In covering a visit by paleontologists to our Creation Museum, a New York Times’ article spreads some misunderstanding (including in an associated blog by the reporter).
In a small item at the end of last week’s “And Don’t Miss” section, we mentioned that a group of paleontologists had visited the Creation Museum. (The Associated Press had released a short report on the visit.) This week, the New York Times chimed in with their own coverage.
Kenneth Chang opens the article with a focus on Tokyo Gakugei University geologist Tamaki Sato, one of the 75 or so scientists visiting the museum. According to Chang, Sato was “confused” by the dinosaur exhibit, which gave each dinosaur fossil a “date of demise” around 2348 BC—the year of the Flood.
Apparently the confusion comes because we use (for convenience) the same terms as old-earth paleontologists for rock layers. So when we say a fossil is from the “Lower Jurassic,” we mean that, yes, this fossil is found in the same set of rocks that evolutionists say it is found in. That is the unchanging “fact.” The interpretation is how old that rock layer actually is, and that—the dating—is where we differ.
Chang also errs (slightly) when writing, “In the creationist interpretation, the layers were laid down in one event—the worldwide flood.” Technically, we believe there are some pre-Flood and some post-Flood strata. But he gets it right in reporting that the museum emphasizes “Same facts, different conclusions.”
The Times quotes our own Terry Mortenson, who elaborates on the museum’s emphasis. “Everyone has presuppositions[:] what they will consider, what questions they will ask. The very first two rooms of our museum talk about this issue of starting points and assumptions. We will very strongly contest an evolutionist position that they are letting facts speak for themselves.” Chang adds that we claim to “look at the same rocks and fossils as the visiting scientists, but because of different starting assumptions they arrive at different answers.”
Out of all the academic concepts in the museum, we hope that’s what hostile visitors leave with—the emphasis on worldviews. Sadly, their comments seem to indicate that the paleontologists did not leave with any added appreciation of worldviews. “I think they should rename the museum—not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum,” said paleontologist Lisa Park of the University of Akron, who told Chang she was a Christian.
Chang himself seems to misunderstand our message as well, based on the behind-the-scenes account he gives in a Times blog entry. “The most amazing thing about the Creation Museum is that it espouses evolution,” he writes, a prelude to his confusion of the term “evolution.” He continues:
The key event for the young Earth creationist interpretations of geology and biology is the great flood, which the museum places at 2348 BC. Obviously, Noah’s ark could not fit two of every single land animal. The exhibit notes that the Bible says two of every “kind” of animal, so there weren’t two dogs, two wolves, two dingo dogs, etc., but rather one pair of wolf-like dogs. After the flood, the two wolf-like dogs multiplied and “diversified” into a panoply of species.
Usually, creationists make a distinction between “microevolution”—antibiotic resistance among microbes, for instance, which they accept—and “macroevolution”—the appearance of new species, which they dispute. If dog to fox is microevolution, then it seems that hominid to human would also be microevolution.
The first part, Chang gets right: two members of a “dog kind” on the Ark could have given rise to the many canine species we see today. But then he imports something Answers in Genesis does not say and actually recommends against: the microevolution/macroevolution dichotomy. Chang’s disproof of that dichotomy demonstrates just why we don’t use it. “If dog to fox is microevolution, then it seems that hominid to human would also be microevolution,” he writes.
What really matters is not the size of changes, but rather whether changes add information to a creature’s genome. Observational science tells us that all the “evolutionary” changes we observe either keep genetic information constant or reduce it. That’s the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution would require. Furthermore, humans are set apart as a unique created kind in the Genesis account.
Thus, Chang reports that our own Andrew Snelling told him (in Chang’s words) “rapid diversification occurred because of the open ecological niches after the flood and the geographical isolation of small population groups.” Chang concludes that our belief thus “fit[s] with the usual biological explanation of how evolution works.” Again, this is because Chang is looking at all changes equally. Instead, the issue is the origin of genetic information, which has only been observed to originate from an intelligent source.
As frustrating as it is to report on such misunderstanding, we thank and praise God for bringing more than 750,000 guests through the museum in a little over two years. And for every visitor who fails to understand our message, we hope and pray there are many more who hear the message and come to a saving relationship with Christ (or, for those who are already Christians, have their biblical worldview strengthened).
A new genetic study of 53 human populations shows that each falls into one of three genetic groups—yet that the three groups aren’t as different as was thought. The legacy of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Noah’s three sons), perhaps?
Washington Post writer David Brown reviews a recent study that analyzes genetic information from 53 human groups, comparing and contrasting what makes us human.
Generally speaking, all people groups seem to fall into “just three” categories, Brown reports. According to evolutionists, this tripartite division originated when humans left Africa tens of thousands of years ago, splitting into African, Eurasian, and East Asian groups (the third of which includes Pacific Islander and Native American groups).
For creationists, that division makes plain sense as reflective of the people groups that split off after Babel, all descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Of course, in the millennia since, those people groups have migrated and interbred, so it’s difficult to say perfectly what modern groups belong to what ancestor—or even to imply that the ordinary human descends from just one of Noah’s three sons/daughters-in-law. Additionally, the genomes have been influenced over the years by environment. So a population of Shem’s descendants and a population of Japheth’s descendants living in the same environment for millennia would come to resemble one another. Brown makes the point, albeit from an evolutionary perspective:
People adapted to what they encountered the way all living organisms do: through natural selection. A small fraction of the mutations constantly creeping into our genes happened by chance to prove beneficial in the new circumstances outside the African homeland. Those included differences in climate, altitude, latitude, food availability, parasites, infectious diseases, and lots of other things.
Nonetheless, the study is an exciting reminder of the reality of the Genesis account.
But what else is interesting is that the three broad groupings in the study aren’t as different as evolutionists expected. Brown writes, “Scientists have long known that regardless of ancestral home or ethnic group, everyone’s genes are pretty much alike. We’re all Homo sapiens. Everything else is pretty much details.” Brown identifies skin color as the “most obvious” of these details. Of course, that reflects what creationists have emphasized, but differs from what some evolutionists originally preached (see Darwin’s Plantation for more). He goes on, “Population geneticists expected to find dramatic differences . . . [but] that’s not what scientists have found. Dramatic genome variation among populations turns out to be extremely rare.”
The entire study reminds us of how the variation we see among human populations today could have arisen as our forbears left Babel. Genetic drift and natural selection played important roles over time, which is why any two humans randomly selected may differ in stature, skin color, disease susceptibility, lactose tolerance, and so forth—even while all of us remain entirely and equally human. The Bible’s message in Acts 17:26—that we are all of one blood, descendants of Adam through Noah—is a powerful truth explaining our world.
A “mummified” dinosaur with soft tissues fossilized—evidence of watery disaster?
We first reported on the “mummy,” named Dakota, back in March of last year. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that not only the bones, but also soft tissues such as skin, were fossilized. (This is different from the preservation of unfossilized soft tissue inside dinosaur bones, which we reported on most recently in May.)
Scientists have now released a paper on Dakota, a hadrosaur, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, where they describe how sediments formed a “mineral cast” that allowed for such remarkable preservation, with even individual cell-like structures retained. Even some organic material—specifically, amino acids—remain, intermixed with the sedimentary minerals.
BBC News explains how the scientists believe the creature was preserved so completely:
They believe that the dinosaur fell into a watery grave, with little oxygen present to speed along the decay process. Meanwhile, very fine sediments reacted with the soft tissues of the animal, forming a kind of cement.
That explanation, of course, is most consistent with catastrophic flooding. Yale University paleontologist Derek Briggs (who, by the way, was one of the paleontologists who visited the Creation Museum several days ago—see item 1) believes the amazing preservation may not be so rare, either: “One can’t be certain, but I suspect that in many cases these kinds of skin impressions have gone unnoticed and people have gone after the skeleton, which is of course what you’d expect to be preserved. This kind of discovery just demonstrates very clearly that soft tissue does survive, that the processes involved are unusual but not absolutely extraordinary—so there’s no reason why this kind of material won't be discovered again.” Dakota is yet another reminder of God’s judgment by water, the result of which was a fossil graveyard that covers the world.
How did the piranha end up with such a vicious jaw—and what does it have to do with Genesis?
Both evolutionists and creationists believe piranhas share a common ancestor with pacu fish, a similar South American fish that eats plants. For creationists, this helps explain how the piranha’s ancestors would have survived before the Curse (of Genesis 3). A piranha’s teeth are lined up in a single, pointy row, ready for chomping through flesh, while a pacu’s are in two less pointy rows, designed for chewing plant material.
A “new” fossil shows how piranha ancestors may have devolved within a common pacu–piranha kind. The fossil jawbone is actually almost a century old and has been sitting in a museum drawer in Argentina. Now, researchers studying the fossil report in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that it shows a toothy transition from the two-rowed pacu jaw to the single-rowed piranha jaw. The jaw, which the scientists claim belonged to what they call Megapiranha paranensis, shows a zigzag formation of teeth. Additionally, M. paranensis has serrated edges on its teeth, as do modern piranhas, but it also has a hinge on its jaw like that on the pacu jaw.
ScienceNOW reports that, despite the menacing rumors, some piranhas eat only insects or plants—a further reminder that today’s flesh-eating piranhas weren’t a part of God’s “very good” creation. (For more on this piranhas, see Piranhas, the Feared Fish.)
Changes in the color of columbine flowers: another example of “evolution in action” that has little to do with Darwin.
Ecologist Scott Hodges and graduate student Nathan Derieg of the University of California–Santa Barbara conducted the investigation into the genes that control the color of columbine flowers.
Red columbines are commonly pollinated by hummingbirds, while white and yellow columbines are mostly pollinated by hawkmoths. (The scientists have experimentally confirmed that hawkmoths prefer the paler colors.)
Because of this relationship, natural selection can hypothetically work to change flower color in a population. For example, if hawkmoths were to replace hummingbirds as pollinators of a population of red columbines, natural selection would favor the paler columbines, and the population would gradually shift toward more white and yellow flowers. The opposite should be true as well: hummingbird pollination would encourage a pale-colored population to shift toward more red flowers. (In both cases, note that individual flowers would not change color; rather, individuals of the population that are of a certain color would be more successful at reproducing than those of another color, causing the entire population to change over time.)
“Having identified all the genes that are intimately involved with making red and blue columbines now allows us to determine how these evolutionary transitions have occurred,” Hodges explained. He and Derieg worked to determine whether such color shifts have actually happened. The team concluded that a shift from red to white or yellow has happened five times in North America.
The changing colors of flower populations in response to new pollinators is a terrific example of natural selection in action. But it isn’t an example of the sort of evolution that supposedly turned molecules to men over millions of years. That “evolution” would have required dramatic increases in genetic information, akin to a columbine flower developing a sophisticated, entirely new anatomical feature through chance mutations—something we don’t observe. This study reminds us that the term “evolution” is frequently used to mean these two very different ideas. Through equivocation, scientists attempt to “prove” the second meaning with the first.
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