1. LiveScience: “Oldest ‘Footprints’ on Earth Found”

They may not be much to look at, but the supposed oldest “footprints” are trampling over previous estimates of the age of animals.

Discovered on a rock in the U.S. state of Nevada, the footprints may not seem like much at first: two parallel rows of small dots, with each shallow dot a tiny two millimeters wide. But to scientists at the Ohio State University, they are all that remains of an ancient aquatic creature—possibly an ancestor of all modern animals.

According to Ohio State professor Loren Babcock, the creature was probably an arthropod resembling a centipede or a millipede. Based on the location of the footprints in the rock layer (which is allegedly right at the boundary between pre-Cambrian and Cambrian), Babcock and Ohio State doctoral student Soo-Yeun Ahn date the find to some 570 million years ago. That would be 30 million years earlier than what were the oldest known footprints, a fossilized trail in China dated to 540 million years ago.

The evolutionary significance of the new find is that it pushes back the earliest evidence for legged creatures into the pre-Cambrian, just before the “Cambrian explosion” wherein a great variety of life-forms “suddenly” appears in the Cambrian period of the fossil record. “At approximately 570 million years old, this new fossil not only provides the earliest suggestion of animals walking on legs, but it also shows that complex animals were alive on Earth before the Cambrian,” LiveScience reports.

The evolutionary claim, then, would possibly be that this discovery mutes the significance of the Cambrian explosion by showing that not all diversity appeared during the Cambrian period. The Cambrian explosion, which is sometimes used as evidence of creation, has baffled evolutionists and resulted in the development of the “punctuated equilibrium” model of evolution.

But does this really change anything? Evolutionists still have a sudden appearance of biodiversity far back in the fossil record, explicable only through the hotly contested concept of punctuated equilibrium. Creationists still understand the fossil record as, by and large, laid down by a single, global Flood, with different layers often indicating not time (or, at least, not millions of years of time), but different biological niches.

That said, Babcock noted, “I expect that there will be a lot of skepticism,” though he did not explicate why. A quick look at a photograph of the supposed “footprints” reveals why—and so perhaps all this fuss is unnecessary in the first place!

2. PhysOrg: “The Color of Evolution: How One Fish Became Two Fish”

Evolution observed in nature—again! Will it convince us this time?

On a somewhat regular basis, we read reports that scientists have observed evolution in action—right before their very eyes! Time and time again, reading beyond the headline reveals that “devolution” might be the better word: the observed organism is losing genetic information as natural selection preserves certain genes and eliminates others as species interact with their environments. Losing such genetic information in creatures is the opposite of molecules-to-man evolution.

So what about the new cover-story study published in a recent issue of the journal Nature—might it include a more compelling account of Darwinian evolution?

The study reported on the rapid speciation of cichlid species of fish in Lake Victoria (in central Africa). Lake Victoria holds more than 500 cichlid species, which “play a leading role because of their rapid speciation and remarkable diversity,” PhysOrg reports. According to the study, cichlid speciation occurs when changes in how they see leads to changes in mate selection. This is surprising, since the most common mechanism for speciation begins when populations become geographically isolated and adapt to different environmental conditions.

In the case of the cichlids, however, the difference is one of perception. It seems that red light penetrates deeper into Lake Victoria’s murky waters than blue light. Not coincidentally, male fish in shallow waters tend to be green or blue, whereas in deeper waters, the males are a brilliant red.

“These fish specialized to different microhabitats,” explained the University of Maryland’s Karen Carleton, one of the study team members. “The visual system then specialized to the light environment at these depths and the mating colors shifted to match. Once this happened, these two groups no longer interbred and so became new species.”

In other words, one cichlid species that likely could see both types of light and included all of the possible colors has “evolved” (speciated) into separate species whose senses are limited and who only exhibit certain colors. So as usual, rather than a case of information-adding evolution (which is required for the molecules-to-man narrative of Darwinism), this is just another observation of natural selection weeding out information as speciation occurs, resulting in organisms that are custom-tailored to their environment but lack the genetic diversity their ancestors had.

Very interesting is that much of Carleton’s research on the role of animal sensing in speciation is to be presented at the University of Maryland’s Bioscience Research and Technology Review Day (coming next month), part of the university’s ongoing celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

3. MSNBC/Discovery: “How the Turtle Got its Shell”

The turtle is known for its slow speed. So was turtle evolution so slow that you can’t even see it?

As is custom, it’s an evolutionary conundrum virtually no one hears about until it’s (supposedly) been solved: how did turtles evolve their trademark shells? Calling it “one of the biggest mysteries of the animal kingdom,” Discovery writer Michael Reilly explains how evolutionists just may have a resolved their conundrum well enough—for the time being.

The conundrum centers on turtles’ unique shells, which grow out of and are fused to their ribs. Was it always like this—did evolution encourage turtle ribs to flatten and spread out until they formed a complete shell? Or, as others suggest, were turtles originally more similar to armadillos, which have “dermal armor” that is actually thickened skin, not attached to their ribs?

A “bizarre” fossil found in New Mexico purportedly ends the debate, if Yale University paleontologist Walter Joyce is correct. Named Chinlechelys tenertesta and considered to be 215 million years old, the fossil is in bad shape. “It’s a pretty ugly fossil, really . . . almost like a shoebox full of crud,” Joyce lamented. But a fragment of the dorsal shell with ribs attached excites Joyce. “That’s what really gave it away: you can see that the ribs are not fused to the shell.”

In other words, Joyce believes this ancient creature was a turtle ancestor with dermal armor, unfused to the ribs. It may have looked like an ankylosaur, the well-known low-lying “tank”-like dinosaur. Furthermore, C. tenertesta could not retract its head or limbs, and its shell was thinner than a “modern” turtle’s. Meanwhile, it has spines running along its neck and tail.

“It is a missing link,” reported the Chicago Field Museum’s James Parham, who added that C. tenertesta may be one of the most important turtle fossils ever.

Our question—without having access to the actual fossil—is what makes it clear that this was indeed a proto-turtle fossil, as opposed to a unique (and now extinct) ankylosaur- or armadillo-like creature? After all, New Scientist reports that the fossil was only 12 inches (30 cm) long, with the shell fragment less than a sixteenth of an inch (1 mm) wide, and Joyce himself pointed out the poor state of the fossil. So, just as occurs with “apeman” fossils, we have a single piece of this tiny, “ugly,” may-have-been-a-turtle fossil being used to justify a lineage of unobserved evolution. Our guess is that this fossil wasn’t a turtle at all, but rather another reptile with dermal armor.

An alternative hypothesis is that, if it could be confirmed that C. tenertesta is actually a turtle, perhaps this turtle merely had a harmful mutation that prevented the shell from forming properly, leaving the shell separate from (i.e., unsuccessfully fused to) the rib. But is this fossil even in good enough shape to make much of a judgment, other than that for this particular specimen, its shell wasn’t fused, whatever the creature was?

What’s more interesting is the pervasiveness of the “make up a story” mentality of many scientists in evolutionism. In this case, the Royal Society (parent to Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which published Joyce’s research) also printed a diagram showing how an ancient reptile could have evolved into the modern turtle. In it, we see all the “just-so” steps: the development of dermal armor, then a sudden leap to a fused dermal armor shell, then the loss of all dermal armor, leaving only the fully fused, smooth, modern shell.

So here’s how you concoct an evolutionary history: pick any two similar animals and describe a series of incremental changes (make sure they’re construed as advantageous) to change the first animal into the second. (Ignore the fact that mutations have never been shown to generate new functioning anatomical features.) Then find a tiny bit of fossil from either of the two animals and stick it in the supposed lineage (but not where the actual change happened, of course). If there are modern-day organisms that match up rather well with your ancient fossil, ignore the similarity or call it a living fossil.

Perhaps we’re being too harsh; after all, evolution is rooted in such controversial interpretations of sparse fossils and faith in the power of mutations. Meanwhile, the creation model explains this find just fine, thank you.

4. The Times: “Leading Geneticist Steve Jones Says Human Evolution is Over”

That’s one small step for a man, one giant falling-flat-on-its-face step for mankind’s evolution.

Human evolution may be a thing of the past, according to a leading geneticist (and a debate opponent of AiG President Ken Ham on BBC-TV many years ago). Of course, that’s nothing new for those of us who didn’t believe it in the first place!

According to University College London professor Steve Jones, human evolution is slowing and may stop because of the disappearance of older fathers in Western societies. No, not the literal disappearance; rather, Jones points out that males are no longer having children in older age, as was once common.

“Wrapping themselves in knots”

AiG–U.K./Europe’s Paul Taylor, writing in the newsletter for European supporters of Answers in Genesis, made excellent points on Jones’s lecture:

There is a presupposition not stated . . . . The great geneticist supposes that more mutations equal more genetic information in the DNA. Yet this is never observed to be the case. In fact, the mutations caused always involve a rearrangement or loss of information. Thus, the supposed upward pressure of evolution is, in fact, a downward pressure. Jones almost acknowledged this in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, on the same day as the article. He commented “there is no evidence that humans today are more intelligent than they were in Victorian times.” He also suggested some even earlier historical periods, where people were equally intelligent to those of us today. Either Jones is suggesting that evolution stopped even earlier, or he is acknowledging that it never actually happened in the first place.

This is what is so amazing about Jones's article. It might be fair to summarise it thus:

  1. Actual scientific evidence suggests that humans are not evolving today.
  2. We don't have any evidence that they were evolving in the past either.
  3. But we think that they were!

Why do evolutionists refuse to follow the actual flow of the evidence: that humans never evolved—we are all descended from the man and woman that God made on the Sixth Day of Creation.

So what does this have to do with (supposed) evolution? Jones discussed the topic in a lecture at University College London titled, “Human Evolution is Over.” Jones first discussed the three components of evolution: natural selection, mutation, and random change. Older fathers are more likely to pass on mutations, said Jones, because cell divisions in males increase with age. Jones explained to the Times:

Every time there is a cell division, there is a chance of a mistake, a mutation, an error. For a 29-year old father [which the Times notes is the mean age of reproduction in the West] there are around 300 divisions between the sperm that made him and the one he passes on – each one with an opportunity to make mistakes. For a 50-year-old father, the figure is well over a thousand. A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation.

Thus, the societal trend against older fathers is allegedly dampening human evolution, compared to the ordinariness of men in centuries past fathering children as they grew older.

Jones also notes that modern medicine, care-giving, and agriculture have overcome natural selection and randomness. “In ancient times half our children would have died by the age of 20,” he noted. “Now, in the Western world, 98 per cent of them are surviving to 21. . . . Worldwide, all populations are becoming connected and the opportunity for random change is dwindling.”

Because mutations are harmful in the vast majority of circumstances, it’s possible that this trend will prove beneficial for the human race, just as modern medicine, care-giving, and agriculture have. Of course, in the eyes of evolutionists, it’s the one rare mutation that invents a new anatomical feature that drives the evolutionary story forward, so perhaps this news may upset them!

Also interesting was Jones’s comment about the effect of globalization on the human race: “We are mixing into a global mass, and the future is brown.” This reminds us that we are all one race (Acts 17:26), with our skin merely different shades of brown as caused after the dispersion at Babel (Genesis 11).

5. BBC News: “Scientists Meet for Alien Summit”

No, extraterrestrials haven’t been invited to the conference—but they will nonetheless be the keynote subject of this year’s Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, workshop.

The theme of the annual workshop is the quest for discovering alien life, which will be discussed in a variety of settings during the multi-day, multi-session conference. Monica Grady, a planetary and space scientist at the Open University, will give the keynote speech.

One specific question conference attendees hope to work on is just how astronomical instruments can help study the extreme environments of outer space, including on the more than 300 known exoplanets outside of our solar system. Speakers come from various scientific backgrounds, including astrobiology, atmospheric physics, and astrophysics.

It’s both a comedy and a tragedy as tax money continues to be spent in pursuit of elusive extraterrestrial life—which always seems to be just beyond our reach, whether as close as Mars or as distant as exoplanetary systems. Don’t expect anything from secular scientists except more uncertainty as the search for alien life continues!

6. The Washington Times: “Clay Seal Connects to Bible”

It may not seem like a discovery of biblical proportions, but a clay seal found in Israel adds yet another physical connection between the Bible and the present.

The tiny clay impression was found near the ruins of what has been identified as the palace of King David. According to the Hebrew name inscribed on it, the seal belonged to Gedalyahu ben Pashhur. While the name may not be as easily recognized as Moses or Solomon, ben Pashhur is nonetheless a biblical figure. Jeremiah 38:1 reports:

Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur [“ben” means “son of”], and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying . . . .

This discovery parallels the discovery two years ago of a similar seal belonging to Yehuchal ben Shelemayahu—that is, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, as mentioned in the same verse. That seal was found at the same excavation site, at the location of the biblical Siloam.

“It is not very often that archaeologists have surprises that bring them so close to the reality of the biblical text,” said Eilat Mazar, discoverer of the ben Pashhur stamp. “One could not have asked anything more than this.”

Gabriel Barkay, a colleague of Mazar, has suggested the stamps were attached to royal documents that were burned, possibly during the Babylonian siege of Judah. The clay impressions are now all that remains.

Other seal impressions have been found at the excavation site as well, though this is the first such discovery of two seals referenced in the same Bible verse. Sadly, Barkay reports that due to construction and other factors, many archaeological finds from the First Temple period are probably lost forever.

As Christians, we axiomatically begin with the Bible and, thus, do not rely on archaeology to “prove” the Bible; if we did, that would indicate that there was some greater epistemology outside of the reality of God’s Word that the Bible was itself beholden to. That said, archaeological discoveries remind the unbeliever of the accuracy of God’s Word and excite the believer by making every verse that much more immediate.

For more information:

7. LiveScience: “New Flying Dinosaur Drone to Resemble Pterodactyl”

In one of the most stunning examples of biomimicry to date, the design of a next-generation unmanned spy drone is being inspired by the pterodactyl.

The Pterodrone, as it’s called, is about the size of a crow, though its wings stretch nearly 32 inches (80 cm) from tip to tip. Its designers explain that “The next generation of airborne drones . . . [will] alter their wing shapes using morphing techniques to squeeze through confined spaces, dive between buildings, zoom under overpasses, land on apartment balconies, or sail along the coastline.”

They are basing the Pterodrone off a pterosaur known as Tapejara wellnhoferi, which was purported to be quite skilled at morphing its wings and head crest into varying aerodynamic surfaces as it tackled different challenges. The Pterodrone even replicates the head crest of T. wellnhoferi. The Pterodrone’s flying surfaces will incorporate carbon fiber and nylon, and the drone will house gyroscopes and a GPS for navigation.

As with other technologies inspired by God’s designs, the Pterodrone is a great reminder of how human engineering, through great effort, can only approximate the seamless efficiency and incredible capabilities of the natural world that God created. Regardless of whether people recognize it, each example of biomimicry is a testimony to the Designer’s ingenuity!

For more information:

8. AP: “Creation Museum Draws Big Crowds”

An Associated Press article (picked up by several newspapers in the U.S. and major websites like MSNBC) highlights our Creation Museum.

The article quotes Dan Phelps of the Kentucky Paleontology Society, who says his evolutionist friends are “depressed” and laments that creationism “still hangs around.”

AP writer Dylan Lovan notes that teachers in Kentucky haven’t encountered student challenges “based on conclusions drawn from visits to the Creation Museum.” However, he quotes Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross, who reports that “[t]eachers have been dealing with these things long before the Creation Museum came into being”—which makes it sound like there probably are challenges based on materials presented at the museum, but that they aren’t new.

Lovan also reports (based on our data) that we’ve had more than half a million visitors to the museum since its opening in spring 2007. We are so thankful for the visitors and support God has blessed us with, and we thank Him for every opportunity to present biblical history and the gospel to supporters and skeptics alike—even skeptics like TV personality Bill Maher, who crashed the museum last year for his mocking-of-Christianity film Religulous, now in theaters.

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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