1. BBC News: “Polar Bear Plus Grizzly Equals?

If you’re in the forest, beware the menacing grolar bear.

If you’ve heard of zonkeys, ligers, or wholphins before, then you’re aware of some of the interesting animal “hybrids” that exist in nature or captivity. For creationists, these hybrids remind us of the original created kinds of Genesis 1—despite millennia of speciating effects.

The combination of a polar bear and a grizzly bear (a type of brown bear) has been observed in both the wild and in captivity, but scientists have now released a full study of the hybrids born at Osnabruck Zoo in Germany. The two polar/grizzly hybrids were born in 2004 to their grizzly bear mother.

In many ways, the hybrid bears show traits that are a combination of grizzly and polar bear features. For example, they are slightly smaller than their father polar bear but larger than their mother grizzly; their heads are also in-between the slenderness of polar bear heads and the boxiness of grizzly heads; and their feet have a moderate amount of hair—less than the covered feet of polar bears, but more than the less hairy feet of grizzlies. Even microscopic images of their shafts of hair show a blend of polar and grizzly features.

Other features of the hybrids come from only one parent. For instance, the hybrids have visible tails, like their polar bear relatives; but they have small shoulder humps like brown bears. They also behave much more like polar bears, stamping on some objects and hurling others, actions that polar bears use frequently in the wild.

Of the nearly twenty grolar bears known to exist, only one was found in the wild, as polar bears and grizzly bears have generally exclusive habitats. The scientists are waiting to determine if the female hybrid is fertile, which would suggest that a hybrid population could exist in the wild were the bears’ habitats to overlap more in the future.

Although the researchers believe the two species of bear split a few hundred thousand years ago, the ability of polar and grizzly bears to reproduce successfully also fits with the biblical view: that they descend from the same created kind through their ancestral bear representatives on the Ark about 4,500 years ago. And technically speaking, according to previous usage the two shouldn’t be considered separate “species” at all; they can reproduce successfully.

(For those interested in learning more about hybrids, or seeing some in real life, remember that the Creation Museum has both a zonkey (zebra x donkey) and a zorse (zebra x horse) in its petting zoo!)

2. BBC News: “Oldest T. rex Relative Identified

What’s the cause for our sixth mention of T. rex in seven weeks? A new study of the famed dinosaur’s “most ancient fossil relative” that is “exquisitely” preserved.

A fossil dinosaur known as Proceratosaurus has called the London Natural History Museum home since 1942, more than three decades after it was discovered in Gloucestershire. For years, the unique specimen was considered a species of Megalosaurus. Now, a team of British and German scientists has identified it as an “ancient” relative of T. rex.

The scientists used computed tomography (CT) scanning techniques to digitally build a 3-D model of the Proceratosaurus skull, allowing them to examine the skull’s internal structure. While Proceratosaurus and T. rex have important differences, the skull shows several important similarities, the team argues.

“If you look at the animal in detail, it has the same kinds of windows in the side of the skull for increasing the jaw muscles,” explained paleontologist Angela Milner of the museum. “It has the same kinds of teeth—particularly at the front of the jaws. They’re small teeth and almost banana-shaped, which are just the kind of teeth T. rex has.” Milner also explained that the Proceratosaurus skull includes numerous internal air spaces, another similarity to T. rex’s noggin.

“It was quite a surprise when our analysis showed we had the oldest known relative of T. rex.,” she added.

Coauthor Oliver Rauhut of the Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology emphasized, “This is still one of the best-preserved dinosaur skulls found in Europe. It is really surprising that it has received so little attention since its original description.”

The team’s research showing the similarities of Proceratosaurus and T. rex is certainly interesting, especially in the use of CT technology to “see inside” the Proceratosaurus skull. But nothing other than evolutionary and old-earth presuppositions suggests that Proceratosaurus is an “ancient relative” of T. rex. From the creationist perspective, the two dinosaurs could be from two kinds that lived side-by-side or even members of the same theropod kind—all descended from the originally created dinosaur kinds.

3. PBS: “Becoming Human

This week, American public broadcasting began a three-part series on human evolution titled Becoming Human.

“Humans: without a doubt, the smartest animal on Earth. Yet we’re unmistakably tied to our ape origins.

So begins the first of a three-part TV series, “Becoming Human,” on PBS’s NOVA. The program purports to reveal details of the alleged transition from ape to human, with various scientists throwing out their pet ideas along the way.

Most of the content is typical: a look at how humans began to walk upright, how our brains expanded, and so forth. “What powered our evolution?,” the narrator asks. “Why did we become human?” Scientists give such reasons as that bipedalism would allow ape-men to “see over tall grass,” “pick fruits off of the low branches of trees,” or “cool more efficiently.” While those are all benefits to bipedalism, the scientists do not explain how the genetic information for bipedalism (the different skeletal structure, etc.) could have “accidentally” made its way into an apeman genome.

Much of the program focuses on “Selam,” the fossil of a supposed ape-man placed in the same taxonomic category as the widely known Lucy. (Creationists consider both representative of an extinct ape group.) “Like Lucy, she testifies to a crucial step in our evolution,” the narrator says, but reminding us that “[h]er [discovered] bones would fit in a shoebox.”

The program also considers the Toumaï skull, another fossil of what creationists believe was an ape. While the extent of that fossil is a skull, evolutionary paleontologists believe they can prove it walked upright by showing that the skull doesn’t fit on a quadrupedal ape skeleton. Of course, without a full skeleton for Toumaï, any reconstruction is speculative (as would be the case with a partial or disorganized skeleton). Thankfully, the narrator adds, “Some scientists still question whether Toumaï was really a biped.”

A problem the program faces up to is the lack of ape-men fossils with larger brains. “From Toumaï to Selam, both [allegedly] bipeds, brains stayed small,” the program states. “And they weren’t the only ones. Over millions of years there was a profusion of [alleged] upright walkers with complicated names and chimp-sized brains[.]” One of the scientists emphasizes, “They were all bipeds, big snouts, more or less chimp-sized brains.” Bipedal or not, that doesn’t sound like near-humans.

Unfortunately for those interested in the supposed jump from these ape-men to humans, “the fossil record is virtually silent,” the program says. Instead of fossils, scientists find tools—sophisticated tools, which the scientists admit weren’t made by Lucy or other ape-men. Finally, near the “top” of the fossil record, paleontologists find Homo fossils—larger-brained and not so ape-like. Apparently creationist find the gaps far more problematic for ape-to-man evolution than do evolutionists (surprise, surprise).

Intriguingly (and perhaps provocatively), the program concludes that climate change was ultimately responsible for the evolution of humans. “It is a simple but revolutionary idea: human evolution is nature’s experiment with versatility,” the program says. “We’re not adapted to any one environment or climate, but to many; we are creatures of climate change.”

Surprisingly, “Becoming Human” is quite mundane overall: simply rehashing years-old “evidence” for human evolution. Creationists point out that most of the ape-man fossils are overwhelmingly more similar to living apes than any humans. Also, the state of most ape-man fossils is so imperfect and incomplete that all scientists can do is speculate—based on their presuppositions.

4. National Geographic News: “Animal Robots: Marine Machines Made in Nature’s Image

Are a series of robots made in nature’s image, or were they inspired by God’s designs? Or could it be both?

National Geographic News offers a gallery of robotic creations that are based on marine animals. Among the designs are “robo-lobsters,” “AquaPenguins,” and even “Charlie the Robo-Tuna.” The full list of robots shown, along with their natural inspirations and intended purposes, is:

  • Gymnobot, inspired by Amazonian knifefish—designed to study marine life.
  • A robotic fish, inspired by carp—designed to search for pollutants.
  • Robo-lobsters, inspired by, well, lobsters—designed to locate underwater mines.
  • AquaPenguins, inspired by penguins—designed to test new technologies for German engineering firm Festo.
  • Charlie the Robo-Tuna, the original version and the latest version, inspired by tuna—designed to with nearly 3,000 parts to “mimic real fish as closely as possible.”
  • AquaJelly robots, inspired by jellyfish—designed to swim in formation with their kin, communicating with infrared LEDs.
  • Kinshachi, inspired by a mythological Japanese creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a fish—designed to monitor the safety of bridges and observe fishing conditions.

The National Geographic News report notes, “Researchers worldwide are developing robots that look and act like aquatic creatures [. . .] because biomimetic gadgets—bots that take inspiration from nature—are often more efficient than their clunkier [i.e., human-made] counterparts.” Even when human designs mimic nature, nature often wins out: for example, the modern version of Charlie the Robo-Tuna still swims only a tenth as fast as its bona fide, living “cousin.”

Human engineers have accomplished great feats of design, from airplanes to computers to bridges and beyond. But what does it tell us about the original Creator when the best we can do is to emulate His creations—and even then, only imperfectly? And how rational is it to know that biomimetic robots are intelligently designed by humans, but to believe that the almost infinitely more complex and well-designed living creatures (which served as models for the scientists) came into existence by the blind, purposeless, directionless process of time, chance, and the laws of nature?

For more information:

5. Barna Group: “New Research Explores How Different Generations View and Use the Bible

Results compiled from Barna Group surveys reveal an unsurprising result: younger generations are less likely to consider the Bible sacred or accurate.

The Barna Group study, done on behalf of the American Bible Society, compiles information collected from nationwide surveys conducted in the last three years. The study grouped respondents into four “generations”: Mosaic (age 18 to 25), Buster (age 26 to 44), Boomer (age 45 to 63), and Elder (age 64 and older).

According to the Barna report, “There is often more that unites the various generations in American culture than divides them,” and attitudes toward Scripture are no different: majorities of each of the four generations believe that Bible is sacred, according to the surveys. Nonetheless, that perspective is on the decline. The results show that while ninety percent of Boomers and Elders agree that the Bible is sacred, that figure drops to less than seventy percent for the Mosaic generation. Only thirty percent of Mosaics and just under forty percent of Busters believe the Bible is “totally accurate,” compared to almost sixty percent of Elders. Mosaics were also the only group for which a majority of respondents believe the Bible, Koran, and Book of Mormon all offer the same spiritual truths.

Interestingly, the proportion of respondents expressing the strongest and weakest views on the proposition that the Bible is the “actual word of God” was similar across the board: roughly a quarter of all four generations adheres to the strongest view, and roughly a fifth of each generation adheres to the weakest view.

We must be careful interpreting the results of this survey, as with any. Some of the differences across generations may, hypothetically, be attributed not to declining Christianity in the U.S., but rather to increasing focus on faith as one grows older. Of course, we do strongly think declining Christianity is a major factor; but it is good to keep other partial explanations in mind.

One point of possible encouragement is that more Mosaics than any other group expressed interest in improving Bible knowledge. While this result may be partially suspect, it certainly shows that many young people are still very interested in hearing what the Bible is all about, and thus they will be exposed to the true history of the world and may experience the power of God’s Word.*

The Barna study did not examine how beliefs on life’s origins or Genesis were related to interest in or regard for Scripture. We know from other surveys, however, that one of the key reasons for young people leaving the church is a feeling that Scripture, beginning in Genesis, is false and/or irrelevant. (Read more in Already Gone.) Our mission remains to reclaim the foundation of the Christian faith—the Bible, all of it, and Scripture’s foundation in Genesis.

* One question asked respondents to name what aspect of their spiritual life they wanted to improve, but did not prompt respondents with answers. It may be, however, that older religious respondents were more likely to give as their first priority something more specific than improving Bible knowledge.

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Last December we reported on the discovery of what was allegedly the “world’s oldest spider web,” preserved in a piece of amber. The Times offers a follow-up report covering a study published on the web (pardon the pun). Despite a supposed age of 140 million years old, the web is effectively identical to a modern orb-weaving spider’s web.
  • The search for life on Mars—or on other planets—may one day receive a technological boost from “cyborg astrobiologists.” A team at the University of Chicago is investigating how to add elements of artificial intelligence to spacesuits to help astronauts of the future detect signs of life.
  • Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asks if there is a “speed limit” to evolution. But while the report discusses the concept of fitness, that is quite different from new, meaningful genetic information—which has never been observed.
  • Are humans “biologically complex” in part because of our genetic problems—specifically, duplicate genes that can contribute to such ailments as Alzheimer’s? Or rather, are we complex in spite of the genetic maladies that have built up ever since the Fall?
  • Two American paleontologists report on a new species of Ankylosaur, a tank-like dinosaur that was protected from predators by body armor, a thick skull, and sharp spikes.
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History will open a new Hall of Human Origins next March that costs nearly as much as the first phase of our own 70,000-square-foot Creation Museum when it opened in May 2007. Speaking of which, our museum will be opening a new exhibit soon that deals with (alleged) human origins and, specifically, Lucy. (We’ll let you know when it’s ready so you can come to see it.) Also, the 900,000th visitor may come through our museum on Sunday (in 29 months).
  • We often hear much about what pastors and scientists think of Genesis, but what about the politicians—whether an evolutionist Australian governor or the newly elected young-earth creationist mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida?

For more information: Get Answers

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