Many readers have probably forgotten “Ida,” the fossil primate whose fifteen minutes of media-frenzied fame as a “missing link” was cut short.
We tipped readers off about the find last May, shortly before its widely publicized unveiling. Almost immediately, prominent scientists heavily criticized the exaggerated claims in their talks with journalists, and less than a week after Ida was presented, we wrote:
The bigger story now is how so much of the media was irresponsibly caught up in the hype—and why there was a coordinated media effort in the first place. While the fossil is definitely not a fraud, it appears the hype was: the dramatic “missing link” conclusions presented to the public were not present in the scientific paper, having been removed during the peer review process. Our guess is that after paying an undisclosed but presumably significant sum for the fossil, the financial backers are demanding a high return on the documentary and book—hence the hype, such as comments like, “When our results are published, it will be just like an asteroid hitting the earth” (from study coauthor Jens Franzen, via the promotional website). . . .
Instead, the better journalists and more skeptical scientists responded in just the opposite way, accusing the study authors of “cherry picking” which facts to highlight. “It’s not a missing link, it’s not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point they’re trying to make,” said Chris Beard, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. He added, “I would be absolutely dumbfounded if it turns out to be a potential ancestor to humans.”
Shortly thereafter Ida’s price tag—$750,000—was revealed, which seemed to seal popular and scientific opinion against the claims its buyers had presented. But it was not until October, by which time the media had forgotten about Ida, that four U.S. scientists authored a more formal criticism of Ida in a Nature letter.
Which brings us to the present, almost a year after Ida’s announcement. A team of scientists piles on more criticism of the “missing link” interpretation of Ida in new papers appearing in the Journal of Human Evolution and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors are the anthropologists Chris Kirk of the University of Texas–Austin and Duke University’s Blythe Williams and Richard Kay, along with evolutionary biologist Callum Ross of the University of Chicago. Williams, the lead author, noted that “The Darwinius research completely ignored [the previous] body of literature [on similar fossils].”
Kirk added, “Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution. . . . What’s amazing about Darwinius is, despite the fact that it’s nearly complete, it tells us very little that we didn’t already know from fossils of closely related species.” Summing the team’s argument, he concluded, “You can forget about Darwinius being a close relative of humans or other anthropoids.”
The scientists (who, we recognize, probably disagree with our view as well) believe Ida is actually an ancestor of modern lemurs and lorises. This is quite similar (minus the evolution) to what we said at the time, and what we still believe: that “[n]othing about this fossil suggests it is anything other than an extinct, lemur-like creature.”
The location of a snake found “frozen in time” reveals a component of its diet: newly hatched dinosaurs.
Scientists writing in PLoS Biology describe the remains of a snake fossilized among dinosaur eggs—and a baby dinosaur. The researchers believe the size of the snake’s jaw prevented it from ingesting eggs whole, so instead, the snake waited and preyed on dinosaurs immediately after they hatched.
The dinosaur that the snake was preparing to dine on was a small titanosaur, a type of sauropod that would have dwarfed the snake when fully grown. Instead, the snake, the baby titanosaur, and the unhatched eggs were all preserved by what the team suspects was a sudden natural disaster some “67 million years ago.”
“It was such a thrill to discover such a portentous moment frozen in time,” noted the Geological Survey of India’s Dhananjay Mohabey, who excavated the fossil. Scientists have named the snake Sanajeh indicus.
The fossil scene is a fascinating peek at an “ancient” world—perhaps the world as it was just before the Flood, a catastrophic natural disaster that would have instantaneously fossilized many such vignettes of “nature in action.” Without a natural disaster, why would both the snake and the young dinosaur have died simultaneously (allowing a hypothesized slow process of fossilization), and why would the other eggs have remained unhatched? Catastrophic fossilization, the model espoused by creationists, makes the most sense of findings like this one.
A new fossil discovery tells evolutionists that some of dinosaurs’ supposed ancestors were on the scene ten million years earlier than was thought. What does the find tell creationists?
The dinosaur, Asilisaurus kongwe, was identified from at least twelve separate partial fossils found in Tanzania in 2007. By piecing together fragments, scientists arrived at a more complete skeleton that was “nothing like what paleontologists had imagined,” National Geographic News reports.
Based on the reconstruction, Asilisaurus was a small, dog-sized silesaur (a dinosaur-like reptile) that had a long tail and walked on all fours. A beak indicates that it could have dined on plants or on flesh—making it quite distinct from the two-legged carnivores that evolutionists consider the earliest dinosaurs. “It was a weird little creature. We always thought the earliest [dinosaur] relatives were small, bipedal, carnivorous animals,” explained team member Randall Irmis from the Utah Museum of Natural History.
Team member Christian Sidor, vertebrate paleontology curator at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, added, “It’s making the picture a little bit murkier, because we have a possible herbivore and quadruped very close to the dinosaur lineage.”
The picture is only murky, however, when one attempts to superimpose an evolutionary explanation onto the fossils. In the evolutionists’ book, dinosaurs need an ancestry that shows how dinosaur features appeared in stepwise fashion—similar to attempts to show a series of ape-men evolving progressively into mankind. But the difference between Asilisaurus and “early” dinosaurs is easy to understand within the creation worldview: they were not from the same created kinds and therefore need not have been particularly similar to one another. Furthermore, the fossils’ location within the fossil record is not proof of when they lived (e.g., ten million years earlier than was thought), but rather only an indication of where they were buried within the fossil record! We believe Asilisaurus walked the earth at the same time as dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and, yes, even at the same time as humans.
Bits of shell discovered in South Africa display the intelligence of “ancient” humans.
Found in South Africa years ago, the ostrich shell fragments are etched with lines of symbolic importance, a team of scientists reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The use of symbolism is an important marker in distinguishing human intelligence from that of animals.
According to the scientists, what proves that the etchings weren’t just artistic doodles is the quantity of them: nearly 300 pieces of etched eggshell, constituting a system of symbolic communication, the team says. Additionally, the researchers report that etching the shells was no easy feat. And ScienceNOW notes that among the shells were some “that appeared to have been pierced with a tool to make a hole in the top part of the egg.”
The University of Bordeaux’s Pierre-Jean Texier, one of the researchers, explained, “The motif is two parallel lines, which we suppose were circular . . . . The lines are crossed at right angles or oblique angles by hatching. By the repetition of this motif, early humans were trying to communicate something”—perhaps indicating ownership or describing what the eggs contained. (The researchers speculate that the large eggs could have been used as canteens, for instance.)
Of course, creationists interpret the shells as having a much more recent origin, which renders them less unique and not so notable. What remains interesting is, first, that the use of symbols sets humans apart from animals and reminds us that we are uniquely made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); and, second, that as evolutionists discover evidence of sophisticated human behavior farther back in their timescale, they must recognize that older and older humans were actually little different from us—which goes against the evolutionary model of ape-man progression.
A genetic study shows that polar bears diverged from brown bears about 150,000 years ago, LiveScience reports.
That conclusion began with the discovery of a polar bear jawbone (estimated at between 110,000 and 130,000 years old) on the Norwegian island of Svalbard six years ago. After its discovery, a team led by the University of Buffalo’s Charlotte Lindqvist drilled into one of the bone’s teeth and recovered mitochondrial DNA, which was then compared to mitchondrial DNA from modern polar bears and brown bears.
Lindqvist explains that “Polar bears actually originated from . . . brown bears. We found that this ancient polar bear is positioned almost directly at the splitting point between polar bears and brown bears—very close to the common ancestor.”
Through the lens of the creation worldview, the recovered bone may actually date from the early stages of the post-Flood Ice Age. If that is the case, only a few hundred years would have passed since the bear kind (a kind encompassing modern polar and brown bears, at least, and probably others) departed the Ark and moved into various ecological niches around the globe. The rapid speciation we observe from such fossils gives us an idea of how a polar bear population could have quickly differentiated itself from brown bears. Just as many modern bear species could have descended from the same bear kind aboard the Ark, all modern species represent the spectrum of genetic diversity in the far fewer kinds aboard Noah’s Ark.
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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