1. PhysOrg: “In Search of the Original Flapper[—]New Theory on Evolution of Flight”

Can evolutionists rescue their own model of bird origins?

Evolutionists are pointing to another gap in the dino–bird evolution model. Robert Nudds of the University of Manchester and Gareth Dyke of University College Dublin “point to the obvious but hitherto overlooked fact that modern birds don’t offer many clues about how they arrived at their current state of aerial prowess,” PhysOrg reports.

The specific question is, how did the first birds learn to flap their wings together (symmetrically)? Walking animals, including birds’ supposed theropod dinosaur ancestors, move their forelimbs in an alternating, asymmetrical manner as they move; a running dinosaur, even if it had wings, would not have the proper motion to take flight. The puzzled scientists consider this to be a key problem in dino–bird evolution.

“Birds are poor models of their flightless ancestors, the theropod dinosaurs,” Nudds explained. “They are at an advanced morphological stage in the development of flapping flight and possess uniquely avian musculature” (emphasis added).

In their study, the team first speculated that tree-dwelling dinosaurs might have given rise to the symmetrical flapping motion, since tree dwellers might have held their limbs out together when jumping from branch to branch. The problem is, the supposed fossil record of dino-to-bird evolution suggests birds evolved from ground-dwelling, not tree-dwelling, ancestors.

Eventually, without actually solving the riddle, the scientists concluded that “even moderate [symmetrical] movements are enough”—essentially discounting their lack of any answer and contradicting their original point. “[F]lapping flight could have been the consequence of a series of gradual changes in wing shape and movement,” PhysOrg summarizes.

The researchers, even while identifying another compelling problem with dino–bird evolution, invent a lackluster solution to sustain their acceptance of evolution. Vague, imaginary notions of “gradual change” can be imported into any evolutionary problem as an easy solution: indeed, one could probably pick any two animals at random and creatively postulate how the one could have “gradually changed” into the other. Such fantasies would not convince evolutionists apart from Darwinian dogma, and they certainly (still) don’t convince us.

2. ScienceNOW: “Oldest Stone Blades Uncovered”

Stone blades from more than 500,000 years ago: the work of an alleged human ancestor or someone playing Survivorman?

University of Connecticut–Storrs paleoanthropologists Cara Roure Johnson and Sally McBrearty discovered the blades at five sites in Kenya, two of which date to more than 500,000 years old. If true, that would make some of the collected blades the oldest on record.

But for students of hominid evolution, the discovery is quite puzzling. ScienceNOW reporter Ann Gibbons explains:

Not long ago, researchers thought that blades were so hard to make that they had to be the handiwork of modern humans, who had evolved the mental wherewithal to systematically strike a cobble in the right way to produce blades and not just crude stone flakes. First, they were thought to be a hallmark of the late Stone Age, which began 40,000 years ago. Later, blades were thought to have emerged in the Middle Stone Age, which began about 200,000 years ago when modern humans arose in Africa and invented a new industry of more sophisticated stone tools. But this view has been challenged in recent years as researchers discovered blades that dated to 380,000 years in the Middle East and to almost 300,000 years ago in Europe, where Neandert[h]als may have made them.

And now more than 500,000 years ago—but who could have made such sophisticated blades “so long ago”? The researchers can only guess, pointing to discoveries of Homo heidelbergensis and Homo rhodesiensis bones nearby. (Creationists consider H. heidelbergensis one of several now-extinct variant of modern humans, while H. rhodesiensis, based on only one fossil, likely fits into another [fully human] Homo species.) More tellingly, Gibbons writes, “Regardless of the identity of the toolmakers, other researchers say that the discovery of blades this early suggests that these toolmakers were capable of more sophisticated behavior than previously thought” (emphasis added).

This discovery is a win–win for creationists. First, every time human discoveries are pushed back farther and farther in the evolutionary timeline, it raises questions about how reliable that timeline is. Such blades were once considered 40,000 years old, and now they’ve aged to more than half a million years. Such wide-ranging evidence of modern human behavior shows the flimsiness of the evolutionary timeline.

Second, we applaud the ongoing rehabilitation of alleged human ancestors, who—though portrayed as doltish apemen—clearly exhibited highly intelligent behavior. (We have covered such behavior in the case of Neanderthals especially.) But even the link between archaeological discoveries and human intelligence is questionable. Let’s say your next-door neighbor were stranded in Africa far from any cities or hope of rescue. In his efforts to survive, he would craft simple tools from wood and stone nearby, perhaps faring even worse than these alleged human ancestors at making stone tools (due to lack of experience). If a hundred years later, anthropologists found the tool remains, would they conclude the toolmaker to be a modern human or some ancient species? That is why the connection between tools and intelligence only works one way: sophisticated tools reveal intelligence, but simple tools do not imply stupidity.

3. BBC News: “Jews Celebrate ‘Dawn of Creation’”

People around the world celebrated a recent, literal creation this week.

Jews observed Birkat Hachama, the Sun Blessing, as the sun returned to where “it was, Jewish tradition says, when God created the world thousands of years ago,” BBC News reports. The event occurs only once every 28 years, and is rooted in Talmudic tradition—with an implicit understanding of a recent, literal creation.

Genesis lists the sun’s creation on Day 4 of Creation Week, which corresponds to Wednesday, when the observance was celebrated. Only every 28 years does the vernal equinox—as calculated according to Jewish tradition—occur on a Wednesday, the situation Jews believe occurred during Creation Week.

During the celebration, attendees recited, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe, who makes the works of creation.”

BBC News notes possible errors in the calculation of the ancient Jewish calendar, noting that Jews and other Middle Easterners two millennia ago believed the year was 365 days, 6 hours long—approximately twelve minutes longer than what is currently accepted. “This small discrepancy adds up when multiplied by thousands of years,” the report notes, with the actual first day of spring coming on March 20.

“It’s a very nice tradition but 2,000 years ago, it was a tradition based on scientific values, and today they need to re-evaluate,” commented Hebrew University astronomer Ariel Cohen. The BBC notes that rabbis “acknowledge this inaccuracy but stress that the mathematical calculations are less significant than the meaning behind [the] tradition.” According to one rabbi, the most important element is being thankful for the creation of the sun, which we often take for granted.

The Bible does not record any specifics about whether Creation Week started a new season, though Christians and specifically young-earth creationists can also appreciate the opportunity to consider the awesomeness of God’s creation and express our thanks for the sun, without which we could not survive.

Tragically, the article adds that because this year’s Birkat Hachama came on the eve of Passover, “[s]ome rabbis even view it as a sign heralding the coming redemption and arrival of the Messiah.” Our prayer is that they realize the Messiah—who will indeed come again someday—has already come!

4. The Local: “Creationists Taking on Evolution in Germany”

In February we noted a Der Spiegel article on European creationists (which followed a Guardian article that covered British creationists). Now English-language German paper The Local focuses on Bible believers in that country.

The article begins with Herald Janssen, an “articulate and obviously well-read” creationist who emphasizes the size of Noah’s Ark. “It was as big as an oil-tanker. If you could see it, you’d start to think, ‘Wow, it might have fit all the animals in there.’” Janssen serves on the board of a Swiss nonprofit that wants to build a Bible-themed fun park called “Genesis Land” in Germany.

Reporter David Wroe adds, “Creationism—the belief that Genesis and other books of the Bible explain life on Earth—is gaining strength in Germany.” He cites a recent University of Dortmund survey that showed that around a fifth of future teachers and a similar proportion of those who had studied basic biology doubted evolution, along with one in eleven who were studying for a higher degree in biology. Meanwhile, private Christian schools are growing more popular, half of which are represented by the creation-promoting Association of Evangelical Schools. Even evolutionist Dittmar Graf says he is “really sure that the percentage of Germans who doubt evolution is going up and up.”

(Disappointingly, Wroe later cites a U.S. Gallup poll that showed only 13 percent of Americans “believe in natural selection.” As we have tried to make clear, natural selection and evolution are two very different concepts that are actually at odds—see Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution? The Creation Museum even received international news attention last month for opening a new exhibit to illustrate that point.)

In related news, NPR program Talk of the Nation also featured a segment this week on religion around the world, specifically focusing on how globalization has sparked a “global faith revival.” The authors of the new book God is Back even speculate that China will be the world’s largest Christian nation by 2050. To read more, see “In Global Revival of Religion, ‘God Is Back’” on NPR’s website.

5. PhysOrg: “Texas School Standards: Age of the Universe Erased”

In the ongoing war over Texas school science standards, the age of the universe is the next battleground.

In an opinion piece, Miranda Marquit points out that most of the debate over school science standards centers on intelligent design and evolution—not the age of the universe. However, according to Marquit, the newest Texas school standards omit any mention of the age of the universe, with “[l]ong-standing ideas of cosmology . . . challenged as well.”

Specifically, she reports that the phrase “concept of an expanding universe that originated about 14 billion years ago” has been replaced with “current theories of the evolution of the universe including estimates for the age of the universe.” According to Marquit, however, there is “very little debate” about the age of the universe. She asks, “Couldn’t God have created the universe well before putting humans on Earth?” and continues:

But it appears that by working from Earth outward, some are becoming concerned. If God created humans on Earth just a few millennia ago, then Earth can’t be 4.5 billion years old. And if Earth isn’t as old as all that, surely the universe isn’t, either. It’s an interesting train of logic. And one that could result in all we know about space science being brought under attack.

Apparently Marquit isn’t very familiar with Genesis 1. Young-earth creationists do not reason that because man was created a few thousand years ago, the earth (and universe) cannot be older; in fact, if the Bible said nothing about the creation of the universe or about Earth history, we wouldn’t be dogmatic on those points.

But the Bible does articulate quite clearly that the earth was formed (and the remainder of the universe created) in the days preceding the creation of humans. Furthermore, the order of events—with Earth formed before other planets and stars—does not match secular suppositions, thus ruling out a “metaphorically true” account. We reject old ages because of Scripture’s clear teaching on not only human history, but also on Earth and astronomical history. Furthermore, we strongly disagree that secular astronomers “know” the age of the universe apart from their own presuppositions (viz., uniformitarianism and the Copernican principle).

Besides, since when does the phrase “current theories of the evolution of the universe including estimates for the age of the universe” sound like something a young-earth creationist would say?

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • How does evolution explain cooperative behavior? By applying game theory to yeast behavior, MIT researchers discovered that the “cooperating yeast have preferential access to approximately 1 percent of the sucrose they produce[, a] benefit [that] outweighs the cost of helping others, allowing them to successfully compete against cheaters.” Of course, this is how game theory explains cooperative behavior, and tells us nothing about evolution or about how evolution explains selfless behavior.
  • Do similar genes among animals thought to be evolutionarily related support evolution? We’ve long explained why not, and now it seems evolutionist Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution is True) agrees with us. In his blog, Coyne wrote, “Similarities of molecular and morphological trees don’t necessarily rule out the action of a celestial designer. He/She/It could have used similar genes to make similar organisms.” Bingo. Of course, Coyne goes on to discuss one genetic evidence he thinks rules out creation: pseudogenes (read a creationist overview). Coyne also makes the embarrassing mistake of saying that creationists “don’t accept that organisms change with the passage of time”—we do accept that, just not that they change from one kind of animal into another.
  • National Geographic News reports on an interesting zoological study on animal intelligence. The researchers tested how well a certain type of crow can “read” human eyes to figure out what the human is looking at (for example, food).
  • Two weeks back we covered astronomers’ excitement over pieces of a car-sized asteroid that landed on Earth (in many small fragments) not long ago; the fragments revealed a unique chemical composition. Another meteorite with a unique chemical composition has been discovered as well, BBC News reports; however, this one is far, far smaller than even fragments of a car-sized asteroid!
  • A photograph of frog embryos over at LiveScience is accompanied by an interesting discussion of surprising embryo capabilities, including risk detection.
  • For those who participated in Red Envelope Day (which we mentioned in February), WorldNetDaily reports that the envelopes definitely made it to the White House.
  • McClatchy, a newspaper holding company, issued a wire report on continuing human evolution. The report’s coverage of the hackneyed topic (which came up in both the March 21 and March 28 News to Note editions) unsurprisingly confuses natural selection with evolution.
  • What does stone structures shaped like oversized feet have to do with biblical archaeology? A University of Haifa news release explains.

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