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1. BBC News: “Fossils belong to new great ape”
A collection of nine fossilized teeth found in Ethiopia is overturning previous evolutionary thought, reports the BBC. The teeth are thought to have been from a previously unknown species of great ape, named Chororapithecus abyssinicus by the team reporting on the find in Nature.
The fossils, believed to be 10 million years old, “raise questions on current theories of human evolution” because previous evolutionary genetic research has suggested gorillas and humans diverged from a common ancestor “only” eight million years ago. These fossils’ 10-million-year age
led the research team to suggest that the split must have happened earlier than 10.5 million years ago. If correct, molecular and DNA studies will need to be revisited.
Some feel the apple cart is being upset a bit too fast, however; Peter Andrews of London's Natural History Museum lamented, “It is stretching the evidence to base a time scale for the evolution of the great apes on this new fossil.” In a revealing admission, Andrews added that “the fossil evidence for the evolution of our closest living relatives, the great apes, is almost non-existent.”
We have little doubt that evolutionists will eventually re-work the evidence (as usual—for example, see item #1 of the August 11 News to Note) into a time frame they can agree (mostly) on; however, each time their theories are stretched, we would hope that others would lose confidence in the predictive power of evolutionary models of paleontology.
[T]he fossil evidence for the evolution of our closest living relatives, the great apes, is almost non-existent.
The Bible gives us a clear understanding of these fossils. Whether they are teeth from an extinct ape or malformed teeth from a living species of ape, the fossils were formed within the past few thousand years and are the remains of an animal whose ancestors, if any, were ape and whose lineage was ape.
Meanwhile, northwest of the simian dental discovery, archaeologists have run across a footprint in Egypt that “might be the oldest human footprint ever found.” The outlined footprint, in mud that has since turned to stone, “could go back about two million years” according to Egypt antiquities council chief Zahi Hawass; another council member quickly upped the ante and suggested the print could pre-date Lucy’s estimated 3.2 million years.
2. LiveScience: “Diamonds Nearly as Old as Earth”
The Jack Hills region of Western Australia is home to diamonds “nearly as old as the Earth itself and considered the oldest terrestrial diamonds ever discovered,” according to a new study, reports LiveScience.
The diamonds, found trapped inside zircon crystals, were subjected to chemical analyses by Institute of Mineralogy scientist and study leader Martina Menneken, who reported the diamonds’ age at more than four billion years old—almost a billion years older than previous diamond-age reports. This “suggests the diamonds were present in material that crystallized within 300 million years of the formation of Earth,” according to the team, and led them to conclude that the “Earth had a relatively thick continental crust by 4.25 billion years ago.”
Old-earth, diamond-dating techniques are not known for accuracy, however. The article also reports on the dating of diamonds in Zaire to six billion years old, a date thrown out as invalid merely because it was too large for the widely accepted age of the earth.
Also interesting would be if these recent diamonds had been subjected to Carbon-14 dating. As part of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) project, geophysicist Dr. John Baumgardner detected 14C in diamonds—yet 14C is far too “short-lived” to have survived for the eons diamonds are supposed to have experienced.
Certainly, it seems that while the case for an old earth is weak all-around, diamond-dating is one field where it is at its weakest!
Mark your calendars: according to an Associated Press wire, “experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years” of the creation of synthetic life. Despite current obstacles, leaders in the field such as Mark Bedau, COO of aspiring “creator” ProtoLife, are enthusiastic—with Bedau exulting, “It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it.” We have little doubt that the “big deal,” if synthetic life is ever created, will be presented to the tune of, “scientists have now proven life can originate without divine intervention,” even though such synthetic life will have required thousands of hours of intelligent design to be put together!
4. National Geographic News: “Saturn Moon’s Geysers Don't Need Liquid Water?”
National Geographic News reports on a new model, published online in last week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that removes the need for liquid water in explaining the “unusual” geysers on Enceladus’s south pole:
A shell made of icy compounds is exposed by the ridges, causing the compounds to decompress and absorb heat. The compounds then explosively split into smaller parts and send ice crystals and gases skyward.
This could replace an earlier model that suggests Enceladus’s interior is warm and similar to earth’s with shallow pockets of liquid water just beneath the surface, although study coauthor Gustavo Gioia of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign cautions that this “doesn’t mean that there is no [liquid] water. [...] It just means that you can explain the whole thing without there being water there.”
Additionally, senior research scientist Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado—who is a member of the team that originally suggested the liquid-water model as an explanation for the geysers—believes “[t]here’s still a very good chance there is liquid water deep beneath the surface on Enceladus.”
Of course, the importance of liquid water in evolutionists’ eyes is its life-sustaining (life-giving, they might say) role, and thus, this new model, as the article states, “may put hopes for life [on Enceladus, anyway] on ice” (although it appears that they still have hopes for the potential of liquid water under the surface that forms this ice via geysers). We don’t doubt, though, that many evolutionists “keep the faith” that extraterrestrial signs of life are likely to turn up on Enceladus or elsewhere—despite the fact that many of them are ignoring the only signs of intelligence that have “turned up” so far: signs of their Creator!
5. BBC News: “Cleverest crows opt for two tools”
Need a fix-it person around the house? Why not bring home a crow instead? BBC News reports on a University of Auckland study that highlights the tool-adapting and tool-using ability of New Caledonian crows. (We previously reported on these clever “MacGyvers” in the November 4, 2006, News to Note, item #3).
In particular, these crows have been found to “use separate tools in quick succession” to successfully obtain snacks. The crows were faced with a scrap of meat tucked “out of reach” in a box, a small twig too short to reach the food, and a long twig locked “well out of bill-grabbing range” in yet another box. The crows creatively used the short twig to retrieve the long twig out of its box, then used the long twig to obtain the meat. “What is most amazing is that most of them did this on the first trial. The first time we gave them the problem, six out of seven tried to do the right thing,” explains Russell Gray, a coauthor on the Current Biology paper covering the experiment.
Gray goes on to describe how the crows’ thinking in this regard resembles that of humans and, possibly (he notes), apes. “The birds were making an analogy: instead of using a tool to get food they used the tool to get another tool to get the food,” Gray said.
(A video of the experiment is available on the BBC website or through YouTube.)
Experiments such as this that highlight intelligence in animals other than apes serve two important purposes: first, they teach us more about God’s wonderful creation and, in this case, crow intelligence. Second, they remind us that despite evolutionary expectations, chimpanzees, apes, and other advanced mammals are not alone in their high levels of intelligence and tool-using abilities.
6. LiveScience: “Claim of Martian Life Called ‘Bogus’”
Some News to Note readers may have read or heard reports of a controversial new study that postulates that NASA Mars landers during the 1970s discovered life, albeit without anyone’s notice until last week. Although the claim was largely ignored, LiveScience offers some perspective on the announcement, including a quote from University of Colorado microbiologist Norman Pace, who says the claim “sounds bogus.”
The hypothesis was presented by Joop Houtkooper of the University of Giessen in Germany at this week’s European Planetary Science Congress. Essentially, Houtkooper and Washington State University’s Dirk Schulze-Makuch suggest that soil gathered in the ’70s by NASA’s Viking landers might have contained life because of “rises in oxygen and carbon dioxide gas” in the samples. The duo argue that organisms based on hydrogen peroxide and water could survive in the extremes of the Martian atmosphere, and that the breakdown of organic material in a peroxide solution could produce oxygen and carbon dioxide gas that could be quantified.
Pace counters varyingly, replying that he does not “consider the chemical results to be particularly credible in light of the harsh conditions that Mars offers” and that “hydrogen peroxide inside cells is deadly in terrestrial kinds of cells.” Additionally, the LiveScience article explains that
[f]or Pace and many other scientists, the definitive experiment performed by the Viking landers was the gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) test, which was capable of identifying substances by their chemical makeup. That test failed to turn up evidence of organic compounds.
Certainly, we are glad that this latest claim of Martian life (the latest in a long, long line) is not meriting significant attention—but somehow we doubt that this will be the last claim of extraterrestrial life.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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