Focus: creation news and views 41(2)
Birdsong organ an evolutionary puzzle
There is little in nature to compare to the beauty of bird song. For this, birds use a unique avian vocal organ called the syrinx in the chest at the bottom of the trachea (windpipe). Birds also have a larynx in the throat at the top of the trachea, and other animals use this ‘voicebox’ to make sounds. But birds use only their syrinx to vocalize. A new study trying to identify its evolutionary origin has come up short, confirming the syrinx is unique to birds, an evolutionary oddity.
Most evolutionists say that birds evolved from dinosaurs. But the origin of the syrinx is squarely at odds with this notion, as no dinosaur has been found with a syrinx. Rather, the ‘oldest’ known fossilised syrinx was found in a fully formed bird, the fossils of which are found with dinosaurs—Vegavis iaai, a member of the duck/goose created kind.
In short, said Chad Eliason, a co-author of the study, “We don’t know where that organ came from, how and why it evolved”. If only evolutionists would save themselves the trouble of trying to find evolutionary links. We read in Genesis that birds were created according to their kinds on Day 5. This would have been complete with the syrinx, able to produce the majestic sounds God created them to make.
- Kingsley, E.P. et al., Identity and novelty in the avian syrinx, PNAS 115(41):10209–10217, October 9, 2018 | doi:10.1073/pnas.1804586115.
- Birds’ voiceboxes are odd ducks, fieldmuseum.org, 24 September 2018.
Jerusalem inscription discovery
Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a unique inscription bearing the name of Jerusalem, believed to date from around 100 BC. Written in Hebrew, it was found carved on a limestone column drum (a short section of a column) in the excavations of an artisan’s village only 2.5 km from the Temple Mount.
It is an important find because it is the only Second Temple period stone inscription ever unearthed that uses the full Hebrew spelling, Yerushalayim, instead of the more common shorthand version, Yerushalem. This full spelling, while rarely discovered in archaeology, is attested to in the Bible.
- Borschel-Dan, A., Earliest known stone carving of Hebrew word ‘Jerusalem’ found near city entrance, timesofisrael.com, 9 October 2018.
- Katz, B., 2,000-year-old stone inscription is earliest to spell out ‘Jerusalem’, smithsonianmag.com, 17 October 2018.
Fossil evidence of bird lungs raises eyebrows
Scientists have found a fossil of a bird, Archaeorhynchus spathula, which was ‘dated’ at 120 million years old using long–age assumptions. But it displayed features that are regarded by evolutionists as ‘modern’. The bird has a toothless, spatula-like bill, and the ability to flex its upper jaw. These features are all found in ‘modern’ shore-dwelling birds. The fossil also had well-defined flight feathers indicative of a strong flyer. It even had long pointed feathers that were previously unknown in any ‘Mesozoic’ birds. These feathers have hitherto only been found in ‘modern’ birds such as the pintail duck.
Most impressively of all, the fossil was preserved with what appear to be the lungs. These resemble those of small modern birds, and are unlike those of reptiles. Many evolutionists claim that modern birds only evolved from dinosaurs around 65 million years ago. But here we have a bird that dates back to 120 million years using evolutionary dating, yet it is already fully developed with all these ‘modern’ features of birds.
We can best understand this fossil bird as having been buried with dinosaurs during the Flood of Noah. Aquatic birds are frequently found with dinosaurs, consistent with them both living in/around water.
- Xiaoli Wang, Jingmai K., et al., Archaeorhynchus preserving significant soft tissue including probable fossilized lungs, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Oct 2018, 201805803; doi:10.1073/pnas.1805803115.
- Riddle of the Feathered Dragons, p. 118, Yale University Press, 2012.
Scale ghosts and muscle bundles: more Flood evidence
A remarkably well preserved fossil marine lizard has been discovered in Puglia, Italy, in a limestone deposit already well known for its abundance of fossil fish. The new species of marine lizard, named Primitivus manduriensis, is thought to have had a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
Easily observed on the specimen were abundant fossil soft tissues. These included ‘scale ghosts’ (the impression of the outline of the outer scales preserved in the inner layer of the skin beneath them), three-dimensional collagen fibres and muscle bundles, and with slightly closer examination even its stomach contents, which included a partially digested bone. The study highlighted that the “muscle fibres are so well preserved that the single myomeres [blocks of muscle tissue] can be easily distinguished with the naked eye”!
Lead author of the study, Ilaria Paparella, explained: “There need to be very special conditions for soft tissue to be preserved on a fossil”. In this particular case the study detailed that part of those special conditions were the “Short time [that] passed between the death of the animal … and burial after landing on the seafloor”. She went on to say, “For living species, scientists use scale patterns and skin for identification. It was unique to be using these techniques to look at a specimen that died 70 million years ago”.
Rather than try to continue to force such wonderful fossils into ‘millions-of-years’ geology it makes much more sense that this specimen was formed rapidly in the global Flood the Bible describes occurring 4,500 years ago; hence its remarkable state.
- Willis, K., Scientists discover new species of ancient marine lizard, phys.org, 21 June 2018.
- Paparella, I., et al. A new fossil marine lizard with soft tissues from the Late Cretaceous of southern Italy. R. Soc. Open Sci. 5:172411, 2018 | doi.10.1098/rsos.172411.
T. rex could turn quickly
The tyrannosaur created kind was created vegetarian on Day 6, but Tyranosaurs were clearly predators by the time of the Flood, about 1,600 years later. The most infamous variety of this kind was T. rex, which was about 12 m (40 ft) long, 4 m (13 ft) tall at the hips, and weighed 6 tonnes (13,000 pounds). But could such a huge creature run and catch prey, or was it reduced to scavenging?
A team led by biomedical engineering expert Eric Snively has shown that T. rex was much more agile than previously thought. First, for its size, it wasn’t that long head-to-tail. Think of a figure skater who pulls her arms inwards to spin faster. This works because her more compact posture has lower rotational inertia (resistance to turning). Second, it had larger ilia (singular ilium), the upper hip bones. This means that larger and stronger muscles could be attached, enabling greater torque (turning force).
This combination of lower rotational inertia and higher torque means that it could have turned quickly. Dr Snively said: “No matter what their body size, tyrannosaurs always seemed able to turn their bodies twice as quickly as other blade-toothed carnivorous dinosaurs of the same mass.”
- Paul, G.S., The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, 2nd Edn, pp.116–117, Princeton University Press, 2016.
- Snively, E. and 11 others, Lower rotational inertia and larger leg muscles indicate more rapid turns in tyrannosaurids than in other large theropods, Peer J Preprints, 4 July 2018| doi:10.7287/peerj.preprints.27021.
- Geggel, L., T. rex turned like a ballerina from a slow-motion nightmare, livescience.com, 6 November 2018.
Pontius Pilate named on ring
Pontius Pilate, best known for conducting one of the trials of Jesus and ordering His crucifixion, was the Roman Prefect of Judea AD 26–36. A copper-alloy ring from the same time, found in Herodium, a huge fortress-palace built by Herod the Great, has revealed his name. The Greek writing spells out “of Pilatus” around an image of a wine vessel known as a krater. It is believed that the ring may have belonged to Pilate himself, or may have been used by one of his officials. This fascinating archaeological find adds to the ever-growing body of evidence confirming the Bible’s historical accuracy.
- Amorai-Stark, S. et al., An inscribed copper-alloy finger ring from herodium depicting a krater, Israel Exploration Journal 68(2):208–220, 2018.
Celebrity opinion on evolution can influence acceptance
A study in the journal Evolutionary Psychology has found that “Exposure to a celebrity’s opinion about evolution can influence individuals’ acceptance of evolution”. It established that reading an expert’s opinion, in this case a fictitious biology professor, did not change a person’s core belief about evolution. Whereas, when reading an endorsement for evolution expressed by movie star George Clooney, the participants showed a greater acceptance.
Despite Clooney having no expertise in the field of study, he was an effective endorser simply due to his film-star status. The Bible is clear that people should not just accept someone’s word, and display gullibility to either star power or an ‘expert’, but should conduct their own investigation, examining the truth of such matters for themselves (Acts 17:11).
- Arnocky, S. et al., Celebrity Opinion Influences Public Acceptance of Human Evolution, Evolutionary Psychology, July-September, pp. 1–11, 2018 | doi:10.1177/1474704918800656.
Make evolution less unethical?
Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rhode Island, Holly Dunsworth, recently wrote that it is “unethical” to teach evolution without also addressing its potential negative consequences, e.g. racism (“white supremacy”) and eugenics.
“Evolution educators—even if sticking to E. coli, fruit flies, or sticklebacks—must confront the ways that evolutionary science has implicitly undergirded and explicitly promoted or has naively inspired so many racist, sexist, and otherwise harmful beliefs and actions. We can no longer arm students with the ideas that have had harmful sociocultural consequences without addressing them explicitly because our failure to do so effectively is the primary reason these horrible consequences exist.”
Dunsworth is therefore proposing a public relations makeover of evolution’s “sordid past” and “sordid present”, calling for “a new narrative” that everyone can embrace. “It’s time for a human evolution that’s fit for all humankind.” And in a plea to her fellow evolutionists to support her quest to make evolution more accepted among scholars, students, and the community: “Without alternative perspectives, who can blame so many folks for out-right avoiding evolutionary thinking?”
However, Dunsworth’s essay stirred up a barrage of criticism from her fellow academics/evolutionists. For example, renowned anti-creationist Jerry Coyne, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, took issue among other things with Dunsworth’s presumption that a more inclusive version of evolutionary teaching would lessen community resistance. “If Dunsworth wants human evolution to catch on in America, she’d be better off loosening the grip of religion than instantiating her human-centered social justice course on evolution.”
- Dunsworth, H., It is unethical to teach evolution without confronting racism and sexism, evolution-institute.org, 19 November 2018, republished 10 days later blogs.plos.org.
- Coyne, J., Evolutionist coopts the field for social justice, whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com, 23 November 2018.
Confusion about ‘Christian’, ‘atheist’ labels
In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 4,700 adults in the USA, one in five respondents who self-identified as ‘Christian’ admitted to not actually believing in God as described in the Bible. And 1% said they did not believe in any higher power at all.
And while none of those in the survey who described themselves as atheists believed in the God of the Bible, almost one in five (18%) said they believed in some other kind of higher power or spiritual force in the universe.
- When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean? pewforum.org, 25 April 2018.
Wasp sting to antibiotic
Scientists have discovered that some of the components of the wasp sting are very potent bacteria-killers. This could be very important for fighting antibiotic-resistant germs.
An MIT doctor investigated several of these components, called antimicrobial peptides (AMPs)—essentially tiny proteins only 12 units long. They have a positive charge, a spiral structure, and a water-repellent part, a combination thought to poke holes in the bacteria’s cell walls.
One of these AMPs, in its raw form, was toxic to humans as well. However, the team made only minor modifications, and developed a form that would not hurt human cells. Then they tested these modified proteins on diseased mice. The result:
“After four days, that compound can completely clear the infection, and that was quite surprising and exciting because we don’t typically see that with other experimental antimicrobials or other antibiotics that we’ve tested in the past with this particular mouse model.”
- MIT, Engineers repurpose wasp venom as an antibiotic drug, sciencedaily.com,7 December 2018.
- Torres, M.D.T. and 11 others, Structure-function-guided exploration of the antimicrobial peptide polybia-CP identifies activity determinants and generates synthetic therapeutic candidates, Nature Communications Biology 1:221, 7 December 2018 | doi:10.1038/s42003-018-0224-2.
Inconvenient date of Chinese stone tools
According to the South China Morning Post, “More than 400 fragments of stone implements have been found in a stratum of sediment that was originally thought to have formed 15 million years ago”. The site was in northern China, in Shibaozhuang village.
At the time of the find (in 2013), and according to evolutionary dating methods and assumptions, the earliest tools appeared in Africa no earlier than 2.6 million years ago. So, according to a researcher: “The sediment [in Shibaozhuang] must be considerably younger than geologists thought, because no stone tools could have appeared so early.” Hence, despite it being said that the sediments had “long been determined by geologists to be at least 15 million years old” they now suddenly ‘must’ be much younger, as such an old date would be incompatible with evolutionary ideas of human origins.
While any date of millions of years does not fit the framework of biblical creation, the above demonstrates how evolutionists confine dates to within ‘acceptable’ limits of their theory. I.e., the sediments can’t be that old because that goes against evolutionary theory. Later, when a younger date is presumably ‘found’, this date can then be used to support evolutionary theory. And the whole episode may even be used as an example of how ‘science’ is self-correcting.
This is a great example of how, when the evidence contradicts evolution, it is the evidence that gets thrown out, not evolutionary theory.
- Chen, S., Sediment in Nihewan might hold clues to the first Homo sapiens, scmp.com, 5 November 2013.
Ant jaws: “fastest animal appendage”
Some small animals can generate very fast blows; we have written on the amazing mantis shrimp that can shatter the walls of glass tanks (Creation 30(2):12–13, 2008; creation.com/shrimpy-superboxer). However, muscles just can’t move that fast. The great speed is the result of a catapult mechanism: this allows muscles to store lots of energy in some springy material, then a latch releases it suddenly. All must be finely coordinated.
However, the mandibles (jaws) of the Dracula ant, Mystrium camillae, exceed even the shrimp in speed and acceleration. Here, the springy material and the latch are both in the jaw itself. The ant presses its jaws together, until they snap, rather like snapping our fingers. But they are much faster: the strike is over in 23 microseconds, with a top speed of 90 m/s (200 mph). Its acceleration is astounding—over a million g, where 1 g is acceleration due to Earth’s gravity; a trained astronaut will pass out at 10 g.
- Larabeem F.J., Smith, A.S., and Suarez, A.V., Snap-jaw morphology is specialized for high-speed power amplification in the Dracula ant, Mystrium camillae, Royal Society Open Science, 12 December 2018 | doi:10.1098/rsos.181447.
Finest fossil owl found
While digging in the Bridger Formation of southwestern Wyoming, researchers discovered an incredibly well-preserved fossil bird of prey, claimed to be 48 million years old. It has recently been identified as an owl, just larger than a modern barn owl. 45 percent of the skeleton is intact, including, wings, legs, feet and skull. Project co-researcher Elizabeth Freedman Fowler stated,
“There is no fossil owl with a skull like this, bird skulls are incredibly thin and fragile, so to have one preserved still in three dimensions, even if slightly crushed, it’s amazing. It even has the hyoids at the bottom, the bones that attach to the tongue muscles.”
This extraordinary find does not point to rock that is millions of years old, but to the owl’s rapid burial during Noah’s Flood around 4,500 years ago.
- Greggel, L., 48-Million-Year-Old Fossil Owl Is Almost Perfectly Preserved, livescience.com, 23 October 2018.
Humanists don’t practise what they preach
BBC presenter Alice Roberts is fronting a Humanist UK campaign to end state funding of religious schools—irrespective of the fact that her children currently attend a Church of England school. Apparently this was out of necessity, as two other schools in the area rejected their application. Alice’s mother Wendy (herself a retired teacher) disapproves of her daughter’s campaign and stated,
“Some humanists complaining about … [indoctrination] … seem to be unaware that they are doing almost exactly that [indoctrinating] about which they are objecting.”
By using words like ‘indoctrination’, humanists are fearmongering, implying that Christian teaching about the Creator is extremist. Presumably humanists prefer schools which advance their ‘less scary’ doctrine—that children descended from ape-like creatures—to be the sole recipients of state funding?
- Hellen, N, Stop funding faith, says BBC presenter Alice Roberts with children at church school, thetimes.co.uk, 11 November 2018.
- Mendick, R., BBC presenter Alice Roberts in ‘battle’ with her mother over campaign against faith schools, telegraph.co.uk, 18 November 2018.