1. ScienceNOW: “Ancient Four-Legged Beasts Leave Their Mark

The supposed earliest evidence of four-legged animals—at 395 million years old—sounds like a boon for evolutionary research. So why is it causing evolutionists problems?

Scientists led by University of Warsaw paleobiologist Grzegorz Niedz'wiedzki uncovered the fossilized footprints of a four-legged animal in southeastern Poland. Important features of the well-preserved prints are the impressions of digits (meaning the creature had feet) and a “diagonal, coordinated gait impossible for finned creatures.”

Why a finned creature would be thought to have a gait is, of course, a by-faith element of evolutionary thinking, which postulates that fish-like creatures were the first land-walkers. For that reason, evolutionists previously hailed fossils such as Tiktaalik—a fish-like creature—as representative of the water-to-land transition and a key “missing link.” (Read an example of the evolutionary enthusiasm in Meet Your Ancestor—the Fish that Crawled.)

But the discovery presents a major problem for the evolutionary status of Tiktaalik and similar fossils, which supposedly date back to around 370 to, at most, 380 million years ago. If Tiktaalik represents the earliest adaptation of sea life for land walking, then how was Niedz'wiedzki’s finding—which he calls “an animal with four limbs, unique for true tetrapods”—walking across Poland almost ten million years earlier?

Facing up to the find, other paleontologists have been forced to retract previous praise for Tiktaalik as “the” missing link, instead considering it an evolutionary dead end. “We thought we’d pinned down the origin of limbed tetrapods, [but now w]e have to rethink the whole thing,” explained Cambridge’s Jennifer Clack. Young-earth creationists reject the assumptions that underlie the millions-of-years dates given to the fossils mentioned; in our view, both Tiktaalik and the fossil footprints are from the past 4,500 years or so. Nonetheless, this is one such case where even accepting evolutionary assumptions dethrones an iconic “missing link.”

For more information:

  • Tiktaalik and the Fishy Story of Walking Fish (part 1, part 2)
  • The fossil record of ‘early’ tetrapods: evidence of a major evolutionary transition?
  • Yet another 'missing link' fails to qualify
  • Get Answers: Fossils
  • 2. National Geographic News: “Five New Planets Found; Hotter Than Molten Lava

    Hot, hot, hot, hot, and hot—meet the first exoplanets found by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

    The five planets—dubbed Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b, and 8b—are the first discovered by the Kepler Mission, which launched last March. They were originally discovered shortly after the telescope’s launch, and their existence has since been confirmed by separate methods. The telescope has also identified several hundred other candidate exoplanets yet to be confirmed.

    But for evolutionists searching for earth-like worlds outside our solar system, the newly found planets fail to fit the bill. Because each planet orbits close to its host star, their temperatures range from 2,000 to 3,000?F (1,090 to 1,650 C)—hotter than molten lava. As such, they are “certainly no place to look for life,” emphasized Kepler principal investigator William Borucki. Nonetheless, the scientists are glad Kepler is working properly.

    Also interesting is the low density of some of the new worlds. Kepler 5b is less dense than water, while Kepler 7b has approximately the density of Styrofoam. National Geographic News offers an informative illustration showing the newly found planets’ temperatures and sizes relative to some planets in our own solar system.

    Scientists also announced a new hypothesis on the origin of super-hot planet CoRoT-7b, which we first discussed last February and further in September. BBC News reports on research suggesting the planet began as a gas giant, but had “much of its mass boiled away by [its nearby host] star’s heat.” Additionally, scientists believe the planet could be a literal hotbed of volcanic activity. So while each new exoplanet seems to present a unique riddle, the question of whether life exists on any found so far is still rejected even by most evolutionists.

    3. ScienceDaily: “Resistance to Antibiotics Can Be Drawback for Bacteria

    Microbial resistance to antibiotics is commonly provided as an example of “evolution in action.” But when it comes to Neisseria meningitidis, scientists haven’t observed such “evolution” in years.

    N. meningitidis is already well known to medical researchers, for it can cause meningitis; and as a target for antibiotics, some have worried the bacterium may evolve increased antibiotic resistance. However, a new study from Sweden’s Örebro University indicates that the rate of resistant bacterium has not increased in more than a decade. That is, while resistant N. meningitidis individuals do exist, they are not spreading—at least, not in Sweden.

    Biomedical researcher Sara Thulin Hedberg conducted the study for her doctoral dissertation. She concluded that the reason resistant strains are not spreading is that resistance is not particularly advantageous for the bacteria. Resistant bacteria cannot multiply as rapidly as other strains and do not infect hosts well. They are easily out-competed for resources by other strains in antibiotic-free environments.

    That conclusion is notable for creationists, who point out that nearly all common examples of “evolution in action” do not demonstrate the increase in genetic information that true molecules-to-man evolution would require. The fact that the antibiotic-resistant N. meningitidis are less fit than their susceptible siblings suggests that their resistance probably involves a loss of genetic information or else no change in information.

    4. BBC News: “‘Lifeless’ Prion Proteins Are ‘Capable of Evolution’

    Can non-life evolve? Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have discovered that infectious protein particles called prions can adapt to new environments and compete with one another.

    Prions, known for their role in causing diseases such as “mad cow,” are similar to viruses in that they are not alive, yet are able to replicate themselves through the assistance of a host. Specifically, abnormal (disease-causing) prions multiply by corrupting normal prions in the body.

    In the Scripps study, scientists transferred prions from brain cells to other cells. Some prions successfully “adapted” and quickly overran other prions. However, when transferred back to brain cells, the prions that had adapted were unable to compete, and the prions still suited for brain cells became dominant again.

    Scripps’ Charles Weissmann explained, “On the face of it, you have exactly the same process of mutation and adaptive change in prions as you see in viruses. This means that this pattern of Darwinian evolution appears to be universally active.”

    Are the prions “evolving”? We echo Weissmann in that, “on the surface,” it would be fair to consider the prion population in the experiment to be “evolving”—in the sense of “changing” based on a selective process. However, we note, first, that even the simplest single-celled life-forms are astoundingly complex compared to prions, and, second, the way the prions are “adapting” is by corrupting other prions more rapidly—which does not sound like a constructive equivalent of the information-adding mutations Darwinists need evolution to produce. Thus, even if we assume that no minority of “adapted” prions was in the experimental population to begin with, prion evolution offers a poor analogy to Darwin’s eons-long process.

    5. The Guardian: “Relic Reveals Noah’s Ark Was Circular

    Bible-believers have spent a great deal of time considering the design of Noah’s Ark. Is it possible that they—and Genesis—have it all wrong?

    A Babylonian clay tablet telling the Flood account describes Noah’s Ark as a “giant circular reed raft,” the Guardian reports. The artifact was found in the mid-twentieth century, but was only much later translated by the British Museum’s Irving Finkel.

    As for which account came first—the Hebrew or the Mesopotamian version—the Guardian confidently declares that the latter “became” the former (i.e., that the Genesis account is an altered version of an ancient tale). This conclusion presumably rests on the dating of Mesopotamian accounts—such as the one in question—to around 1700 BC, although such dates do not preclude the Genesis account from being older. On the contrary, the proliferation of Flood accounts beginning in the mid-second millennium BC reflects corrupted retellings of the true Flood story (recorded in Genesis) as people groups spread away from Babel. Each of these accounts, although imperfect, provides further evidence for the historical reality of the Ark and the Flood.

    Describing the significance of the find, Finkel explains, “In all the images ever made people assumed the [A]rk was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves—so that is how they portrayed it. But the [A]rk didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well.” However, Finkel’s conclusion that the round Ark reflects a type of craft known to ancient Mesopotamians could just as well mean the Flood account in the artifact had been altered (corrupted) to accommodate a boat shape better known to its writers.

    The article concludes by quoting John D. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, who says of (possibly) finding the Ark that “no significant art[i]fact could ever be of greater antiquity or importance.” Morris previously expounded on such thoughts in the Answers magazine article Has Noah’s Ark Been Found?

    6. And Don’t Miss . . .

    • Should dolphins be granted “non-human person” status because of their relative brain size and apparent high intelligence? “It may not be ethical to keep dolphins in aquatic amusement parks for our entertainment, or to kill them for food,” reports PhysOrg on research by City University of New York and Emory University scientists. But the Bible tells us that only man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
    • Have scientists found more evidence that water was once on Mars? Not surprisingly, the find suggests to evolutionary researchers “another place to go and look for microbial life.”
    • National Geographic News reports on a great example of observational science at work in astronomy—a breath of fresh air relative to most billions-of-years-based astronomy.
    • Research at the University of Haifa has unearthed the most ancient Hebrew inscription, dating from the tenth century BC. The implication is that “at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research.”
    • In October 2008 we said goodbye to the Phoenix Mars lander, and it may now be time to bid adieu to Mars rover Spirit. As with Phoenix, the rover had launched more than one news item in News to Note—most recently in December.
    • Is primate intelligence “overestimated”? So suggests a new computer model that chalks up grooming behavior to simple fear.
    • PBS began a new evolution-infused documentary, The Human Spark, this week. The three-part series includes episodes on “Becoming Us,” “So Human, So Chimp,” and “Brain Matters.”
    • Photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope purport to show galaxies as they were more than thirteen billion years ago. Of course, that belief requires more than thirteen billion years’ worth of assumptions about the behavior of light, the nature of the universe, and more.
    • Was Mammalodon an ancestor of modern whales, a whale-like creature that lived alongside modern whales just thousands of years ago, or neither? What’s clear is that presuppositions play as great a role as fossil evidence in answering that question.
    • Suspiciously absent from the Boone County (Kentucky) Recorder’s The Decade in News story is any mention of our Creation Museum, which has brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to Boone County in addition to the local investment the museum represents. Was the museum left out intentionally or just forgotten, we wonder? However, the museum is mentioned in a community worship directory advertisement, and the museum’s Christmas attraction is listed in the “Things to Do in the Neighborhood” feature of the newspaper.

    For more information: Get Answers

    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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