The world’s biggest marsupial found in Queensland
A nearly complete skeleton of the world’s biggest marsupial, the Diprotodon, was unearthed at Floraville Station in Queensland. This specimen, 6 ½ feet tall and 11 feet long, is estimated to have weighed three tons.
Secular paleontologists believe Diprotodons lived in Australia between two million and 50,000 years ago, although this one has not yet been dated. These giant marsupials co-existed with people during the Pleistocene era. The cause of their extinction is a mystery, the leading candidates being climate change and over-hunting.
Other fossilized megafauna found nearby have included giant kangaroos and a big lizard called a megalania. (Megafauna are huge animals native to a particular region.) Paleontologists are hopeful the area will turn out to be a fossil graveyard containing more well-preserved specimens.
Fossils of animals unique to Australia are explained by post-Noah’s Flood catastrophes. After the global Flood animals migrated to various parts of the globe. Some species were evidently cut off after arrival, perhaps by obliteration of a land bridge. Post-Flood events such as localized catastrophic flooding explain the rapid burial and preservation of animals within their native habitats. Some Diprotodon fossils have been found in groups consistent with their sudden catastrophic demise.
The geology of some of Australia’s fossil graveyards—small patches of thin sedimentary outwash deposits and limestone caves filled with fossil-rich sedimentary rock—are consistent with local post-Flood catastrophes. Queensland’s famous fossil graveyard at Riversleigh is a good example. The severe climate changes which paleontologists suggest as the likely cause of megafauna extinction would likewise be expected in the post-Flood environment. The Pleistocene era’s geology, despite traditional secular dates, corresponds to the Ice Age, a time when severe climate changes in the wake of the global Flood would have affected even places not touched by glaciation.
The giant wombat-like fossil will be joining those at the Riversleigh Fossil Centre. Such fossils are a memorial to the global Flood described in Genesis.
Panzee passes her phonics test, and Nim stars in a movie.
Voice changers don’t fool her! Panzee, a 25-year-old chimp, has been impressing psychologists at Georgia State University with her language skills. Her performance is featured in Current Biology.
Panzee has been raised with humans and can point to a symbolic lexigram containing 128 words “when she hears the corresponding spoken word.” Now that Panzee has received her education, psychologist Lisa Heimbauer’s team has put her to the test. Can Panzee recognize those words when sounds are distorted?
Two types of voice-changing technology were used to develop a 48-word test, and the same test was taken by 32 people. Panzee scored 55% compared to the humans’ 70% on one test. Panzee and the human group both scored 40% with the other voice changer.
Critical of the experiment’s validity, Loyola psychologist J.D. Trout points out that the people didn’t really take the same test. Panzee’s test was multiple choice, and each question offered four choices. Human subjects just listened and “wrote down what they heard.”1 Furthermore, zebra finches have demonstrated similar excellent phonetic perception.2 Therefore, it appears that fine phonetic discrimination is not limited to primates anyway. Trout says, “These experiments don't bear on the question of whether speech is a special adaptation of humans.”
Despite criticism of the experimental design, Heimbauer’s team maintains that “Panzee's strong performance argues against the idea that humans evolved highly attuned speech-recognition abilities only after they split from the chimp line some 5 million to 7 million years ago” (emphasis ours). She adds, ““Auditory processing abilities that already existed in a common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans may have been sufficient to perceive speech.”1
Recounting a different ape language experiment, the movie Project Nim being released this summer will tell the story of Nim Chimpsky. Nim was raised by humans to prove that “an ape—if raised and nurtured like a human child—could learn to communicate using sign language,” according to a publicity statement at the Sundance Film Festival. It adds, “If successful, the consequences of the project would be profound, breaking down the barrier between man and his closest animal relative and fundamentally redefining what it is to be human” (emphasis ours).3 Filmmaker James Marsh commented that “Nim's great linguistic discovery is that he invents a sign for ‘play.’”4
Both projects assume that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor. They seek to answer whether language evolved before or after we diverged from the evolutionary tree. Thus, even if secular linguists decide language is a uniquely human ability, they will continue to ask how it evolved, never questioning the “fact” of our evolution.
The limited concepts animals can communicate cannot compare to the human ability to express and understand original abstract thoughts with language. Phonetic perception and a symbol for play do not prove chimps have true linguistic capacity or common ancestry with humans.
So what does it mean to be human? Secular science fails to acknowledge the uniquely spiritual nature of human beings. Anatomically, humans are vertebrates, mammals, and primates. But humans are not animals; only humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Therefore, those aspects of human-ness that result from our spiritual nature will forever be unexplainable to those seeking answers in ancestral biology.
Linguistic experiments, genome analysis, and fossils will never reveal what it means to be human. But the Bible does. Quoting from a Peanuts cartoon, creationist researcher Marvin Lubenow recounts Charlie Brown telling Snoopy, “You dogs are so lucky. You don’t have to worry about things like sin and salvation.” Snoopy replies, “Yes, theologically speaking, we dogs are off the hook.” (Bones of Contention, page 307) Evolutionary thinking, at its root, pretends we humans are not accountable to God or responsible to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Creator and Redeemer. But fooling ourselves with assumptions from secular science will never get us “off the hook” with God.
Big black hole and its bright quasar raise questions about the early universe.
In an effort to learn about the universe’s earliest days, astronomers with the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey have been searching for objects with large redshifts. Redshifts represent the stretching of light waves emitted by objects. In the case of distant galaxies, redshifts are thought to be caused by the expansion of the universe. According to the Hubble Law, a large redshift corresponds to a very great distance. The Survey has found the most distant bright object yet discovered.
Designated ULAS J1120+0641, the object is a very bright quasar. This quasar is not the most distant object yet found. That distinction belongs to a gamma ray burst. But ULAS J1120+0641 is the farthest object bright enough to be studied in some detail.
Quasars are distant galaxies. A quasar looks so bright because it releases enormous amounts of energy from its core. The core is thought to contain a massive black hole. Black holes are invisible. But as material gets pulled into a huge black hole, the matter is heated, releasing tremendous energy, which is visible from earth. And this newly discovered quasar is even brighter than most because the black hole at its center is exceptionally massive.
Therein lies the problem. Because some cosmologists believe distant light takes billions of years to reach earth, they believe light from this bright quasar which is 12.9 billion light-years away actually took 12.9 billion years to get here. If that were true and if the big bang had really happened, then looking at the quasar would be like looking backward in time to see what the universe looked like when it was 770 million years old.
But this black hole has “a mass two billion times that of the Sun.” The big bang idea demands that time elapse for massive objects like that to form, and 770 million years just isn’t enough time. Chris Willott of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre commented, “It is safe to say that the existence of this quasar will be giving some theorists sleepless nights.”
Alternative explanations for light-travel-time5 eliminate the idea that astronomers are peering back in time and instead suggest that the quasar with the big black hole is just very, very far away. The big bang model not only disagrees with the Bible’s account of the origin of the universe (for the Scriptures teach the earth came before the Sun) but also has a number of other astrophysical problems. This big black hole just added one more to the list.
Bungled baraminology does not beat us at our own game.
Bloggers are crowing that Dr. Phil Senter has again used “creation science to test the validity of evolution” and won the day. Last year Senter’s article in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology claimed that creationist baraminology proves dinosaurs evolved into birds. His latest article claims that baraminology proves there were only eight kinds of dinosaurs, too few to have diversified into all those in the fossil record in just a few thousand years. BBC blogger Matt Walker mocks that this new “discovery” will solve our Noah’s Ark space problem.
Baraminology “classifies organisms according to a creationist framework. Animals fall into types, or baramins, which were created independently, but have diversified since.” Baraminologists enumerate the visible differences between organisms and group them according to created kinds. Dr. Senter, applying statistical baraminology to the fossil record, claims, “The results show enough morphological continuity within Dinosauria to consider most dinosaurs genetically related, even by this creationist standard.”6 He further claims that “at least 13 transitional forms have been found” to bridge the gaps between so-called dinosaur kinds.
Well, Dr. Senter may have “done it again,” but he hasn’t done anything new. He is still misapplying baraminology to the point of absurdity. Since he acknowledges that “mathematics has no creed,” he accepts the statistical aspects of baraminology. Then he analyzes the fossil record in such a way as to consider creatures with only sparse morphological similarities to be part of the same kind. He ignores all other pertinent baraminological principles to draw conclusions no sensible creationist would ever reach.
Creationist baraminologists acknowledge the limitations of the information obtained by the statistical method. Greater weight must be placed on the capacity to interbreed, the presence of unique structures, and genomic analysis than on statistics. Since fossils are notoriously incapable of interbreeding, undergoing genetic analysis, or demonstrating the behavior and physiology of the organisms they memorialize, all baraminological classifications of extinct animals are limited. Without DNA and whole animals to analyze, any claims about genetic relatedness and transitional forms are pure speculation. As creationist Dr. Gordon Wilson states, “We may erroneously assume a high degree of overall similarity because of similar skeletal evidence.”7
The next time Dr. Senter wants to play a game, perhaps he should read all the rules.
Biblical authorship: what saith the computer . . . and should we care?
An Israeli team of computer scientists has developed software to analyze literary authorship and applied their technique to the Bible. By analyzing literary styles and word choices, they tried to scientifically assess the authorship of portions of the Old Testament.
Their program confirmed that the Bible contains a variety of literary styles consistent with the many human authors whom the Lord utilized to record His Word. This finding should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever read the Bible. God breathed out His Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and by His Holy Spirit communicated it to many human authors (2 Peter 1:21). He used their personalities and styles while superintending their writing so as to prevent the introduction of error.8
The team’s findings, however, are consistent with some of the claims of “higher criticism.” For instance, it also concluded that Isaiah had two authors, although it placed the division at a non-traditional location. What should we make of this? Has the weight of science applied to Scripture proven the higher critics right?
“Higher criticism” is founded on the humanistic assumption that the Bible is just a product of human efforts. This philosophy views much of the Bible as a collection of myths, ridicules the miraculous, scorns prophecy, and denies that the Bible is the Word of God. “Higher criticism” was popularized in the late 18th century and has eroded trust in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.9
The “higher critics” began with the idea that differing styles proved multiplicity of authors and then wrote God out of the picture. While the Israeli team plainly admits that it cannot assess the question of divine authorship, the conclusions it does make are only as good as the assumptions on which they are based. Keep in mind that the computer software can only operate upon the assumptions that are programmed into it by its developers. Since the programmers already accepted some tenets of “higher criticism,” it is not surprising that the software reached similar conclusions. If the programmers had designed the software with ideas shared by conservative Christians, then the program would have reached conclusions that line up with conservative views.
By assuming that alterations in style indicate change in author, the software writers share an assumption with the “higher critics.” This bias leads to the infamous “two Isaiahs” conclusion. Liberal theology insists that prophetic details concerning the downfall of Babylon could not have been written centuries before the fact. To admit such foreknowledge would require belief in divine inspiration. Therefore, the “science” of “higher criticism” is invoked to “prove” that the 66 chapters of Isaiah were cobbled together after the events they describe.
Ample evidence undergirds the position that “Isaiah, son of Amoz” wrote the entire book over a period of years long before the fall of Babylon. Volumes have been written arguing this issue. During those years, Isaiah’s writing style may have matured or—brilliant writer that he was—he may have simply used two different styles. The book of John refers to both “parts” of the prophecy and attributes all to Isaiah. (John 12:38–41 quotes from Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:1.) Just as Jesus referred to the writings of Moses (John 5:46), the first man and woman (Matthew 19:4–6), the Flood of Noah (Matthew 24:37), and Jonah’s days in the whale (Matthew 12:39–40), so the Gospel writer assures us of the authenticity of Isaiah’s authorship.
Christians and anyone else seeking to know the truth should avoid the slippery slope of ignoring the witness of Scripture in favor of any external commentary. Computer analyses, like anything mathematical and scientific, offer the illusion of infallibility. But those analyses are no better than the assumptions on which they are based. Furthermore, such an analysis of the Bible’s authorship cannot be independently verified. And as the software developer said in reference to how different styles were woven into the whole of Scripture, “No amount of research is going to resolve that issue.”
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