1. BBC News: “Tiny Ancestor is T. rex Blueprint

Would a miniature T. rex be any less frightening than the real thing?

While newly studied fossil Raptorex kriegsteini shows the same menacing features as T. rex, in real life it would have been 90 times less massive than the iconic dinosaurs. Thus—and perhaps not surprisingly—it’s being dubbed a “missing link” between older dinosaurs and T. rex.

The fossil was apparently dug up in China illegally, after which it made its way through dealers until being sold to private collector Henry Kriegstein. He later contacted the University of Chicago’s Paul Sereno, who struck a deal to analyze the specimen. (Both Sereno and Kriegstein are co-authors of the Science paper describing the fossil.)

The estimated date of the find is also backing up “missing link” claims: the fossil is from sediments said to be 125 million years old—60 million years older than T. rex’s historical niche. Paleontologists already proposed T. rex had evolved from a smaller ancestor, which in some way supports the “missing link” claim.

“It’s as close to the proverbial missing link on a lineage as we might ever get for T. rex,” said Sereno. “From the teeth to the enlarged jaw muscles, the enlarged head, the small forelimbs, the lanky, running, long hind-limbs with the compressed foot for hunting prey: we see this all, to our great surprise, in an animal that is basically the body weight of a human or 1/90th the size that ultimately this lineage would reach in T. rex.” (View the size difference between the T. rex and R. kriegsteini forelimbs and skulls.)

But the fossil is quite different in one important way from what paleontologists had expected. It was thought that T. rex’s body shape evolved because of its large size, not before it. Hence the words of the American Museum of Natural History’s Stephen Brusatte, who noted, “Raptorex, the new species, really throws a wrench into this observed pattern.” However, he concluded, “We can say that these features did not evolve as a consequence of large body size but rather that they evolved as an efficient set of predatory weapons in an animal that was just one one-hundredth of the size of T. rex.”

“So that means that for most of their evolutionary history, about eighty percent of the time that they were on Earth, tyrannosaurs were small animals that lived in the shadow of other types of very large dinosaur predators,” he added.

The team’s claim that Raptorex kriegsteini is a missing link rests entirely on the sediment-based dating of the fossil—which was done indirectly because the fossil’s original finders and specific origin are unknown. After all, a miniature T. rex said to be from the same period as all others might instead be interpreted as simply a variation in size (increasing the known size range of T. rex.). Or perhaps R. kriegsteini was the juvenile offspring of a smaller T. rex, “doubling up” explanations for its small size.

It’s a story similar to horses. Evolutionists claim (no surprise) to see an evolutionary lineage in horse fossils (some of which are likely not horses at all), ranging from very small to “normal” size. Yet that incredible range of sizes exists on earth today! The same goes for many other creatures, including humans—see the September 20, 2008, News to Note (the primary linked article no longer exists, but an online search turns up replacements).

That’s why we see R. kriegsteini not as a missing link (of course), but rather a size variation in the same created kind as T. rex (most likely).

2. USA Today: “People with ‘No Religion’ Gain on Major Denominations

More and more Americans don’t identify with any religion. Are we to blame?

One critic emailed the linked article to us, claiming sarcastically, “Your support of ‘intelligent design’ seems to be effective at decreasing Christianity. Congrats!” We’ll have more on that in a moment, but first, what’s the news?

Trinity College has released “American Nones: Profile of the No Religion Population,” an assessment with those who claim no religious affiliation in the United States. The group is growing and may one day surpass the size of individual religious affiliations.

The research was a spinoff of the American Religious Identification Survey of 54,000 U.S. adults, including 1,106 who claimed no religious identification (casually called “Nones”) and were the focal point of the new study.

As with many studies of this nature, there were many highlights; these are the ones we found most notable:

  • Although the number of Nones in the U.S. is increasing, the rate of increase was actually twice as high during the 1990s, which the authors refer to as a “secular boom.”
  • Most Nones are not outright atheists, but rather agnostics and deists. In fact, more than a quarter (a plurality) believe a personal god exists, and another quarter believe in a higher power but not a personal god. Seven percent believe no god exists, though that proportion has not increased since the 1990s.
  • More than a third (35 percent) of first-generation Nones are ex-Catholics. Perhaps correspondingly, a third are of Irish ancestry; the other two most widely represented people groups among Nones are Asians and Jews.
  • The most common political identification of Nones is independent.

Of interest to us was the survey question, “Do you think that human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals?” Unsurprisingly, Nones differed from the entire group of surveyed; 61 percent answered “definitely” or “probably” to the question, compared to 38 percent from all adults surveyed. However, we find it interesting that 30 percent of Nones still answered “probably not” or “definitely not” to that question.

This brings us back to the critic who argued that creationists (specifically, us) are “decreasing Christianity.” We would argue that this survey shows no such thing, for multiple reasons:

  • Previous studies have shown that mainline Christian denominations—the ones more likely to accommodate evolution and old-earth ideas (see the March 21, 2009, and September 2, 2006, News to Notes)—are the same that are losing members the fastest (see the March 14, 2009, and March 1, 2008, News to Notes). While correlation does not prove causation, research published in Already Gone demonstrates the link between compromise on Scripture and departure from the church. (Those in mainline denominations are also more likely to accept pseudoscientific and paranormal ideas—see the September 27, 2009, News to Note.)
  • While the critic refers to “intelligent design,” what is interesting is that the survey’s question actually might encompass intelligent design (some intelligent design advocates effectively accept the old-ages story of evolution, simply positing some theistic “guidance” along the way). And the 30 percent of Nones who apparently reject human evolution is surprisingly high: it seems to suggest that many Nones are not driven away from religion because of creationist ideas.
  • Suppose insistence on the reality of Christ’s Resurrection was “decreasing Christianity” (e.g., causing churchgoers to stop attending)—should we abandon it as a doctrinal foundation and blind ourselves to the evidence supporting it? Likewise, even if it were true that young-earth creation were having a detrimental impact on what we might call Christianity’s demographic strength, we do not see abandoning it as an option.

The number of demographic “adherents” of Christianity as a proportion of Americans (as with other Western nations) continues to decline, even as Christianity is on the march in much of the Third World. We are called not to micromanage the demographics of religious identification, but rather to (among other things) “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)—part of our mission to revitalize the church.

3. LiveScience: “How Mars Turned Red: Surprising New Theory

What does the coloration of Mars say about its age?

Identification of Mars as “the Red Planet” is common knowledge even for non-astronomers, and its color is known to stand out to the sky gazer’s naked eye. But despite the association, Mars may not have always been red, researchers announce.

Research by scientists presenting at the European Planetary Science Congress disputes the previous idea that the red was essentially rust leftover from when liquid water ran on mars, forming iron oxide on the surface. However, NASA Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity found evidence of certain minerals on Mars’s surface that would have been destroyed by water—suggesting perhaps that the surface water idea just doesn’t float.

The scientists proposed an alternative mechanism to explain the red color: plain, old-fashioned erosion acting on magnetite. (Magnetite is an iron oxide that exists on Mars.) To test the idea, they used a machine to tumble grains of quartz sand grains. The tumbling produced an erosive effect that led to ten percent of the sand becoming dust in just seven months. As more and more of the grains eroded, the dust increasingly stained the sand red.

The chemistry behind the coloring effect lies in the disrupted chemical bonds as sand grains are eroded. Oxygen is transferred from the quartz to the magnetite, forming hematite and reddening the dusty environment.

Jonathan Merrison of the Aarhus Mars Simulation Laboratory commented that the hypothesis may better explain Mars’s color if surface water wasn’t common as once thought. As for how the process may alter the timeline of Mars’s coloration, Merrison added, “Before this work, I think most people in the field kind of thought the Martian surface was billions of years old and had always been red. This work seems to imply that it could be quite recent—millions of years instead of billions of years.”

Merrison’s “quite recent” is still far too old for young-earth creationists, but it does provide an avenue for further research—into the length of time such a process would take to stain the entire planet (though such research might still be predicated on uniformitarian assumptions).

4. National Geographic News: “Exact Date Pinned to Great Pyramid’s Construction?

How could construction on Egypt’s Great Pyramid have begun in 2470 BC if the Flood reshaped the earth over a century later?

If a team of Egyptian researchers are correct, construction on the Great Pyramid at Giza began on August 23, 2470 BC. So where did that date come from, and does it mesh with the biblical timeline of history?

According to the researchers, the ancient Egyptians would have started construction at the time of the Nile River’s “inundation”—when it flooded, refreshing the soil and thereby an auspicious event. That event is preceded each year with the seasonal appearance of the star Sirius (called Sothis in ancient times). The researchers calculated the first appearance of Sothis in the year 2470 BC to be on around July 18; the Nile River inundation would have begun 35 days later, or August 23.

But how did the researchers arrive at the year 2470 BC in the first place? According to team leader Abdel-Halim Nur El-Din, pharaohs began building their tombs at the start of their reign. The Great Pyramid was to be a tomb for Khufu, who took power in 2470 BC.

Based on Ussher’s research, the Flood year would have been 2348 B.C.; other creationists give slightly different dates (such as 2304 BC). So unless one accepts the unbiblical idea of a local flood (and an extremely local flood at that—one that could not have affected Egypt), those dates clearly conflict with the researchers’ estimation for the start of construction on the Great Pyramid. Time must also be factored in for the history that separates the Flood year from Egyptian civilization—viz., the human population growth and centralization at Shinar, and the consequential dispersion from the Tower of Babel. (Thus, even if the date for the start of the Great Pyramid was 2347 B.C., that would be insufficient time after the Flood.)

But another Egyptian researcher reminds us of the problems in dating the reigns of the pharaohs. Mahmoud Afifi, general director of Giza antiquities, notes that the time-keeping of ancient Egypt reset to zero with each new pharaoh, a concept that makes it hard to match up with modern calendars. Not only that, but the timelines kept for pharaohs were susceptible to politically motivated alteration—and thus they are unreliable.

Bible-believing archaeologists have proposed an alternate system for understanding the chronology of ancient Egypt that, we contend, better explains the evidence while also matching up with the biblical timeline. For a brief overview, read Dating the Pyramids, then continue with the links below.

5. USA Today: “‘Creation’ Producer Says U.S. Distributors find Evolution Too Controversial

Is the new film Creation (the opposite of what it sounds like) too edgy for American audiences?

This month marks the release of the British film Creation, all about the life of Charles Darwin. But according to producer Jeremy Thomas, for a while the film was just too controversial for any U.S. distributor to touch.

Thomas’s comments remind us of the tragically lost status of modern Britain. “It’s quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America,” he told the Daily Mail. “We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the U.S., outside of New York and LA, religion rules.” He also stated:

The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the U.S., and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the U.S. has picked it up. It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There’s still a great belief that He made the world in six days.

However accurate (or inaccurate) the producer’s assessment of American audiences, the film has since found a distributor in the U.S.: Newmarket, notes The Hollywood Reporter. And actually, considering what passes for appropriate entertainment in Hollywood, it’s strange that anyone would think Creation too edgy for the U.S.

Furthermore, the point seems to be lost on some of the backers of Creation that showing the human side of Charles Darwin won’t alter creationists’ scientific and logical appraisal of his ideas. Creationists are aware of Darwin’s many struggles over religious issues, especially as they related to his family and his ideas (see Darwin’s Personal Struggle with Evil, for instance). But an idea that goes against the status quo or that has harsh social consequences is not therefore correct.

As for us, we are still “the forces of darkness” in the eyes of evolutionists—those words used by Armond Leroi of Imperial College London when speaking with Channel 4 News about the upcoming film. Whether Creation will lead more viewers to agree with Leroi is yet to be seen.

To learn more about Creation, read Mark Looy’s Creation in the Making.

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • The “floppy” wings of many insects are actually a brilliant design—they lead to more efficient flight, reports ScienceNOW on a new study of the desert locust. The lessons of the study will be applied in designing flying robots.
  • Those cute giant pandas—they should just die out, says evolutionist Chris Packham, who says the creatures have reached an “evolutionary cul-de-sac.” And indeed, why should any evolutionist care about natural selection driving other species extinct? Creation offers the genuine, unselfish reasons for conservation.
  • New research from the University of Cambridge shows patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state may actually be able to learn, at least in a Pavlovian sense. Perhaps this discovery will affect the discussion about appropriate care and expectations for patients in those circumstances.
  • Scientists continue to reflect on the relationship between modern humans and Neanderthals—especially because researchers are moving toward a complete sequencing of the Neanderthal genome.
  • A possible illustration of the fast growth of the human race after creation and after the Flood may be found in the obituary of Rachel Krishevsky, an Israeli woman who leaves behind an estimated 1,400 descendants.

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