Collagen coils kept fossilized fragments intact.
Ever since evolutionist Mary Schweitzer’s discovery of collagen in fossilized dinosaur bones, controversy has raged over the authenticity of her findings. Her claims are compatible with a biblical young earth view, but the secular world has been squirming. Many scientists, unable to believe soft tissues could survive for millions of years, have insisted the tissues were contaminants.
“The first and largest hurdle has been to convince people that this stuff is real,” Schweitzer says. “This paper is a step in that direction.”
A team led by Schweitzer and biochemist James San Antonio analyzed eleven fragments of dinosaur collagen and compared the molecular structure to that of collagen from rats and humans.1 Collagen is made of three chains of amino acids coiled and bundled together in groups of five. Thousands of those bundles are twisted into each fibril. The interactions of the amino acids help stabilize this rope-like structure.
The team found that the molecular structure of all eleven fragments corresponded to those found in the innermost, protected part of collagen fibers. Furthermore, the amino acids in the surviving segments were those which best resist degradation by enzymes and water. Since all fragments corresponded to those parts of collagen best-protected from the environment, the team is hopeful the collagen’s authenticity will be accepted.
“If any collagen could survive millions of years, it would not be a random assortment but the sheltered kinds of molecules that were observed,” says co-author James Orgel.1
This year has already produced additional confirmation that proteins can survive within fossils. Collagen was found in a marine fossil by a Swedish group.2 Keratin was confirmed to have survived in fossilized lizard skin from the Green River formation.3 In both cases, extensive tests demonstrated that the proteins really belonged to the fossilized animals and were not contaminants. Thus, evidence is mounting that some fossils still contain original organic components.
San Antonio and Schweitzer’s results do show a mechanism by which fragile protein molecules could find safe harbor over time. But for how long? Nothing has actually demonstrated how long those protein molecules have been preserved. We would contend based on biblical history that they have been preserved only a few thousand years.
Algae to bones . . . what’s the difference?
Microfossils of algae found in the Canadian Yukon by Harvard earth scientists Francis Macdonal and Phoebe Cohen show convincing evidence of biomineralization. The study published in Geology does contain some fantastic photomicrographs. But do they really reveal the “origins of biomineralization,” considered by evolutionists to be the first evolutionary step toward shells and bones?
Biomineralization is “the ability to convert minerals into hard, physical structures” such as bones, teeth, and shells. Prior fossil evidence of biomineralization in the single-celled world has been shaky. Mineralization which occurs during fossilization can mimic biomineralization, producing “a fossil illusion” where “soft tissue turned to stone.” These researchers are convinced the three kinds of algae fossils they found are the genuine article, though, because there is no distortion of the structures.
The researchers believe the fossils are 750 million years old because “molecular clocks and genetic trees” used “to reverse-engineer evolutionary histories” say they should be that old. They believe these microorganisms had to accumulate the “store of innovations that sustained some through” the supposed late Precambrian ice age occurring at that time so they could evolve into more complex organisms later.
Without a stash of handy evolutionary advantages, the evolutionists cannot explain the apparent flowering of the evolutionary garden depicted in the Cambrian explosion. Thus, they must assume that bones and shells got their start when single-celled organisms figured out how to incorporate minerals. They further suggest that more complex life forms acquired the new genetic information by engulfing these innovative creatures. (This theory of endosymbiosis4 is fraught with difficulties since the organelles such as mitochondria5 and chloroplasts supposedly obtained this way depend on the “mother cell’s” native DNA for some of their parts.)
Evolutionists assume microorganisms are the common ancestor of all life. They believe the presence of microfossils in Precambrian rocks proves microorganisms evolved before the creatures fossilized in the Cambrian rock layers. Convinced those rock layers were laid down over millions of years, they claim there was enough time to allow the Cambrian creatures to evolve. However, the scarcity of large fossils and the presence of microfossils in these Precambrian rocks are easily explainable by the Flood geology model. Most creationist geologists would agree that the Precambrian rock layers represent sedimentary rock which formed in the pre-Flood world. In such a quiescent environment, large creatures would not be buried quickly enough to fossilize, but some microorganisms would be. In the subsequent catastrophic upheavals of the Flood, Precambrian rocks would have been either eroded away or covered over with massive amounts of sediment, rapidly burying many larger organisms.
While the algae fossils are a beautiful example of God’s intricate designs, they are not the great-ancestors of large-scale biomineralization processes in complex multicellular creatures. God created each kind of creature fully functional.
“They’re not people, you know . . . ”
So says the villain in the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In real life, the ethics of chimp research are being debated by Congress, the NIH, and animal rights activists. And chimps’ “rights” are being weighed against the value of the medical information needed to save human lives.
Animal models are valuable tools for biomedical research. Initial research proceeds more quickly when an animal model is available. But laboratory mice aren’t suitable guinea pigs for all situations.
Chimp research has contributed life-saving discoveries to our medical arsenal. Supporters of chimp research point out that “The chimpanzee is the only animal model in which human strains of [hepatitis C] can replicate, making [chimpanzees] especially important in work to develop a vaccine.” Others counter that “despite the genetic similarities between chimps and humans, they have relevant differences in, for instance, immune-response genes, and that [those] differences in gene expression make chimps weak as a biological model.”6
With plans to call 200 retired chimps back into active service, the NIH convened a committee to evaluate the biomedical value of chimp research. But criticism erupted when the NIH declined to consider ethical arguments against such research. An editorial in Nature says, “The agency may wish to divorce the science from the ethics, but society at large will not accept such a distinction. Nor is it intellectually defensible: a moral choice to use intelligent, emotionally complex creatures to their detriment, for the benefit of human welfare, is intimately related to what can be achieved scientifically.” A public outcry6 heightened after the airing of an undercover exposé in which instances of inappropriate behavior by technicians were caught on film. In one instance, a technician slapped a chimp for biting. Interestingly, a visually disturbing scene in which a sedated chimp fell off of a bed occurred because the undercover agent stepped away from the chimp to take pictures.
The debate will soon move to Congress. The “Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act” would make invasive chimp research illegal in the United States. The European Union outlawed chimp research in 2010, but European pharmaceutical companies can still contract their research to American facilities. If the bill passes, all such research, whether publicly or privately funded, will become illegal.
While we certainly oppose animal cruelty, in the wake of the recent United Nations statements about the rights of all creatures being equal to those of humans, we want to pay attention to the manipulation of public opinion. This summer will see the release of two films likely to have a significant impact: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which research chimps evolve human-like intellect, is sure to excite emotions with their very human features. And the documentary Project Nim will tug at our heart strings as it “powerfully explores the line between human and animal” (quotation from trailer) by teaching a chimp sign language to find out what it is thinking.
Humans like to anthropomorphize animals, imagining they think the way we do. Ethical issues rise to new heights with chimps, however, because many people are convinced we share a common ancestor. It is as if we look at the ape and think, “There, but for the grace of the evolutionary tree, go I.” Claims of genetic proof reinforce this notion. Yet these so-called near-identities are based on a number of assumptions.7 The more genetic research unfolds, the more differences become apparent. The latest research is covered in a study just published in the Answers Research Journal.8
As Christians, we should already know that chimps deserve ethical treatment because Proverbs 12:10 tells us that “a righteous man regards the life of his animal.” But we must be very clear that only human beings, not chimpanzees, are made in the image of God.
Statistical analyses swimming in a sea of assumptions sing of millions of years in both directions.
A Stony Brook University team has determined that the more millions of years a creature has lived in a place, the more species of it are there. The time factor statistically outweighs all other ecological parameters. As a consequence, Dr. John Wiens warns that “The loss of species richness during our lifetimes may actually take tens of millions of [years] to recover from.”
Seeking to explain the biodiversity of rainforest tree frogs, the group compared the number of non-interbreeding frog species—both living and extinct—to ecological parameters and frog body size. The yardstick for comparison was the molecular clock of frogs.
The first frog genome was sequenced about a year ago,9 but mitochondrial genomes have been known for several years. Frog phylogenetic trees and molecular clocks are based on those mitochondrial genomes.10 Molecular clocks are built on the assumption that creatures evolved from common ancestors according to the timescale inferred from the dating of fossils—information based on additional assumptions. Then, the differences between mitochondrial genomes of the species are compared to the fossil ages to calculate mutation rates. Those mutation rates are used to determine how long ago species diverged from the evolutionary tree. The reasoning is circular because the timescale used to determine how long a molecular tick takes is already assumed from the fossil record.
The Stony Brook team measured the geographical distribution of 362 types of tree frogs against molecular clock data derived from “up to 11 genes each” and “10 fossil calibration points.”11 From these statistics they determined that “the most diverse sites were established over 60 million years ago and more recently colonised areas had fewer unique species.”
Then they compared the number of unique frogs in each area to ecological parameters. The degree of speciation correlated better with molecular clock data than with ecological data. This result should come as no surprise since the molecular clock data is derived from the patterns of speciation, and both are based on the same evolutionary timescale.
Basically, this study assumes that evolution happened, assumes it took a long time to happen, assumes that lots of diversity should evolve given long enough, and based on the original assumptions comes up with numbers which correlate the time required to achieve the diversity with the diversity that is seen. Then, bursting forth from this circular reasoning comes the conclusion that what took millions of years to evolve will take millions of years to evolve again if we don’t take care of the rainforests. Never mind that no new kinds of animals evolved anyway because the frogs were still frogs.
The biodiversity of tree frogs should remind us of the possibilities for variation within the created kinds. We can count it a bit of God’s grace that we in this sin-cursed world are probably privileged to see more variations in beautiful tree frogs than Adam did, but that level of speciation only took a few thousand years. And while we ponder how to be good stewards of the rainforests and everything else in the world God has given us, we should keep in mind that human habitat invasion isn’t always the enemy: another recent study has suggested that tree frog species get wiped out more readily as a result of a fungus that thrives far better in pristine forests than in areas disturbed by human civilization.12 Sometimes it seems like you just can’t win!
The human brain evolved because early humans developed technology?
A Lund University study appearing in this month’s Journal of Human Evolution claims that the earliest Homo sapiens sapiens “wandered across Africa” for over 100,000 years “looking like us anatomically but not thinking the way we do today.” They believe these poor ignorant creatures evolved better brain power because they figured out how to think abstractly and work together to develop technology.
Making the usual claim that the present human species evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago, the archaeological team draws its conclusions based on spearheads excavated from a South African cave called Hollow Rock Shelter. Those artifacts date from only 80,000 years ago, by their reckoning. They say that these spearheads show an advancing level of technology requiring step by step processes.
The archaeologists do not believe that any single person or even any single generation could have developed this level of technological advancement. “When the technology was passed from one generation to the next, from adults to children, it became part of a cultural learning process which created a socially more advanced society than before. This affected the development of the human brain and cognitive ability”, says Dr. Anders Högberg.
The usual list of unverifiable assumptions (common ancestry, molecular clock, and evolutionary timetable) which are explored in Feedback: “The Search for the Historical Adam” and Population Genomics form the background for this study. The original article13 does cite other studies showing that the process of learning causes more complete expression of genes, enabling an individual to reach his potential. But some of the biases expressed have implications that make us shudder.
First of all, the authors assume that a low-tech society consists of people who are mentally inferior. Then they assume that such mentally inferior individuals could not possibly figure out how to think abstractly. Problem-solving abilities would require a gargantuan multigenerational society-wide effort.
The media release implies that working hard to think more effectively over time will somehow cause parents to develop some smart genes to pass onto the offspring, facilitating brain evolution. We would concede that the authors did not mean that. The original article states, “By changing the social environment, each generation changes the brains of the next.” In other words, the smarter people would survive to reproduce and produce a smarter population.
The cultural bias present in this article is disturbing. People in low-tech societies may choose to live a simpler life, have limited time to figure out technological advancements, or have a society in which division of labor and specialization of skills is impractical. Furthermore, individuals today are able to develop problem-solving skills. Why should we assume that the same abstract thinking was out of reach for earlier humans? To be blunt, having a lack of technology does not mean that individuals are mentally deficient.
The Bible provides an eyewitness account of early man. Adam possessed the linguistic ability to name the animals and commune with the Lord God. Adam’s son Cain built a city. And just a few generations later we learn the names of pioneers in animal husbandry, metallurgy, and music. Early man was not backwards. He was created in the image of God with a full set of mental faculties and the ability to learn.
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