1. ScienceNOW: “Long-Lost Relative of Whales Found?

A team of paleontologists publishing in Nature has “identified” a fossil that is being hailed as the missing link connecting land mammals to our supposed (and closely related) evolutionary kin of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

The animal, described as an “extinct, raccoon-sized creature that sloshed along river bottoms,” is known as Indohyus, part of a group of extinct mammals called raoellids. Known “from little more than their teeth,” raoellids have been associated with hoofed mammals. Now, paleontologists led by Hans Thewissen (of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine) have analyzed Indohyus fossils found in Kashmir more than two decades ago that were recently freed from surrounding rock.

So, what connects Indohyus to cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises)? According to Thewissen, it’s a bony feature called the “involucrum” that covers the inner ear and whose relative thickness is prominent in “all modern and fossil cetaceans.” In addition, the limb bones of Indohyus have thick outer layers, making them dense, like manatees, hippos, and “early whales.” Tooth chemistry analysis suggests Indohyus was water-faring, though carbon isotope analysis shows that Indohyus’s diet differed from that of early whales.

While Indohyus sounds like an interesting creature, we challenge that this evidence connects it evolutionarily with cetaceans. If hippos, manatees, and cetaceans are all mammals of varying aquatic lifestyles, we would expect them to have certain features in common, since (1) God would have designed them, to varying extents, for their habitats, and (2) adaptation through pre-existing information would promote certain features compatible with watery life. As we’ve pointed out in similar situations before, the evidence is always more convincing when one already believes that some creature must connect one group of animals to another group.

Furthermore, it is important to note that not all paleontologists are particularly persuaded that Indohyus is the “missing link” that cetacean-origin experts were looking for. The ScienceNOW article notes that a team set to publish in Cladistics postulates an extinct group of carnivorous mammals called “mesonychids” as more closely related to cetaceans. Additionally, the ScienceNOW article notes that “cetaceans are so different from any other creature that researchers haven’t been able to agree which fossil relatives best represent their nearest ancestors.”

Finally—and perhaps most notable—is that there is often little mention of “missing links” until researchers claim to have found them. That is (and as in this case), evolutionists only acknowledge gaps in the fossil record once they believe they have filled them!

2. TIME: “The 10 Biggest Religion Stories

Considering the media attention the Creation Museum garnered when it opened this past May (see the June 2 News to Note), it’s no surprise that TIME magazine has included the museum in its list of the top ten “biggest religion stories” of the year.

Joining such news as the passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell (which we noted a week before the museum’s opening), “the roar of atheist books” (which we’ve discussed in various articles), TIME unsurprisingly comments only sardonically on the museum’s opening, which came in at ninth on the list:

A few months after opening its doors, the Petersburg, Ky., multimillion-dollar monument to the Flintstone (Young Earth) principle doubles projected attendance. Of Americans, 77% think God at least guided our development.

Of course, to a degree, we accept the popular dictum that “any press is good press,” etc.; the Holy Spirit is free to use even skeptical commentary about the Creation Museum to raise questions in readers’ minds. And while AiG is not seeking controversy for the sake of controversy, we relish every opportunity to interact with the media and help spread our message, whether the world laughs or not.

3. PhysOrg: “As Waters Clear, Scientists Seek to End a Muddy Debate

A longstanding understanding of how the “sedimentary geological record” was formed is apparently in error, according to research by geologists at Indiana University–Bloomington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The research, which appears in this week’s edition of Science, counters the old view of geologists that mud only settles when water is placid, instead showing that “muds will accumulate even when currents move swiftly.”

Explaining the paleontological import of the study, team leader Juergen Schieber, a geologist at Indiana University, said, “Mudstones make up two-thirds of the sedimentary geological record. One thing we are very certain of is that our findings will influence how geologists and paleontologists reconstruct Earth’s past.” Schieber went on to say that geologists have misinterpreted mudstones in the past as indicative of “quiet water deposits” and cited post-flood mud ripples on the university’s campus in his example of how mudstones can form even in turbid water. The team tried to replicate the results under controlled conditions, designing a “mud flume” to simulate “mud deposition in natural flows.”

Schieber’s team chose fine clays for the experiment—calcium montmorillonite and kaolinite, clays that would not settle easily in rapidly moving water, according to the prevailing view. However, the mud flume experiments on both the fine clays and natural lake muds showed that, according to Schieber, “mud beds accumulate at flow velocities that are much higher than what [geologists, until now] would have expected.”

What is most interesting for students of the age of the earth (and the geological and fossil record) is how this research potentially overturns the previous view on mudstone deposition, erosion, and re-deposition, as the press release outlines:

The finding feels like something of a vindication, Schieber says. He and his colleagues have (genially) argued about whether muds could deposit from rapidly flowing water. Schieber had posited the possibility after noting an apparent oddity in the sedimentary rock record.

“In many ancient mudstones, you see not only deposition, but also erosion and rapid re-deposition of mud—all in the same place,” Schieber said. “The erosive features are at odds with the notion that the waters must have been still all or most of the time. We needed a better explanation.”

In other words, this is another example of the uniformitarian view—a little water, a long time—giving way to the possibility that geological landscapes were formed by massive amounts of turbulent water over a short period of time and, once again, pointing out that there should be room to question the existing model.

4. “Expelled Team Invited to Visit Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum

Answers in Genesis–U.S. president Ken Ham has extended an open invitation for the Expelled bus tour—which will be driving the country to promote a new movie that attacks evolutionary indoctrination—to stop by the Creation Museum.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, hosted by columnist, actor, and former presidential speechwriter Ben Stein, chronicles the academic ostracization faced by scientists who endorse anything other than the Darwinist orthodoxy (specifically, by accepting Intelligent Design). Writing in his blog earlier this week, Ham said:

“I don’t know where the Expelled tour intends to stop along their route, but I’d like to offer an open invitation right here to Mr. Stein and those traveling on the bus. Stop by as our guests for a few hours and tour the Creation Museum. (In addition to giving them an education unlike any other, just think how much publicity for both the film and AiG Creation Museum that could elicit!)”

AiG's Georgia Purdom, who has studied the Intelligent Design Movement in depth, offers an informative preview of the film in “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. For more information from the mouths of the film producers themselves (including a trailer), visit the film website, www.expelledthemovie.com.

While AiG doesn’t march in complete lockstep with the Intelligent Design Movement (primarily because of its allowing for a long age of the earth and not identifying the “Intelligent Designer”), we share common ground with them in opposition of the unchallengeable indoctrination of Darwinism in schools and academia. Whether or not the Expelled team stops by, we hope their film raises questions in viewers’ minds about whether a theory as “indisputable” as evolution would really need to be protected through what amounts to academic blacklisting.

5. The Times: “DNA pioneer James Watson is blacker than he thought

In one of the most ironic science stories in recent memory (if not of all time!), the Caucasian scientist who lamented what he implied as lower African intelligence may himself actually be, at least partly, black!

James Watson, part of the famous Watson-and-Crick team that discovered the double-helix structure of DNA a half-century ago, has been known to put his foot in his mouth before. Just two months back, Watson ignited a firestorm that ultimately resulted, among other things, in his effective ouster from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. The 79-year-old Nobel Prize winner had commented (as we described in the October 20, 2007, News to Note) that:

his pessimism about African progress is because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” Watson added that although he hopes intelligence is evenly distributed across racial groups, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

Watson later apologized for his comments. Meanwhile, an Icelandic genomics company, deCODE genetics, was conducting an analysis of Watson’s DNA. The surprising result? Sixteen percent of the genetic makeup of Watson, a person of palpable pallor, likely came from a black ancestor.

This result, while surprising to those not familiar with how little the word race ultimately means, would confirm what Answers in Genesis has been saying all along: despite our differing skin, hair, and eye colors (and so forth), we are all ultimately of one blood (Acts 17:26), descended from one man and woman, with skin color a superficial phenotype, not a definitive distinction.

However, some point out the difficulty of even understanding the genetic–race link in the first place. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at University of Pennsylvania, explains that “our ordinary racial categories do not have much scientific meaning. They are social and cultural creation.” Caplan adds that “[genetic] sampling is far from complete so most genetic analysis for complex traits and behaviors including race is based on incomplete data.”

All the more reason, then, for remembering that differences in skin color are, well, only skin deep! On the inside, despite our differences, we are all made in the image of God.

6. Lastly, make note of a major national TV special that will profile AiG’s new Creation Museum on the FOX News Channel, Monday and Tuesday (Christmas Day).

The FOX Christmas special is called “Miracles: Facts, Fiction & Faith.” Correspondent Lauren Green has told us that the program will take viewers “from the creation of the world to the healing power of prayer.” The museum is in the first 12 minutes of this special—a huge amount of time for a national program.

The FOX special will air on Christmas Eve (Monday) at 1pm and Christmas Day at 3pm (eastern times) on the FOX News Channel (not the FOX network). Check your local television listings (e.g., http://www.foxnews.com/fnctv/) to verify the broadcast times in your area. Note that times can change with little or no notice.

Idea: if you’re with family on Monday and Tuesday for Christmas, and they don’t know much about AiG’s evangelistic, high-tech museum near Cincinnati, have them watch the first 12 minutes of the program with you.

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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