Yes, dinosaurs and humans co-existed—but not in the Lotus Mountain Fortress.
The ambiguous headline announcing a paper published in the Geological Bulletin of China has caused some folks to do a double take. Something was gained in the translation! Of course, the intended meaning is that humans coexist with the tracks.
A team of Chinese and American researchers—an archaeologist, a historian, and a biologist—investigated the relationship between dinosaur tracks and the people of Lianhua Baozhai in southwestern China. The area has been occupied for hundreds of years, and records indicate its importance as a refuge as far back as the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD).
The Lotus Mountain Fortress is also home to 350–400 Cretaceous dinosaur footprints. The locals think the tracks resemble “golden lotus from the earth” and reference them in folklore. Graduate student Xing Lida said, “Research shows that dinosaur tracks impacted ancient Chinese place names and folklore, so place names and folklore can be major clues for us in tracing dinosaur tracks.”
The paper makes no claim that dinosaurs and humans lived together, only that the presence of the tracks has contributed to local culture. One of the study’s co-authors, Adrienne Mayor, attributes the erroneous publicity to an “overenthusiastic and confused reporter [who] has caused a nasty mess for the co-authors,” adding, “We are trying to get the news outlets in China to correct the misconceptions they have perpetuated.”1
Despite the fear expressed by a columnist at The Examiner that such misinformation “is sure to be grabbed by a host of uninformed with their own particular agendas,”1 we at Answers in Genesis have not hitched our wagon to this star. To date no one has reported indisputable evidence of fossils (or tracks) of humans and dinosaurs together.2
Dinosaurs and humans did live at the same time. Our confidence about their coexistence comes from the Bible, not the fossil record. Land animals—including dinosaurs—and Adam and Eve were made on the sixth day of Creation and so naturally coexisted.
Nevertheless, the fossil record is consistent with the biblical record. The fossil record is documentation of the order of rapid burial due to the global Flood and Flood-related catastrophes, not a timeline stretching back millions of years.
We are confident that dinosaurs shared the earth with mankind, were preserved on the Ark along with the other land animals, and became extinct sometime after the Flood. So why don’t we see human and dinosaur fossils and tracks together?
While we would not have a problem if human and dinosaur fossils ever were found together, we don’t really expect them to be. The vast majority of fossils are marine invertebrates, with land vertebrates comprising a tiny fraction of the fossilized population buried during the Flood year and its aftermath. The surface of the earth was not instantaneously engulfed in water, but the Bible indicates the waters continued to rise for weeks before finally covering all the dry land. Those humans who were not engulfed in tsunami-like surges would have been able to flee rising water for a time. Once they finally succumbed, only those who were rapidly buried beneath sediment could have been fossilized, with most of the dead simply decaying or being eaten by scavengers. Furthermore, we would only expect to find humans and dinosaur fossils together if they were sharing the same ecosystem at the time of the Flood—and even then hydrodynamic forces would not necessarily bury them together. Thus the absence of human fossils in the rock layers where dinosaur fossils are found does not confound creationists.
The biblical account in Genesis does explain what we see in the fossil record. Read more about human and dinosaur fossils at Why Don’t We Find Human & Dinosaur Fossils Together? and more about the order of deposition in the fossil record at Order in the Fossil Record and Chapter 31: Doesn’t the Order of Fossils in the Rock Record Favor Long Ages?
A clone by any other name…
Remember Dolly? Dolly the sheep started life as an embryonic clone3 produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). SCNT is a process in which the genome of an oocyte (egg cell) is replaced with the genome from a body cell. Researchers trying to find alternative sources of human embryonic stem cells have been trying to do the same thing, although their plan is to destroy the embryos while harvesting their stem cells, not to grow a cloned person. The New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory has just published news of their unique breakthrough in the October 6 edition of Nature.
Back in 2004, Woo Suk Hwang fraudulently claimed he’d succeeded in this back-door way to produce embryonic stem cells (ESCs). The furor included not only concerns about scientific fraud but also ethical concerns arising from the fact that a cloned human embryo is just as much a human embryo as an IVF-surplus embryo is. Researchers from Dieter Egli’s lab have been careful to avoid words like clone and even embryo—in fact, neither word appears in their paper. Instead, the embryos are called “activated human oocytes.”4
Since embryonic stem cells can trigger rejection in a recipient, researchers hope to produce ESCs by cloning a patient’s own body cells, thus producing an ESC line that would not be rejected. Such personalized ESCs would come from embryos grown from “activated human oocytes.” A personalized “activated human oocyte” would consist of a donated oocyte with its own genome removed and the genome from the patient inserted. When allowed to develop, these “activated human oocytes” would theoretically demonstrate that they are truly embryos by multiplying until they are identifiable as blastocysts. At that time, the stem cells would be harvested from the embryos and be used to develop a treatment for the patient.
Even though these “embryos” did not originate from the union of a sperm and egg, the fact that they can develop into a blastocyst and beyond and are therefore true embryos is illustrated by the experience with Dolly. When this procedure was carried out with sheep cells, the result was an embryo that became Dolly. However, human clones have been less cooperative than Dolly, dying at the six to ten cell stage.
Egli’s group, after managing to secure an abundant source of donated human oocytes by working out an ethical way to pay donors, was able to successfully produce an embryo that survived until the blastocyst stage when its stem cells could be harvested. These embryos, however, only survived to the blastocyst stage if the original oocyte genome was left in the egg when the additional genome was added. Thus, these triploid embryos were not true clones. However, because these “activated oocytes” developed into blastocysts, and because the SCNT technology has already been proven able to produce a sheep, these triploid blastocysts were true embryos.
The researchers have shown there is something about the presence of the original genome necessary to the cloning process in humans. They hope to identify the needed factor and produce true cloned embryos. Again, of course, they would prefer to avoid calling them clones or embryos.
Since the goal of this research is ultimately to tailor-make matching stem cells for a patient, the competing technology is the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) approach. Induced pluripotent stem cells can be made to match the patient’s genome. Such iPSCs should therefore be immune to rejection just like the clone-derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs) sought here. The authors point out that iPSCs can generate tumors. They neglect to mention that ESCs do the same thing.
Furthermore, Harvard stem cell expert George Daley points out the therapeutic impracticality of using these cloning techniques to personalize care for individual patients. He writes, “Realistically, however, SCNT is a cumbersome process that cannot be readily scaled to allow widespread therapeutic use.”5
Neither adult stem cells—which have produced a number of therapeutic successes—nor iPSCs, for which research is still in the early stages, form embryos or cause the ethical problems that go with them. But cloned embryos cannot stay below the ethical radar.
This scientific discovery has been accompanied by a diversionary approach to its ethical implications. The researchers address only the ethical concerns surrounding oocyte acquisition. As one Nature editorial asserts, this is “a technique that bypasses ethical concerns about exploiting fertilized embryos for their medical potential.”6
And since a triploid embryo is non-viable, the human-ness of the embryo can be quietly ignored for a time. Another Nature editorial, however, does shine the light on the real ethical issue, saying, “They do not use the term cloning. . . .The latest paper refers only to the reprogramming cells to a pluripotent state. A final issue—that embryos are destroyed in the process of the research—does still apply (emphasis ours).”7
We recently discussed some of the issues related to embryonic stem cells in Feedback: Embryo Protection. Human life begins when a cell equipped to grow as an embryo is created.8 Whether that embryo is created in the laboratory or in a human fallopian tube, whether that embryo is produced by the union of a sperm and egg or by SCNT into an oocyte, whether that embryo has genetic abnormalities as do many naturally conceived babies—that embryo is still an innocent human life that we cannot ethically, morally, and biblically ignore.
Human embryos are being created and then destroyed, whether at the six to ten cell stage or as triploid blastocysts. And once Egli or others determine what “factors” are needed to make the cloning procedure as successful as Dolly’s, normal diploid embryos will be giving up their lives to provide ESCs on a regular basis.
God created human life in His image and has the authority to prohibit murder. Those embryos are human life precious to God (Psalm 51:5, 139:13–15; Jeremiah 1:5) whether they are IVF surplus or cloned creations. Harvesting their stem cells is therefore murder.
The vestigial vestigial organ arguments
Ever since Darwin branded organs he considered useless as evidence for evolution, evolutionists have periodically trotted out their favorite vestigial list. Since Fox News opted to join this organ recital, now is a good time to review this issue.
Vestige comes from a Latin word meaning “footprint.” From Darwin’s dozen, the list of anatomical “footprints” of our evolutionary past soon grew to a hundred in humans alone. Vestigial structures supposedly had a function in evolutionary ancestors but due to evolutionary progress lost it—their function, that is.
Many structures on the hit list for eventual evolutionary elimination were later found to actually have functions. Undaunted by these emerging facts, those committed to keeping vestigial structures in their bag of evolutionary evidence changed their definition. Nowadays, vestigial organs don’t really have to be useless; they can simply have evolved a different function. So goes the story.
From a biblical view accepting God as Creator, we understand vestigial structures are indeed vestiges—“footprints”—but not of a hypothetical, unwitnessed, unproven evolutionary origin. Vestigial structures are actually the “footprints” of embryology and the “footprints” of the efficiently engineered designs of our common Designer, God.
Embryology explains many vestigial structures. Such structures function during the development of the embryo but, when they are no longer needed, regress. Examples include the ligamentum arteriosum, an obliterated remnant of a fetal blood vessel used in the fetal heart to allow blood to by-pass the lungs. Clearly, such a structure has an important function during development, but we would not want it to continue to function after birth (when by-passing the lungs would be a very bad idea indeed!)
Structures that develop in both sexes and then regress in one or the other can likewise only be understood in light of embryology. Evolutionary explanations for the existence of male nipples, for instance, make no sense. Do evolutionists suppose males once evolved nipples to nurse their young? Yet embryology reveals God’s design for all humans is initially the same. Identical nipples present on both genders at birth are an example of design economy, not of divergent evolutionary paths in males and females. Read more about male nipples, #9 on the Fox News list, at Feedback: Why Do Men Have Nipples?
Four other items on the list are easy to explain to anyone who realizes that a good design can often be efficiently adapted to a number of uses. Similarity of parts—homologies—between different creatures demonstrates that our common Designer used well-engineered designs to serve various functions.
The #1 item—the plica semilunaris (third eyelid)—according to Fox News, is “left over from what’s known as a ‘nictitating membrane,’ which is still present in animals like chickens, lizards, and sharks.” While this fold of protective eye covering is thought to be homologous with the more complete protective covering in some animals, it is far from useless. Secretions from this “#1 useless body part” mop debris from your eyes. (You know it is doing the job God intended when you awake with dried crust in the corners of your eyes.)
Body hair and the erector pili muscles attached to them are #2 and #6. The list says, “No doubt we were once hairier. Up until about 3 million years ago, we were covered with it. But by the time Homo erectus arrived, the ability to sweat meant we could shed our wooly ways.” And about the tiny muscles, it says, “When we were hairier, the erector pili made the hairs stand on end when we needed to appear bigger and scarier. Now, it just gives us goose bumps.”
Yet human hair is not a non-functional relic of common ancestry with apes. Thick hair serves some animals for warmth and sun protection, but a thick covering of hair would impede the evaporation of sweat that God designed as the cooling system for humans. Most of the hair on humans is fine vellus hair, but it is not evolving away. All hair follicles are attached to sensitive nerve endings that detect nearby motion. Hair follicles provide needed materials to heal damaged skin. And the erector pili muscles tugging on follicles cause the protective oil from attached sebaceous glands to ooze onto the skin. They also generate some heat while giving us goose bumps. These are far from unimportant functions!
The list says the coccyx, or tailbone, is “left over from the olden days when we had tails.” Well, according to the Bible, we are all descended from Adam and Eve who were created distinct from the animals and in the image of God. Humans have never had tails and do not share common ancestry with creatures that do (or did).
God gave the human coccyx a vital function. The muscles of the pelvis attach to the coccyx to form slings supporting all the pelvic organs in their proper geometric orientation. When those muscles weaken, pelvic organs can herniate downward causing discomfort and loss of control. The coccyx, essential to our vertical lifestyle, is not a marginal evolutionary remnant on its way out.
The list also includes tonsils, adenoids, and the appendix. It condemns the adenoids and tonsils, despite their immune function, because “they’re prone to swelling and infection.” Yet these immune structures only do this because they are busy doing what God designed them to do: trap bacteria. Likewise the appendix, which “Darwin claimed . . . was useful for digestion during our early plant-eating years” but which has “dwindled down to little since we started eating more digestible foods,” has immunological tissues. You can do without these organs, and in a cursed world they can get infected, but they are not useless.
Finally, the list includes the wisdom teeth. Though these “third molars” can become impacted, when they come in normally they are perfectly functional teeth. The risk of the jaw being too small to accommodate wisdom teeth is greater in more industrialized societies, and diet is implicated as a factor. But to suggest that wisdom teeth are evolving into useless or problematic structures is a Lamarckian fallacy, supposing that the inheritance pattern for a structure changes because it doesn’t get exercised much.9
While some may think the vestigial argument is of no consequence, the worldview that sees functional features God designed as useless evolutionary leftovers is not harmless. Elective surgical removal has always entailed some risk and was often based on the idea that organs like the appendix and the wisdom teeth were superfluous.
The concept of vestigial organs should be abandoned as a vestige of evolutionary thinking. Vestigial organs are not evolutionary leftovers. God designed such structures to have function in the embryologic past or in the well-engineered present. Even when we can get along without them, their existence does not confirm common ancestry. God designed humans with fully functional organs from the beginning, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:4!
Giant panda is big on bamboo but doesn’t get much bang for the bite.
The giant panda’s diet is predominantly bamboo. Being a bear, the panda therefore leaves evolutionists with some confusion about its non-carnivorous dietary preferences. The giant panda consumes about 12.5 kilograms of bamboo daily, but ultimately digests only about 17% of this.10
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have conducted a sophisticated analysis of panda output to discover “evolutionary adaptations” for its “unusually narrow diet.”10
Evolutionists maintain that evolving animals “lost the ability”10 to produce many digestive enzymes and other important compounds and therefore developed the symbiotic relationships with gut flora familiar to us. They see the long digestive tracts typical of most herbivores, especially ruminants, as further evolutionary adaptations.
Yet the giant panda has a short digestive tract typical of carnivorous bears. Previous studies have only found ordinary bear-like gut flora in the panda, not the kind of bacteria that normally help herbivores digest plant cellulose. Furthermore, the inefficiency of the panda’s digestion of cellulose condemns it to spend most of its time eating.
By sequencing DNA extracted from fecal material from both wild and captive giant pandas, ecologist Fuwen Wei’s team found that pandas actually do harbor many cellulose-metabolizing bacterial species. Perhaps due to the short length of the intestine, however, their digestive process remains inefficient.
The researchers assert, “Access to dietary resources shapes animal evolution,” and they conclude, “It is becoming increasingly clear that giant pandas possess a suite of evolutionary adaptations. . . . Harboring of cellulose and hemicellulose-digesting microbes in the gut of the giant panda. . . likely have arisen as a result of adapting to a highly fibrous bamboo diet within the constraints imposed by the panda’s innate carnivore-like digestive system.”10
Not everyone agrees that the iconic panda is the perfect example of evolution. Cornell microbiologist Ruth Ley comments, “I see a very badly adapted animal. The main way the panda has adapted to the low-quality diet is not via microbiota, like the vast majority of other animals, but by eating 15 hours per day.” Furthermore, dietary resources in combination with natural selection and other factors do influence the animal adaptations, but they do not prompt the evolutionary emergence of new kinds of creatures.
From a biblical perspective, we must point out that the presumption that animals like pandas and other bears initially ate meat is erroneous. According to Genesis 1:29–30, God originally designed all animals, even bears, to eat plants—not meat. Death and bloodshed did not enter the world until after Adam sinned. Since God designed the original creation to be “very good,” we can be confident that this vegetarian design was sustainable indefinitely.
The authors write, “Early on, animals lost the ability to synthesize many key compounds.”10 This statement does not exactly fit the evolutionary idea of progress. Creationists have no difficulty with the fact that, in the 6,000 years of history since Adam’s sin brought a curse (Romans 8:20–22) upon the natural world, some genetic information has been damaged or lost. Such loss may explain some dietary peculiarities seen in the present world. However, there is no reason to presuppose symbiotic relationships with gut flora needed to evolve or were even a result of sin’s curse.
God designed microorganisms along with rest of creation to be useful, not harmful. Microorganisms throughout the natural world serve as an interface to make needed chemicals available to living organisms and to recycle organic material. In particular, gut flora in animals and humans “assist with extracting nutrients from food and key compounds from the environment, and also synthesize necessary metabolic compounds.”10
The panda is not an evolutionary product. And whether the apparent inefficiency of its digestive system is a product of sin’s curse or just the way God designed the creature, we can be confident that God created microorganisms like those that symbiotically keep the panda going to fulfill many useful purposes in our world. Read more about it in chapter 31: “What About Bacteria?” in The New Answers Book 3 and at More Abundant than Stars
Abruptness of ancient oceanic alterations fit the Flood.
The most massive of the “mass-extinction events” recorded in the geologic column is the Permian-Triassic. Evolutionary paleontologists estimate that the end-Permian extinction 252 million years ago resulted in the demise of 90% of marine species.11 While the cause of this extinction event has eluded secular geologists, hypotheses have generally held that millions of years of oceanic oxygen depletion preceded the deaths. A new technique, however, has produced data indicative of a much more abrupt global event affecting earth’s oceans.
This new technique uses the ratio of uranium isotopes trapped in Permian carbonate rock to estimate the oxygenation of the ocean water in which the carbonate sediment was deposited. Carbonate is the mineral found in seashells and therefore is typical of rocks made of oceanic sediment. Under low-oxygen conditions, dissolved uranium tends to precipitate out of water. And uranium-238 tends to precipitate faster than uranium-235.
Researchers from Arizona and Cincinnati examined the uranium content of Permian carbonate rock collected from Dawan in southern China. Rather than finding a gradual change in the uranium content and isotope ratios, they found an abrupt change suggestive of a sudden change in conditions.
“Our study shows that the ocean was anoxic for at most tens of thousands of years before the extinction event. That's much shorter than prior estimates,” says Gregory Brennecka, the lead author of the study published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The timing for the onset of widespread oceanic anoxia implied by our results from Dawen is difficult to reconcile with previous hypotheses of persistent anoxia for hundreds of thousands or millions of years prior to the end-Permian extinction event,” the authors conclude, adding, “The abruptness of the shifts . . . was the result . . . of a rapid and sustained change in oceanographic conditions.”11
Because uranium tends to have a homogeneous concentration and isotope ratio in today’s seawater worldwide, they suspect the findings represent a sudden global deoxygenation event. Of course, having developed this new technique, the team hopes to confirm that suspicion by studying “ancient anoxic events in many more places and times,” according to Ariel Anbar. “Over the past decade,” he explains, ”my research group has worked with many collaborators to develop new techniques to study changes in oxygen in the Earth's ocean through time. We are especially interested in the connections between ocean oxygenation and biological evolution. The uranium isotope technique is the newest method.”
The paper lists certain assumptions on which the team’s interpretation depends. They assumed that there was an “isotopically constant U input from rivers [the largest source of U to the oceans] over geologic time” as well as “a constant isotope fractionation between seawater”11 and the various places where precipitated uranium gets deposited. In other words, their interpretation that sudden global depletion of oceanic oxygen caused mass extinction assumes that nothing happened to suddenly change the amount of water flowing into the sea or to stir up the oceans more than usual.
The biblical record however tells of a sudden global change in the oceans—the Flood. The global Flood not only sends all the stated assumptions by which the investigators have interpreted their data out the window but actually explains their findings. The Permian layers are at the top of the Paleozoic rock sequence, a sequence dominated by marine invertebrate fossils. In the upper layers of these Paleozoic rocks, amphibians and land animals do make their appearance. These layers represent not slow deposition and mass extinctions over millions of years but rather the order of rapid burial associated with the Flood.12
The Paleozoic represents the lowest layers in the geologic record of the Flood and they are dominated by marine creatures because those would have been the first buried by oceanic upheavals as the earth’s crust cracked as described in Genesis 7:11.
The distribution of fossils in the higher layers would have depended in part upon animals’ abilities to flee the rising waters. Many tracks in the Permian layers even show the footprints of animals apparently scrambling uphill. Above those rocks, the Triassic and other layers preserve fossils of creatures that were engulfed as the waters finally prevailed over the whole earth, and then those buried later in post-Flood events.
The sudden change in uranium content and isotopes in Permian rock is consistent with the deposition of sediment swept away as the rising waters reached terrestrial ecosystems. No scientist can literally measure “other times,” but we can make educated guesses about the past based on the materials that remain. If these abrupt changes in Permian uranium are a snapshot of abrupt global changes at the time those Permian rock layers were laid down, then those changes are a snapshot of the turbulent conditions of a part of the Flood year, perhaps even related volcanic outpourings of lavas and chemical-laden hot waters at the time. The Bible explains these sudden catastrophic changes to the earth’s surface, the resulting massive death toll, and apparently some significant geochemical changes as well.
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