Is a tiny dinosaur called Eodromaeus the predecessor to big beasts like T. rex?
Fossil remains of the newly identified dinosaur were recovered in Argentina, where the creature is believed to have lived 230 million years ago. But like many other lesser-known dinosaurs, Eodromaeus did not tower above the landscape nor shake the earth with each step. About the size of a dog, Eodromaeus was only 4 feet (1.3 m) long and half as tall, weighing in at no more than 15 pounds.
The dinosaur’s small stature notwithstanding, the researchers, led by University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno, report on the fossil’s sharp, “needle-like” teeth, long tail, unique pelvis shape, and what are thought to be air sacs in its neck bones. Based on this evidence, the team believes Eodromaeus is the ancestor of more fearsome theropod dinosaurs such as T. rex. Like T. rex, Eodromaeus would have walked on its hind two legs, using its front limbs to claw at food.
Interestingly, Eodromaeus is quite similar to Eoraptor, but secular scientists now believe the latter was the ancestor of large, long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs (sauropods). “Who could predict that these . . . creatures—both looking quite similar but eating different things—would end up evolving into things as disparate as Diplodocus [a sauropod] and Tyrannosaurus [a theropod]?” Sereno said.
Eodromaeus and Eoraptor remind us that dinosaurs weren’t all giants. Many were quite small, and the average size of all dinosaurs has been calculated to be perhaps not much larger than a sheep. Therefore taking representatives of each dinosaur kind aboard the Ark would not have been a space issue. And rather than being ancestors of the theropod and sauropod groups, these small dinos could have been from a unique created kind that had diverged over time into herbivorous and carnivorous types, showing how all dinosaurs began as vegetarians.
Geologists have discovered microbes living inside salt crystals. The twist? The microbes are said to be 34,000 years old!
University of Hawaii geologist Brian Schubert found the bacteria during his graduate research. Stuck in a hibernation-like state inside of bubbles within salt crystals, the bacteria were reportedly shrunken and inactive. But Schubert coaxed them back to a reproductive state, growing the microbes in the lab. “It’s 34,000 years old and it has a kid,” he quipped.
Although scientists have previously observed such “hibernation” in bacteria, this is the first confirmed case of successfully “waking” bacteria from such extended (supposedly) slumber. To confirm that their results weren’t simply laboratory contamination, Schubert and his adviser, Binghamton University’s Tim Lowenstein, sent some of the crystals to another lab, which had similar success.
Schubert believes the bacteria survived on algae called Dunaliella that were also stuck in the salt crystals. Nevertheless, aspects of the survival story remain puzzling, as Lowenstein explains: “We’re not sure what’s going on. They need to be able to repair DNA, because DNA degrades with time.”
A decade ago, a team of scientists claimed to have recovered live bacteria from salt crystals 250 million years old. (See our response.) LiveScience notes of that claim, “The results weren’t reproduced, and remain controversial.” We also reported in 2008 on DNA supposedly extracted from 250-million-year-old salt crystals.
While Schubert’s results were reproduced (and, hence, we can be reasonably confident the crystals were uncontaminated), bacteria surviving for thirty-four millennia still strikes us as quite a stretch, especially considering Lowenstein’s comments. Even without an explanation or understanding of how such incredible survival is possible, old-earthers continue to trust their dating methods as infallible.
The laws of physics are fine-tuned for life, exactly what we would expect if the universe were intelligently designed. So what’s the latest atheistic rebuttal?
The “anthropic argument” or principle for God’s existence is based on the eerily perfect values taken on by certain constants in the world of physics. Were these constants to differ slightly in either direction, the universe—and life—as we know it wouldn’t exist. Thus, many take this as evidence that our universe was intelligently designed to support life.
To noncreationists, this fact is at once both unsurprising and puzzling. On the one hand, were the values any different, we wouldn’t be around to notice; so it’s no shock that, if we’re around to notice, the values have to be “just right.” On the other hand, those who believe the universe was an accident are still left wondering why we’re around to notice in the first place.
To date, the most widely adopted atheistic solution to the problem was to posit that our universe exists in a multiverse: a family of nearly infinite universes, each with different values for those fundamental constants. Voilà: no wonder there’s a universe with the conditions right for life. Two problems plague this explanation, however. First, there’s only scant scientific evidence compatible with multiple universes. Second, this explanation leaves open the question of how we ended up in the “right” universe—seemingly another infinitesimal chance.
Now, University of Alberta physicist Don Page has offered a new attack against the argument that physical constants prove intelligent design. Unlike previous attacks, however, Page focuses on the claim that the physical constants—and in particular, something known as the cosmological constant—are ideal for life.
According to Page, previous research has confirmed that if the cosmological constant were any larger, life couldn’t exist. But what if the cosmological constant were smaller? Page argues that were the cosmological constant slightly negative (rather than slightly positive), galaxies would be more likely to form, thereby providing more places for life to evolve. Ergo, a truly intelligent designer would have made the cosmological constant slightly negative, and the cosmological constant’s slightly positive value disproves the intelligent design hypothesis.
Game over? Far from it, of course, for several reasons. First, the question remains of how the cosmological constant, even if not “perfect” is within the tiny interval that would allow for life. Second (and related), Page imputes motivations to God; that is, he presumes to know all of the factors God would have considered in creating the universe, and therefore presumes to know what God would have considered an “ideal” value. Of course, God may have had other reasons for leaving the cosmological constant slightly higher. Third, Page does not address other physical constants that are also believed to be just right for life, and hence pointing to intelligent design.
More potent rebuttals to Page are exclusive to biblical creationists. Fourth, we often point out that what looks to evolutionists like bad design (allegedly disproving intelligent design) may have been a consequence of the Fall. Thus, starting with Scripture, we know that the universe is not perfect as it once was. Fifth and finally, Page’s premise is that an intelligent designer would have set the cosmological constant to maximize the chance of life evolving. Yet if God created life on earth directly, and if humans are near the center of God’s creative goals, then the cosmological constant need not have taken on a particular value to somehow ensure life would appear on its own (as if it could!).
Is “distant starlight” as distant as we think?
One of the leading creationist research questions concerns distant starlight: concisely put, how could light from far-off stars reach earth in the 6,000 years since creation? While a number of solutions have been proposed (such as the recent paper Anisotropic Synchrony Convention—A Solution to the Distant Starlight Problem), creationist cosmological models—like those of cosmic evolutionists—are still subject to ongoing development.
Research reported this week puts an interesting twist in both research programs. A team presenting at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society discussed evidence that astronomers’ methods for measuring the distance of certain stars are based on problematic assumptions. Specifically, astronomers have determined the distances of far-off galaxies by studying a class of stars known as cepheids. These stars brighten and dim regularly, and that fluctuation has been used to gauge those stars’ distances from earth. Therefore watching the fluctuation of cepheid brightness in distant galaxies helps astronomers estimate just how far those galaxies’ are from earth.
Unfortunately, new observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have turned up unexpected behavior in cepheids. Some, including the archetypical Delta Cephei, are surrounded by nebulae that distort our measurements. However, correcting for this distortion is theoretically possible.
Granted, this discovery does not mean that distant stars are close enough to resolve the riddle of distant starlight. (Indeed, life on earth would be unviable were it so!) But creationists have good models accounting for why we see distant starlight so “soon” after creation—models that avoid problematic atheistic assumptions (e.g., the Copernican principle) and explain the divine origin of the cosmos.
Watch as one researcher tries desperately to implicate population biology and genetics in the spread of religion.
Cambridge University economist Robert Rowthorn has developed mathematical models to investigate the spread of religion based on two simple variables. First, Rowthorn notes higher birth rates among the religious. Second, he adds in a genetic “predisposition” for religion that is passed on in religious families. Together, this leads to a rapid increase in the proportion of religious individuals in a society.
For example, the model shows that a religious group encompassing just one half of one percent of the members of a society can swell to half of the entire population within ten generations.
The key assumption in the model is that it’s genetics that predisposes individuals for being religious (although we presume that being raised in a religious family may have the same effect). Otherwise, the offspring born to religious parents are no more likely to adopt religion than are others in society. “All people who work in this area know there is a genetic basis to being religious, in the sense there is a genetic basis to all human behavior,” Rowthorn argued.
For “secularists,” perhaps including Rowthorn, the combination of differential reproduction rates among the religious and a genetic basis for religious belief are a dangerous combination. Even if more people “defect” (his term) away from religion, their lower rate of reproduction may doom secularism to perpetual minority status. Of course, we frequently note that secularism is itself a religious view, given that it begins with by-faith assumptions about the nonexistence or irrelevance of the supernatural world. And while Rowthorn’s fears may be justified in one sense, his analysis ignores the great secularization that has occurred during the past century. Even if the masses remain “religious,” in many circles that “religion” has become diluted and secularized through compromise with the world (see our reports in March and September 2009 and October 2010).
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