Australopithecus sediba got a makeover to celebrate the display of his mortal remains in London’s Natural History Museum. The “boy,” who along with his “mother” was presented to the scientific public in the 2011 September 9 issue of Science, underwent “forensic reconstruction” to produce a portrait perfect for his role as oldest ape-boy. Along with the picture comes his new name, Karabo, meaning “the answer,” as he is supposedly the answer to the evolutionary quest for the missing link.
Lee Berger—Karabo’s discoverer, publicist, and greatest fan—says the intact skull made this realistic portrait possible. “That is probably him. Normally with early human fossils, they are in such lousy condition, but here the anatomy is pretty much fixed. I think it’s the most accurate that’s ever been done. It’s a more human-like nose than we have seen before, he’s just wrinkling it because he’s smiling, chimps can’t smile.” Thus, since chimps can’t smile, and Karabo can, Berger is telling us Karabo really is the missing link between apelike ancestors and humans.
Berger asserts his South African fossil is the oldest known direct ancestor of Homo erectus. He points out the long thumb on the “human-like” hand, saying, “We’ve never seen that before. It really is undeniable when you lay it in your hand that it’s not a chimp. It looks like a hand capable of making tools. He shares more with humans than anything else ever discovered but is still so primitive and that’s exciting.”
Not all experts agree with Berger’s assessment that Au. sediba’s hand anatomy suggests Karabo used tools. The long “human-like” thumb is actually much longer than a human thumb, and the fingers are all proportionately shorter than those of humans. Paleoanthropologist William Jungers of Stony Brook “has seen the original fossils. He thinks [the hand is] ‘an australopithecine hand in essentially all relevant respects’ and didn’t manipulate objects in an advanced humanlike way.”1
The portrait retains the flat forehead, prominent brow, and jutting jaw of the ape that Karabo was. His face has lost some of the ape-slope seen on the real skull. Karabo has also acquired extra cranial capacity since we saw him in September!
Paleo-artist John Gurche gave Karabo a fetching thin-lipped smile to go with his wrinkled nose, furrowed brow, hip haircut with neatly trimmed facial hair, and expressive eyes in which white sclera shine forth his humanity. And while Berger claims the only guesswork on the artist’s rendition is the hair pattern and skin tone, fossilized skulls do not preserve a nose (wrinkled or otherwise), lips, or expressive eyes. The original fossil did not have even an elevated nasal bone. The fossil record of scleral color is, to say the least, nonexistent. And there is no such thing as a fossilized smile. Karabo’s portrait drips with far more humanity than typical forensic reconstructions publicized by law enforcement. In short, Karabo seems the consummate ape-boy, blending skeletal features of ape and human with fleshed out human features and the emotionally charged eyes of a bright, happy young man.
What better way for Berger bring his case before the public? Seeing is believing. But painting happy eyes and a smile on an artistically enhanced skull does not make Karabo “the answer” to the quest for a missing link. Karabo’s skeletal features are typical of apes, not humans. None of its skeletal parameters are transitional forms en route to becoming human but are simply minor variations of features found on apes.
Karabo is probably a variation within the australopithecine kind, but it definitely is not a human ancestor. Genesis tells us that God created humans and land animals on the sixth day, but only humans are made in the image of God. Man is unique physically, mentally, and spiritually. Any similarities shared with apes occur because we share a common Designer, not a common ancestry. “The answer” is in Genesis, not the Natural History Museum. And the only missing links are in the minds of evolutionists like Berger.
Dinosaur babies frozen in time
Fifteen juvenile Protoceratops clustered in Tugrikin Shire, Mongolia, suggest this kind of dinosaur cared for its young. This find is the only undisputed Protoceratops nest known. Scientists thought they had found a nest of Protoceratops eggs in the 1920s, but the inhabitants turned out to be oviraptorids. Professor David Fastovky and colleagues describe these exceptionally well-preserved fossils in the November Journal of Paleontology.
Based on their proportionately large eyes and small snouts, juvenile bone structure, and lack of adult features like horns and frills, these dinosaurs appear to be juveniles.2 They’re all about the same size, 4–6 inches long, suggesting they are the same age, and they are positioned within a curved boundary suggestive of a nest.
Nevertheless, these dino-babies were probably not newly hatched. There is no eggshell material, which is commonly preserved in the fossil-rich Djadokhta Formation. Also, they are about 60 percent larger than a less-ossified—and therefore younger—specimen of the same kind found nearby. Since the dino-babies in this nest were “not neonates,”3 Fastovky’s team suspects their parents were involved in their care for some period of time.
The sandstone of the Upper Cretaceous Djadokhta Formation of the Gobi Desert has been the site of a number of phenomenally preserved specimens of mammals and dinosaurs. Exquisite preservation of fragile structures can only be explained by sudden rapid entombment.
Since the Gobi Desert area is now obviously a desert, not a marine environment, many scientists assume the fossils there died as a result of a sudden sandstorm. No doubt something had to catastrophically bury these creatures in sand. But other scientists have suggested the catastrophe involved burial by a load of waterborne sand. Waterborne sand could be brought in by flashfloods or, of course, by surging sediment-laden water associated with the global Flood. Thus, most creationists believe the evidence is consistent with these fossils being buried in these sandy layers during the Flood.
Fossils in the Djadokhta Formation are typically encased in random particles of sand. Sufficient sand was dumped to cover even large animals, whether “by land” or “by sea.” Fastovsky believes “The evidence suggests they may have been overrun by migrating dunes during a sandstorm.” Storms spawned by changing air and water temperatures would have raged during the Flood year. Thus, while the waters were still surging, violent wind could have caused dune avalanches and dropped loads of sand on these animals. Even so, the ultimate water-disaster was right on the heels of such a dune-disaster, with the floodwaters soon rising to cover everything.
The cross-bedding in the sandstone between Gobi fossil units is normally at the 25-degree angle consistent with underwater sand deposition, not the 30-34 degree angles seen with wind-deposited sand. Fastosky reports there was strong cross-bedding of the sandstone, but he does not report the angles of deposition.
Some Flood geology models have suggested dinosaurs could have laid eggs between the surges of rising water, and indeed they could have. However, the fact that the inhabitants of this dinosaur nursery are “not neonates”3 makes that a doubtful scenario for this particular “nest.” Without knowing the growth rate of Protoceratops, of course, we cannot completely rule it out.
Thus, the biblical Flood explains the preservation of this dinosaur “nest.” Genesis chapter 7 tells us that the Flood began when the fountains of the great deep opened along with the windows of heaven, in reference to volcanic activity and rain combining to violently cover the earth with water over a period of many weeks. The fossil graveyards of the Gobi with many creatures frozen in time were catastrophically buried in loads of sand dumped on them by violent winds and sediment-laden surges of floodwaters. Ultimately, water covered all, producing the characteristic cross-bedded striations typical of underwater sand-waves. The Upper Cretaceous layers are conventionally dated at about 70 million years based on unverifiable untestable assumptions from both radiometric dating methods and the evolutionary ages of the fossils in them, but God’s eyewitness account in the Bible tells us the Flood happened only about 4,500 years ago.
To see photos of the dinosaur nursery, go to news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/11/pictures/111129-dinosaurs-nest-babies-egg-mongolia-ancient-parents-pictures/
Linguists lobbying against evolutionary oversimplifications refuse to yield to the authority of statistics
Evolutionists demand evolutionary explanations for all things cosmological, biological, and sociological, and they’d like to stuff linguistics into their model. As with all analyses of the untestable past, data is interpreted through the tinted glasses of worldview and personal bias. Cramming linguistic complexities into the evolutionary mold has created controversy chronicled in Science News.
Traditional linguists maintain that languages, being complex and vulnerable to non-random factors (like foreign invasions and cultural interchange), cannot yield to phylogenetic evolutionary explanations. Anthropologists vying for conflicting models of human evolution, however, seek support from linguistics. If a theory of language evolution matches a theory of biological evolution, both appear more credible. And evolutionary geneticists maintain the statistical methods that have made evolutionary sense of the genetic code can surely handle the complexities of spoken language.
The Science News journalist reviews a number of studies and conflicting opinions, including those covered in News to Note, April 23, 2011. Evolutionary biologist Russell Gray thinks linguists can gather data but believes his methods are needed to interpret it. He says, “Linguists spin a bit of a story with case studies of individual languages. Statistical methods can now be used to examine languages rigorously and on a global scale.”
Gray and his colleague Russell Atkinson maintain language origin—and with it humanity’s biological and geographical origins—can be deduced from statistical analysis. They boil language down to seemingly simple data that can be objectively tallied. They note how many different sounds (phonemes) a language has and how many different word orders are permissible, for instance. Since language seems to decrease in complexity among small migrating groups over time, these comparisons should, they maintain, allow them to trace humanity’s evolutionary roots. Atkinson explains, “Languages apparently expanded out of Africa, [specifically southwestern Africa] with a loss of phonemic diversity along the way.”
Linguist Lyle Campbell disagrees, asserting, “Nothing of what’s known about language acquisition or change suggests that either fewer or more phonemes will appear as people move around.” Other linguists counter that the phylogenetic studies are based on erroneous assumptions. For example, Michael Cysouw says Atkinson failed to consider the many African languages using clicks in place of vowels. When Cysouw analyzed data with that in mind, results were completely different. Cysouw’s analysis indicates multiple language origins throughout western Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
While liberally quoting from both sides, the Science News feature derides skeptical linguists but notes “those with a statistical background suspect that the techniques those studies use have a future.” After all, statistical methodology has “revolutionized molecular genetics,” so perhaps some will see the light the “fossils-and-genes crowd” has to offer.
These conflicting approaches share the assumption that evolving humans had to develop the ability to think in symbols before they could develop speech. Time calculations are based on molecular clock dating4 and anthropological dating of artifacts demonstrating abstract thinking. Controversy focuses not on if humans evolved but where and whether they evolved the ability to speak in one place or many.
From the Bible we know God created Adam with the ability to communicate. Genesis 11:1 documents that people still spoke a single language after the global Flood. Less than two millennia had passed since God created Adam and Eve, and they certainly had the ability to speak to God and to each other. Our real ancestral parents did not suffer from lack of intelligence. They spoke and reasoned perfectly well, but they made a very bad decision—choosing to rebel against God.
To thwart mankind’s ongoing rebellious plans at Babel, God confused man’s language, and Noah’s descendants dispersed from the plains of Shinar. The languages God created then are the forerunners of today’s languages. Today, about 4,400 languages lack a single verse of Scripture, presenting a challenge for missionaries and Bible translators and leaving over 600 million people without access to God’s Word in their own tongue.
Linguists who wish to have the correct historical starting point should begin with the Bible’s eyewitness account rather than the evolutionary house of cards built on imaginative assumptions about missing links, molecular clocks, and various forms of “Homo evolving.” Linguistic analysis will never determine which model of human evolution is the real one because the answer is none of the above.
Which whale of a tale is true?
Whale fossils protruding from Cerro Ballena cliffs in Chile’s Atacama Desert north of Caldera, thanks to a road-widening project, are finally being excavated. The fossil graveyard’s census is now up to 75 whales and includes at least 20 perfectly intact specimens. The fossil bonanza is spawning some fantastic fish tales in an effort to explain how the bus-sized aquatic beasts got there.
The Smithsonian’s Nicholas Pyenson, who is working with Chilean paleontologist Mario Suarez on the excavation, says, “I think they died more or less at the same time. . . . There are many ways that whales could die, and we're still testing all those different hypotheses.” He says the region used to be a “lagoon-like environment” and believes the whales died 2 million to 7 million years ago. The scientists have yet to publish their findings, but a variety of opinions have been advanced to explain how these whales ended up half a mile from the ocean in the high dry Atacama Desert.
Vertebrate paleontologist Erich Fitzgerald, commented on the find, “The fossils are exceptionally well preserved and quite complete — a rare combination in paleontology and one that will likely shed light on many facets of the … ecology and evolution of these extinct species.” Despite this phenomenal preservation, Fitzgerald thinks it possible “these fossilized remains may have accumulated over a relatively long period of time,” the Associated Press release suggesting they could have even “died there over a period of a few millennia.”
Most of the fossils are baleen whales, although the collection already includes a sperm whale and an extinct two-tusked dolphin.
The only other known specimen of this dolphin was found farther north in Peru’s famous Pisco Formation, a fossil graveyard containing 346 whales. The Pisco Formation has excited controversy because uniformitarian scientists cannot see how the diatomite sediment in which the fossils are preserved could have been rapidly produced to cause the simultaneous death and burial of hundreds of whales. Creation scientists point out, however, that the warm mineral-rich waters produced by the Flood would have been able to support the catastrophic diatom bloom evidenced at Pisco, causing aquatic death on a massive scale.5
Since information on the geology of the new find and the specifics of fossil descriptions, such as whether baleen is well-preserved as in Pisco specimens, is not yet available, most speculation will have to wait. However, the excellent preservation of the Cerro Ballena fossils demands a catastrophic cause. If Cerro Ballena turns out to be part of the same geologic formation as Pisco, the cause of death may indeed by the same. The 2 million to 7 million year estimate of the cetacean catastrophe is consistent with the 2.6 million year date conventionally estimated for the first post-Flood Ice Age deposits. Once the data become available, post-Flood catastrophes and conditions prevailing in the wake of the Flood will likely provide a logical explanation for how this large cache of cetacean victims found themselves beached and buried in the desert.
Of course, the Bible is not consistent with the millions of years estimate. Such dates come from methods based on uniformitarian assumptions disregarding the impact of events like the Flood on earth’s geological history. (See Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics, Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions, and Radiometric Dating: Making Sense of the Patterns.) The Bible’s chronology is internally consistent and provides an age of the earth of about 6,000 years. The global Flood occurred about 1,700 years after earth’s creation, and the Ice Age it triggered—based on computer simulations of climate conditions—likely occurred within a few hundred years. The global Flood and post-Flood catastrophes explain the majority of the fossil record and would have certainly remodeled the surface of the earth. We look forward to hearing more about the discoveries at Cerro Ballena and are confident that a combination of scientific observation and the answers in Genesis will tell which whale tales might be true.
What does jetlag have to do with fruitflies and morning-glories?
Jetlag is the modern curse of our circadian rhythm. Just as with air-traveling humans, organisms as diverse as cyanobacteria, plants, and animals initiate their many responses to light with remarkably similar molecules. Thus, our bodies’ expectations of rest and the opening of flowers in the morning are influenced by similar light-sensitive proteins.
Proteins called cryptochromes and photolyases mediate responses to light and dark in all organisms. Cornell scientists, by determining the before-and-after shape of fruit fly cryptochrome (dCRY) molecules, have started unraveling the mystery of how light uses the same key to unlock so much in so many.
“The aim of the study was to understand the structure of dCRY at the molecular level,” says co-author Anand Vaidya. Identification of the structure of dCRY is “a starting point to understand the function and mechanisms of the protein.”
Diurnal cycles are regulated by a tug-of-war between proteins. Some proteins activate genes related to “light-driven” activities. Other proteins—aptly named “timeless”—dampen those effects. Cryptochrome (dCRY) molecules, when activated by light, destroy the “timeless” proteins so light-related functions can go forward.6 Similar molecules, called photolyases (PL), repair DNA damage caused by light. Thus, both PL and dCRY reset the biological clock to gear up for the day.
Regardless of the organism and the myriad of effects they promote, the CRY and PL molecules have many structural similarities. Therefore, biochemist Brian Crane asserts, “Another intriguing aspect of cryptochromes is that they are evolutionarily related to enzymes called photolyases, which use light to repair damage to DNA caused by ultraviolet radiation.”
The Cornell team discovered that light causes the dCRY molecule to change shape. With this shape dCRY binds to “timeless” proteins so that an ironically named molecule—E3-ubiquitin ligase jetlag—can destroy it.6 Then the organism gets on with its day. So without some ubiquitous jetlag, the creature doesn’t really have much get-up-and-go!
The “light”-altered dCRY also fits into the slot on the PL molecule that normally binds the DNA it repairs.6 Such molecular matches are interpreted by evolutionary scientists as evidence for common ancestry and evolutionary development. However, the ubiquitous presence of these molecules throughout the living world and the remarkable complexity by which the same molecules plug into a variety of functions does not prove anything about how those molecules and their interactions developed. If anything, they exemplify irreducible complexity, for corresponding molecular parts must exist simultaneously in multiple organisms and systems before any “evolutionary advantage” would be selected.
God created all living things to live in the same world with similar biochemistry. As a good Engineer, God used the same designs in many creative ways. We share not common ancestry but a common Designer with all living things.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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