Astronomers have once again discovered a “building block” of life in outer space.
Despite initial skepticism, NASA experts now believe comet 81P/Wild-2 harbors the amino acid glycine, an important component of protein (like other amino acids). The initial discovery was made when NASA’s Stardust probe captured material ejected by the comet in 2004.
Naturally, the discovery has fueled speculation that life on earth began after a cometary collision. Carl Pilcher, head of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, said, “The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare.”
Pardon us, but (as usual) we’d like to shower some rain on evolutionists’ parade:
One of the most important things to remember is that an amino acid, while a building block of life, is more like a building block of a building block of a building block of life. Metals, too, exist independently in nature, but we do not expect sophisticated machinery to exist independent of a designer. Likewise, discoveries of amino acids in space merely bring us back to the question of how such chemicals could have self-organized into life.
Scientists cannot only write about amazing fossil discoveries; now, they can write with one!
Paleontologists led by Phil Wilby of the British Geological Survey encountered an unexpected fossil find in Wiltshire recently: a remarkably well-preserved squid ink sac. The fossil was discovered in a site long known for housing many fossils of other soft-bodied organisms.
“It is difficult to imagine how you can have something as soft and sloppy as an ink sac . . . inside a rock that is 150 million years old”
What is startling is that the ink sac was intact and filled with ink. And although the ink had solidified, it was found to be essentially the same chemical structure as other squid ink, was re-liquefied with a chemical solution, and was then used to sketch a picture of the creature along with its Latin name. (See a photograph of the sketch on the Daily Mail website.) Yet based on the rock layers, the creature’s age is said to be some 150 million years old!
“It is difficult to imagine how you can have something as soft and sloppy as an ink sac fossilized in three dimension[s], still black, and inside a rock that is 150 million years old,” conceded Wilby. The Daily Mail report on the find adds that “the odds of finding something as delicate as a squid’s ink sac intact after so long are put at a billion to one.”
The entire discovery is a resounding confirmation of the creation model of paleontology, for several reasons:
Though the fossil site has been known about since the nineteenth century, its exact location was lost until Wilby’s team rediscovered it. So perhaps the site will yield more fossil surprises!
It’s “Pterosaur Beach,” the fossil imprint of a landing strip where a pterosaur once touched down.
Said to be from 150 million years ago, the fossil imprint includes many pterosaur footprints, but one in particular stands out. Unlike the rest of the prints, which show the left and right feet walking separately, step-by-step, one set of prints shows the left and right foot next to one another. Additionally, the toe prints are larger, as if the toes were dragged forward.
To University of California–Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian, that all adds up to a pterosaur landing. Padian believes the prints indicate the initial touchdown of the creature, followed by a second set of prints as it hopped to a stop, then lowered itself to all fours and walked off. And the feet-in-unison approach to landing is the same as that of the merganser duck, suggesting pterosaurs were able to stall their flight as they landed—a mark of “extremely capable fliers,” ScienceNOW reports.
If Padian’s interpretation is correct, it would indicate that God indeed made pterosaurs to be skilled flyers—designed right for their purpose. However, some scientists don’t agree with the landing-pterosaur idea. “Personally, I’d love them to be landing marks,” admitted University of Leicester paleontologist David Unwin. “But I don’t think you can rule out they’re swimming marks,” made as a pterosaur planted its feet upon reaching shore. We should always remember that any interpretation of fossil footprints requires one to speculate about the exact nature of the creature that made the prints. (See the actual prints that Padian interpreted.)
The news this week presented three interesting stories that reinforce the creationist understanding of created kinds, speciation, and “evolution.”
Perhaps you’ve heard of zonkeys, zorses (a.k.a. zebrulas), ligers, wholphins, and other hybrid animals—but what about the coywolf? As can be guessed from its name, the coywolf is a hybrid between a coyote and a wolf, and they’re becoming more common in Ontario.
According to Trent University geneticist Bradley White, who has studied the hybrids for 12 years, the coywolf has a dangerous combination of “the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and aggression and the coyote characteristics of lack of fear of human-developed areas.” White believes the coywolf’s origin traces back to the 1920s.
As creationists would expect, geneticist Paul Wilson notes that some coywolves are more coyote-like, whereas others are distinctly more wolf-like. In other words, there is a continuum between wolf and coyote. Creationists can understand this continuum as a microcosm of the original canine created kind, which likely included wolves, coyotes, dingoes, some foxes, and ordinary dogs. Each has since become further separated as genetic information is lost within populations; nonetheless, hybrids remind us of their common origin. Yet many of their common characteristics are unique, reminding us that they did not evolve from a non-canid organism.
Still, White utters an oft-heard phrase in response to the hybridization: “evolution in action.”
A study of multiple bird species in Canada and the United States revealed subtle differences in bird wings that depend on the forestation of birds’ habitat. Researchers already knew that more forested areas were home to more birds with rounder wing tips, improving maneuverability around branches. Less forested areas, on the other hand, house birds with more pointed wing tips, which allows more efficient, sustained flight.
Given this, André Desrochers of Laval University examined changes in bird wing tips across the past century by measuring historical specimens. He then cross-referenced the changes with known patterns of human-caused deforestation and reforestation. Unsurprisingly, birds from areas that had undergone deforestation grew longer and sharper wing tips, while the wing tips of birds in reforested areas became shorter and rounder.
The report notes that “as bird species face new challenges, they respond to the extent they can.” This comports with the creationist view: God included a range of genetic information and adaptability in organisms to allow them to live properly in a range of habitats.
The scientists aren’t certain how significant a role genes play in the wing tip changes. Still, Cornell University ornithologist David Winkler noted, “It’s surprising that there’s so much change so fast,” and Desrochers calls “rapid evolution” the most direct explanation. The speed of the changes indicates how the created kinds could have speciated rapidly after the Flood. Centuries of accumulated changes between some populations from the same created kinds resulted in sexual incompatibility. However, in other kinds (such as canids; see above), populations retain the ability even if interbreeding is uncommon.
A new study shows that polyploidy—having an extra set of certain chromosomes—plays a more important role in plant speciation than scientists had thought. Rather than three or four percent, the study indicates that fifteen percent of flowering plants and almost a third of fern species “are directly derived from polyploidy,” explained University of Muenster evolutionary biologist Troy Wood. Polyploidy can lead to reproductive isolation, new morphology, and characteristic traits, so is considered at least a potential mechanism for speciation, as another news article explained.
While polyploidy in vertebrates is usually fatal, for plants polyploidy seems to have a generally neutral effect. Nonetheless, the study is a reminder that genetic mistakes only rarely have beneficial effects, instead usually having no effect or negative effects. And when they do result in beneficial differences, it is only because the genetic mistake “breaks” some mechanism, giving the organism a contextual advantage. Speciation due to genetic mistakes—for better or worse—may explain some small portion of the diversity on the planet. But those genetic mistakes cannot account for the origin of all of earth’s species, as evolutionists suggest.
Though once a high-flying idea, the notion of dark energy has received another devastating blow from two mathematicians.
Dark energy was originally postulated to help fudge the numbers, in a sense: the universe was moving apart faster than astronomers had predicted, and dark energy was inserted as a factor to explain the mystery. Nonetheless, the inability to detect dark energy has meant a steady controversy among astrophysicists and mathematicians over what it is and whether it exists.
The mathematicians have solved equations matching up with a recently posited counter to the dark energy explanation: that, instead, we live in an unusual, low-density region of space that distorts our perspective of the rest of the universe. (We previously covered the debate—and the idea that the mathematicians are advancing—on May 17, October 4, and December 13 of last year.)
“If correct, these solutions can account for the anomalous accelerated expansion of galaxies without dark energy," said one of the mathematicians, the University of California–Davis’s Blake Temple. (His colleague is Joel Smoller of the University of Michigan.)
But there’s one major problem that troubles many astronomers with Temple and Smoller’s solution: it would imply that our solar system and the Milky Way Galaxy are in a unique part of the universe, caught in a ripple. That idea would violate the Copernican principle, widely held by big bang cosmologists, which essentially states that our solar system (and galaxy) cannot be in a central or otherwise privileged position within the universe. After all, such a position would not make sense given only the big bang and random chance—why us? Alexey Vikhlinin of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics voices the point: “You have to wonder why we are in the middle of this [ripple]? Why not somebody else?”
We can’t help but think that sounds like secular scientists are saying, “We’re not special, no matter what the evidence indicates.” That said, even the mathematicians challenging dark energy are working within the big bang framework; the entire debate is intimately wrapped up in an understanding of astrophysics based on the big bang.
In that sense, we have no specific stake in who wins the debate over dark energy’s existence, although we appreciate findings that challenge the Copernican principle. Our position, rooted in Genesis, is in part reflected by even the many non-creationists who dismiss the big bang model. As stated in an open letter, a group of such thinkers stated, “[T]he big bang theory can boast of no quantitative predictions that have subsequently been validated by observation.” The big bang is not a good scientific model, but rather an unprovable historical speculation layered with rescuing devices when it doesn’t match the evidence. As for the fate of dark energy, we will have to wait and see.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard 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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