse.com, November 2016.
- Snelling, A., How fast can oil form? Creation 12(2):30–34, March 1990.
Long ages, dinosaurs impacted author’s ‘faith’
CMI has long pointed out that what people believe about the age of the earth and dinosaurs can readily impact how they respond to the Genesis account of our origins; and therefore, ultimately, to the divinity of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the Cross.
High-profile British historian and author Tom Holland provides another striking case in point. London-based Premier Christian Radio interviewed him about his change of mind regarding the impact of Christianity—he now believes we owe an enormous debt to Christianity for the ethics and values of our culture (see creation.com/bible-bedrock).
However, this change of mind has not extended to an open embrace of the truth of Christianity. In his interview, Holland said he first began to doubt in Sunday school when—aged about five—he saw an illustrated Bible with a picture of Adam and Eve and a brachiosaur. As a preschooler, he was obsessed with dinosaurs and totally convinced they had died out millions of years ago. So the Bible, not his long-age ‘faith’, had to be wrong. He told the radio station:
“That has always been a problem for me … when I contemplate the vastness and immensity of geological time; I think about the asteroids that smacked into planet Earth and incinerated the dinosaurs; I think of how many species have come and gone; I think of the tininess of our earth in the context of the vastness of the universe and then I’m to think … God? There is a tension there … that shadow of disbelief is still thick over me.”
Such an example underscores the importance of the creation message, including to young children, and the wisdom of providing some evidence to back it up.
- Unbelievable? Why I changed my mind about Christian history, Tom Holland and Larry Hurtado premierchristianradio.com, October 2016.
Awe-inspiring video fosters ‘divine’ version of evolution
Researchers looking at the effect of a nature video which produced a sense of awe in non-theist students discovered that it had a noticeable effect on their perception of how evolution supposedly works. After watching the video they were asked if they preferred an unpredictable, unstructured and random version of evolution or a structured and non-random version of evolution. Of course, orderliness contradicts evolution, with the study rightly acknowledging that, “Evolutionary theory emphasizes the importance of randomness in the process of natural selection, and as a result can be perceived as existentially threatening.”
As part of the study students were played two videos, one neutral, and one to elicit a sense of awe—a five-minute montage of nature clips from the BBC’s Planet Earth. They found that when the non-theist students were played the neutral video just over 10% answered that they preferred a structured and ordered version of evolution which was “not the result of randomness”. But when shown the BBC’s Planet Earth montage, that shot up to just under 40% of the non-theist students. They concluded that, “Awe increased preference for the orderly version of evolution for non-theists, but had no effect on theory preference for theists.”
Those who believe in the God of the Bible regularly point out His eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20) as observed in the creation. It is understandable that many, beholding the wonder of creation, would find it hard to accept that it all happened from the randomness and meaninglessness that evolutionary theory espouses. However, like many of the subjects of this experiment, their solution is rarely to question evolution itself, or to accept what the Creator has revealed about the true history of life and the universe. Rather, they try and fit some sort of divine meaning into evolution. This is often some new-agey, vague spiritual ‘force’, and can make it even harder for them to come to know the sin-judging, Saviour-God on His terms. Acquainting them with the evidence against evolution and for the truth of biblical creation is a much better way of dealing with the meaninglessness of evolutionary belief.
- Valdesolo, P. et al., Awe and scientific explanation, Emotion 16(7):937–940, October 2016.
Earth-bound look for alien life
As many evolutionists wax enthusiastic about the likelihood of life beyond Earth, an article by prominent evolutionist and biophysicist Paul Davies is sobering. He writes that in earlier decades, prominent evolutionists (e.g. Francis Crick, Jacques Monod) had faced up to the staggering odds against a random chemical origin for the first life. Earth’s life must therefore have been a one-off fluke, akin to “a miracle”. Even if Earth-like planets existed in truly vast numbers, that would still be insignificant next to the biochemical improbability of random chemical reactions generating life capable of reproduction (essential before natural selection can supposedly operate). So the scientific consensus was, we must be alone.
Yet today, belief in life ‘out there’ is rampant. “Many distinguished scientists proclaim that the universe is teeming with life, at least some of it intelligent” (one even calling it “a cosmic imperative”).
This is, says Davies, even though “we are almost as much in the dark today about the pathway from nonlife to life as Charles Darwin”; “the science has hardly changed.”
Davies says they tacitly assume that life did not come from raw chemistry; there must be some self-organizing life principle at work. The problem is, he says, “we have found no evidence for it yet.” Davies proposes a test of sorts for this assumption, currently held on blind faith; if life can indeed readily arise, it should have done so more than once on Earth. If so, “microbial descendants of another genesis”, hence radically different to known Earth life, could be everywhere. He suggests that discovering “just a single ‘alien’ microbe [would] settle the matter.”
Meanwhile, the known principles of chemistry and biology show that ‘chemical evolution’ is impossible, and evolutionists’ belief in some self-organizing ‘life force’ is wishful thinking.
- Davies, P., The cosmos might be mostly devoid of life, scientificamerican.com, September 2016.
Bible connection to Hazor statue find
A team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered part of a broken statue in an archaeological dig at Tel Hazor National Park, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
Based on words in hieroglyphic script inscribed on the statue’s base, archaeologists say it was most likely connected with the Egyptian god Ptah. They speculate that the statue was a gift to Hazor’s king, who must therefore have commanded considerable respect at the time, about 13 centuries before Christ.
This is consistent with what the Bible tells us about Hazor; that it was a significant seat of power. Following God’s command, Joshua destroyed the city and its people (Joshua 11:1–15). Thus, once again, an archaeological discovery supports the Bible’s historical accuracy.
- Historic find: A statue of an Egyptian official at Tel-Hazor in Israel, sciencedaily.com, July 2016.
Yet another origin-of-life idea
In spite of the fatal inadequacies and serious flaws of the ‘RNA world’ idea for the origin of life (see creation.com/rna), it has remained popular for several decades, largely because ‘What else did they have?’ The idea entails RNA arising first, and later giving rise to proteins and DNA. This was supposedly made possible through the chance origin of the sole nucleotide that differs between RNA (containing uracil) and DNA (thymine). Then, DNA copies of RNA molecules supposedly formed to create the DNA sequences that code for the RNA that supposedly had proven functional.
However, a mix of RNA and DNA components without the cell milieu to protect them would result in hybrid RNA-DNA molecules. Now a study at the Scripps Institute has found that RNA-DNA hybrids are more unstable than RNA, and RNA is already unstable compared to DNA, so this would not be a viable path to a DNA world. The researchers proposed that RNA and DNA must have arisen separately and then come together, which then in some way overcame the difficulties that they demonstrated. Of course, this now makes the whole naturalistic scenario even more improbable.
At least, though, they are getting a little closer to the truth, because the simplest living things have both RNA and DNA. However, much, much more is needed to enable life, which involves reproduction. Not only are many more (and complex) chemicals required, but the vital requirement is information. This is carried as a coded message on DNA, independent of the properties of the chemical ‘letters’ in the same way that the information in this article is not a property of ink and paper.
All of this ‘shouts’ that life was created by an intelligence far superior to that of us humans; see our comprehensive explanation of what is needed for life: creation.com/ool. It is also a major factor that caused the world’s foremost atheist thinker to change his mind; see creation.com/flew.
- Gavette, J.V. et al., RNA–DNA Chimeras in the context of an RNA World transition to an RNA/DNA World, Angewandte Chemie Int. Edn 55(42):13204–13209, 10 October 2016 | doi:10.1002/anie.201607919.
Solid rock from gas
Researchers concerned with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a power station in Iceland injected 175 tons of the gas into cavities in basaltic rock deep underground, seeking to trap it there. The scientists later went back to check if there had been any leakage and were amazed when they discovered that nearly all the CO2 gas had been converted into solid rock! “The results just blew us away.”
The researchers found that, under the right conditions, the process occurs in just months. Their result “contrasts with the common view that the immobilization of CO2 as carbonate minerals within geologic reservoirs takes several hundreds to thousands of years.” They were forced to conclude that such mineralization can occur “far faster than previously postulated.”
The biblical Flood occurred when the fountains of the great deep were released, which involved considerable volcanic activity. Massive quantities of naturally-occurring CO2, released from volcanoes, would have dissolved in groundwater and the floodwaters. Coupled with this recent discovery, this points to a way in which the bulk of the world’s extensive carbonate rock deposits could have formed in months.
- Turning CO2 emissions into stone, power-eng.com, August 2016.
- Matter, J.M. et al., Rapid carbon mineralization for permanent disposal of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, Science 352(6291):aad8132, June 2016 | doi: 10.1126/science.aad8132.
Cool features keep penguins warm
How penguins handle extremely low temperatures and stay ice-free has been revealed by researchers who built a replica of the Humboldt penguin’s feathers.
They discovered that each feather is covered in nanoscale ridges and interlocking hooks which help repel ice. When the model was sprayed for hours with super-cooled water, no ice formed.
Now there’s speculation that a material inspired by penguin feathers could help to prevent ice crystals from sticking to surfaces.
The penguin feather is another example of amazing design that showcases the Master Designer’s ability to create an elegant solution to a variety of problems.
- Wang, S., et al., Icephobicity of penguins Spheniscus humboldti and an artificial replica of penguin feather with air-infused hierarchical rough structures, J. Phys Chem. 120(29):15923–15929 | doi:10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b12298, February 2016.
- Gray, R., So that’s how penguins stay ice free, dailymail.co.uk, February 2016.
The magazine Scientific American has published a list of answers from various scientists to what it has labelled “20 Big Questions about the Future of Humanity”. It is no surprise that only evolutionary options are offered and that the ‘hope’ for humanity is envisioned to be somewhere out in the galaxy.
British cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees, in addressing a question about a hope for humanity beyond Earth, gave this frank assessment:
“I think it’s a dangerous delusion to envisage mass emigration from Earth. There’s nowhere else in the solar system that’s as comfortable as even the top of Everest or the South Pole. We must address the world’s problems here.”
Despite that, he did suggest that, in the future, privately funded adventurers could live on Mars and elsewhere, and that they would eventually become a new species.
On the question of colonizing outer space, NASA planetary protection officer Catharine Conley considered it was “very far in the future” because of the vast number of technical problems to solve.
Contrast those assessments with what Scripture tells us about our world and ourselves: Isaiah 45:18 says, “For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited … .”
For more on how perfectly fitted for life Earth is, see creation.com/earth-design.
- 20 big questions about the future of humanity, scientificamerican.com, September 2016.
Noah’s Ark coins
The Central Bank of Armenia, borrowing from the biblical account of Noah’s Flood, has issued coins depicting the Ark, a dove with an olive branch and the mountains of Ararat. (The Ararat region was once part of Armenia but now is within Turkey’s borders.)
The Ark’s shape is reasonably well represented, which is a departure from the cartoon-like images in various publications, unfortunately including many produced by Christians.
The Noah’s Ark silver coins are produced by a private German mint and come in various values from 100 dram (about US20¢) to 20,000 dram (US$40).
Coins struck for some Roman emperors commemorated Noah and the Ark and, in more recent times, postage stamps have featured similar imagery.
- Noah’s Ark, geiger-edelmetalle.com.