1. LiveScience: “Transitional Frog Lays Eggs on Water and Land”

The hourglass treefrog from Panama is about to become an icon of evolution due to its strange egg-laying behavior.

The frog, Dendropsophus ebraccatus, is the first known vertebrate that can lay eggs both in water and on land—and thus helps evolutionists answer the question of how the first amphibians (in their minds) made the water-to-land transition.

Typically the frog lays its eggs on plants hanging over ponds. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles drop directly into the water. Yet researches Justin Touchon and Karen Warkentin of Boston University discovered a pond in Panama that lacked a forest canopy, and thus the frogs had laid most of their eggs directly in water (but supported by aquatic vegetation). A few eggs were left out on leaves above the water, unprotected by forest, and therefore in dangerous direct sunlight.

The researchers also determined that genes weren’t controlling the egg-laying behavior. They built small ponds in an open field and a forest, and in the field pond, the frogs laid eggs in the water; in the forest pond, the eggs were on plants above the water as expected.

So how does this finding tie in with the grand story of evolution? Charles Choi of LiveScience explains:

Although humans did not evolve from frogs, our evolution does go back to other, albeit long extinct amphibians. Our remote ancestors might have evolved reproduction on land to escape aquatic predators or to cope with alterations in the environment just as these treefrogs do, improving their chances of surviving changes in habitat or climate.

Interestingly, however, Touchon notes that “Terrestrial egg-laying has evolved many times in frogs, so there might be multiple transitional species capable of both aquatic and terrestrial breeding.” In other words, the researchers already believed, even before finding or observing these frogs, that terrestrial egg-laying had evolved in frogs; furthermore, the scientists’ experiment showed the egg-laying behavior was not determined by genetics. Rather, these frogs are simply “smart enough” to lay eggs where they will be most safe—like a bird building a nest in a safe tree nook. Touchon and Warkentin have done nothing to prove that this behavior evolved; that was the assumption they began with; their experiment did not address this assumption; and their conclusion, as reported by the media, is that this frog is evidence of the water-to-land transition in evolution! As with item #6 below, this is an incredible example of a vastly inflated evolutionary interpretation of the actual facts.

Creationists find this discovery fascinating, but the interpreted conclusion is very different. Terrestrial egg-laying didn’t evolve “so many times,” as Touchon says; instead, the original frog or frog-like kind God created (likely including toads and perhaps including other amphibians such as salamanders) had the ability to lay eggs in different locations based on the environmental context. And, we’d submit, this interpretation is at least as true to the facts (and much closer to reality) as the researchers’ claim!

This story brings us to other news, which broke late in the week: the finding of the “frogamander,” a supposed “missing link” between modern-day frogs and salamanders. The find was reported in Nature and is reported on by National Geographic News.

Supposedly 290 million years old, the frogamander fossil was collected in Texas a decade ago, then “rediscovered” in the National Museum of Natural History in 2004. Comparative biologist Jason Anderson of the University of Calgary led the new analysis of the fossil, claiming he recognized the “froggy slamander-y sort of look” of the fossil— now dubbed Gerobatrachus hottoni.

The creature is said to fit a “noted gap” in the amphibian fossil record—one of those gaps the media never reports on until it’s filled! Anderson judges that the animal would have looked like a stubby-tailed salamander with froglike ears and that it “pretty convincingly settles the question [that the] frog and salamander shared origins from the same fossil group.”

A couple of thoughts for creationists. First, although the find has been reported with typical evolutionary fanfare and certainty on the surface, that’s not to say everyone agrees with the complete analysis. For example, read what National Geographic News reported from the Field Museum’s John Bolt, a curator for fossil amphibians and reptiles:

Bolt, the Field Museum expert, cautioned that it is difficult to say for sure whether this creature was itself a common ancestor of the two modern groups, given that there is only one known specimen of Gerobatrachus, and an incomplete one at that.
“At this point I would say it is by no means certain that this is representative of a common ancestor to frogs and salamanders, although it might be,” Bolt said.

Bolt also says, intriguingly, “The most astonishing thing to me about this study is that this animal is far more froglike than I would ever have expected from its age. Nothing this nonprimitive has ever been described from this age. It's just amazing.” (Emphasis added.)

Our second thought is that it is possible that, assuming the incomplete fossil has been interpreted accurately and truly shares frog and salamander features (and such assumptions often fail to hold true), frogs and salamanders descended from the same amphibian kind—that is, selective pressures gradually exploited the genetic variation in an original amphibian kind, resulting in the two modern groupings. If not, it is possible God created an amphibian kind with features in common with both salamanders or frogs.

As always, though, Christians must separate the actual finding from the interpretation. There are several creation-based explanations for an incomplete fossil with salamander and frog features, but all too often, well-meaning Christians swallow the evolutionary propaganda whole, facts and worldview, without trusting God over man’s often-foolish speculation.

2. Reuters: “How Did Noah’s Ark Float? New Species Cram Aboard”

Noah’s Ark must be a myth, say some, because it surely couldn’t have complied with “modern marine transport guidelines.”

A Reuters article asks the “tough” question, “How did Noah's Ark manage to stay afloat?” amid a surging number of species—described irreverently as “hull-busting millions”—scientists record worldwide. From the writing, it would appear the article’s author, Reuters environment correspondent Alister Doyle, shares the same view as the quoted James Edwards, executive director of a species-cataloging project.

“It’s of course physically impossible,” Edwards said of the Ark’s feasibility, though we wonder if Edwards is even familiar with, let alone has read, classic examinations of the Ark such as John Woodmorappe’s Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study and Tim Lovett’s Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box.

Doyle reports that Edwards and others estimate there are up to 100 million species at present, ignoring extinct species, suggesting it was enough to overwhelm even the “giant ship” (Doyle’s words) the Bible describes.

However, Doyle also interviewed AiG’s own David Menton, who pointed out several facts that mitigate the supposed impossibility of the Ark account:

  • Noah took only land creatures and birds, not plants or aquatic creatures.
  • Organisms known to survive extensive flooding, such as insects and worms, would not have been on the Ark, which excludes many more known species.
  • Noah would have taken representative kinds of animals on the Ark—e.g., perhaps two from the canine kind instead of separate dogs, wolves, coyotes, and dingos.
  • Noah may have brought juveniles, such as baby sauropods, to save space.

Dragos Rauta, an expert with the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, said the capacity of the Ark, based on the Bible’s account, could have been an “impressive” 30,000 tons. Doyle reports that the Ark would have had floor space of 10,000 square meters, based on a three-deck Ark.

“Even so, the vessel would struggle to comply with modern marine transport guidelines, even with a few thousand creatures,” Doyle writes, though his justifications fall flat. He quotes livestock shipping expert Bjorn Clausen, who comments that “large cows need at least 2 square met[er]s each when held in pens for half a dozen animals,” then hurls the elephants in—and tigers, kangaroos, and rhinoceroses. “[T]he Ark would have quickly filled up,” he concludes.

Thus, a pair of large adult cattle (which are obviously larger than the average animal size) would take up less than half a percent of the Ark’s floor space (though this ignores food storage, Ark sub- and superstructure, and the possibility that there were likely more than two cattle on the Ark since, according to later Scriptural passages (Deuteronomy 14), they were considered clean—see Genesis 7:2). Of course, calves would occupy less space. Even including two rhinoceroses (again, possibly juvenile), two elephants, two hippopotamuses, two sauropods, and so forth, there would remain thousands and thousands of square meters for the rest of the animals. Furthermore, even with only three decks, Noah could have stacked cages and enclosures, especially for birds and other small animals; for example, it is conceivable that the kinds corresponding to modern-day rodents (which constitute a significant proportion of all mammals), could have been contained in a few rooms full of stacked enclosures.

The key to understanding the feasibility of the Ark is to accurately appraise the Ark’s capacity and realistically determine the size and number of animals and food it needed to stow. We also need to keep in mind that God would presumably not have told Noah to build an Ark far bigger than what was necessary, and that it probably did take some “out of the box” thinking to fill the Ark efficiently, keep animals in parts of the Ark that sustained their ideal temperature ranges, deal with feeding and waste management, and so forth. Furthermore, we don’t know if God intervened in any way to alter the animals’ behavior to make them more placid, instigate hibernation, etc., and the Bible doesn’t exclude this possibility.

This brings us back to the important thing to remember when analyzing the Ark account: feasibility studies can help us understand just how Noah filled the Ark, but ultimately, the Bible says that it happened, and we trust God’s Word—not the speculations of Christians or non-Christians—as the ultimate authority. The Bible clearly upholds the Ark account, as does Christ in Luke 17:26–27. Therefore we assume the account is true, even before giving consideration to just how the feat was accomplished—or whether the Ark complied with modern marine transport guidelines! Yet a reasonable and thorough examination of the matter reveals that the Scripture indeed can be trusted. No surprises there.

3. Creation Museum Celebrates 400,000 Visits—in One Year!

It’s definitely news: the Creation Museum has admitted its 400,000th visitor—right on the brink of its first anniversary!

First and foremost, we issue a great big thank you to God for all He has done for the ministry and museum—including providing the vision, the people, the resources, the support, and now the visitors to make the one-of-a-kind, Bible-upholding Creation Museum a reality. In fact, don’t miss an interview conducted with the founders of AiG and the Creation Museum this week at When Dreams Come True.

Our prayer is that the 400,000 who have visited the museum so far are just the first of hundreds of thousands (and eventually millions!) more who will either learn about true history—and their Savior—for the first time, or who will have their worldview reinforced and find information and family fun at the museum.

And don’t forget, we’re constantly adding new features to the museum, such as the petting zoo, Lakeside Café and patio area, and a new Noah’s Ark exhibit. This is in addition to special speakers and dramatic presentations that have been ongoing at the museum throughout the year.

In other words, don’t assume you’ve come to the museum and seen it all—there are always new things to explore at the Creation Museum. Bring friends, bring family, and—especially if you haven’t been to the museum yet—bring yourself!

You can read about the 400,000th guest in Ken Ham’s blog.

4. PLoS Biology: “Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait”

Despite laws, judicial action, and vilification in many circles, intelligent design and creation continue to be promoted in some high school classrooms (much to the chagrin of evolutionists!), report Penn State researchers in PLoS Biology.

The poll found a statistical correlation between the amount of training in evolution teachers had and the amount of time they spent discussing the topic. The authors therefore concluded that the solution to creation in the classroom is not more laws, but rather more teacher education.

But is that really the best explanation? AiG’s Peter Galling took a closer look at the story in yesterday’s Those Pesky Creationists!

For more information:

5. ScienceDaily: “Rapid, Dramatic ‘Reverse Evolution’ Documented in Tiny Fish Species”

We all know about evolution’s supposed constructive results over the course of millions and millions of years. But what about a new study that documents “reverse evolution” in the last half century?

Although the researchers are from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the subject for the study is a fish called the threespine stickleback and one of its habitats, Lake Washington (near Seattle).

Decades ago, pollution rendered the lake a “murky cesspool” of algae with poor transparency. For the sticklebacks living in the water then, the thick soup served as a measure of security against predators—such as the cutthroat trout—who had difficulty eyeing the sticklebacks for lunch. As a result, the sticklebacks lost their bony armor that had formerly helped protect them from predators.

In the 1960s, however, a cleanup effort reversed pollution and its effects on the lake, and today’s Lake Washington is a pristinely popular home and getaway—with greater aquatic transparency. So what about the sticklebacks? Researchers Katie Peichel and colleagues report that now, approximately half (49 percent) of sticklebacks have armor once again, and another third (35 percent) have partial plating. “This rapid, dramatic adaptation is actually an example of evolution in reverse, because the normal evolutionary tendency for freshwater sticklebacks runs toward less armor plating, not more,” the ScienceDaily-adapted news release explains. Peichel’s team hypothesizes that the improved transparency of the lake led to increased predation of the unarmored sticklebacks from trout, prompting the return of armored sticklebacks.

Evolution, in its most straightforward biological definition, simply means the change in a biological population over time (ultimately, a change in gene frequencies). Thus, the stickleback population’s loss of armor was evolution, and now the reappearance of the armor is evolution. On the surface, an evolutionist can validly make the claim that this is “evolution in action.” But let’s take a look at the creationist’s explanation for the stickleback change.

The creationist observes change in populations, just as the evolutionist does, and likewise sees this change as (often) driven by selective pressure, such as a predator’s preferential consumption of part of a population. When trout predation was high (due to the water’s initial transparency), unarmored sticklebacks would have been at a distinct disadvantage; they would have been eaten more often and their numbers would atrophy relative to armored sticklebacks. Then, when pollution inhibited trout predation, the unarmored sticklebacks would have lost their disadvantage; perhaps they even had some other advantage (such as a faster development period or lower food needs) that would have allowed them to flourish more than the armored sticklebacks. Thus, the population would have changed from mostly armored to mostly unarmored as time passed.

Finally, with the return of trout predation, unarmored sticklebacks once again were at a disadvantage and selective pressure has begun to drive them away. When we look at the population as a whole, it appears that sticklebacks lost their armor then regained it. Yet when we realize that we’re actually talking about the relative success of armored individuals versus unarmored individuals, this is obviously completely different from the “evolution” some scientists claim led from molecules to man.

Now read the researchers’ explanation, as revealed in the news release:

The ability of the fish to quickly adapt to environmental changes such as increased predation by the cutthroat trout is due, Peichel believes, to their rich genetic variation. The sticklebacks in Lake Washington contain DNA from both marine (saltwater) fish, which tend to be fully plated, and freshwater sticklebacks, which tend to be low-plated. When environmental pressures called for increased plating, some of the fish had copies of genes that controlled for both low and full plating, and so natural selection favored the latter.
“Having a lot of genetic variation in the population means that if the environment changes, there may be some gene variant that does better in that new environment than in the previous one, and so nature selects for it. Genetic variation increases the chance of overall survival of the species,” Peichel said.

So the team’s research fits the creation model perfectly: predation prefers one genetic variation of stickleback, so the change in predation levels—selective pressure—has influenced the relative proportion of armored versus unarmored sticklebacks. And all that “evolution” in just a half century!

The team’s research was published in this week’s Current Biology.

6. ScienceNOW: “Energy-Saving Tip: Walk Like a Human”

It’s a find so closely connected to human origins that the BBC News version of the story claimed our “[a]ncestors had leg-up to trees.”

Research conducted at Duke University reveals what may seem counterintuitive: for small primates (weighing less than 450 grams), moving around in trees doesn’t require more energy than moving around on the ground. This challenges the long-standing evolutionary notion that the first primates took an energetically costly trip into treetops millions of years ago.

A team led by Duke’s Jandy Hanna constructed “vertical treadmills” to test just how much energy various species of primates of varying sizes expended while climbing. By measuring the primates’ oxygen consumption, Hanna and her colleagues calculated the energy expenditure of the different animals as they climbed or walked for 15 to 30 minutes.

The experiments showed that size, perhaps unsurprisingly, made a big difference in the energy used by the different species—but what’s surprising is the correlation between size and energy use. The study showed that the primates, regardless of size, used the same amount of oxygen to lift a kilogram of body mass one meter while climbing. But the larger the animal, the less oxygen it used while walking. For example, lemurs and lorises use 12 and 28 times, respectively, more units of energy to cover the same span horizontally than humans.

Thus, the team’s conclusion, reported in Science, is that primates weren’t expending more energy swinging in trees as they grew larger; rather, they would have benefited from the reduced energy costs of walking across the ground (on all fours, of course). Hanna hasn’t yet run the experiment with larger primates, such as macaques and chimpanzees.

What strikes us as interesting is how inflated the conclusions are compared to the actual experimentation done. In fact, this is a perfect example of good observational science contrasted with speculative origins science. What Hanna’s team discovered simply concerned the energy expenditures of various small primates when climbing and walking in the present—these are the facts. But the facts have been stretched over the framework of evolution and have been interpreted in a particular way—as “evidence” in a particular discussion within evolutionary theory (primates’ transition into the treetops). Thus we have passages like these in the ScienceNOW coverage of the research:

[T]he first primates were likely small and flexible, able to invade a new arboreal habitat without giving up energy. But as primates came down from the trees, they, like nearly all terrestrial animals, benefited from energy-saving tricks and longer stride lengths that reduce the cost of walking in larger animals.
[T]he next step is to run larger primates, such as macaques and chimpanzees, on the vertical treadmill to see if the trend holds for bigger body sizes. That might offer clues as to why human ancestors stayed relatively small until after they had adopted a fully modern style of bipedalism 1.8 million years ago.

Furthermore, as we pointed out earlier, BBC News ran the research under a headline telling of “our ancestors”—more evolutionary interpretation.

Creationists interpret facts, too, and in this case, Hanna’s research shows how different organisms are well suited for their habitats. It is a tribute to our Creator, who, before the Curse, created both habitat and inhabitant in a perfect relationship.

7. National Geographic News: “Any Possible Mars Water or Life Is Deep Below Surface”

No wonder we haven’t found life on Mars—(if it’s there) it’s buried far beneath the surface!

Radar mapping of the Red Planet has revealed an “unusually flat” bedrock beneath the north polar ice cap, indicating “water and life—if they exist at all on Mars—are a lot deeper below the surface than previously thought,” reports National Geographic News on a study published in Science late last week.

The ice cap was also determined to comprise numerous fine layers of ice, separated by bands of dust—a telltale sign of climate cycles, reports Roger Phillips of the Southwest Research Institute, who says the ice caps have formed over a period of about five million years.

The radar also turned up an interesting find as it penetrated deep through the ice—up to 10,000 feet (3,000m) down to the bedrock. That much ice should have caused the bedrock to buckle, but it doesn’t—indicating the rock is thicker, colder, and/or stronger than was believed. Any liquid water—and, thus, evolutionists seamlessly conclude, any life—must be below, where it’s warmer.

Once again, evolution-driven hopes for life on Mars have been pushed just out of reach. While it’s no surprise evolutionists are “keeping the faith” that Mars may have life somewhere, we aren’t exactly sitting on the edge of our chairs. It seems we may have to rip the planet apart atom-by-atom before some are finally convinced there’s no life there!

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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