“Evolution in action”
Amazed scientists in Australia have discovered 57 hybrid black-tip sharks off Australia’s east coast. Confirmed by genetic markers, the 57 specimens are hybrids of two species of black-tip sharks that normally inhabit waters of different temperatures. Some are offspring of hybrids, demonstrating the hybrids are fertile, and all appear to be in good health. Morphologically, they have characteristics of both parent species.
The scientists, whose work was recently published in Conservation Genetics, are unsure whether the unprecedented shark hybridization is an adaptation to climate change or a response to changes in food availability. Bob Hueter of the Sarasota Center for Shark Research commented, “In a sense, it is catching evolution in action.”1
Lead researcher Jess Morgan of the University of Queensland agrees. “It's very surprising because no one's ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination. This is evolution in action,” he says. “If it [the tropical Australian black-tip] hybridises with the common species [the common black-tip] it can effectively shift its range further south into cooler waters, so the effect of this hybridising is a range expansion. It's enabled a species restricted to the tropics to move into temperate waters.” The hybrids do not seem to be endangering the pure populations even though they now comprise up to 20 percent of the black-tip shark population in some places.
Although scientists have not previously known of sharks hybridizing, there is no reason to term this “evolution in action.” A created kind of creature may contain multiple species generally able to interbreed. We use the term created kind because Genesis records God made each kind of living thing to reproduce “after its kind.” These sharks were able to interbreed because they were of the same created kind, not because they were evolving into a new kind of creature. They were reshuffling genetic material the parent species already had.
Variation and speciation occur within the created kind. The two parent species in this case thrive in different habitats. Genetic differences between species can accumulate when populations are isolated and render interbreeding no longer feasible. However, these hybrids prove such genetic incompatibility has not developed between these populations.
These sharks demonstrate God’s principle of reproducing “after their kinds,” not “evolution in action.”
The “sixth” key to a balanced view of foot evolution . . . or design!
The death and dissection of a circus elephant in Dundee, Scotland, three centuries ago began an ongoing debate about how many toes an elephant has. What was thought initially to be a sixth toe later was deemed to be only cartilage, but recent investigation at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has found the “false toe” is a bone after all. The RVC team believes it has figured out the evolutionary history of the elephant’s ancestral foot.
Professor John Hutchinson’s team determined the sixth toe is a giant sesamoid bone—a bone formed by the ossification of cartilage long after other bones ossify. By examining Hutchinson’s collection of preserved elephant feet, they determined the sesamoid bone, like most sesamoid bones, becomes more densely ossified with age. Most sesamoid bones form within tendons or ligaments, but this one, embedded in a fat pad, is similar to a panda’s “extra” thumb. Initially appearing useless, the sixth toe does “change position and come into contact with the ground.” The team also found, by manipulating the preserved feet to bear weight, that the sixth toe functions differently on the front and back feet.
Thanks to the large sesamoid’s patchy ossification, both front and back feet have “an unusually flexible ossified structure that nevertheless is stiffer than the surrounding fat pad or cartilage.”2 However, the sixth toe in the back foot bends to transfer the elephant’s weight onto its tiptoes, “providing a more passive stabilizing support that reduces need for more active and massive muscular tissues.”2 This unique design makes the elephant into a sort of natural ballerina, able to support its great weight on tiptoes.
Hutchinson also performed CT scans on fossils of elephants, mammoths, and supposed elephant ancestors. All the elephant and mammoth foot fossils resemble those of modern elephants with evidence of the sesamoid bone. The feet of supposed elephant ancestors are poorly preserved, but scans of their leg bones suggest they lacked this foot adaptation. Therefore, the team concludes elephant ancestors had flat feet and modern elephants evolved the sixth toe-like modification to make the tiptoe foot design carry elephant weight efficiently.
“As far as we know,” an RVC spokesman says, “elephants are the only animals to use enlarged sesamoid bones in this new supportive role. Other large land mammals have lost them and thus never developed a large fatty foot pad like elephants.”3
Since enlarged sesamoid bones in pandas and moles are adapted for the specialized functions of climbing and digging, Hutchinson considers the elephant’s sesamoid sixth toe to be a convergently evolved example “of evolutionary exaptation: co-option of old structures for new functions.”2 He believes the recruitment of a sesamoid bone for this function would be easier than re-evolving the standard five-digit foot into a six-digit one.
The “ancestral elephants” to which the team compared their modern specimens were Barytherium and Numidotherium.2 The Barytherium is an extinct animal whose fossils lack any evidence of a trunk. The Numidotheirum is a sort of tapir, not an elephant. The only way to consider these animals as ancestral elephants is to use the imagination. Since fossilized feet of real elephants and mammoths resemble modern elephant feet, there is no evidence of elephant foot evolution (or even diversification) in the fossil record.
Furthermore, sesamoid bones are found in many species and provide “as needed” parts that ossify into bone in relation to the stress placed on them. In humans, for instance, the kneecap is only a bit of cartilage in the newborn but with use becomes an important bony fulcrum. The elephant’s sixth toe is able to function with remarkable flexibility as a weight-supporting strut and a weight-shifting lever because its patchy ossification forms in the response to the elephant’s weight. Similarly, the panda’s foot and the mole’s foot are equipped with sesamoid structures able to ossify in response to those animals’ needs.
A Swiss evolutionary morphologist commented, “Even animals as 'well known' as elephants can be subject of exciting, new discoveries, the study of which provides major insights into evolution.” However, the sesamoid bone of the elephant foot is not an evolutionary experiment that led to a new kind of foot. The fossil record does not demonstrate any such evolutionary progression. Furthermore, while variation and speciation do occur, evolution of one kind of creature into another is inconsistent with biblical history.
What this team has discovered is a phenomenal design feature of elephant anatomy, engineered by the Master Engineer, the Creator God of the Bible. He created the elephant kind on the sixth day of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. He equipped the elephant with an efficient foot design whose secrets are just now being discovered and appreciated.
Honey-the fuel for hominid evolution?
Evolutionists have “suggested that the evolution of larger hominin brains, which are metabolically expensive, would have required the consumption of energy-rich foods to fuel the expansion.”4 Nutritional anthropologist Alyssa Crittenden, in a study published in the journal Food and Foodways, proposes the super fuel our supposed human ancestors used to grow bigger, better brains was honey. She bases her conclusions on present-day cultural observations, “ancient rock painting,” and inferences from “our primate cousins.”
Wild honey is a highly nutritious, easily digestible, energy-dense food packed with vitamins, minerals, and even some protein and fat from bits of bee larvae. Honey forms a staple part of the diet of many third-world tribal populations today. Crittenden does not propose honey as a sole food but as a high-energy nutritious supplement to meat and edible plants and tubers. Simple tools, a reasonable amount of ingenuity, and smoke from fire make honey gathering feasible, although fire is not essential. Rock art from Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia conventionally dated at 40,000 years depicts people gathering honey.
In order to push honey history back beyond modern humans to the time human ancestors like Homo habilis presumably evolved, Crittenden makes reference to the habits of “non-human primates.” Baboons, macaques, gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees all manage to get at the sweet treat using a variety of methods, sometimes using sticks as tools. She writes, “Studies of chimpanzee tool use and diet composition are useful in models of early hominin behavior, not only because of their phylogenetic proximity to humans, but also because of their behavioural and anatomical similarities to our species.”5 She adds, “It is highly likely that early hominids were at least as capable of honey collection” and points out that earliest humans could have used sticks or Oldowan stone tools to get at the sweet liquid. Oldowan tools are generally associated with smaller-brained Homo habilis, presumed by some evolutionists to be the earliest human.
Biblically, we know the first humans were Adam and Eve, created mature and intelligent by God about 6,000 years ago. We do not know how much time passed before people began enjoying honey as a food, but in Genesis 43:11 Jacob includes honey in his list of the best fruits of the land. Humans did not evolve from ape-like ancestors. The ability of apes and monkeys to get at honey tells us nothing about early human abilities.
Furthermore, early humans were not primitive brutes. Anthropologists assume the tools they deem most primitive must have been made by an intellectually inferior transitional brute. And there is no proof that Homo habilis made Oldowan tools. Homo habilis is a poorly defined, fragmentary assemblage of fossils. As News to Note, August 27, 2011, Nailing Jello (Jelly) to the Wall, and Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin: Discussion explain, Homo habilis may be only an ape. Arbitrarily designating those fragments Homo doesn’t make them an ape-man. God made both apes and humans as separate creations on the sixth day of Creation week, and only humans were made in the image of God. Apes clearly have smaller cranial size than humans, but human brain size has a wide range of normal and does not correlate with intellectual capacity.
Crittenden’s idea that Oldowan tools were useful for honey harvesting is certainly reasonable, but whoever made the tools was human. There is no reason to assume they were made by transitional brutes needing honey to grow bigger brains. Biblically we know that no human of any cranial size evolved from apelike ancestors.
Thus, biblically speaking, Crittenden is correct that people, and probably apes too, have been eating nutritious honey for thousands of years—but not as many thousands as she thinks, and certainly not for millions! And no matter how nutritious honey is, ancestral brutes didn’t need it to become fully human. Humans have been fully human since God breathed life into Adam.
Just subtract switches.
Evolutionist Jack Horner, author of How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever, believes a genetic storehouse of information in ancient dinosaurs produced modern birds by simply switching off some genetic information. Thus evolution of new kinds, in his view, was accomplished not by adding new information but by subtracting it. If only he could find “an adventurous postdoc” to identify those genes and reverse evolution for him, he says he could prove “evolution works.”
What about the massive physiologic changes involved in reversing the evolution that supposedly took place while evolving from a reptilian respiratory system to an avian one? Not a problem, Horner asserts. During a recent interview, Horner said there would be no need for “messing with physiology or something like that. A bird is really a dinosaur, so we're pretty sure that the breathing apparatus of a bird evolved from the breathing apparatus of a dinosaur, and is therefore completely different than a mammal.” In other words, he believes a dinosaur had a bird-like respiratory system from the outset.
Horner sees a pet chickenosaurus as a powerful tool to take into a classroom, even though he acknowledges it would be a modified chicken rather than an actual dinosaur. He says, “The most important thing is that you cannot activate an ancestral characteristic unless the animal has ancestors. So if we can do this, it definitely shows that evolution works. . . . There are people who are misinformed, and there are people who are uninformed [about the validity of evolution]. If people are uninformed, this will probably get through to them. If they've been misinformed and don't mind being misinformed, then they probably will continue to be misinformed.”
The fallacy of Horner’s argument, “that you cannot activate an ancestral characteristic unless the animal has ancestors,” hinges on the definition of ancestral characteristic. Having a common characteristic—such as the presence of a tail-like structure during embryonic development—does not mean that structure is ancestral. Believing in the fraudulently based theory of embryonic recapitulation, Horner thinks this “tail” is a “dinosaurian trait” he can reactivate.6
This temporary embryonic tail-like structure results from the rapid growth of the nervous system and the embryonic presence of what Horner has identified as 15 extra vertebrae.6 Horner thinks the chicken embryo is a picture of its evolutionary ancestor. These so-called extra vertebrae Horner claims the evolutionary ancestor had are really somites, not vertebrae. Somites are blocks of embryonic tissue genetically programmed as templates to guide development and precursors of specific structures (like muscles, bones, and skin). The genetically programmed regression of some somites once they have served their developmental purpose in no way proves the chicken had an evolutionary ancestral dinosaur tail.
Yet Horner claims, “Knowing that birds descended from dinosaurs and knowing the changes that occur from dinosaurs to birds, we know that the changes that did occur occurred because of genetics.” Horner thinks “rewinding the evolutionary process” will prove evolution occurred in the first place, since he “knows” it did, even though no scientist ever saw it. But all flipping such genetic switches will do is elucidate the genetic blueprint God designed for chickens.
Evolutionists simply assume animals had to have evolved from other ancestral kinds. But the fossil record lacks transitional forms. No kind of organism can be shown to have been the ancestor of a different kind of organism, and organisms are only observed to vary within the limits of their kinds. Yet evolutionists draw imaginary connections between real organisms—living ones like birds and extinct ones like dinosaurs—and hypothetical common ancestors. Embryonic recapitulation is the idea that embryonic development is a replay of a process they just assume occurred.
Horner also offers no source for this batch of genetic information the ancestral dinosaur had. Yet the “source” he is able to imagine but unable to supply the Bible provides in an eyewitness account that does not disagree with scientific observations. Colossians 1:16 says, “By Him [Jesus Christ, the Son of God] all things were created. . . All things have been created by Him and for Him.” And Genesis chapters 1 and 2 tell us God spoke all things into existence over a period of six days. By summing up the genealogical information in the Bible, we even know when He did it: about 6,000 years ago. With such an eyewitness account in agreement with observable science, we are neither “misinformed” nor “uninformed” but are rather well informed and reliably informed by the only One who was there.
Barking up the wrong multicellular tree
Precambrian fossils thought by evolutionists to be the earliest animal embryos have for a decade been considered the earliest evolved multicellular organisms. Fresh examination now seems “set to revoke the status of these most celebrated” fossils.
The original discovery of Precambrian fossilized embryos, according to Cambridge evolutionary paleobiologist Nicholas Butterfield, “was met with almost palpable relief.” Evolutionists believing in “gradualistic evolution” expected Precambrian oceans “must have swarmed with living animals” but couldn’t find their fossils. Noting this “conspicuous absence [of transitional fossils] from the early fossil record,” Butterfield comments, “The fossil record . . . had let us down.” These Precambrian embryos seemed to fill the gap. Now, examination of these microfossils using synchrotron-based X-ray imaging technology reveals they aren’t embryos or even animals. They are just spores.
These fossilized cellular clusters were found in 1998 in phosphate deposits in China’s Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation. Conventional dating assigns ages of 635 million to 551 million years to this region, and the alleged embryos come from the layers supposedly 570 million years old. The phosphates in the deposit are thought responsible for mineralizing the tiny organisms. The only fossils in such Precambrian layers are microfossils, and the absence of any matching “adult” fossil forms always cast a bit of doubt on the embryonic interpretation. Just above this geological layer are Cambrian layers with myriads of multicellular marine invertebrate fossils.
Co-author Dr. John Cunningham described the technology used to examine the microfossils. “We used a particle accelerator called a synchrotron as our X-ray source. It allowed us to make a perfect computer model of the fossil that we could cut up in any way that we wanted, but without damaging the fossil in any way. We would never have been able to study the fossils otherwise!”7
Lead author Therese Huldtgren added, “The fossils are so amazing that even their nuclei have been preserved.”7
The detailed images revealed the cells were not differentiated like cells in embryos. Also, the nuclear contours in many of the cells were intact, a finding not consistent with rapidly dividing embryonic cells. Other characteristics showed these microfossils were not multicellular animals. The microfossils, as it turns out, are pretty much like the reproductive spore-forming phase of modern amoeboid protozoans.
Another team member, Professor Philip Donoghue, said, “We’ve been convinced for so long that these fossils represented the embryos of the earliest animals--much of what has been written about the fossils for the last ten years is flat wrong.”7
Professor Stefan Bengtson added, “These fossils force us to rethink our ideas of how animals learned to make large bodies out of cells.”7
Undaunted, Donoghue believes “the sophisticated behavior seen in these fossils” could have led the way to the Cambrian explosion by leading to “permanently multicellular arrangements.”
Single-celled organisms forming spore clusters like these live today and do not evolve into multicellular life forms. Their “behavior” is no more (or less) “sophisticated” than the microfossils. No mechanism has ever been found to provide such organisms with the genetic information required to become a new kind of organism.
Evolutionists claim life evolved from single-celled to multicellular forms of increasingly differentiated complexity. They need to fill in the blanks, but nothing in this study demonstrates transitions. Nothing about the cell collections suggests progressive differentiation into multicellular organisms. Butterfield admits, “The fossil record had let us down.” It still does.
On the other hand, the Bible’s eyewitness account says God made all things—and “all” would include microbes, plants, animals, and all non-living things in the universe—about 6,000 years ago. He created living things fully functional and able to reproduce after their kinds. Multicellular organisms did not have to evolve from single-celled organisms; God created both.
Incidentally, microfossils like those preserved in the Doushantuo Formation probably represent some of the earliest fossils formed during the global Flood. Many Precambrian microfossils are thought by creationist geologists to have formed in the comparatively quiescent pre-Flood waters, but geological formations like this one rest on debris like that seen in submarine landslides. Such deep deposits are found exposed at several places around the globe. Situated below the billions of marine invertebrates buried in Cambrian layers, they likely represent mineralized microorganisms—spores, in this case—buried early in the Flood’s upheavals. The fossils, the geology, and the biology we see in the world are consistent with the Creation and Flood histories in Genesis.
Bulletin: salmon evolve at warp speed . . . into salmon!
An analysis of salmon from 19 years of Hood River hatchery experience has revealed that hatchery-adapted salmon do not survive and reproduce as well in the wild as wild salmon. The study, published in the December 14, 2011, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates that a single generation in captivity selects for traits that “are beneficial in captivity but severely maladaptive in the wild.”8 Headlines quickly announced “evolution at warp speed.”
Oregon zoologist Michael Blouin commented, “We've known for some time that hatchery-born fish are less successful at survival and reproduction in the wild. However, until now, it wasn't clear why.” The study did not identify what traits were being selected for by hatchery life, but determining those traits is the next step if hatchery fish are to replenish wild populations. “What this study shows,” Blouin said, “is that intense evolutionary pressures in the hatchery rapidly select for fish that excel there, at the expense of their reproductive success in the wild.” (emphasis ours)
Lead author Mark Christie, added, “We expected to see some of these changes after multiple generations. To see these changes happen in a single generation was amazing. Evolutionary change doesn't always take thousands of years.” (emphasis ours)
The study, of course, demonstrated natural selection in action. There is no reason the authors should express such astonishment that natural selection quickly produced a domesticated population of fish, since ordinary “survival of the fittest” genetics operated on the fish population. But all the salmon remained salmon.
The researchers’ statements equate the ordinary processes of domestication and animal husbandry with “evolutionary change” that could take “thousands of years.” (Of course, just what kind of evolution that could be is hard to say. Animal populations don’t generally require “thousands of years” to domesticate, else there would be no profit in purposely domesticating them. And because evolution of new kinds of organisms has never been demonstrated, evolutionists declare it must have happened over millions of years. “Thousands” is a bit of linguistic gray zone.) In any case, this sort of ambiguous language leads the gullible to think that the same process is involved in natural selection as that in molecules-to-man evolution. Natural selection, however, merely involves the survival and reproduction of those individuals already possessing the traits favoring survival or reproductive fitness in a given situation.
Creationists don’t deny natural selection and speciation occur. Mankind has long taken advantage of the genetics to artificially select for desired traits in animal and plant populations. In this case, those traits compatible with healthy hatchery living are selected simply by living in the hatchery, even though those traits are not the ones desired by people trying to replenish wild populations. On a hopeful note, those traits inadvertently bred out of the fish population so rapidly—once identified—may respond just as quickly to new hatchery conditions favorable to those traits. Hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest are involved not only with producing fish for food but also with building up endangered wild fish populations.
When we as creationists hear such ambiguous language, we need to be alert to those who assume that ordinary natural selection is just “evolution of new kinds” writ small.
Remember the deadline for submission of extended abstracts for the 2013 International Conference on Creationism is January 31, 2012. The ICC has contributed peer-reviewed material to develop creationist models in a number of areas. The Seventh International Conference on Creationism (ICC) will meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on August 4–7, 2013. The theme will be “Developing and Systematizing the Creation Model of Origins.” Read more about the requirements to submit a paper at News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review and see the Official 2013 ICC Web Site at www.creationicc.org for more details. We join the sponsors, Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., in encouraging creation scientists to be part of this event.
“The central question of the culture wars . . . is . . . whether the Enlightenment was a good thing.” So writes Molly Worthen, a teacher of religious history, in a book review for the New York Times. Quoting liberally from The Anointed—even echoing some of its factual errors—Worthen credits The Anointed’s authors with carefully avoiding “monolithic stereotypes” but refers to “ersatz ‘experts’” like “the most influential expert in their pantheon, James Dobson,” who depends on “anointing power of the evangelicals who buy his best-selling books on child-rearing” as well as “lightweights” and “self-styled experts like Ham [Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham].” And like The Anointed, Worthen adds to the stereotype by saying these “amateur experts . . . often style themselves ‘Doctors’ (usually on the basis of a dubious honorary degree).” This blatant stereotype conveniently ignores the facts—like the fact that Ken Ham, while possessing the Australian equivalent of a master’s degree in addition to 35 years of additional study and experience, never “styles” himself “Doctor,” despite the honorary doctorates he has received. Furthermore, Answers in Genesis has a number of full-time and adjunct staff with earned doctoral degrees in a number of disciplines. Despite the accusation that some biblical young-earth creationists rely on “a knack for finding evidence in today’s headlines rather than in the record of the past,” the sign in the photo selected (taken from AiG’s Creation Museum) to illustrate Worthen’s Times’ review speaks the real truth: “God’s Word is the key to the past, present, and future.” Yet Worthen puzzles, “Why would anyone heed ersatz “experts” over trained authorities far more qualified to comment on the origins of life?” We counter with another question: Why would any Christian—understanding he is a fallible human being—think any human being is “more qualified to comment on the origins of life” than the omniscient Creator of the universe and Savior of man?
For more information see Exposing The Anointed.
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