“The sound of little prehistoric feet tells the story” but not necessarily the story some think!
Visions of dinosaur domesticity danced across headlines after a report of the “oldest known dinosaurian nesting site” got imaginations churning. “The imprint of those baby feet, made 190 million years ago” in South Africa’s Golden Gate National Park are revealing dinosaur “child-rearing practices,” suggesting the Massospondylus “was a caring and doting parent.” Fossils of this six-meter-long sauropod are common in South Africa, although no adults (or young dinosaurs either) were found at this road cut excavation site.
According to researcher Adam Yates, “Some [footprints] are so tiny, they had to have been hatchlings. Others are twice that size, but not the size of adults.” (The feet of the unhatched dinosaurs were about 7 mm long; the larger tracks were 15 mm long. No adult tracks were found.)1 “Hatchlings were doubling in size before moving away from the nesting area,” Yates says. “The babies were toothless, so they were probably being provisioned by their parents, maybe being fed regurgitated food.”
Researchers have identified collections of tightly packed eggs at the Rooidraai site—as many as 34 together—in several discrete layers of sedimentary rock piled up about 2 meters thick along a road cut 25 meters long. They suspect these sauropods returned each season to the nesting site. Only rapid burial could preserve the eggs and embryos without “disintegration, predation, and trampling during subsequent breeding seasons,”1 the researchers write, so they propose, “[u]nusually intense or out-of-season flooding events . . . led to burial and preservation of egg clutches before hatching.”1
Because the Rooidraai site consists of an Early Jurassic layer in the geologic column, the authors believe the “nesting site” is “100 million years older than previous known [nesting] sites.” Most dinosaur egg fossils have been found in Late Cretaceous rocks. Co-author David Evans says, “This amazing series of 190 million year old nests gives us the first detailed look at dinosaur reproduction early in their evolutionary history, and documents the antiquity of nesting strategies that are only known much later in the dinosaur record.”2 “What’s so important about it,” he explains, “is that it gives us a very detailed window into the evolution of reproduction in dinosaurs right at the base of their family tree, just as they were starting to take over the world.”3 The researchers believe their evidence of dinosaur parental care, gregarious colonial nesting behavior, and seasonal return to nesting sites suggests these nesting behaviors evolved early in dinosaur history.
At the risk of disturbing this touching scene of maternal devotion, we should examine several key points. First of all, while eggs were in tightly packed clutches, the researchers specified there was no “definitive . . . evidence of nest construction.”1 Furthermore, the tracks offered as evidence for dino babies remaining near their nests were not found where the eggs were found. There were no dinosaur tracks at all “within the nest-bearing succession”1 “Numerous tiny prints are scattered”1 elsewhere on broken slabs along with fossil evidence of swimming fish.
The 10-meter thick road cut (containing the 2-meter thick bed with the eggs) consists of many layers of fine sediment with “small desiccation cracks, wave ripples, and wrinkle marks”1 indicative of “repeated [at least 20] low-energy flooding events and ponding, usually followed by desiccation,”1 according to the authors. However, ripples and wrinkle marks are made by moving water, and cracks do not necessarily imply desiccation. Cracks are equally consistent with rapid water drainage from recently deposited, rapidly buried sediment. The weight of subsequent sediment deposits would have squeezed water out of the underlying layers of sediment containing the eggs and tracks, causing those layers to eventually dry, shrink, and crack.4
The researchers admit, “[t]he precise time interval separating each nest level is difficult to assess.”1 Thus, even though the researchers believe dinosaurs returned seasonally, the layers could have been deposited within hours or days of each other, with some layers burying clutches of eggs. There is no evidence the dino-mommies built any nests at all. We don’t even know whether they dug out some sort of hole, but given the tendency of evolutionary paleontologists to explain bird behavior as an evolutionary derivative from dinosaurs, we need to avoid thinking of these so-called “nests” as some sort of bird-like construction.
The researchers also suggest the tender image of dinosaur mothers arranging eggs after laying them. But the last time we saw the arrangement of small fossils being offered as evidence another creature had intentionally arranged them, we were reporting on the ridicule certain members of the scientific community received when they suggested a giant squid played with its food.5 The dinosaurs may have simply laid their eggs all at once, as other reptiles do. The image of dino-siblings toddling around the nest doesn’t seem supportable either. There appears to have been sufficient calcium carbonate (a natural cement, now concentrated in nodules)1 originally dispersed through the in the water-borne sediment to preserve tracks, yet no tracks were preserved near the nests. Furthermore, no dino-toddlers were buried with the eggs and embryos. The dino-daycare seems uninhabited.
Meanwhile, dino babies were leaving their tracks elsewhere to be preserved by sudden burial in sediment borne by surging floodwater carrying fish. Since no actual hatchlings or tracks were found near the eggs, the relationship of the 15 mm tracks’ owners to the parent dinosaurs can only be a matter for speculation. The researchers described the eggshells as being extremely thin.1 Some living reptiles retain their eggs until the shells thin completely away and give birth to live young. Little is known about dinosaur reproduction, but based on the various reproductive strategies seen in living reptiles, it is possible these sauropods laid their eggs when they were nearly ready to hatch. Perhaps the mother dinosaurs retained eggs in their bodies as long as possible during turbulent conditions, allowing longer for development. But whether or not these dinosaurs would have normally cared for their young simply cannot be determined from these fossils.
The biblical account of the global Flood about 4,300 years ago explains these findings. Conventional dating of this Jurassic layer as 190 million years old is based on a number of unverifiable assumptions. The layers of the geological column are predominantly a record of the order of burial during the Flood, not millions of years of evolution. Larger animals would have been able to flee the rising water for a time. The Flood did not instantaneously cover the whole earth but according to Genesis chapter 7 rose over a period of weeks. Thus as oceanic water carrying sediments surged repeatedly over the land, dinosaurs carrying eggs would likely have hastened to deposit them on any briefly exposed land after the water ebbed and temporarily receded. Each surge of water would have deposited a fresh load of sediment, burying the latest batches of eggs as well as fresh tracks made by very young dinosaurs. The evidence from Rooidraai is therefore fully consistent with biblical history. Truly, as the researchers say, “unusually intense, out-of-season flooding events” rapidly buried these eggs. An apt description of the rising waters of the biblical Flood!
Classic black never goes out of style.
At least one feather from the extinct bird Archaeopteryx was apparently black. But more than that: this supposedly 150–million-year-old fossil feather is a very modern black. Surprised researchers found the minute microscopic structure of the feather “identical to that of modern bird plumage.”
“It means that completely modern flight feathers had evolved as early as 150 million years ago, in the Jurassic period,” says evolutionary biologist Ryan Carney, who led the research team. To determine the original color, Carney’s team used a scanning electron microscope to image the feather. They compared the size and shape of melanosomes—pigment-containing structures—to melanosomes of 115 modern bird feathers. Besides noting the feather’s ultrastructural anatomy appeared completely modern, they found the type and density of melanosomes a good match for modern black feathers.
In an effort to learn how dinosaurs or birds evolved flight, Carney’s team hoped feather color would offer a clue. Black feathers have a high density of melanosomes, and melanosomes can bind to keratin protein to increase feather strength and durability. “In modern bird feathers, these melanosomes provide additional strength and resistance to abrasion from flight,” Carney said. “With Archaeopteryx, as with birds today, the melanosomes we found would have provided similar structural advantages, regardless of whether the pigmentation initially evolved for another purpose.”6
Even if all the feathers were black, though, Carney notes the “stronger color” would still not indicate whether Archaeopteryx was truly flight-capable or just in training to evolve by gliding down from trees. “Whether it was using its wings for flying or gliding, its feathers would still have been strengthened by having these melanosomes,” Carney said. “This would have been advantageous during this early evolutionary stage of dinosaur flight.”6
Archaeopteryx is an extinct bird with exquisite real feathers identical to those of living birds. Some evolutionists insist the Archaeopteryx is a transitional form because it had teeth, digits on its wings, and a long tail. However, these features occur in other extinct or living birds. Archaeopteryx has long been the object of a tug-of-war between the dinosaur-camp and bird-camp. Some evolutionists call it a “winged dinosaur,” a convenient way to recruit genuine wings and feathers for dinosaurs in the quest to convince people dinosaurs evolved into birds.
That the supposedly 150–million-year-old feather seems to be a perfectly modern feather in every way, down to the smallest detectable detail, should come as no surprise. The idea that dinosaurs evolved into birds or that this creature evolved millions of years ago from anything is unsupportable untestable conjecture. But its modern ultrastructure is consistent with God’s eyewitness account in the book of Genesis. God created birds on the fifth day of Creation week about 6,000 years ago and the dinosaurs and other land animals on the sixth day. He designed all fully functional and able to reproduce after their kinds—able to vary but not to evolve into other kinds of creatures. The marvelous design of the feather did not have to evolve, and flying birds were capable of flight when God made them and said, “Let birds fly above the earth” (Genesis 1:20).
Blogger displays his lack of understanding of creation science.
A recent National Public Radio blog post asks why so many have “trouble believing in evolution.” The writer cites Gallup statistics and then concludes, “Religious belief interferes with people’s understanding of what the theory of evolution says.” Implicit in his conclusion, of course, is the notion that anyone who actually understands evolutionary dogma will accept it. In fact, by pointing out in his title that accepting evolution is a matter of belief, he rightly acknowledges that acceptance of evolution—like acceptance of any position regarding origins science—involves faith.
Origins science by nature involves assertions about processes that cannot be observed or assessed by repeatable tests. The origin of the universe and of life is in the past. It is not possible to go back and watch those origins happen. Observational science requires observable subjects. Our origins are simply not observable. Therefore, any belief about origins must depend on faith of some sort. Biblical creationists accept God’s eyewitness account of origins and find His account is not violated by any observable science. Evolutionists, on the other hand, have faith that random processes acting over long periods of time produced all we see today. Without an eyewitness account of those origins or any way to actually test those origins in real time, an evolutionist is putting faith in a “just-so story” and then searching for scientific evidence to support his position.
The primary reason we reject evolution is our choice to have faith in God’s Word instead of faith in man’s ideas. The secondary reason we confidently reject evolutionary notions is not failure to understand evolution but because we do understand evolutionary claims and find them wanting! Religious belief—in the Bible, that is—provides the material to develop concepts (such as the fact that organisms reproduce after their created kinds) and models (such as the models of Flood geology and the Ice Age triggered by the global Flood) that are consistent with scientific observations. Understanding evolutionary ideas, however, unveils the unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions, circular reasoning, and equivocal definitions on which evolution’s support is based.
The NPR blogger asserts, “The evidence for evolution is overwhelming.” Then he declares the evidence is in the fossil record. He neglects to mention the lack of transitional forms—a problem Darwin himself noted. He claims the “fossil record, carefully dated using radioactivity . . . works like a very precise clock” and provides “a very accurate measure of the age of a fossil.” Here the blogger shows his failure to understand several important facts.
In the first place, fossils supposedly millions of years old are not dated “by radioactivity.” Radiometric dating methods—other than carbon dating, which is incapable of dating anything millions of years old—are primarily used to date igneous and metamorphic rocks. Fossils, however, are buried in sedimentary rocks. Radiometric dating is sometimes used to date volcanic rocks sandwiching fossil-containing layers, but generally speaking the estimated ages of the fossils are not directly derived from this “very precise clock.”
Secondly, radiometric methods are all based on a number of unverifiable assumptions, such as assumptions about the original amounts of radiogenic substances, the constancy of the rate of decay over deep time, and the certainty of no contamination.7
And finally, these dating methods are used to calibrate and confirm each other. While the methods may yield impressively precise numbers giving the illusion of reliability, in reality the accuracy of the dates can only be assessed by comparison with an objective standard of known age. If all the “known ages” are derived from methods resting on these unverifiable assumptions, then accuracy—how close to the truth a measurement really is—cannot be scientifically assessed.
Some suggest molecular clocks confirm radiometric dates. Yet molecular clock methods are also built on unverifiable assumptions such as the constancy of mutation rates over deep time and even the assumption that numerous information-losing mutations can add up to a gain of information. Furthermore, molecular clocks are calibrated in accordance with fossil age estimates extrapolated from radiometric decay rates, another case of circular reasoning. Finally, molecular clock databases are built on a foundation of statistical manipulation that violates the rules of statistics. (See News to Note, December 3, 2011 and News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review for more about these mathematical games.)
Then the blogger moves from his inadequate discussion of the “overwhelming” fossil evidence for evolution to an equally inadequate discussion of antibiotic resistance as “conclusive” evidence of evolution. Here he misrepresents Answers in Genesis molecular geneticist Dr. Georgia Purdom, saying she denies mutation’s role in the development of antibiotic resistance and fails to provide evidence for her assertions. The blogger fails to note Dr. Purdom’s scholarly article in Answers Research Journal8 detailing the role of both horizontal gene transfer and adaptive mutation in the changing character of bacteria.
The evidence he cites to support his contention that antibiotic resistance proves evolution is a 2010 article9 only describing how natural selection acts on genetic information acquired by “spontaneous chromosomal mutations, or . . . by horizontal gene transfer” to produce resistant populations. The bacteria possessing the genetic ability to resist antibiotics have a competitive advantage when exposed to antibiotics, so natural selection acts on the population to produce a predominantly resistant one. But the bacteria are the same kind of organism they were before. Creation scientists do not deny the obvious observable results of natural selection in refining the characteristics of populations. Such variation within created kinds does not violate the biblical principle of reproduction of organisms “after their kinds.” Neither does such variation support or prove Darwinian evolution of new kinds of organisms.
Finally, the blogger puzzles about why anyone would mind believing in evolution. In essence, he is asking why we—as biblical creationists—care. We might ask him the same. Why does an evolutionist care that “only 39 percent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution”? The fact is, what a person believes about the origin of life reflects his choice of the ultimate authority in his life. Why should an evolutionist care about those who accept God’s Word as the standard and authority in their lives? On the other hand, biblical creationists are concerned about making sure people understand—there’s that word again, understand—the truth of God’s Word. If a person knows he can trust God’s Word from the beginning, then he can fairly evaluate the claims of Jesus Christ who points out we are all sinners in need of the blood He shed to redeem us for all eternity. Evolutionary beliefs do not keep anyone out of heaven, per se, but those beliefs compromise Scripture and cause many to stumble by failing to fairly consider the claims of Christ found in those same Scriptures..
So, no, our “strong resistance to evolution” does not spring from a “deep dislike for a scientific understanding of how nature works” or a fear that scientific explanations will crowd out God. We love learning more about how God designed and sustains our world. That true scientific knowledge prompts us to praise our Creator. The fact is we understand evolution too well to accept it, and we understand that God’s truth in the Bible provides the eternal foundation on which we can build our lives and understand the world around us.
“Potentially prebiotic conditions” permit production of right-handed carbs.
“The desire to know where we come from permeates our psyche and is part of what makes us Human. Obviously for Life to have begun all the molecules needed to create Life must have been present; however, our understanding how these molecules arose is incomplete. Especially perplexing is how did carbohydrates, which are needed to mediate a host of biological processes and are present in DNA and RNA, arise in the first instance? And why are these carbohydrates all of the same ‘right-handed’ form, when amino acids are of the opposite ‘left-handed’ form?”10 So reads the University of York web announcement of Dr. Paul Clarke’s publication of a paper he believes shows how the building blocks of life fell into place in the prebiotic world.
“For life to have evolved,” Clarke says, “you have to have a moment when non-living things become living -- everything up to that point is chemistry. We are trying to understand the chemical origins of life. One of the interesting questions is where carbohydrates come from because they are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. What we have achieved is the first step on that pathway to show how simple sugars -- threose and erythrose -- originated. We generated these sugars from a very simple set of materials that most scientists believe were around at the time that life began.”
Last week we described research involving threose nucleic acid (TNA)11 as a potentially simpler nucleic acid for the leap to the most primitive genetic code. Threose is a four-carbon sugar; therefore, the odds of threose forming spontaneously from two two-carbon molecules seem greater than the odds of spontaneous production of the five-carbon ribose used in RNA. However, the prebiotic production of life’s chemical building blocks is hampered by the need to produce the mirror image form of molecules demanded by living systems. Biomolecules can typically exist in chiral (mirror image) forms. Only one of the mirror image molecular forms—left-handed amino acids and right-handed carbohydrates, for instance—function in living systems. But when these biomolecules are produced outside of living systems, both mirrored forms are produced.
Clarke’s group found that they could use left-handed amino acids to catalyze the synthesis of predominantly right-handed sugar molecules. They believe their experimental conditions mimicked those in the prebiotic world and therefore think similar processes could have produced the right-handed form of sugars like threose and erythrose, the chiral forms that could be the raw materials for a primitive life form.
There are several problems with Clarke’s molecules-to-life scenario. First of all, he had to start with left-handed amino acids. Since the shape of an enzyme creates a shaped space in which a chemical reaction takes place, it is not surprising that left-handed enzymatically active molecules produced the proper chiral form. But where does he suppose the prebiotic world got its stock of left-handed amino acids? For that matter, like the old Miller–Urey experiment, the active control of experimental conditions demands a great deal of intelligent input and therefore in no way imitates random processes postulated to produce an evolutionary spark of life. Finally, as we discussed last week, even if random chemistry did produce all the building blocks of life and assemble them into primitive information-containing molecules like RNA and DNA, the molecules would contain no information. Chemicals could certainly hold a coded message that could be copied, but without God to provide the original information and a mechanism in place to translate and understand and act on that coded message, the chiral chemical would spell nothing but chaotic nonsense.
Furthermore, the university website asserts “Obviously for Life to have begun all the molecules needed to create Life must have been present.” The Bible tells us, however, that God in the beginning created ex nihilo, from nothing. God needed no organic raw materials. And if we wish “to know where we come from,” the God who created us and loves us has given us His own eyewitness account. That eyewitness account does not violate any observations of science.
Biological observations tell us life only comes from life. And information must come from a source of information. The living Creator God made all physical matter and all living things in the beginning, about 6,000 years ago. And He created the genetic code to enable all kinds of living things to reproduce and vary within their created kinds. His eyewitness account is in Genesis.
Hox gene researchers sniff at a common ancestor.
A well-known homeobox (hox) gene in the fruit fly has even more functions than previously known. The essential role this gene and similar genes in vertebrates play in early embryonic development has implications for human neurological and stem cell research, researchers at University of Wisconsin–Madison suggest. They also suggest humans and fruit flies share a common ancestor.
Homeobox genes are master switches that turn whole groups of other genes on and off and thus control many aspects of development. Much of the research on these genes has been done on fruit flies. Many vertebrate homeobox genes have been identified on the basis of similar gene sequences with fruit fly genes. Dr. Grace Boekhoff-Falk’s team studies a fruit fly gene known as distal-less (dll), which has long been known to control limb and peripheral nervous system development. Humans and vertebrate animals have six similar genes called DLX. DLX genes help control brain development, including development of the olfactory system.
Boekhoff-Falk’s team found that dll has even more roles in fruit fly development than previously thought, including controlling olfactory system and central nervous system development. This control, they found, is manifested very early in larval development by controlling the differentiation of stem cells. She hopes the fruitfly model will lead to greater insight into human neurological developmental abnormalities. She also says, “Our model may be useful for further analysis of how this gene regulates stem cells” by revealing “the growth inputs needed to keep the stem-ness of the cells.”
But in addition to helping unravel neurological mysteries and control stem cells, Boekhoff-Falk believes her team’s work challenges a prevailing view among evolutionists. “The prevailing view is that fly and mammal olfactory systems evolved independently, multiple times over history. But our work challenges that view. We think that when it comes to the olfactory system there may be a common ancestor shared by flies and mammals.” Vertebrates and invertebrates are so very different, evolutionists generally believe the existence of similar systems—such as the ability to smell—evolved convergently. But since her team has found that homologous homeobox genes are involved in the olfactory development of both humans and fruit flies, she says, “This supports the idea that the last common ancestor already had some form of olfactory system and that the overall architecture and key elements of the underlying genetics have been well conserved over time.”
Since the discovery of homeobox genes, evolutionists have pointed to them as a genetic mechanism for evolution of brand new body designs. After all, the reasoning goes, if flipping a genetic switch can change the number of legs a creature has, doesn’t that make it a new creature? Evolution becomes a process of subtracting information to build new kinds of organisms. The gene switches themselves are part of the genetic information making each kind of organism unique. The ultimately insurmountable problem for homeobox-mediated evolution is the origin of that pool of genetic information in the first place.
The Bible asserts that God created all creatures to reproduce after their kinds. This biblical truth is confirmed in science: each organism has genetic information to vary within its kind but is unable to acquire information to evolve into a new kind of organism. Homeobox genes don’t change that. There are genetic similarities among different kinds because our common Designer—God—utilized similar designs to meet various biological and developmental needs. In fact, those design similarities make medical research using animal models—like fruit flies and mice—possible. Similar roles for genes with some sequence similarities do not prove one organism evolved from the other or even that God used one as the raw material for the other. God told us in His eyewitness account that He made all kinds of organisms during Creation Week and created them to reproduce after their kinds.
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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