1. National Geographic News: “Superlungs Gave Dinosaurs Competitive Edge?

If alligator lungs are like bird lungs, and dinosaur lungs were like alligator lungs, does that mean birds evolved from dinosaurs?

Researchers reporting in the journal Science describe a study of alligator lungs that showed an air-circulation mechanism similar to birds’. A team led by evolutionary biologist C. G. Farmer of the University of Utah made the discovery by pumping fluids through dead alligators’ lungs to determine the direction of airflow.

As in birds, the fluid flow in alligators shows that air bypasses certain airways initially, later flowing through them before being exhaled. This high-efficiency, one-directional mechanism keeps birds’ lungs consistently filled with “fresh” air, enabling them to breathe at high altitudes.

Because most evolutionists believe birds evolved from dinosaurs—and that alligators and dinosaurs shared a common ancestor—the team believes this breathing mechanism first evolved in the common ancestor around 200 million years ago or more.

But assuming the researchers’ method accurately captures the workings of the alligator lung, the similarity to the bird lung may be less meaningful than Farmer’s team implies—as is suggested in a ScienceNOW discussion of the thoughts of University of Washington morphologist Adam Summers:

“We don’t know how other critters breathe—lizards, for example.” It could be that unidirectional airflow is the pattern for all nonmammalian land vertebrates, [Summers] says. That would make mammals, rather than birds, unique in the way they breathe. “It reopens a lot of questions that we thought were closed,” he says.

Even if the bird–alligator lung similarity is unique, it need not show that the two share a common ancestor; they could just as easily have a common designer. And indeed, not all evolutionists are convinced that birds evolved from dinosaurs, as shown by a study we covered last June.

2. BBC News: “Feet Hold the Key to Human Hand Evolution

Two perennial questions for evolutionary anthropologists are how humans began walking upright and how humans began to make and use stone tools. For one team of scientists, the answers are intertwined.

The team, led by University of Calgary anatomist Campbell Rolian, measured the hands and feet of both chimpanzees and humans, then mathematically modeled how the hands and feet of our supposed chimp-like ancestors would have evolved into what we have today. The result, which was published in the journal Evolution, is that changes in the shape of the foot would have led to changes in hand shape—allegedly allowing greater dexterity for tool manufacture.

“One reason fingers and toes may be so strongly correlated is that they share a similar genetic and developmental ‘blueprint,’ and small changes to this blueprint can affect the hand and foot in parallel,” Rolian said. “What we showed was that the changes in the hand and foot are similar developments . . . and changes in one would have side-effects manifesting in the other.”

Other anatomists, such as Liverpool University’s Robin Crompton, have questioned the work. “I am not personally convinced that the foot and hand of chimpanzees are a good model [of human ancestors’ hands and feet].” Crompton also told the BBC that more than proportion matters in the biomechanics of the foot.

Rolian’s idea is thought-provoking, but it fails to answer the sort of questions and criticisms creationists raise of evolutionary ideas. For instance, even if a human hand could evolve from a chimp-like hand in stepwise fashion, evolutionists cannot account for the added intelligence required for the tool-making and artistic behavior “early” humans showed. Moreover, mathematically modeling the evolution of a chimp-like hand (or foot) into a human hand (or foot) no more proves such a transmutation happened than mathematically modeling the opposite (a human hand into a chimp-like hand), which, of course, evolutionists would reject as staunchly as creationists.

3. PhysOrg: “‘Survival of the Cutest’ Proves Darwin Right

Perhaps it’s a fault, but we can hardly pass up on responding to any study that, it’s claimed, “proves Darwin right.” But it’s no surprise that we find this “proof” wanting as well.

The study, published in American Naturalist, considers the diversity of skull shapes of the domestic dog. Biologists Chris Klingenberg of the University of Manchester and Abby Drake of the College of the Holy Cross compared this diversity to the diversity of all skull shapes in taxonomic order Carnivora, home of such creatures as cats, bears, walruses, and many others.

Surprisingly, the shape of domestic dog skulls show more diversity than the entire order does as a whole. As the press release explains, “This means, for instance, that a Collie has a skull shape that is more different from that of a Pekingese than the skull shape of the cat is from that of a walrus.” The amount of diversity is especially surprising for evolutionists, who believe evolution has worked on order Carnivora for 60 million years more than on the “recently” domesticated dog.

The study fits squarely within the creationist framework for understanding biology. Artificial selection is even more powerful than natural selection for creating diversity within an animal kind, as artificial selection allows breeders to preserve otherwise “unfit” characteristics and even exaggerate them. Thus, Klingenberg noted that of all dog types, those bred as companion dogs (rather than for hunting, herding, or guarding) were the most variable:

Domestic dogs are boldly going where no self-respecting carnivore ever has gone before. Domestic dogs don’t live in the wild so they don’t have to run after things and kill them—their food comes out of a tin and the toughest thing they’ll ever have to chew is their owner’s slippers. So they can get away with a lot of variation that would affect functions such as breathing and chewing and would therefore lead to their extinction. Natural selection has been relaxed and replaced with artificial selection for various shapes that breeders favour. Dogs are bred for their looks, not for doing a job, so there is more scope for outlandish variations, which are then able to survive and reproduce.

Although the study does indeed demonstrate “the power of Darwinian selection,” it offers no proof for the Darwinian idea that all species evolved from a simple common ancestor. Domestic dogs are not evolving into non-dog species, and even if, someday, a dog breed were so abnormal as to be deemed another species, it could only be through the loss of genetic information—the opposite of a simple organism evolving into something more complex.

4. Vanity Fair: “Roll Over, Charles Darwin!”*

It isn’t a—ahem—“news source” we would normally cover, but we decided not to ignore a scathing attack on our Creation Museum that appears in February’s issue of Vanity Fair.

The article, by Vanity Fair contributing editor A. A. Gill, wastes no time in ridiculing the museum, saying it has been “battling science and reason since 2007” and accusing it of having no “hint of soul.” Nary a heartbeat passes before Gill insults those who live near the museum as well, writing, “It’s not in the nature of stoic Cincinnatians to boast, which is fortunate, really, for they have meager pickings to boast about.” In only a few moments Gill has antagonized not only Answers in Genesis supporters, but no doubt a great many Midwesterners as well. And shortly thereafter, Gill reveals (surprise, surprise) that he is more interested in mocking than in an even partially open-minded review of the museum: “Here in Nowheresville, Kentucky, tennis is considered a game for Europeans and other sexual deviants.”

Gill ventured to the museum with actor Paul Bettany (who once portrayed a tennis player—hence the above insult), who, we noted last week, labeled the museum “so monumentally peculiar and sad . . . like a museum of science, but of course there’s no science in it.” Bettany, who plays Charles Darwin in the film Creation (see item #5, below), took a series of photographs during his visit that Vanity Fair also published.**

Far more briefly than an exhaustive defense would require (since most of Gill’s insults have nothing to do with creation, per se)—but less briefly than Gill’s attempt at criticism deserves—are answers to his most relevant attacks:

God created the world in six days, and the whole thing is no more than 6,000 years old. Everything came at once, so Tyrannosaurus rex and Noah shared a cabin.

Since Gill is implying that our antediluvian ancestors lived with T. rex, we would point out that they no more needed to live with carnivorous dinosaurs than humans today need live with carnivorous/omnivorous mammals (e.g., lions or bears). If Gill’s use of “cabin” is meant to refer to the Ark specifically, however, then we answer both that as with modern zookeepers, Noah would have properly corralled and managed any dangerous beasts on the Ark with him.

This place doesn’t just take on evolution—it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and . . . most theology.

Gill reifies academic disciplines that cannot in themselves stand for or against evolution, but that rather are studied by those who hold to particular presuppositions. Further, insofar as disciplines are repositories for knowledge, evolution has yet to be reconciled with many important scientific discoveries—e.g., the law of biogenesis. As for theology, Gill’s piece gives no impression that he is familiar with biblical theology.

What is truly awe-inspiring about the museum is the task it sets itself: to rationalize a story, written 3,000 years ago, without allowing for any metaphoric or symbolic wiggle room. There’s no poetic license. This is a no-parable zone. It starts with the definitive answer, and all the questions have to be made to fit under it.

Biblical creationists do not arbitrarily eliminate the role of poetry and parable in Scripture; we of course agree that many passages of God’s Word are to be taken metaphorically. However, most of the Old Testament and much of the New Testament is history, not parable or metaphor. Each kind (or genre) of literature in the Bible has defining characteristics. And the clues for correct biblical interpretation are in Scripture itself and the study of ancient Hebrew (and Aramaic and Greek). According to those principles of sound interpretation, it is abundantly clearly that Genesis is to be taken as straightforward real history, not parable, poetry, or some other symbolic or metaphoric type of literature.

[Regarding the Ark:] “O.K., so you get everybody aboard, 10 million creatures, times two, without the neighbors’ noticing. Where did the water come from? You have to flood the whole world. Did they import water from the Scientologists? No: it came from underground. There is a great reservoir, presumably for flooding purposes, under our feet. I assume that’s where it went back to. Why don’t we drill for it to water Phoenix?”

First, the claim of “10 million creatures” comes from nowhere (certainly not from the Bible or sound reason) and vastly exceeds biblically grounded estimates that suggest the number of kinds (not species) of land animals and birds (not sea creatures) on the Ark may have been as few as 2,000 (see the links below). Second, the Bible clearly explains that both subterranean and atmospheric water contributed to the Flood. Third, most (probably) of the water from the Flood is with us in the oceans that still cover most of the earth—and which would flood the planet again today were the continents leveled out. Even so, Gill’s sarcastic comment about a “great reservoir” may be more right than he thinks—see Huge ‘Ocean’ Discovered Inside Earth (which we covered in February 2007); a non-reservoir possibility is described in Inner Earth May Hold More Water Than the Seas.

Reading the entire article is an exercise in futility (because there is no rational substance to it), and for that reason and the ones below we recommend against it. Nonetheless, we pray that perhaps it will spark some Vanity Fair reader to take a closer look—with a more open mind and less caustic heart than Gill’s.

* We declined to link to the Vanity Fair article above considering the questionable content both in the article and elsewhere on that website. However, we include it here for documentation and for adults only.

** With the same warning as above, we link here to the photographs, taken by actor Paul Bettany who accompanied Gill on his visit to the museum. (An item about Bettany follows below.)

5. Creation begins

The Charles Darwin biopic Creation finally opens this week in the United States, months after its original release in much of Europe.

The opening of the film, which stars atheist Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin, was delayed because of producer Jeremy Thomas’s failure to find a U.S. distributor—which, at the time, he blamed on anti-Darwin sentiments:

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. . . . 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. It’s quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the U.S., outside of New York and LA, religion rules.

We originally reviewed the film at the time of its British opening in Creation in the Making. Now Answers in Genesis–U.S. president Ken Ham and our Creation Museum will be featured in a segment of the ABC–TV program Nightline about Creation (scheduled now for broadcast on Monday at 11:35pm Eastern/Pacific time, after being bumped from its originally planned airing on Friday evening).

The U.S. opening was also an occasion for LiveScience’s “Bad Science” columnist Benjamin Radford to author Charles Darwin: Family Man, Scientist and Skeptic. Radford focuses interestingly on Darwin’s skepticism regarding not religion, but rather “psychics, the paranormal, and alternative medicine,” concluding, “Darwin’s letters provide a fascinating historical context to paranormal claims.” What is also quite interesting is that surveys have shown religious people to be less likely to believe in the paranormal; see news we covered in December, November, and September 2008.

For more information:

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Did the human population reach a “bottleneck” 1.2 million years ago, with our ancestors’ numbers dwindling to only 18,500? That conclusion is similar to another we analyzed in April 2008. As we wrote then, the real human population bottleneck was the “great global Flood that wiped out all human life except for eight people”—who were never “endangered” but rather under God’s protection the entire time.
  • An exoplanet detected by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology is the second-smallest found so far. Although its mass is “only” four times that of Earth, the planet—named HD 156668b—orbits its parent star every four days, meaning it’s likely hot enough to “glow with blast-furnace-like temperatures.”
  • When it comes to animal intelligence, we haven’t heard of many creatures lauded as “architects,” but apparently some consider the red grouper worthy of that honor. Architects or not, their sea floor-excavating behavior is fascinating.
  • Has a group of scientists removed the uncertainties of radiocarbon dating with their new calibration curve? To the contrary, the debates over and revision caused by the curve reminds us of the assumptions that radiocarbon dating (and all radiometric dating methods) are built upon.
  • It isn’t a use of non-embryonic stem cells we had envisioned, but nonetheless, scientists report some success creating pork from stem cells isolated from pigs’ muscle cells.
  • Another potential breakthrough in non-embryonic stem cell research comes from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where scientists believe they can manipulate stem cells from umbilical cord blood for use in bone marrow transplants.
  • A press release from the Autonomous University of Barcelona shows how little progress evolutionists have made in understanding the origin of life, with one camp claiming a breakthrough only because it has demonstrated the impossibility of the other camp’s hypothesis.
  • In this week’s news were two stories of “bio-inspiration.” One of those stories describes it as “constructing technological solutions using nature as a model, that is, imitating solutions that nature has itself invented with the help of the laws of evolution.” This week, those inventions were based on the nocturnal vision of insects and the tough outer shell of a certain sea snail—both creative designs, not complete accidents.
  • Did iguanas reach tiny, isolated Pacific islands by “walking aboard” millions of years ago, when those islands were connected by land to “an ancient southern supercontinent”? We find more reasonable the idea that, after the Flood and the dispersion at Babel, iguanas traveled to those islands along with human travelers.

For more information: Get Answers

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