1. BBC News: “‘Missing Link’ Fossil Seal Walked”

“Evolution at [w]ork,” declares National Geographic News. “[T]he evolutionary evidence we have been lacking for so long,” reports BBC News. So just what is this new fossil?

A fossil discovered in 2007 in the Canadian Arctic could “hold the secret of seal evolution in its feet,” according to BBC News. The “astonishingly well preserved” fossil, which was about 65 percent complete, has been dated to 23 million years ago. Scientists named the extinct species it supposedly represents as Puijila darwini.

Because the seal-like creature had heavy limbs and flattened phalanges, likely indicating webbed feet rather than flippers, evolutionists have jumped on the find as a supposed land-based precursor of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses). “It . . . provides us with a glimpse of what pinnipeds looked like before they had flippers,” said the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Natalia Rybczynski, one scientists involved in Puijila’s recovery.

Mary Dawson, a team member from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, elaborated:

The remarkably preserved skeleton of Puijila had heavy limbs, indicative of well developed muscles, and flattened phalanges (finger or toe bones) which suggest that the feet were webbed—but not flippers. This animal was likely adept at both swimming and walking on land. Puijila is the evolutionary evidence we have been lacking for so long.

Is this “missing link” another solid evidence against creationists? Or have evolutionists once again interpreted a fossil according to their presuppositions? Here are two Puijila possibilities that support the second scenario:

  1. Could Puijila actually be part of the otter kind? Sea otters are in many ways similar to pinnipeds, yet they have legs with—you guessed it—webbed feet.* Even the BBC News article says Puijila “look[s] like a cross between a seal and an otter,” while the National Geographic News article describes its “resemblance to a modern otter.” Also, the artist’s impression prompted more than one reader to suggest the same thing to us. Meanwhile, evolutionary paleontologists already have another seal ancestor alleged to be from the same time period as Puijila—but it has flippers, like pinnipeds we see today.
  2. Alternatively, if scientists showed Puijila to be distinctly pinniped (i.e., definitely not an otter), it could be a member of an original created kind that was the ancestor of all pinnipeds today. Or it could have even been from a broader created kind that included such creatures as otters and beavers (such as the seal/beaver/otter-like Castorocauda lutrasimilis could have been). Evolutionists certainly couldn’t ridicule such a scenario, as they too believe all these creatures share a common ancestor. The key difference is that creationists would see only horizontal or downhill genetic changes, with each new subgroup within the kind having less genetic information than the original ancestor.

Nearly every time a new fossil “missing link” is heralded by evolutionists, creationists don’t have to dig deeply to find the evolutionary presuppositions that interpret the fossil. In this case, nothing about Puijila indicates that any evolution has occurred; all it tells us for certain is that a creature like Puijila once lived on Earth. From that point, both evolutionists and creationists assimilate the find into our respective biological models. For us, their mysterious missing link is just another fascinating example of God’s creation.

Postscript: After we finished this write-up, we reviewed the Associated Press coverage on Puijila, which only confirmed our first hypothesis (above). The title the AP used was “Otter-like fossil reveals early seal evolution” (our emphasis), and AP writer Malcolm Ritter calls the fossil a “web-footed, otter-like creature.” Not only that, but Ritter reports that Puijila “resembled a river otter but had a short snout, large eyes and a thinner tail”—which still places it much closer to otters than to seals, which have flippers instead of legs and webbed feet!

So if this animal is so otter-like, why are evolutionists touting it as support for pinniped evolution? Ritter unwittingly gives us the answer:

Scientists already knew that pinnipeds evolved from land animals [despite the fact that] the earliest known fossil from that group already had flippers. So Puijila shows an earlier stage of evolution, the researchers said. [Emphasis added]

Case closed, as far as we’re concerned!

2. ScienceNOW: “Did Humans Learn From Hobbits?”

“How could a hominid with a brain the size of a grapefruit craft tools?” asks ScienceNOW’s Elizabeth Culotta.

It seems the hobbit is still a hot news item. We last reported on the diminutive human remains in January, but two news stories this week bring us back to the question of just what the hobbit was.

For those not familiar, the hobbit story began when scientists found tiny human remains in an Indonesian island cave in 2004. Their initial report kicked off an ongoing debate between two basic views: whether the remains belonged to a true human, or whether they represent a new species, Homo floresiensis, that was a “cousin” to modern humans. Supporting the former view are a variety of hypotheses about what could have led to the hobbit’s small size (e.g., disease or malnutrition). Because the cave also contained the remains of stone tools as well as evidence of hunting and the controlled use of fire, we too stand behind this explanation.

ScienceNOW’s Elizabeth Culotta brings us up to date on the latest question:

Thousands of small, sharp-edged flakes of volcanic tuff and chert have been unearthed from the cave of the “hobbit” . . . . The stone tools have puzzled researchers: How could a hominid with a brain the size of a grapefruit craft tools? Now a detailed analysis sheds light on the hobbit’s technological capabilities and raises a new mystery: Why did the modern humans who arrived later on Flores make tools the same way hobbits did?

A team led by Mark Moore of Australia’s University of New England has been trying to answer those questions. The researchers examined nearly 12,000 stone tools discovered from the hobbit’s cave. Many of those tools were thought to have been crafted by the hobbit, while the team connects the rest of the tools with Homo sapiens buried in the cave—who supposedly lived thousands of years later.

Yet the tools made by the H. sapiens indicate they were not only manufactured identically to the tools made by the hobbit, but that the toolmaking process occurred in the same physical locations (first outside the cave, then in it). So the mystery is not simply about hobbit intelligence (i.e., how were hobbits able to make the same tools that modern humans made); the coincidence of hobbit and H. sapiens toolmaking methods is an apparent mystery.

The team eventually concluded that when H. sapiens arrived on the island, they made contact with the hobbits and copied their toolmaking techniques, using them even after the hobbits went extinct. “I can see how different hominins might converge on the techniques themselves, but I find it more difficult to understand how those permutations could be so similar without more direct observation or interaction,” Moore said.

Moore also justified his hypothesis by arguing that, based on the evolutionary timeline of human migration, it would be no more “surprising” to think that H. sapiens copied the hobbit toolmaking behavior than to think that H. sapiens was in the region thousands of years earlier to have made all the tools.

But Moore’s evolution-based model is far more circuitous than what the creation model suggests. Moore has the sophisticated hobbits making tools for tens of thousands of years, then (before going extinct) passing on that exact technique to a completely different species of humans, who made tools the same way for ten thousand years more. In the creation model, all inhabitants of the cave were modern humans living just a few thousand years ago, though some of the humans were either genetically unique, affected by disease and malnutrition, or all of the above. Nevertheless, all the humans lived in one toolmaking, fire-wielding, animal-hunting civilization, and all were interred in the cave.

For creationists, determining the nature of the hobbit is ultimately a question of intelligence, not morphology. Even humans today have a wide range of variation in size and in other characteristics, yet we are clearly all modern humans. In the past, variants such as Neanderthals, H. erectus, and the hobbit all appear to have been fully intelligent (and thus made in the image of God and descendants of Adam), even if their bodies were not identical to ours today.

3. ScienceNOW: “Closing In on the Next Earth”

Astronomers have found another “Earthlike” planet outside of our solar system.

Known as extrasolar planets or exoplanets, most discovered to date have been distinctly un-Earthlike and (presumably) quite inhospitable. However, most of the study of exoplanets is based on conjecture because the methods to detect exoplanets are all indirect.

Scientists have already found planets orbiting the star Gliese 581, in the constellation Libra. However, the new planet found there excites astronomers because it is lightweight, suggesting a rocky planet like Earth. Until now, most of the exoplanets discovered have been large gas giants like Jupiter—foreign to our concepts of life and habitability.

Unfortunately for astrobiologists, the new planet (Gliese 581 e) orbits far too close to its star to be habitable. In fact, its orbit is an astonishingly short 3.15 days (versus 365 for Earth), and thus the planet would obviously be too hot for life.

Encouraging the scientists is that neighboring Gliese 581 d, an exoplanet discovered previously, may lie within the “habitable zone”—neither too close nor too far from the star’s heat. The same team that discovered Gliese 581 e corrected previous calculations on Gliese 581 d and found that its orbit lasts 67 days rather than 83 days, as originally thought. This places it in the zone were liquid water could exist, thus making it “the first serious ‘water world’ candidate,” in the words of team member Stephane Udry.

The continuing search for exoplanets continues to fuel some astronomers’ hopes that, once we find a sufficiently Earthlike world, we will also find signs of life among the stars—a proposition thoroughly rooted in evolutionary dogma. For creationists, the expansiveness and beauty in space remind us of the awesomeness of God’s creation—and hint at the awesome extent of God.

4. BBC News: “Ancestor of T[.] rex Found in China”

A fossil dinosaur found in China—the great great granddaddy of fearsome T. rex?

Xiongguanlong baimoensis is the easy-to-pronounce name (okay, just kidding) of the new fossil species, which has been identified as a potential “missing link” between T. rex and supposed smaller ancestors. Like large tyrannosaurs, the fossil has a “boxy skull, reinforced temple bones to support large jaw muscles, modified front nipping teeth and a stronger spine to support a large head.”

Yet X. baimoensis lacks a long, thin snout, separating it from older tyrannosaurs. Furthermore, an adult would have stood only 5 feet (1.5 m), compared to more than 13 feet (4 m) for an adult T. rex.

The question is, what about X. baimoensis convinces researchers that it was a T. rex ancestor? What aspect of its anatomy compels scientists to conclude it is a “missing link” as opposed to simply another type of dinosaur, similar to T. rex but different in some ways, too (especially in terms of size!)?

The simple answer: evolutionists need missing links because evolution requires missing links! One of the codiscoverers of X. baimoensis, the Field Museum’s Peter Makovicky, explained, “We’ve got a 40 to 50 million year gap in which we have very little fossil record. . . . We’re filling in that part of the fossil record.” Exactly as we suspected: there is no reason creationists shouldn’t interpret X. baimoensis as just another type of dinosaur—with various similarities and differences in anatomy, size, etc., to other dinosaurs. But for evolutionists, the facts have to be made to fit the model, and in this case that means making X. baimoensis a missing link.

5. National Geographic News: “Earth Day Facts: When It Is, How It Began, What to Do”

Earth Day: what is the creation perspective?

This week marked the U.S. celebration of Earth Day, a nearly 40-year-old observance promoting everything from conservation to Earth worship. National Geographic News profiles the history and current perspective of some of those behind Earth Day.

But is there a unique Bible-based perspective on Earth Day? Can a Christian celebrate God’s creation without worshipping it? In an article earlier this week, AiG–U.S. author John UpChurch explored those and other questions in Go (Truly) Green—by Starting with Genesis.

Coinciding with Earth Day was a survey released that showed that one-third of surveyed children aged 6 to 11 fear the Earth won’t even exist when they grow up. Some children answered that they are worried about natural disasters along with the extinction of animals. LiveScience editorial director Robert Roy Britt asked, “Does any of this indicate that childhood is truly changing, that . . . the increasingly unavoidable news reports about impending apocalypse [among other things] . . . is making kids less happy and more fearful?”

One commenter on Britt’s article answered, “This is because of YOU LiveScience,” and accused the website: “How can you write five articles a day proclaiming doom on this planet because of our terrible warmongering polluting destroying ways and then run one the next day like... hmmm I wonder why kids are scared?” Indeed, the day before LiveScience ran an article titled “Timeline: Earth’s Precarious Future” that included such unmitigated statements as:

Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. Earth’s landscape will transform radically, with a quarter of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

We wonder if LiveScience and Robert Roy Britt have made the connection yet!

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Scientists have made another breakthrough reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells, reports ScienceDaily. Calling it “a revolutionary achievement,” the report states that the cells are “molecularly and functionally indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells.” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports on another breakthrough in life-honoring stem cell research.
  • We continue to discover that DNA isn’t everything—other factors play a part in determining the characteristics of an organism, and these factors can be passed on to offspring. It’s a reminder of how much we still don’t know about biology!
  • Will an object seen unexpectedly far away falsify part of the big bang—or will big bang advocates invent a story to fit the finding into their model? “There are two possibilities: the standard scenario of galaxy formation is wrong, or this particular object is showing something unique,” said one involved scientist.
  • The Institute for Creation Research has filed a federal lawsuit over the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s refusal to allow ICR to award master’s degrees in science education. (We last covered this ongoing story on March 21.)
  • A new study reveals that our female Neanderthal kin also had a difficult experience giving birth, something more difficult for humans than for any other primate, ScienceNOW notes. That lines up with Genesis 3:16; however, in Neanderthals the baby’s head did not have to twist during the birth process, making it slightly safer. Thus, the birth process for human mothers living today—in which the baby’s head must rotate—could have been made worse by mutations over the years, and in that aspect Neanderthals could have been closer to God’s original design (but this is all speculation).
  • “Humans won’t be around forever,” declares the History Channel’s provocative new series Life After People. It appears to be yet another unscientific perspective on the future of humans.
  • Could a study of tropical cyclones and meteorology shed light on the catastrophic climate change during the Flood year?
  • Astronomers have discovered two complex molecules, ethyl formate and n-propyl cyanide, in interstellar space. However, they are still searching for even the simplest amino acid, which (even if found) would be a far cry from the simplest life-form.
  • The BBC is promoting Darwin—in the form of classical music! “Evolution! A Darwin-inspired extravaganza for kids” will be held later this summer at the Royal Albert Hall.

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