Focus: creation news and views 39(4)
Soft tissue in fossil dinosaur brains
In 2009, researchers reported that they had found the fossilized remains of a fish brain—dated at 300 million years by evolutionary standards. John Maisey, the lead author, found it remarkable that brain tissue was preserved by fossilization, since it consisted mainly of water.
Then, in 2016, researchers studying the remains of an Iguanadon-like creature reported not just fossilized brains, but unfossilized brain tissue. Dated by evolutionists at 133 million years, this fossil from Bexhill, England, was discovered more than a decade ago but only recently analyzed. It was found to contain unfossilized protein fragments—brain tissue, fine capillaries, collagen structures, and the membrane that surrounds the brain. The authors attributed the brain tissue preservation to the highly acidic, low-oxygen environment in which it was found. However, such an acidic environment should have sped up rather than slowed the breaking down of brain tissue and protein.
How long can brain tissue last? The existence of soft issue in fossils is hugely problematic to the idea that these fossils are millions of years old.
- Roach, J., Oldest fossil brain found in “bizarre” prehistoric fish, news.nationalgeographic.com, March 2009.
- Brasier, M.D. et al., Remarkable preservation of brain tissue in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur, Geol. Soc. London Spec. Publ. SP448.3, October 2016 | doi: 10.1144/SP448.3.
Erratum [published in 40(1)]: It was incorrectly reported that unfossilized brain tissue was found in an Iguanadon-like creature. What was found was fossilized Iguanodon-like brain tissue preserving the structure of brain tissue, fine capillaries, and collagenous fibres. This is still an excellent example of rapid fossilization. And there are examples of actual soft tissue preservation (see creation.com/dino-disquiet).
Researchers who sequenced the genome of four bear species have discovered a genetic connection which is best explained by the biblical creationist model of diversification within an original created bear kind (see creation.com/bears).
The team from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum said the research showed that “gene flow, or gene exchange, between species by extensive hybridization, is possible between most bear species”.
The bear family (Ursidae) consists of eight species, four of which are contained in the Ursus group: the brown bear, American black bear, Asiatic black bear, and polar bear. Even within this group (known as a genus) the variation is wide.
Although Alaskan brown bears are known to breed with polar bears, the genome study results caused the team to question even the existing evolutionary concept of species, not just with bears.
Creationists accept that the design features we see in animals are largely the result of original created design, expressed and ‘fine-tuned’ to fit the environment by subsequent adaptation, through natural selection in a fallen world of death and struggle. Where the original created kind splits into new populations which generally do not interbreed, these are classed as ‘new species’, but where hybridization is still possible the connection to the gene pool of the original kind is apparent.
- Janke, A. et al., The evolutionary history of bears is characterized by gene flow across species, Scientific Reports 7:46487, 2017 | doi:10.1038/srep46487.
- Bears breed across species borders, sciencedaily.com, April 2017.
A leading cause of death, severe illness, and handicap in newborn babies is extreme premature delivery. But a new possible treatment for ultra-premature babies is being tested on lambs. It’s called an ‘artificial womb’, consisting of a plastic bag filled with ‘amniotic fluid’ with a unit to oxygenate the baby lamb’s blood. Lambs at a stage equivalent to a very premature human baby have been kept alive for four weeks.
This may allow a premature human baby to continue to develop before having to use lungs that are not yet suited to breathing air. Babies as early as 22 weeks could be saved. And children who would otherwise be at much greater risk for respiratory problems and cerebral palsy may turn out healthier than they would with current incubators and respirators. The treatment shows promise of being much better and less expensive than current methods.
All human life is precious and we can celebrate that a new method for saving extremely premature babies may be around the corner. For more, see creation.com/artificial-wombs.
- Partridge, E.A. et al., An extra-uterine system to physiologically support the extreme premature lamb, Nat. Commun. 8:15112, 2017 | doi:10.1038/ncomms15112.
Life and the ‘first’ cell
A huge problem for naturalistic evolution is how life with its complex coded information could have arisen spontaneously in evolution’s very first living cell.
We have previously written about how scientists have attempted to determine the simplest self-reproducing cell (see creation.com/simple). This hypothetical cell was said to require a minimum of 256 genes. The problem for evolutionists is that they cannot appeal to natural selection to explain the first cell. That’s because natural selection requires a living, reproducing cell to pass on any trait selected for! Further research in 2006 increased this figure to 387 protein-coding and 43 RNA-coding genes.
In 2016, the minimalist genome was once again increased with the creation of a synthetic self-reproducing bacterium: this time, to 473 genes (531,560 ‘letters’), including 65 whose function are unknown but which were essential for the survival of the cell. This is not much less than Mycoplasma genitalium (482 genes, 582,970 letters)—which itself is a parasite of even more complex organisms. How then can evolutionists explain the origin of the very first self-reproducing cell? It is a mathematical impossibility for just one gene to have arisen by chance—much less 473.
- Research highlights, Nature 439(7074):246–247, January 2006 | doi:10.1038/439246a.
- Glass, J.I. et al., Essential genes of a minimal bacterium, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 103(2): 425–430, January 2006 | doi:10.1073/pnas.0510013103.
- Hesman, T., Scientists build minimum genome bacterium, sciencenews.org, March 2016.
Quick quasar quandary
Quasars emit large amounts of energy and are generally thought to relate to a black hole, typically in the centre of a galaxy. It is suggested that when the black hole is sucking matter in (‘feeding’) it forms what is called an accretion disk. As matter in this disk spirals in, it releases an enormous amount of energy, which explains the huge release of energy typical of the quasar. Astronomers have now found a quasar at the centre of a galaxy where it has brightened 10-fold in about a year. Such rapid changes challenge stellar evolution theories, which have previously put such changes into a timeframe of millions of years. Not surprisingly, such a rapid ‘switch on’ was completely unexpected.
Once again, observations are at odds with the evolutionary timeframe for astronomical events. For more, see creation.com/changing-quasars.
- Gezari, S. et al., iPTF discovery of the rapid ‘turn-on’ of a luminous quasar, ApJ 835(2):144, February 2017 | doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/835/2/144.
DNA from the dust
Researchers who’ve discovered ‘extinct human’ mitochondrial DNA samples in soils from several sites of various ages, say they’ve established a valuable archaeological tool for places that lack skeletal remains.
The innovative research technique involved analyzing mostly cave sediments—including some stored at room temperature for several years—for any DNA fragments. The results revealed Neandertal and Denisovan DNA along with that of woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave bear and cave hyena.
The DNA was in layers or sites where no bones or teeth, for example, were previously found. The discovery also raises the question of how such fragile DNA could last in sediments dated 14,000 to 550,000 years. As well, how can the researchers know when the DNA trace was left at a site?
Even so, most evolutionists look at Neandertals and Denisovans as less than human, but the constantly-changing understanding of human DNA—including that there is more variation between humans than previously thought—suggests rather they are more likely fully human. That, of course, better fits with the view that these so-called ‘extinct humans’ are actually descendants of Noah and his family, who spread out after the confusion of languages at Babel.
- DNA from extinct humans discovered in cave sediments, phys.org, April 2017.
- Slon, V. et al., Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from Pleistocene sediments, sciencemag.org, April 2017 | doi: 10.1126/science.aam9695.
Bone carvings add to Neandertal picture
Researchers say the discovery of carvings—i.e., human artwork—on a raven’s bone in a Crimean cave supports growing speculation that Neandertals had “comparable cognition” to modern humans.
The markings were on a 1.5 cm (half inch) bone, dated by the researchers at 40,000 years. They said that if the markings were carved “with the goal of producing a visually consistent pattern”, it would provide the oldest evidence that Neandertals “understood the value of symbolism and aesthetics”.
The study authors noted evidence that Neandertals, for example, buried their dead, killed game, exploited plants (see also Smart Neandertals used aspirin? Creation 39(3):7, 2017), and crafted tools.
Such discoveries are consistent with Neandertals being one of the post-Flood populations of humans descended from Noah and his family following the dispersion from Babel (Genesis 11). So they were fully human after all.
- Majkić, A. et al., A decorated raven bone from the Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) Neanderthal site, Crimea, PLoS ONE 12(3): e0173435, 2017 | doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0173435.
- Hale, T., 40,000-year-old raven bone carving suggests Neanderthals were artists, iflscience.com, March 2017.
More on Homo naledi
In May 2017, researchers gave an update on the alleged ‘ape-man’ species Homo naledi based on further finds from the Rising Star cave system in South Africa.
This time the focus was on fossils from what is known as the Lesedi Chamber which has no direct connection to the Dinaledi Chamber where Homo naledi was found and later reported on in 2015.
At the time, Homo naledi was described as an ancient, primitive human species that lived between 2 million and 100,000 years ago. The ‘new’ H. naledi fossils have been assigned an age range of between 236,000 and 335,000 years and are placed ‘beside’ Homo sapiens in evolutionary thinking.
These age range discrepancies alone raise more questions than answers for evolutionists. Their mix of anatomical features seems odd even for evolutionary theory. This has led ape-man researcher Dr Peter Line to suggest an interesting and very plausible environmental hypothesis—a dietary deficiency, not DNA. Some evolutionist experts have proposed the same explanation for Indonesia’s famous ‘Hobbit/ape-man’ fossils. See Dr Line’s review of the latest claims at creation.com/naledi.
- Surugue, L., Homo Naledi: Mystery human species lived alongside Homo Sapiens, International Business Times, May 2017.
Water dragons change quickly
Australian researchers have identified “rapid genetic and morphological differentiation” in water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii) in several city parks on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
The researchers said similar “rapid evolutionary change” had been observed in creatures isolated on archipelagos and oceanic islands. They concluded that the changes seen in water dragons was a case for rapid evolution that “may, in time, favour adaptive diversification”.
They said the populations showed significant differentiation in “relative body size, relative head and limb morphology and relative forelimb and hindlimb length”.
Informed creationists have long known that natural selection can easily cause major variation in short time periods. Because it acts on the created genetic information already present, these changes do not support molecules-to-man evolution (i.e. no new information is added). Further, such speciation is rapid, and actually helps us understand how the limited number of kinds on the Ark would rapidly diversify after the Flood (see creation.com/speedy and creation.com/qa-speciation). However, water dragons will always be water dragons.
- Frère, C.H. et al., Archipelagos of the Anthropocene: rapid and extensive differentiation of native terrestrial vertebrates in a single metropolis, Mol. Ecol. 26(9):2466–2481, May 2017 | doi:10.1111/mec.14042.
Biomimetics leads to ammonia breakthrough
Scientists at the University of Utah are imitating nature to create ammonia (NH3)—a chemical important for producing fertilizer. Each year, of the order of 140 to 180 million tonnes of ammonia are produced using the Haber–Bosch process, which works at high pressure and temperature and consumes some 1% of the world’s energy.
Nitrogen gas is also converted to ammonia in plants, a process called nitrogen ‘fixation’. However, it works at normal temperature and pressure using enzymes from certain bacteria. The University of Utah scientists used a fuel cell to imitate this biological process. The big advantage is that ammonia is produced without the need for extreme pressure and temperature.
Human intelligence, creativity, and technology were once again used to copy this process, demonstrating something of the wisdom, power, and intelligence of the Creator, who invented it first. Let’s give credit where credit is due (compare creation.com/biomimetics).
- Brown, E., Imitating nature to produce ammonia, IEEE GlobalSpec, insights.globalspec.com, February 2017.Compare Demick, D., The molecular sledgehammer, Creation 24(2):52–53, 2002; creation.com/sledge.
SETI search reports … nothing
The SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project has released a report which says it may never find anything ‘out there’.
The team analyzed signals from a sample of 692 nearby stars but found no ‘intelligent life’. One member said: “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. But we don’t know how many needles are there.” Previously, what were seen to be hopeful signs have turned out to be embarrassing mix-ups (see creation.com/wow).
A considerable funding boost from Russian billionaire Yuri Milner has added impetus to the ongoing search for life beyond Earth, but even New Scientist magazine is pessimistic about a positive outcome.
It reported both Avi Loeb of Harvard University and Claudio Grimaldi of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne as saying that the search may ultimately prove fruitless.
What is not fruitless is the search for God the Creator Who has already revealed that He is the Intelligent Source from which life came, when He created Adam from the dust of the ground.
- Enriquez, J.E. et al., The Breakthrough Listen search for advanced life: 1.1–1.9 GHz observations of 692 nearby stars, seti.berkeley.edu, April 2017.
- Crane, L., We still haven’t heard from aliens—here’s why we might never, newscientist.com, April 2017.
Tissue ‘preserved’ in ‘shin destroyer’ dinosaur
A newly named dinosaur fossil has been linked to a monster from a Ghostbusters movie, but more interesting is the claim that soft tissues have been preserved in the supposed 75 million-year-old specimen.
The ankylosaur has been named Zuul crurivastator; Zuul because of its ‘likeness’ to the movie monster, while crurivastator translates to ‘destroyer of shins’. It had a sledgehammer-like end to its 3 m-long (10 ft) tail, bony spikes along its 6 m-long (20 ft) body, and weighed about 2,500 kg (5,500 lb).
One of the researchers said: “Most excitingly, soft tissues such as scales and the horny sheaths of spikes are preserved, which will be a focus of our future research.”
While researchers include things like fossilized impressions of skin as examples of soft tissue ‘preservation’, this find includes a substantial black film of what appears to be keratin, the protein which makes things like hair, nails, and reptile scales. If still intact, it would add to the growing list of actual, intact and unfossilized soft tissue discoveries which contradicts belief in long ages. For more, see creation.com/dino-disquiet.
- Geggel, L., Spiky Ankylosaurus looks like monster from ‘Ghostbusters’, livescience.com, May 2017.
- Arbour, V.M. and Evans, D.C., A new ankylosaurine dinosaur from the Judith River Formation of Montana, USA, based on an exceptional skeleton with soft tissue preservation, R. Soc. Open Sci. 4:161086, May 2017 | doi:10.1098/rsos.161086.
Not out of Africa or Europe
Some international scientists have upset the current story of human evolution by claiming that the earliest prehuman arose in Europe, not Africa. They based their hypothesis mostly on two fossils: a lower jaw with teeth found in 1944 in Greece and an upper premolar tooth found in 2009 in Bulgaria.
Their claim depends on the evolutionary ‘age’ they assigned to the fossils—around 7.2 million years, some 200,000 years earlier (older) than the African story. It also depends on the size and shape of the teeth, which they say are characteristic of human teeth.
Both fossils were found in sedimentary deposits that also contained abundant fossil remains of land animals.
These fossils are explained by biblical events. The sediments were deposited very late in Noah’s Flood. Animals and people, overwhelmed some six months earlier, as the Flood rose over all the earth, floated in the water, disintegrated, and were buried as the waters had almost completely receded. People did not evolve in Africa or Europe, but emerged from Noah’s Ark about 4,500 years ago, after the floodwaters had gone down.
- Pruitt, S., Did the first human ancestor emerge in Europe, not Africa? history.com, May 2017.
- Böhme, M. et al., Messinian age and savannah environment of the possible hominin Graecopithecus from Europe, PLoS ONE 2017 | doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0177347.
- Fuss, J. et al., Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the Late Miocene of Europe, PLoS ONE 2017 | doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0177127.
Twists and turns
The earth really can open up and snap shut in an earthquake. Researchers simulated an event on a transparent block of plastic and, using high-speed diagnostics, saw it twist open and snap shut at the point of the ‘fault’.
They concluded the process would be similar in a real earthquake particularly in thrust faults which happen in ‘weak’ areas of the earth’s crust. In these situations, the pressure build-up pushes the lower strata over the upper layer. An example of this was the magnitude-9 Tōhoku earthquake in 2011 that created a tsunami and caused widespread damage in Japan.
Study of these incredible forces unleashed in earthquakes gives insight into the geological forces released during the catastrophe of Noah’s Flood. The study also reminds us of the time the earth suddenly opened, swallowed people, and closed again when the Israelites were in the desert (Numbers 16:31–34).
- Earthquakes can make thrust faults open violently and snap shut, caltech.edu, January 2017.
New Zealand given continental status
Geologists report that New Zealand is part of an area about the size of greater India which they are calling the world’s eighth continent, Zealandia (or Tasmantis).
Even though more than 90% of Zealandia’s 5 million km2 (1.9 million sq. miles) is now covered by water, researchers say it meets all the criteria applied to Earth’s seven other continents. These include being “elevated above the surrounding area with a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor”.
The geologists say their finding “illustrates that the large and the obvious in natural science can be overlooked”. The fact that Zealandia has a continental shelf (see Continental Margin article, pp. 42–44) indicates that it likely achieved its present elevation after the Recessive stage of Noah’s Flood.
- Mortimer, N. et al., Zealandia: Earth’s hidden continent, GSA Today 27(3):27–35, March/April 2017 | doi: 10.1130/GSATG321A.1.
- AFP, Zealandia: Scientists say there’s an eighth continent underneath New Zealand, 9news.com.au, February 2017.