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1. LiveScience: 'Missing Link' of Elephant Family Unearthed
Another fossilized missing link found!-or so some headlines raved this week. Eritrean scientists discovered a (supposedly) 27-million-year-old fossil that “could be the 'missing link' between modern elephants and their ancestors.” Scientists have established a new species, Eritreum melakeghebrekistosi, to describe the fossil, which “is estimated to have been 1,067 pounds (484 kg) heavy and about 4.2 (1.28 m) feet tall at the shoulder.” The unearthed tooth apparently has a structure that is intermediate in shape between modern and ancient elephants.
So, is this fossil find in staunch support of the evolution of elephants? Take a look at a photo of the fossil and see for yourself.
That's right-all this evolutionary hubbub has been caused by nothing more than “the lower part of a mandible,” and all these details-down to the alleged weight of 1,067 pounds-have been postulated based on this fossil jaw and the teeth it contains. Next time you visit a museum and see a series of sketches in an “evolutionary lineage,” don't forget the inflation process fossils undergo that transforms them into “missing links.” Time will tell if the intermediate structure is due to an extinct species, whether it is merely unusual variation within existing species, or whether preservation has played a role in the current seemingly different structure. And if it is an extinct species, that is no more proof of evolution than any other extinct species.
2. National Geographic News: New Bird Flu Strain Spreads Fast, Is Resistant to Vaccine
A new strain of avian influenza has “evolved,” according to reports from China and Southeast Asia. The new strain is resistant to the current bird flu vaccine and is responsible for 95% of infections encountered between April and June of this year by the University of Hong Kong's State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“It is not surprising that H5N1 continues to evolve,” according to Hon Ip of the U.S. National Wildlife Health Center. Yi Guan of the University of Hong Kong adds, “Current control measures are ineffective in dealing with the evolutionary changes that H5N1 undergoes.” But is the virus really evolving in the sense that new information is appearing out of nowhere, or is this simply natural selection creating a “horizontal” change in information? For the answer, see 1644 or 1785.
3. LiveScience: Tool Time: Crows Share Tricks of the Trade
Have you ever heard anyone try to support evolutionism by explaining that apes (especially chimpanzees), like humans, use tools and pass the behavior on to new generations? This is true-chimpanzees use tools and pass on tool-use techniques to the next generation (those clever apes!). The problem for evolutionists is that crows do this, too.
Crows, considered one of the most intelligent animals (called “the MacGyvers of the avian world” in this article), have long been known to use tools. As the article explains:
Compared to other crows, those from the Pacific island of New Caledonia … are master tool makers and users, second only to humans and on level with chimps when it comes to finding novel uses for everyday objects.
Scientists have found that crows living on different parts of the island display variations in tool shapes, a discovery that suggests young crows learn to fashion tools in a particular way from relatives and other crows living nearby. If so, it would mean the birds possess a culture of tool technology on par with that of humans.
Scientists determined experimentally that crows can learn to use tools to some extent. Two crows were taught tool-use by humans, and were then quicker at using the tools themselves than were crows who were left to their own devices (pardon the pun).
In related news this week, three elephants were shown to be able to recognize themselves in a mirror, a behavior previously exhibited only by humans, great apes, and dolphins (to some extent). One elephant, Happy, was even able to pass the “mark test,” in which a mark (in this case, a white X) is surreptitiously placed on a part of the animal's body only visible in the mirror. If the animal is truly self-aware (so the theory goes), then it will investigate the strange mark by touching its own body instead of touching its appearance in the mirror. This shows that the animal not only recognizes that the animal in the mirror is behaving identically to itself, but that it actually is itself.
So anytime you hear evolutionists proclaiming ape-human behavioral similarity as a sign of common ancestry, mention these clever crows and self-aware elephants, which disrupt the picture evolutionists paint of chimps (and other apes) as uniquely showing human behaviors.
In two similar stories this week, scientists have “reversed evolution”-converting a modern enzyme into its “theoretical distant ancestor” in one case, and reactivating a supposedly five-million-year-old retrovirus in the other.
Scientists from the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Sweden's Karolinska Institute altered the modern-day enzyme by “making a single substitution” in the enzyme's amino acid sequence. Meanwhile, a team of scientists led by Thierry Heidmann of the Institut Gustave-Roussy reactivated the retrovirus by “align[ing] HERV-K(HML2) elements, determin[ing] their consensus sequence, and then construct[ing] a retrovirus … from the consensus sequence by mutating existing HERV-K(HML2) copies.”
But do either of these show information-generating evolution has actually occurred? Not at all. For example, in the result of the enzyme alteration, “desaturase activity decreased 2000-fold while its oxidase activity increased 31-fold.” In other words, the change dramatically harmed one of the enzyme's functions and improved another already-existing function. This certainly doesn't explain how a functionless enzyme could gain a new function through chance processes.
Similarly, in the case of the retrovirus, the current form is inactive and unable to do its “job”-producing infectious particles. The form of the retrovirus produced in the lab, said to be an evolutionary ancestor, can actively produce infectious particles. Once again, this shows that the only change that has occurred was a decrease in information and function.
Thus, despite somewhat grandiose claims in both these cases, this is the opposite of the sort of changes molecules-to-man evolution would require. A person could compare the situation to finding a large book, which represents all life. There are certain typos throughout the book that represent the harmful mutations that have accumulated since the Fall (and some passages have been lost entirely). It would be relatively easy for scientists (or editors, in this case!) to find many of these mistakes and attempt to correct them, showing how the book has changed over time. But does this, in any way, show that the book wrote itself-that the meaningful sentences came from nowhere? Of course not.
Bones discovered more than 50 years ago in Romania are lending themselves to creation arguments after a reanalysis of the partial skeleton was performed. The results, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “show a mixture of modern human and Neanderthal features.” To evolutionists, this indicates that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. But for creationists, this discovery-not the first to show “hybrid” features-bolsters the idea that Neanderthals were actually fully human. See 10372 and 12457 for details.
6. Reuters: Interview: Tony Blair on science
In unsurprising news, British Prime Minister Tony Blair cautioned that he would “start worrying” if “creationism bec[ame] the mainstream of the education system.” Of course, such an idea is almost impossible, considering creation-“ism” can't even get through most classroom doors, let alone becoming mainstream education in state schools. Nor would we want this to become the case. See 5242 and 5597 for more information on AiG's views on origins teaching in public schools.
7. Deutsche Welle: German Scientists Concerned About Rise in Creationist Belief
Looks like the creation/evolution debate is heating up in Germany this week, after Education Minister Karin Wolff commented, “I think it makes sense to bring up multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary problems for discussion” regarding the issue-that is, to discuss the controversy in the science classroom. Evolutionist opponents of open discussion immediately complained that Wolff “should catch up on things and read a science book.”
The article also states that “some German biologists have expressed concern over an increase in the influence of creationists in the country.” Although the voices of those criticizing evolutionary indoctrination are not always in perfect unison-for example, Ms. Wolff's spokesman commented that Ms. Wolff “[sees] no contradiction between creationism and evolutionary theory”-it is encouraging to read that the monolith of evolutionism is still facing resistance worldwide.
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