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1. Lucy in the Minds of Men (from the Houston Chronicle)
Lucy, the “holy grail” of evolution according to some pundits, has arrived and is now on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas, her premiere attracting approximately 1,000 visitors to the museum last Friday, according to the Houston Chronicle. A duo of Chronicle articles (Lucy knows how to start a conversation and Houston’s newest (and oldest) visitor attracts about 1,000) offers some intriguing fodder for our analysis of the famous australopithecine.
To start, the Chronicle’s Lisa Falkenberg records a few of the diverse opinions overheard at the exhibit (fully titled “Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia”). First are two children (quoting at length):
[Ten]-year-old Garrett Bryant of Odessa peered down at the incomplete jigsaw puzzle of brittle bone fragments and looked disappointed.
“What happened to her skull?” he asked his mother.
“I imagine animals drug it off,” Marla Bryant answered.
She walked over to examine the lifelike 3 ½-foot, hairy, half-smiling model of what scientists believe Lucy looked like and had her own questions.
“They don’t have any finger bones, so how do they know her hand was like that?” Marla Bryant asked her mother, Leona Rice.
“They’re guessing,” Rice replied.
Young Garrett processed the scene for a few more minutes and then shrugged.
“She’s just a monkey,” he declared, and then walked off.
Falkenberg next turns to Deena Dail of Austin, Texas. Dail told Falkenberg she studied anthropology in college, and wept at Lucy’s “altar” (as Falkenberg analogizes the display):
“I can’t imagine anybody leaving this exhibit and not believing that this is real,” Dail said, her voice cracking, wiping tears under her glasses. “That's the cradle. We’re looking at humanity at its earliest point that we know of. And we’re seeing our ancestry, you know, everybody, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, belief systems.”
Dail’s implication that some individuals (presumably she’s thinking of creationists) don’t believe Lucy is “real” (perhaps “authentic” is the better word) does not apply to those of us at Answers in Genesis (or any mainstream creationist organization that we are aware of). Although paleoanthropology has been plagued with hoaxes (e.g., Piltdown Man), we accept the existence and authenticity of most fossils; what we dispute are the allegations that such fossils are our ancestors and “indisputably” so many millions of years old, etc. We have cited numerous reasons why Lucy and her ilk are nothing more than apes (see, for example, Farewell to “Lucy”, Lucy (and her “child”)—look like extinct apes after all, and Lucy’s child, “Selam,” from Ethiopia). And contrary to the effective thrust of evolutionary assertions, fossils do not come with dates tattooed on them!
Thus, Dail’s apparent leap in logic (at least, based on her words) is that because the fossil is real, it must be what evolutionists say it is, and it must be as old as evolutionists say it is.
Falkenberg concludes her story with the solemn head-shaking of Linda Piper, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, humanities professor, who claimed seeing Lucy “brought her closer to God”:
“Just to observe the whole evolutionary process, how wonderful it is. That we are all from the same being, the same construction, and the same energy and network of life. That we are not separated,” she said. “That we are one.”
Piper’s statements indicate that she is missing two things. First, her comment about “observ[ing] the whole evolutionary process” belies the true nature of the event: she is merely observing an unchanging, partial, contested fossil that some say is millions of years old and representative of ancestors of modern humans. The “evolutionary process” alleged to have happened between Lucy and Piper is just that: an allegation, unobserved, and (in not just our view) ultimately disproved. As Ken Ham reminds us in The Lie: Evolution, fossils exist in the present and are interpreted in the present! Ham explains:
It only takes common sense to understand that one does not dig up an “age of the dinosaurs” supposedly existing 70–200 million years ago. One digs up dead dinosaurs that exist now, not millions of years ago.
Fossil bones do not come with little labels attached telling you how old they are. Nor do fossils have photographs with them telling you what the animals looked like as they roamed the earth long ago.
When people visit a museum they are confronted by bits and pieces of bones and other fossils neatly arranged in glass cases. These are often accompanied by pictures representing an artist’s impression of what the animals and plants could have looked like in their natural environment. Remember, no one dug up the picture, just the fossils. And these fossils exist in the present.
Sound familiar? As for Piper’s second mistake, she glorifyingly claims this represents the unity of all life—yet apparently ignores the woeful violence, bloodshed, and death evolution is theoretically based on. Despite evolutionists’ attempts to laud evolution as a mystical, wonderful, lovable process, the fact remains that the evolutionary model is based on the cold, relentless, absolutely unlikable mechanism of natural selection—“survival of the fittest” (despite the common misrepresentation, evolution is not the same thing as natural selection).
Next, a single revealing dialog from Melanie Markley’s “Houston's newest (and oldest) visitor attracts about 1,000”:
Tracie Moreno said she and her father had been waiting a long time to see the display. When her 2-year-old daughter, Jasmine, looked at the life-size replica of Lucy and signed the word “monkey,” her mother just laughed.
“She can’t say ‘Australopithicus’ yet,” said Moreno, referring to Lucy’s scientific name.
(We’ll let that one speak for itself.)
So what, then, do we think of Lucy? Simply put, she couldn’t be man’s ancestor, because Genesis clearly states that man was made on the same day as all terrestrial animals. Period.
2. ScienceNOW: “Do Social Smarts Set Us Apart?”
A Congolese study headed by doctoral student Esther Herrmann and her advisor, Michael Tomasello, both of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is the latest research to highlight humans’ intellectual distinction from apes.
Reporting in Science, the researchers describe tests conducted on a group of 106 chimpanzees, 32 orangutans, and 105 two-and-a-half-year-old German toddlers. The participants were given a series of tests, six of which were social and ten of which were physical. The results? “On the physical tasks, children performed no better than the chimps or orangutans. The chimps even outperformed the children on three tasks. When it came to social cognition, however, the toddlers were well ahead of the game.”
The study particularly focuses on the human children’s “specialized skills of social cognition” that allowed them to ape (pun intended) the scientists’ demonstration of how to extract a toy from a plastic tube. The chimps and orangutans were unable to replicate the demonstrated solution.
Puzzlingly, Daniel Povinelli, director of the Cognitive Evolution Group at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette, thinks the children may have had an unfair advantage because:
[T]he children [may have] outperformed on the social tasks not because the tasks were social but because they were inherently more difficult and abstract than the physical challenges[.]
We don’t understand how this gives the children an advantage; it merely supports the idea that the human mind is more capable of complex, abstract (and, in this case, social) thinking.
This study conveniently piggybacks on the conclusions of University of Pennsylvania researcher David Premack, whose eight-year study reviewing ape and human mental processes led him to conclude that there are “more dissimilarities than similarities in complexity and purposes among species” than Darwin assumed when hypothesizing ape-to-human descent. (We reported on this brief story in last week’s News to Note.)
3. BBC: “Space pile-up ‘condemned dinos’”
An asteroidal collision is what ultimately doomed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, reports BBC News on the conclusions of a US–Czech research team. The team, composed of Bill Bottke, David Vokrouhlicky, and David Nesvorny, were searching for the cause of an alleged surge in asteroid impacts on earth in the last 100–200 million years. Their solution? That an asteroid pile-up blasted debris around the Solar System, with shrapnel hitting the moon, Venus, and Mars, as well as home sweet home. The computer-model-generated conclusion was reported in Nature.
In particular, the trio suggests a 170-kilometer-wide (106-mile-wide) asteroid was “disrupted” about 160 million years ago, resulting in the Baptistina family of asteroids. How does this relate to the dinosaurs?
The analysis shows, the team says, that one large [...] fragment dug out the 180km-wide (112-mile-wide) Chicxulub crater off what is today the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
This is the impact scar many scientists link to the Cretaceous/Tertiary Mass Extinction, which saw the dinosaurs disappear into the fossil record.
The idea is interesting, certainly, but it is also completely based on uniformitarian understanding of the geological layers. Take that away by interpreting geological formations through the lens of a (Noachian) watery, rather than asteroidal, catastrophe, and the asteroidal extinction event is no longer necessary.
4. The Courier-Journal: “Park staff will visit Creation Museum”
Our Creation Museum will be welcoming naturalists from Kentucky state parks, reports Louisville’s Courier-Journal. The trip was prompted by state park visitors’ challenges to park naturalists about the Creation Museum’s presentation (i.e., the Bible’s presentation) of natural history. The newspaper reminds us, tongue-in-cheek, that there might be “millions of years of difference between what a tourist is told one day at the museum and the next day at a state park.”
Carey Tichenor, chief naturalist in the Kentucky Department of Parks, explains that “the park naturalists do not want to try to dissuade park visitors from their religious beliefs”:
“We will tell the person if they want to believe what they saw at the Creation Museum that's fine and good,” he said. “And then we explain to them why we are saying what we say at the park—which is interpreting the scientific evidence produced for the site.”
Despite some Kentucky naturalists’ pessimism (“You have to experience it firsthand to see how impressively bad the science is,” according to Kentucky Paleontological Society president Daniel Phelps, who reviewed the museum shortly after its opening—see A science center’s not-so-scientific critique of the Creation Museum. And as AiG CCO Mark Looy points out, Phelps “misses the point ... that the museum goes deeper than arm-wrestling about the ‘evidences’ for evolution or creation; instead, it forces guests to consider the foundations of how science is done, including the biases and presuppositions all of us hold when we look at such a controversial topic in today’s culture wars.”), we sincerely hope these visitors—and all other visitors—have a pleasant experience at the Creation Museum that encourages them to critically analyze their interpretations of science—and perhaps challenges their worldview. Furthermore, we are excited and thankful that the Creation Museum is starting to have an effect not only in visitors’ hearts and minds, but in the broader culture as well. We pray that Creation Museum visitors and our supporters (the two groups do overlap somewhat, we acknowledge!) continue to spread the word (and the Word) in our culture, raising awareness to the presuppositions behind the theory of evolution and the worldview of humanism.
5. ScienceDaily: “Mice Thrive Missing [sic] Ancient DNA Sequences”
Scientists in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Joint Genome Institute were faced with a puzzle: what was the explanation behind what are called “ultraconserved elements,” i.e., identical DNA sequences in the genomes of mice, rats, and humans, 200 base pairs or longer, that have been “perfectly conserved since the last common ancestor of these species”?
The researchers hypothesized that since the sequence was identical (and since, according to their evolutionary assumptions, it had remained so for 85 million years), it must guide crucial functions. To test their hypothesis, the researchers decided to knock out the sequence in lab mice and see if the mice either died or were unable to reproduce viable offspring.
The scientists were “really surpris[ed],” then, when the mice without the sequence “showed almost no ill effects at all.” Experiment leader Nadav Ahituv describes the test mice as “not only viable and fertile but show[ing] no critical abnormalities in growth, longevity, pathology, or metabolism.”
So why, then, have these sequences remained unchanged for eons of time? That’s the question evolutionists must now answer; given the rate of mutations and the time evolutionists think was involved, it simply doesn’t make sense that the region would not have diverged genetically in any of the organisms if it weren't somehow essential. The adapted news release notes that one such region, “[t]he 731-base pair sequence, uc467, should normally have accumulated some 334 nucleotide changes in the more than 80 million years that mice, rats, and humans have been evolving along separate paths.”
Study coauthor Len Pennacchio presents the evolutionists’ answer: that it is only over the long, long term that a mutated version of the region is fatal:
“Evolution and natural selection do not happen overnight. [...] The deletion of these elements likely has relatively mild effects on fitness that are gradually selected against over time—several or more generations from when they arise—but not on observable time scales.”
Although it would take a long time, this hypothesis is testable in the lab, and perhaps it will someday be put to the test. In the meantime, this explanation would still seem to suggest a less-fit-but-surviving version of the sequence would be floating out there. (Not to mention the fact that the a typical evolutionist answer is that if you don't get the answer you need, just throw more time at it.)
Ahituv, meanwhile, suggests that perhaps redundancy is what allows the mice without the sequence to survive—that is, some other genomic region is taking over and fulfilling the biological function. But again, this raises the question of why this region would be so conserved.
Ultimately, the conclusion we arrive at is that the supposed millions of years of evolution—which would have accounted for the potential divergence between the genomes—have not occurred. In fact, a recent, special creation, followed by the Fall (Genesis 3), is a better explanation of the genomic origin, some commonality yet significant differences between kinds, and then the subsequent corruption of that information.
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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