Focus: creation news and views 41(1)
Neanderthal brains did not doom them
In a recent study, Homo sapiens were found to have a proportionally larger cerebellum (a part of the brain involved in regulating voluntary muscle movement, and thought to have some language role) than Neanderthals. “Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.”
This was based on comparing the average of the digital reconstructions of four Neanderthal brains, with the average of four brains classified as early Homo sapiens, as well as the average of modern humans. Leaving aside issues in methodology that could be problematic, the proportionality differences are very minor, and considering the small sample size, as well as the huge variation in both human and Neanderthal brain size, one wonders how so much can be made from findings that essentially mean nothing. Headlines, such as “Neanderthals’ brains may have doomed them to extinction”, illustrate how a lot of hoopla can be made about nothing.
- Kochiyama, T., et al. Reconstructing the Neanderthal brain using computational anatomy, Scientific Reports 8:6296, 26 April 2018.
- Dvorsky, G., Neanderthals’ brains may have doomed them to extinction, geneticliteracyproject.org, 8 May 2018.
Siberian permafrost ponies up a perfectly-preserved foal
Researchers have released details of the breathtaking discovery of a fully intact foal in Siberian permafrost. Located 30 m (100 ft) down in melting permafrost inside the Batagai crater, Yakutia, the mummified horse is approximately two months old, and 98 cm (39 inches) high at the shoulder. The foal appears to have no damage to its carcass, and the hooves, tail, skin, and hair are all still perfectly preserved and visible. It belonged to a now extinct species, Equus lenensis, dubbed the Lena horse, which would have roamed Siberia during the Ice Age. The researchers have stated that the foal likely fell into “some kind of natural trap”. This sudden act allowed for its amazing level of preservation, with it becoming frozen in permafrost shortly after.
From a biblical perspective of history, Siberia would have had large areas of grassland during the Ice Age on its non-glaciated portions. This would have lasted until around 500 years after Noah’s flood, by which time the Siberian climate had changed to what we see today. The foal would have lived at the end of this period, around 4,000 years ago, becoming trapped in sediment (possibly from dust storms or a localized flood event) which was later frozen. Being covered in sediment rapidly, followed by being frozen, meant that the foal was not subjected to scavengers or the normal bacterial decay processes. Instead, the foal was able to remain intact as it slowly dried out in the permafrost becoming the mummy that we see today. This remarkable example reinforces that such preservation is only seen in exceptional circumstances, in which rapid processes are always involved at the onset.
- Perfectly-preserved ancient foal is shown to the world for the first time, siberiantimes.com, 23 August 2018.
- Weisberger, M., Siberian permafrost reveals perfectly preserved Ice-Age baby horse, livescience.com, 24 August 2018.
- For more on the Ice Age as a direct result of the Flood see: creation.com/ice-age.
Our galaxy—much bigger than we thought
Following the results of a new study, it looks like the estimated size of our Milky Way Galaxy needs to be revised—upwards.
It has long been common to read of its estimated diameter as about 100,000 light-years (ly)—lately sometimes up to 160,000 ly. 100,000 ly is already massive—c. 950 quadrillion kilometres (590 quadrillion miles), or 950 followed by fifteen zeroes. It means that if one could travel at the speed of light c (under physical laws, no object can travel faster than this), it would take 100,000 years to go from one side to the other.
The new study estimates the size of the Galaxy’s disc as being double this—200,000 ly across. And yet this is less than a pinprick in the vast expanse of the universe as a whole.
A common skeptical objection concerns how light could have reached us from distant galaxies in under 6,000 years. It’s important to remember that a light-year measures distance, not time. And the same scientific principles that dictate c as the universe’s speed limit—Einsteinian relativity—also alert us to the experimentally-proven reality of time dilation when velocity and/or gravitational strength changes.
This raises interesting possibilities of how there was ample ‘time’ for the most distant light to reach Earth in a short time without any logical contradictions. For a good summary of creationist thinking on this, see Chapter 5 of The Creation Answers Book (creation.com/starlight).
- Howell, E., How long would it take to cross the Milky Way at light speed? 3 July 2018, livescience.com.
‘First’ giant dinosaur changes evolutionary history—again
Evolutionists have long said that sauropods weighing over 10 tonnes only evolved in the middle Jurassic, around 170 million years ago (Mya) in their way of thinking. The discovery in Argentina of a bus-sized sauropod, ‘dated’ as having lived around 210 Mya, has moved the ‘evolution’ of gigantism back tens of millions of years. Ingentia prima is estimated to have been up to 10 metres (32 feet) long and up to 11 tonnes in weight.
Paleontologist Steve Brusatte said, “I think it’s one of the most important dinosaur finds of the last few years. These new fossils force us to rethink when, and how, dinosaurs got so enormous … [and] tell us that dinosaurs were much more adaptable and creative in attaining huge size than we used to think, which I think means that there are even bigger and weirder dinosaurs out there remaining to be found”.
Not only does this find change evolutionists’ ideas on dinosaur evolution, it also presents them with some gigantic problems. Evolutionists say that the first true dinosaurs, which were retriever-sized and bipedal, only entered the scene some 230–240 million years ago. So now they have an even shorter period of time to explain how these vast anatomical differences arose.
Finds like this come as no surprise to biblical creationists. Gigantism was not an evolved trait; when the various dinosaur kinds were created on Day 6, some of them would have been endowed with the genetic information to be able to grow to such proportions.
- Geggel, L., Discovery of ‘first giant’ dinosaur is a huge evolutionary finding, livescience.com, 10 July 2018.
- Apaldetti, C. et al., An early trend towards gigantism in Triassic sauropodomorph dinosaurs, Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2:1227–1232, 2018 | doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0599-y. livescience.com
More whale and dolphin (wholphin) Hybrids
Researchers have discovered, in the wild, a hybrid between a melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) and a rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), off the coast of Hawaii. The hybrid wholphin was confirmed by genetic testing of a sample of skin. The parents are members of the Delphinidae family.
Creation magazine (22(3):28–33, June 2000) commented on the birth of a baby from a male false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) and a female bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), also members of this same family, in 1985 at Hawaii’s Sea Life Park.
We suggested at the time that all genera of this family may well be descendants of one original created kind. This latest observation supports that suggestion.
There have also been multiple reports of natural hybrids between blue whales and fin whales, different species of the same genus (Balaenoptera spp.) of baleen whale (which are quite different to the toothed dolphins/whales above, and therefore likely a different created kind). A recent controversial one involved the killing of a whale at a whaling station in Iceland in July 2018. Blue whales, the largest animals on Earth, are protected, but not fin whales, and the whalers claimed that the one caught was a hybrid, and therefore coming within their quota of fin whales. Researchers did DNA comparisons and said that it was a hybrid of a fin whale father and a blue whale mother.
- Else, J., Whale of a discovery, The Garden Island, 26 July 2018;
- Baird, R., Webster D., Jarvis S., Wood, K. Cornforth, C., Mahaffy S., Martien K., Robertson
- K., Anderson D., and Moretti, D., 2018. Odontocete studies on the Pacific Missile Range Facility in August 2017: satellite-tagging, photo-identification, and passive acoustic monitoring. Prepared for Commander, Pacific Fleet, under Contract No. N62470-15-D-8006 Task Order KB16 issued to HDR Inc., Honolulu, HI; cascadiaresearch.org/files/publications/Bairdetal2018_Kauai.pdf.
Long term evolution experiment: no evolution!
The ‘E. coli long-term evolution experiment’ initiated by Richard Lenski of Michigan State University in 1998 has now gone past 70,000 generations (August 2018). This many generations would take humans some 1.4 million years, which would be more than 20% of the supposed time since the claimed evolutionary divergence of humans from a common ancestor with chimps.
Now the DNA of humans and chimps differs by at least 5% or some 150 million DNA ‘letters’, and there are many genes unique to humans or to chimps. If mutations are the source of the new DNA information, by now we would expect to see some substantial new genes arise in the bacterial populations.
So, have the bacteria ‘evolved’ any new genes? Well, no. There have been rearrangements of existing genes that enabled some bacteria to feed on citrate, an alternative energy source, in the presence of oxygen. The bacteria can normally feed on citrate only in the absence of oxygen.
Furthermore, the bacteria can sustain a much higher mutation rate than could humans or chimps, so the rate of evolutionary progress should be much higher, if mutations were the driving force for evolution.
This experiment is as good as proof that evolution by mutations and natural selection is a failed paradigm.
- Richard Lenski home page at MSU; myxo.css.msu.edu/index.html.
- The myth of 1%: Human and chimp DNA are very different; creation.com/1-percent-myth.
Evolution has no bone to pick!
Heterostracans are a group of extinct fishes whose fossils are allegedly 400 million years old. Their skeletons are made of an unusual type of tissue called aspidin. Being from this very ‘early’ group, aspidin was often “thought to be the evolutionary precursor of vertebrate mineralised tissues” (bone, dentine, and enamel, the latter two found in teeth).
In a recent paper, scientists from the UK’s Manchester and Bristol universities report that they have examined such fossil fish with powerful X-ray technology and shown that aspidin is, in fact, a type of bone. The seemingly empty spaces in it had clearly contained bundles of fibres of the same sort of material—collagen—as forms the scaffolding in other bony vertebrate skeletons.
This was not good news for evolutionists. The study concluded (emphases added), “Our results, together with previous research suggest that acellular bone, dentine and enameloid were already established before the divergence of the known skeletonizing vertebrate clades. These tissue types appear simultaneously in the fossil record, and in topological co-ordination, without any precursor …. Our study suggests that the full repertoire of skeletal cell and tissue types was already established in the earliest known skeletonizing vertebrates”.
These admissions clearly leave evolutionists without the slightest idea of how or when this most important structural building material for vertebrates came to be. Once again, the evidence is consistent with biblical creation, not evolution. The praise and credit for bone, and its masterful composition, belongs to God the Creator.
- Collins, T., Weston, P., Scientists have discovered the oldest type of BONE in the fossil record, changing our understanding of the evolution of the skeleton, dailymail.co.uk, 30 July 2018.
- Keating, J.N. et al., The nature of aspidin and the evolutionary origin of bone, Nature Ecology & Evolution 2:1501–1506, August 2018 | doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0624-1.
Flores pygmies and ‘hobbits’
A recent DNA study by Tucci et al., of a pygmy human population living in Rampasasa, Flores, near the Liang Bua cave where Homo floresiensis (aka the ‘hobbit’) was found, reported that: “The genomes of Flores pygmies reveal a complex history of admixture with Denisovans and Neanderthals but no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins” [such as Homo floresiensis or Homo erectus, ed.]. One of the researchers said they found “no strange or unknown stretches of genetic material that could be attributed to Homo floresiensis.” However, the DNA of the ‘hobbit’ is unknown, despite attempts to obtain it, so the study is making the unproven evolutionary assumption that Homo floresiensis was a different species to humans (and humans they categorize as Denisovans and Neanderthals). Perhaps there was no trace of the ‘hobbit’ in the DNA of the very short humans living on Flores because Homo floresiensis never was a new or different species, but a disease-afflicted human, as even some evolutionists have argued.
The tiny LB1 ‘hobbit’ skull has similarities with humans categorized as Homo erectus. A possible scenario is that Homo floresiensis was a Homo erectus human with a disease such as cretinism. To emphasize, specimens labeled Homo erectus were descendants of Adam and Eve, and so fully human—most likely early post-Flood humans. It is interesting that the Rampasasa short-stature population have traces of the mysterious Denisovans and Neanderthals in their genome. One wonders whether the Denisovans were erectus-like people (the DNA of Homo erectus is also unknown). If so, another possible scenario is that populations of ‘modern’ humans and Homo erectus interbred on Flores, and individuals like the LB1 ’hobbit’ were the offspring, albeit with cretinism.
- Tucci, S. et al. Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia, Science 361:511–516, 2018 | doi:10.1126/science.aar8486.
- Smith, B. Pygmy people in Indonesia not related to ‘hobbit’ but evolved short stature independently, abc.net.au, 3 August 2018.
Long-legged lizard losers
The Times (London) headlined this story: “Hurricane blows island lizards’ evolution on to a new course” and began the story, “Evolution happens over centuries, normally. A study in the Caribbean, however, has shown that it can also occur overnight thanks to a hurricane that blew away lizards with long back legs.” So, did ‘evolution’ happen ‘overnight’?
The report in Nature recorded how scientists had measured the size of foot pads and length of legs of anole lizards on two islands in the Caribbean. After severe hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, they again measured the lizards. They found that the average size of foot pads had increased, and the length of legs had decreased. They argued that lizards with these features were more capable of ‘hanging on’ and not being blown away in the wind.
Comment: This is yet another example of natural selection, where certain features are removed from a population of animals because the other ones are fitter to survive (the hurricanes in this case). But, how can deleting animals create the new features that are necessary for evolution (change of one kind of creature into a different kind) to occur? This is not an example of evolution. It is yet another case of bait-and-switch trickery (equivocation). Natural selection happens all the time (and quite quickly), but it should never be construed as the same thing as evolution.
- Whipple, T., Hurricane blows island lizards’ evolution on to a new course, thetimes.co.uk, 27 July 2018.
- Donihue, C.M. et al., Hurricane-induced selection on the morphology of an island lizard, Nature 560, pp. 88–91 25 July 2018 | doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0352-3.
First colour 3D X-Ray of the human body
An amazing new medical imaging scanner, using technology developed at the Large-Hadron Collider at CERN, is able to produce 3D X-rays in colour. The scanner is able to identify both density and atomic variation, producing the brightness and colours in the image respectively. This means that the 3D image can display organs, bones, fat, muscle, etc., in the body, and can even identify disease markers.
The technology shows great potential in enabling better diagnoses without invasive surgery. It is a wonderful example of real (‘operational’) science which can be used by doctors to help patients.
Studying the images, it would be hard to come to any conclusion other than that the human body is an incredible feat of engineering, exquisitely put together. We are not just evolved bags of chemicals that have come together by selection of random accidents; as this new scanner showcases, we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13–16).
- Papadopoulos, L., World’s first 3D color X-rays of human body produced using CERN technology, interestingengineering.com, 13 July 2018.