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1. National Geographic News: “‘Jurassic Park’ Raptors Had Feathers, Fossil Suggests”
Bumps on the forearm bone of a velociraptor fossil are creating considerable excitement for advocates of the dinosaurs-to-birds hypothesis. Columbia University graduate student Alan Turner, who also serves as a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was part of a team that examined a velociraptor fossil that was found in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert in 1998. The team discovered that the fossil’s forearm had six regularly spaced bumps, which the team suggests held the quills of secondary feathers, akin to the “quill knobs” of some modern birds. Turner rules out the possibility that the knobs can be explained by changes to the fossil “during its millions of years underground.”
Based on the distance between the knobs and the length of the forearm, the team estimates the velociraptor could accommodate “a total of 14 quill knobs and feathers on the [its] arms.”
Photographs provided for National Geographic News by the American Museum of Natural History show the section of bone said to include the quill knobs. Numerous indentations are visible on the low-resolution image, including the six identified with arrows as the knobs. The report does not explain, however, why the knobs do not extend farther along the bone, nor are we aware of whether other bones of this fossil were available for similar examination. Thus, the issue of whether the indentations are undoubtedly quill knobs is certainly not a closed case.
Furthermore, other fossil finds considered to be dinosaur precursors to birds have turned out to be flightless birds similar to ostriches, such as Protarchaeopteryx robusta and Caudipteryx zoui. Although this fossil has been classified as a velociraptor, the National Geographic News article does not report on how complete the find was (that is, how many bones remain and what condition they are in). There is certainly a precedent for evolutionists to extrapolate from single bones up to whole skeletons and entire species!
Finally, what if these are undoubtedly quill knobs on an unquestionable velociraptor fossil arm bone? In other words, what if—though no feathers were found with the fossil—this did prove that velociraptor was a feathered dinosaur? Although the evidence for “feathered dinosaurs” has been wanting in the past, and though we’re nowhere near convinced of this study’s findings, nothing in the Bible precludes the erstwhile existence of feathered dinosaurs. What the Bible does indicate is that if feathered dinosaurs were to have existed, they would have been created with feathers; they did not evolve from reptilian scales, which are quite different.
But evolutionists’ need to explain where birds came from. And the idea that dinosaurs evolved into birds faces numerous problems, as presented by both creationists and evolutionist bird experts, such as University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill researcher Alan Feduccia.
It would be reading far too much into this story to say that evidence for feathered dinosaurs has been discovered; all we have here are six questionable indentations in a fossil bone allegedly from a velociraptor (not that we’re casting doubt on the researchers’ integrity; we simply recognize the role presuppositions and evolutionary dogma play in classifying and extrapolating on fossils, as well as the desire for many media outlets to trumpet evolutionary “proofs” long before they’re given a chance to be thoroughly studied). We eagerly await further research into the find.
2. National Geographic News: “‘Hobbit’ Human Was Unique Species, Wrist Bones Suggest”
A new study of the wrist bones of one “hobbit,” found among a hobbit group in 2004 in Indonesia, suggests the hobbit was a unique species, not a diseased modern human. The study is the latest contributor to a debate over the hobbits’ true status.
On one hand (excuse the pun) are researchers who claim this hobbit is sufficiently different from modern humans to occupy its own species, named Homo floresiensis. On the other hand are scientists who claim the diminutive human was diseased with microcephaly, a condition resulting in, among other problems, small head size. The hobbit’s skull size, based on remains found, was approximately the size of a grapefruit.
Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, is the lead author of a Science study that examined the hobbit wrist bones, concluding that the wrists were more primitive and similar to those of gorillas, chimpanzees, and other early human ancestors (which Answers in Genesis would consider to also be apes, not human ancestors). National Geographic News reports:
Before conducting his hobbit study, Tocheri had found that a particular wrist bone is wedge-shaped in great apes and early human ancestors but is squared-off in modern humans and Neandertals. That wrist bone in the hobbit retains the wedge shape, he found.
Those from the “unique species” side of the debate add that the wrist evidence coincides with previous studies that “identified primitive shoulder joints and jawbones in the hobbit, as well as unpublished reports of primitive features in the foot.” Tocheri and his colleagues caution that more fossil specimens are needed.
However, biological anthropology curator Robert Martin of Chicago’s Field Museum (which, by the way, is no ally of creationists) says the possibility that the Indonesian fossil is a modern human has not been undone. Martin has already authored two papers arguing that the hobbit is a microcephalic human.
Martin points out that Tocheri’s study failed to compare the hobbit’s wrist bones to those of a modern human with microcephaly. Microcephaly, in addition to affecting head size, causes deformations throughout the skeletal system—including possibly affecting wrist bones.
“I stick to the suggestion that [the hobbit] is more likely to be a pathological modern human than any kind of new hominid species,” Martin said.
At this point, it seems the debate will go on in evolutionary circles; without more specimens, it is impossible to determine if this hobbit was abnormal or not, and scientists can only speculate on the degree to which disease could have altered the hobbit skeletal structure. All this underscores the difficulty of unearthing bones and trying to recreate the past without actual eyewitness accounts of what went on. For this reason, presuppositions are at the heart of how anyone reconstructs the past and interprets artifacts in the present. Starting with the presuppositions of uniformitarianism and Darwinism, some scientists hypothesize numerous species, even where only one is actually necessary; these scientists promote artists’ reconstructions that decorate sparse bones according to leading evolutionary theory (e.g., making Lucy look more human than she was and making Neandertal man look more ape than he was).
Starting with the presuppositions of the Bible and the eyewitness account in Genesis, we can understand that, though we don’t know all of the details, God created human beings unique, fully formed, and set apart from the animals. Furthermore, we expect some variation among humankind, both in the past and present, which is why we dig up human fossils of slightly different shape, size, and so forth. Creationists see these as variations on the original human “kind,” but evolutionists “wedge” the fossils into a lineage of human evolution. It all depends on your starting point.
3. AP: “Court Won’t Declare Chimp a Person”
His name notwithstanding, the current legal case for the personhood of Mr. Matthew Hiasl Pan is in jeopardy, reports the Associated Press from Vienna, Austria. Known until this summer as just Hiasl, Mr. Pan is facing an uphill battle, it seems, in being awarded the rights and protections he allegedly deserves. Pan’s legal counsel has vowed to take the case to Austria’s Supreme Court after a lower court rejected Pan’s latest appeal.
So what’s the catch? “Mr.” Pan is actually a chimpanzee (the genus name of chimpanzee being Pan) who has belonged, for 25 years, to an animal shelter that recently filed for bankruptcy. Worried that Hiasl and another chimp might end up homeless, the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories (AAAF) wants Hiasl legally declared a person and given a guardian to “look out for his interests and provide him with a home.”
The court’s current rejection of the AAAF case is based on the petitioners’ legal status to represent Hiasl. A court in the UK ruled in April that a British woman could not be named Hiasl’s guardian because the chimp was neither mentally impaired nor in danger—at least one of which is required for Hiasl to be given a guardian. Claiming legal precedence for representation by “close friends,” the AAAF has appealed the case to the Austrian Supreme Court, which has not yet set a date for the trial.
AAAF president Martin Balluch “insists that Pan is ‘a being with interests’” and says the courts are evading the question of Hiasl’s personhood. The AAAF argues that personhood will “give [Hiasl] the basic rights he needs to ensure he isn’t sold to someone outside Austria, where he’s now protected by strict animal cruelty laws.” The AP article notes that the AAAF is not trying to have Hiasl declared a human, but simply a person:
“The question is: Are chimps things without interests, or persons with interests?" Balluch [asked]. “A large section of the public does see chimps as beings with interests.”
It is not immediately clear how much Darwinian perspectives are motivating this legal action, if at all. But the AP article does note, “[W]ith the genetic makeup of chimpanzees and humans so strikingly similar, [the AAAF] contends, [Hiasl’s current situation] just can’t be.”
We do share a substantial portion of our DNA with chimpanzees (though we share half of our DNA with bananas!), but there are substantial differences as well. Aside from legal wrangling to further animal protections, the question is, why not grant chimps legal status? If evolution is true, we simply have different mutations than chimps, but at heart, are just as much “animal” as they are. Of course, carrying this to its logical conclusion, we would have to ask why not extend “personhood” to every vertebrate, or even every animal! (For that matter—and for the atheists to answer—since we are [supposedly] simply bundles of atoms, how is it right to give us personhood and deny it to inanimate objects?) Genesis gives us a clear justification for there to be a difference between humans, animals, and everything else that God created: humans, Genesis 1:26 notes, are made in the image of God. However, this by no means gives humankind license to trample the rest of God’s creation, animals included (Proverbs 12:10).
4. Reuters: “Council of Europe to vote on creationism next week”
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly will spend part of next week debating and voting on a resolution that opposes the teaching of creation and intelligent design in science classes, saying attacks on evolutionary theory are based on “forms of religious extremism” that attack both science and human rights. A Reuters wire explains:
The resolution, on the agenda for October 4, says European schools should “resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion.” It describes the “intelligent design” argument as an updated version of creationism.
Reuters reports that the original draft resolution was to be voted on in June, but the vote was postponed because some council members “felt the original text amounted to an attack on religious belief.”
Assembly member Anne Brasseur tellingly describes the contradictory nature of the resolution, claiming, “There are different views of the creation of the world and we respect that. The message we wanted to send was to avoid creationism passing itself off as science and being taught as science. That’s where the danger lies.”
In other words, the view of Ms. Brasseur and many of her associates is that the different views of creation are to be respected—so long as none of them are taken to be scientifically accurate, which would be dangerous! And who gets to decide what is scientifically accurate, and what is dangerous?
And in a memorandum added to the resolution, Brasseur wrote, “The aim of this report is not to question or to fight a belief. It is not a matter of opposing belief and science, but it is necessary to prevent belief from opposing science.”
Again, it seems Brasseur does not want to “question” or “fight” any beliefs, as long as none of them encroach on science, which Brasseur treats as an objective body of knowledge somehow isolated from “belief”!
Although not binding even if passed, the resolution is perhaps most frightening because it alleges that creation education is not only an attack on science, but also an attack on human rights (the resolution apparently doesn’t explain how). How sadly ironic is it that we’ve headed away from a Western culture that values the free exchange of ideas and toward one, it seems, that refers to Bible-based belief as a dangerous form of religious extremism and where only darwinians are allowed to be the gatekeepers of “truth.”
To read more, see Council of Europe Proposes Creation Motion Again by AiG–U.K. speaker Paul Taylor.
5. National Geographic News: “Birds Can ‘See’ Earth's Magnetic Field”
Imagine it: you’ve gone off-trail in the woods on a moonless night—without any navigational equipment—and now you’re trying to find your way back to camp. You know you’ve generally been traveling in a northwesterly direction, so you simply look around, take a look at the earth’s magnetic field, change your heading to southeast, and march back until you’re in familiar territory.
Sound pretty fantastic? For humans, the idea of taking a look at earth’s magnetic field is just that: fantasy. But according to a new study published in PLoS ONE, such a capability may be more than fantasy for birds.
In the study, a team of German researchers injected migratory garden warblers with a dye that can be tracked while moving through the nervous system. The team injected the dye in the birds’ eyes as well as a region of the brain called Cluster N, known to be active when the birds orient themselves.
The researchers observed dye movement as the birds oriented themselves, discovering that the tracer dyes traveled from the two regions to meet in the warbler thalamus. The thalamus is a region of the brain that helps govern the visual sense (among other things). The meeting of the tracers indicated, according to lead study author Dominik Heyers, that “there is direct linkage between the eye and Cluster N.” Heyers is a biologist at the University of Oldenburg.
Thus, the research supports the hypothesis that birds somehow “see” (use their visual sense) the earth’s magnetic field as they use it to navigate.
“The magnetic field or magnetic direction may be perceived as a dark or light spot which lies upon the normal visual field of the bird,” Heyers said, “and which, of course, changes when the bird turns its head.”
However the birds perceive the field, it’s clear that the system is more sophisticated than the ordinary mariner’s compass! Scientists suspect the presence of specific molecules in birds’ eyes that are able to detect the magnetic field; however, scientists not involved in the study add that “there are more pieces to the puzzle of how birds navigate on their long migrations.” For example, biologist Cordula Mora at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill has hypothesized that “birds may use magnetic crystals in their beaks to sense the intensity of the magnetic field and thus glean information on their physical location,” providing them with information not only on orientation (north, south, east, west), but also relative location.
And if that’s not impressive enough, bird navigation expert Robert Beason, a wildlife research biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, believes birds may even use the stars to find their bearings!
Certainly, there are many mysteries left to be solved when it comes to bird navigation. Although we will never know exactly what birds experience, it’s a safe bet that their sophisticated system rivals or exceeds any sensory system scientists have created. It’s just another in a long line (longer than we realize, of course) of amazing design features that, whether we join in or not, extol the creativity of the master Designer.
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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