The evolution of how we work and play well with others
In a world where evolutionary scientists presuppose everything resulted from the random interaction of elemental parts, many puzzle not over whether social behavior evolved but how. Thus evolutionary anthropologists led by Oxford’s Susanne Shultz have challenged conventional evolutionary thinking with a novel proposal.
Although her study published in Nature concerns primates, its intent is to explain the origins of human society. The authors write, “Explaining how primate social systems evolved is central to understanding the evolution of our closest relatives and the emergence of early human social behavior.”1
The evolution of social patterns in birds and bees has been pretty well worked out in the minds of evolutionists. They generally believe bird and bee social behaviors evolved stepwise from solitary foraging to pair-bonding to complex groups. Many anthropologists assume the same for primates, but Shultz wondered if perhaps large groups first came together for protection and then evolved pair-bonding later.
Her team correlated social patterns of 217 primate species with their positions on the phylogenetic tree. “This strong phylogenetic signal,” they write, “allows a reconstruction of the evolutionary pathway leading to extant primate grouping patterns.”2 Whatever social structure exists among creatures lowest on the evolutionary tree must have evolved first.
By matching what is presumed about the 74-million-year evolution of primates to what is observed in today’s primates, Schultz’s team determined primates formed large co-ed groups about 52 million years ago when monkeys and apes diverged from the ancestors of lemurs. Advanced social patterns like New World titi monkey couples and gorilla harems evolved 16 million years ago. UCLA anthropologist Joan Silk is impressed, saying, “I was really quite struck with what a different picture [it] gives us. [Some] theoretical models will have to be revised.”
Biblically, we have no basis for knowing how primate behavior may have changed over time, but it cannot be determined by comparison with a fanciful phylogenetic tree. God created each kind of animal, designing them all to reproduce after their kinds. And while diversification within kinds occurs, new kinds of animals do not evolve. Such evolution has never been observed and scientifically should not be expected since no mechanism exists for multicellular organisms to acquire genetic information to become new kinds of organisms. The phylogenetic tree is a product of imagination. Therefore, the conclusions from this study, being completely based on it, are of no significance whatsoever. Fortunately, we do not need to understand primate society to figure out our own.
The Bible does tell us a great deal about how human society came about! We did not develop our social structures through evolution from primitive ancestors, and we do not need primate analogues to understand our social constructs. On the sixth day of creation, about 6,000 years ago, God created Adam and Eve and declared them the first married couple. Marriage was God’s idea as Jesus confirms in Matthew 19:4. They were not brute animals but were responsible, mature, intelligent humans made in God’s image. God also instructed Adam and Eve to have children. The family was God’s idea, and much of the Bible deals with the responsibilities incumbent upon family members.
People evidently organized themselves into more complex groups as soon as there were enough people to do so. We see in the fourth chapter of Genesis that Cain, the first child ever born, built a city. Noah’s descendants, in defiance of God’s instructions to “fill the earth,” (Genesis 9:1), pursued their ideal of a unified world government while building the tower of Babel in the years after the Flood. God confused their languages and dispersed them into smaller groups to break the power of their unified rebellion. Acts 17: 26–27 alludes to God’s purpose for dividing people into many nations. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (emphasis ours). A powerful unified ungodly society would hinder people from seeking the Lord “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Human social behavior did not evolve from brutish roots. And while history adds to our knowledge of cultural distinctions, we cannot interpret human history by analysis of primate society.
Mysterious malarial link to sickle-cell mutation resolved
Back in 1954, British geneticist Anthony Allison reported people carrying sickle-cell trait were better able to survive malaria. No one knew why. But sickle-causing hemoglobin results from a mutation, so this “beneficial mutation” has been touted as proof of Darwinian evolution. Evolutionists claim enough good mutations can evolve a new kind of organism.
Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein inside red blood cells. When hemoglobin inside a red blood cell is the mutant S-variety, the cell twists into a sickled shape irritating to blood vessels. Red blood cells are supposed to have smooth disc-like shapes. This shape is maintained by a scaffold-like cytoskeleton of short actin molecules inside each cell. Abnormal S hemoglobin interferes with formation of the normal cytoskeleton. That’s why patients with sickle-cell anemia have abnormally shaped red blood cells.
A person’s DNA has two copies of the genes that code for building hemoglobin. People who just have sickle-cell trait have only one defective gene with the sickle-causing mutation in each set of chromosomes, so half of their hemoglobin is normal. People with sickle-cell disease, which is far more serious, have two defective genes with the sickle-causing mutation. People with sickle-cell trait get along pretty well because they have enough good hemoglobin to compensate for the defective kind.
Parasitologist Michael Lanzer and colleagues have used electron microscopy to unveil the way malaria parasites, once inside red blood cells, hijack the actin cytoskeleton to cause deadly damage. Malarial parasites multiply inside red blood cells. They also make a sticky protein called adhesin and link short actin filaments together, building a transport system to carry it. Adhesin gets transported to the surface of infected cells. Like spikey armor, this adhesin-coating irritates vessels and makes it difficult for the spleen to destroy infected cells.
Lanzer’s team discovered cells containing abnormal hemoglobin did not have much adhesin on their surfaces or actin transport systems inside. Abnormal hemoglobin interferes not only with normal actin cytoskeletal formation but also with parasitic attempts to use actin to build death-dealing bridges. Without adhesin on the surface, infected red blood cells cause less damage and can also be destroyed by the spleen along with the parasites they contain.3
Dr. Lanzer explains, “The parasite, in order to survive within the red blood cell, has to remodel the host actin — and that evolutionary pressure has resulted in mutations in human haemoglobin that prevent this remodelling.” John Hopkins malaria researcher David Sullivan, commenting on the discovery, says, “This was a holy grail in the hunt for the pathogenesis of malaria.”
Because people with sickle-cell trait are able to survive in malarial-infested regions better than people with normal hemoglobin, they tend to survive and reproduce, passing the trait onto their children. In equatorial Africa, where malaria is endemic, up to 40% of the population has sickle-trait. (Prevalence of the trait is about 1-2% in other parts of Africa.4) Of course, this high carrier rate also means that many children are born with sickle cell anemia, a painful and often deadly disease.
Natural selection has played the “hero” in equatorial Africa, not evolution. Evolutionary pressure has not caused hemoglobin mutations. Rather, natural selection has simply allowed people with the mutation to survive and reproduce. However, despite claims by evolutionists that the “beneficial” sickle-mutation is proof of Darwinian evolution, no information acquisition is involved. Darwinian evolution—production of a different kind of organism as the result of accumulated mutations—would require acquisition of new genetic information. Yet the sickle-mutation is a defect. Carriers of the trait are able to endure this defect only because they have enough normal hemoglobin to overcome disruption of the actin cytoskeleton. This mutation not only finds its “benefit” restricted to people who catch malaria but also is harmful to the population in general.
As sickle-cell expert Dr. Felix Konotey-Ahulu explains in The Sickle-Cell Disease Patient, “Being a carrier of sickle-cell disease without suffering it (heterozygosity is the technical term) is far more common in those areas of the world which are high-risk malaria areas, especially Africa. This is good evidence that natural selection plays a part in maintaining a higher frequency of this carrier state. If you are resistant to malaria, you are more likely to survive to pass on your genes. Nevertheless, it is a defect, not an increase in complexity or an improvement in function which is being selected for, and having more carriers in the population means that there will be more people suffering from this terrible disease. Demonstrating natural selection does not demonstrate that ‘upward evolution’ is a fact, yet many schoolchildren are taught this as a ‘proof’ of evolution’” (emphasis ours).5
Death and disease entered God’s perfect creation after Adam chose to rebel against his Creator, and rebellious humanity has suffered the effects ever since. Ironically, two devastating results of sin’s curse—malaria and sickle-cell mutation—can produce a life-giving result, but that blessing comes at a cost. When individuals survive malaria due to sickle-trait, they have been blessed. But when sickle carriers marry, about a fourth of their children will have sickle-cell anemia. Thus, no evolutionary advantage accrues to the population. Carriers do not pass improved genetic information on to their children.
Hopefully, the discovery of the way malarial parasites evade destruction and deal out much of their damage will provide medical scientists with a target for future treatments. Furthermore, since the “survival advantage” from sickle-trait results from a batch of hemoglobin so defective even a parasite can’t use it, this “poster child” for evolution ought to be retired.
Tree trunk math . . . more complicated than meets the eye
Centuries ago Leonardo da Vinci observed the taper of many tree trunks follows a mathematical division of diameters. Those divisions are used by graphic artists to make trees look realistic. But until now, no one has been sure why those divisions are important. Physicist Christophe Eloy, a specialist in fluid mechanics, has devised a computer model based on a new theory of “why,” and the answer goes beyond the simplistic explanations previously accepted.
Leonardo’s rule says that when a tree trunk divides, the cross-sectional area of the branches adds up to the cross-sectional area of the trunk. And when those branches divide, the sum of all those areas also equals that of the trunk. And so forth.
Mathematically, an approximation states that the sum of the squares of all the branch diameters is equal to the square of the trunk’s diameter. In reality, however, those numbers aren’t always squared. The real exponent can vary from 1.8 to 2.3. Thus the reality is already more complicated than the simple, even though the approximation is pretty close.
Why would this relationship exist? Botanists have assumed diameter needs to vary this way to supply sufficient water to the leaves. Eloy thought something more was involved. He noticed that branches really split the way fractals do, with each division forming the same angle. He also noticed wind-stress on a branch mainly affects the leaves growing near the end. Therefore, he applied the mathematics required to calculate the necessary branch diameter to successfully resist breakage. His wind-resistance model accurately predicts the diameter required and the actual exponent required to get precise answers.
Commenting on Eloy’s results, to be published in Physical Review Letters, UC Berkeley mathematician Marcus Roper commented, “Trees are very diverse organisms, and Christophe seems to have arrived at a simple and elegant physical principle that explains how branches taper in size as you go from the trunk, through the boughs, up to the twigs. It’s surprising and wonderful that no one thought of [the wind explanation] sooner.”
MIT engineer Pedro Reis commented, “This study brings trees up to par with manmade structures that have been primarily designed taking into account wind-loading considerations, the Eiffel Tower being perhaps the most well-known example.”
We must express a little amusement at Reis’s turn of phrase. God designed trees about 6,000 years ago. Leonardo da Vinci observed the mathematical relationship just a few centuries ago. And only now has anyone figured out a purpose inherent in such a mathematically complex design. Man’s architectural wonders mimic God’s designs. And perhaps with application of Eloy’s discovery, human engineers can better apply the Master Engineer’s principles to build more wind-resistant buildings as they seek to bring manmade structures “up to par” with God’s trees!
For more information on biomimicry see News to Note, September 3, 2011 and News to Note, October 1, 2011. And don’t miss the January 2012 issue of Answers magazine. The theme will be “God Invented It First.” The issue will include articles about some fascinating examples of biomimetics.
South American sauropodomorph fills in the gap.
Everyone is impressed by gigantic Jurassic and Cretaceous sauropods. As paleontologists search for the evolutionary ancestors of these giants, they look to the Triassic layer just below. Since they believe the geologic column is a vertical timeline of evolutionary origins, they believe the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous layers were laid down over millions of years and contain the giants’ evolutionary history. The somewhat smaller sauropodomorphs of the Triassic and Lower Jurassic periods have sufficient similarities (and differences) to big sauropods to fit the ancestral role.
South American paleontologists have recently added two sauropodomorphs to the catalogue of Triassic diversity. Two years ago Panphagia was added to the list as a 231 million year old Argentine ancestor. Now, Argentine paleontologists report their discovery of another sauropodomorph they believe will fill in a gap in South American sauropod history by confirming the worldwide distribution of their diverse ancestors.
This partial skeleton was found in Quebrada del Barro rock in northwestern Argentina. Those rocks were previously dated as Cretaceous or upper Triassic on the basis of a single dinosaur foot fossil that was poorly documented, according to the authors of the current study.6
Because the new fossil’s pieces—“a skull, several neck and tail vertebrae, and a few elements of the limbs”—closely resemble the early Jurassic South African sauropodomorph Massospondylus—the authors have re-dated Quebrada del Barro as early Jurassic, somewhat younger than the previous estimate. Since some rock layers in the Marayes-El Carrizal Basin, of which the Quebrada del Barro forms the top, are not represented, those that are present are dated according to the fossils present—which of course are normally dated according to the rock layers in which they are found. Thanks to its South African “cousin’s” dates, this new fossil is thought by evolutionists to be 199 million years old.
There are not enough bones of the new fossil to actually tell how the original owner walked, but since the hindlimbs are not like the ponderous columns of sauropods and since the South African “relative” has forelimbs shorter than hindlimbs, researchers infer their specimen alternated between bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion. However, there are enough unique features to allow the fossil its own name, Leyesaurus marayensis. It is estimated to have been about 8 ½ feet long. While the discoverers do not believe it was a direct ancestor of the giant sauropods, they believe it was part of a diverse group found all over the world and that some sauropodomorphs were the predecessors of the giants.
The interpretation of this fossil and many similar fossils of the Triassic and Lower Jurassic as a group preceding the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous giants by millions of years is based on the evolutionary worldview that rejects other explanations for the geologic column. The global Flood explains the geologic column as a record of the order in which organisms were buried. These sedimentary rock layers are generally dated according to the supposed ages of the fossils found in them, although sometimes they are dated using radiometric dating methods applied to nearby igneous rocks. Those methods have their own set of unverifiable assumptions. (See Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics, Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions, Radiometric Dating: Making Sense of the Patterns.)
With fossils dated according to the layers and the layers dated according to the fossils in them, the circular reasoning is obvious. Furthermore, even when those fossils are dated according to their similarity with fossils elsewhere in the world—as was done here at the cost of a few million years to Quebrado del Barro—the reasoning is based on the assumption that creatures really did evolve and did so all over the world at about the same rate. This worldview ignores the Flood model’s consistency with the worldwide presence of similar rock layers laid down along with the remains of creatures rapidly buried. Even the similarity of fossils in corresponding layers is consistent with the fact the some animals—like larger dinosaurs—would have been able to flee the floodwaters for a time and ultimately be buried later—in higher layers.
From Genesis chapter 7 we know that the Flood involved cataclysmic upheavals in addition to rain. These conditions would have produced surges of rising water that took quite some time to reach maximum depth. After these surging waters carrying sediment engulfed various creatures, they settled to produce layers in the geologic column.
The authors of the study are quite justified in admiring the diversity of creatures preserved in the Triassic and Jurassic layers. But they err in their assumptions of when and how they came to be there. The Bible’s history is consistent with geologic and biologic records.
Does pristine “primordial” gas prove the big bang happened?
Astrophysicists reported in the November 10 Science that they have finally found the first sample of space gas that fits big bang predictions. “The lack of metals tells us this gas is pristine,” graduate student Michele Fumagalli says. “It’s quite exciting, because it’s the first evidence that fully matches the composition of the primordial gas predicted by the Big Bang theory.”
Only hydrogen and its isotope deuterium were detected in two gas clouds examined using absorption spectroscopy. The clouds are located along a line-of-sight to a distant quasar. The spectrum is produced by the absorption of certain wavelengths of the quasar’s light. (Each element has a characteristic spectrum.) Professor J. Xavier Prochaska explains, “We don’t have any sensitivity to helium, but we would expect to see it if we did. We do have excellent sensitivity for carbon, oxygen, and silicon, and these elements are completely absent. . . . This is the first time we’ve observed pristine gas uncontaminated by heavier elements from stars.”7
Big bang cosmology holds that the only elements formed in the immediate aftermath of the big bang were hydrogen and helium (and trace amounts of lithium), other elements being formed later in stars. Yet astronomers have always detected other elements in the spectra from space. Astronomers refer to all elements heavier than helium as “metals.” Fumagalli explains that these findings reveal metals are distributed even more inhomogeneously in space than previously thought. “Metals are formed [within] stars and released into the universe,” she says, “but this process doesn’t occur the same way everywhere because we see these pockets that are left untouched.”7
Quasars are distant galaxies. Because some cosmologists believe distant light takes billions of years to reach earth, they interpret a telescopic look at a quasar as a peek backwards in time almost as far back as the big bang.
Secularists believe that these gas clouds correspond to a time about 2 billion years after the supposed big bang, based on the distance to the clouds as inferred from their redshifts. The environment surrounding these gas clouds has not yet been examined. “Using spectra, we can only probe the gas and its composition,” explains Fumagalli “We don’t know if it’s located close to a galaxy. What we’re planning to do is now study the environment of this gas to try to understand if it’s near a galaxy.”7
Thus, this discovery is being hailed as the discovery of gas 12 billion light years away and therefore gas that formed a “mere” 2 billion years after the big bang. This is also the first time that astronomers have detected gas that is apparently missing the heavier elements entirely. Big bang theorists have predicted that the first stars would be comprised of such zero-metallicity gas. However, no such stars have been found. It is surprising (from a big bang perspective) to find such gas in clouds that are allegedly billions of years younger than the first stars. Stars are supposed to create the heavier elements, and distribute them into the universe. So secular astronomers will now have to rethink their models of how and when metals are dispersed into intergalactic space. Perhaps these clouds are just a further example of that uneven distribution of elements in space. Even those who accept the idea of ancient age–big bang cosmology should not conclude they have their evidence when they find the right collection of elements in the wrong kind of place—a gas cloud instead of a star.
Furthermore, alternative explanations8 for light-travel time eliminate the idea that astronomers are peering back in time and instead demonstrate they are merely looking far away. Finally finding a couple of gas clouds with ultra-low metallicity, even though they are billions of light years away, does not prove the big bang happened. It just proves there is some hydrogen—as well as an expected amount of its isotope—out in space.
The big bang model9 not only disagrees with the Bible’s account of the origin of the universe (for the Scriptures teach the earth was made before the sun) but also has a number of other astrophysical problems.
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