Glossy black flirt by any other name is still a bird.
Microraptor melanosomes (small packets of pigment) arrayed in fossilized feathers are comparable to those in iridescent black feathers of modern birds. Such is the verdict of a Chinese-American team after examining a fossilized “four-winged” Microraptor from Cretaceous rock in China’s Liaoning Province. The team does not believe the Microraptor could fly, so it needed an evolutionary excuse for the existence of well-developed feathers—a necessary step on the supposed evolutionary path to true bird flight. They therefore believe the Microraptor, which they consider a feathered dinosaur, evolved shiny feathers to attract mates. The attractiveness of such feathers, useless for flight they write, influenced “selection for aerodynamic attributes early in the evolution of birds.”1
“Most aspects of early dinosaur feathering continue to be interpreted as fundamentally aerodynamic, optimized for some aspect of aerial locomotion,” says co-author Julia Clarke. “Some of these structures were clearly ancestral characteristics that arose for other functions and stuck around, while others may be linked to display behaviors or signaling of mate quality.”
“Modern birds use their feathers for many different things, ranging from flight to thermoregulation to mate-attracting displays,” adds co-author Matt Shawkey. “Iridescence is widespread in modern birds and is frequently used in displays. Our evidence that Microraptor was largely iridescent thus suggests that feathers were important for display even relatively early in their evolution.”
As microscopic pigment packets, melanosomes’ shape, density, and arrangement are related to the color and iridescent quality in modern feathers and therefore presumably in Microraptor feathers. The investigators compared melanosomes from the fossilized feathers with those of modern birds and thereby determined the Microraptor had “dark glossy plumage.”1
The new fossil, along with eight other Microraptor fossils discovered since 2003, has unmistakable feathers similar to the asymmetrically vaned flight feathers of modern birds. The Microraptor has two pairs of wings, the second pair being “hind limb feathers”1 in addition to a long thin tail plume with two long feathers at the tip. Paleontologists have debated about whether Microraptor was able to fly.
The authors of this study insist Microraptor could not fly based on their assessment of its anatomy. Co-author Mark Norell said, “Crows don’t have teeth. Crows don’t have claws on its hands. The hands are identical to things we think of as mean vicious animals, like velociraptor.”
Many evolutionists, like this team, believe the best Microraptor could manage was a glide from the treetops and consider the hind-most feathers to be an aerodynamic hindrance. However, since such fossils were produced by a crushing burial, the three dimensional structure of Microraptor is debated among experts. Some say modern birds have nothing resembling the Microraptor’s dragonfly-like hind wings, but others believe the three dimensional view would reveal these feathers “project backwards from the leg, much as do the relatively long leg feathers of many living raptors.”2—feathers which have no direct role in flight but do not hinder these hunters soaring to seek their prey.
While no living birds have teeth, the extinct bird Archaeopteryx had teeth, fingers on its wings, and a long tail. Another extinct bird, the Hesperornis, had teeth. The ostrich has fingers on is wings, and the young hoatzin of South America has fingers and toes with which it climbs trees. And while the feathers of this Microraptor have the same asymmetry seen in modern flight feathers, not all birds fly. Whether Microraptor actually flew or not is not relevant to its classification.
Since no definitive dinosaurs with feathers have appeared in the fossil record—only dinosaurs with fuzzy-looking collagen fibers that do not qualify in any way as transitional feathers—many evolutionists seeking to explain the evolution of feathers would like to find transitional evolutionary forms. Microraptor did not help their case. Instead, these feathers appear grossly and microscopically modern both in shape and microstructure. While the researchers in this study believe their specimen is a feathered dinosaur, they have only reaffirmed the lack of evidence for feather evolution in the fossil record by shining the spotlight on the essentially modern quality of these fossil feathers—supposedly 120–130 million years old.
Not all paleontologists agree with those who refuse to call Microraptor a bird. For instance, Professor Larry Martin of the University of Kansas said, “To me a bird is an animal with an avian hand and wrist with primary flight feathers. By that definition microraptor is definitely a bird.”3 Famous expert on bird evolution Alan Feduccia has said, “The microraptors of China are birds, regardless of their ancestry.” [quoted in Did Microraptor gui invent the biplane before the Wright brothers?]
God created “every winged bird according to its kind” (Genesis 1:21) on the fifth day of Creation week. He said, “Let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens” (Genesis 1:20). The next day, God made each “beast of the earth, each according to its kind” (Genesis 1:24), including dinosaurs. Birds fully equipped to fly were flying the day before dinosaurs were even created.
Dinosaurs did not evolve into birds. Many anatomical differences between them make such a transition impossible. No genetic mechanism enabling an organism to acquire information to evolve into a completely new kind has ever been found. No evidence of feather evolution has been found in the fossil record or in this study. But thanks to this study, artists painting pictures of the world God made about 6,000 years ago can be reasonably confident as they make these birds shine in the sunlight of that first world.
Strange train of historical connections illogically links “anti- evolution” to apartheid.
Teachers at some South African schools are reportedly resistant to teaching evolution. Responding to the report, Dr. Jurie van den Heever, an evolutionary paleontologist and outspoken anti-creationist, told Cape Town’s News24, “If you are against evolution, you are pro-apartheid. If you still think the South African population is divided up into races, not ecotypes, . . . and they are different from one another based on racial characteristics . . . you are ignoring evolution totally.” Through a string of historically related connections, he concludes teachers who refuse to teach evolution may be “actually contravening the grondwet [constitution].”
Van den Heever reasons that teaching evolution was once outlawed due to church influence in the national education system. “Today,” he says, “we still have lots of people and specifically teachers with baggage - that kind of baggage - throwing a shadow on evolution. . . . In the various churches, people still view evolution with some suspicion. The South African constitution guarantees freedom of religion and permits observance of religious services at state institutions, on condition that attendance is ‘free and voluntary.’”
South African Department of Education policy currently prescribes teaching molecules-to-man evolution in high school and recommends two weeks be devoted to “alternatives to evolution, including creationism and intelligent design.” Religious activities are not prohibited in schools so long as they are voluntary. But because he associates the historical refusal of teaching evolution to a time when the official church and state were entangled and their apartheid policies caused so much suffering, van den Heever views disbelief in evolution as a throwback to the days of apartheid.
The amazing thing about these conclusions is how completely backward they are. While racism did not originate with evolution, evolution has been used to support and justify racism to horrifying degrees. History shows this to be the case in Nazi Germany. History also shows this to be the case in the persecution of Australian Aborigines. Even the title and substance of Darwin’s famous volumes, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man, memorialized Darwin’s belief that some people groups are more highly evolved than others. In the latter, Darwin called people with dark skin “degraded,” made 245 references to “savages,” and indicated his preference to be descended from a monkey than from such a “savage.”4 Evolutionist Stephen J. Gould observed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.” 5 It is evolutionary principles that align with apartheid, not the reverse.
Furthermore, while some churches over the years—unfortunately including the denomination closely associated with the South African government during the time of apartheid—have been guilty of accepting the racist views of the cultures in which they reside and even of trying to twist Scripture to support such views, the Bible does not support or condone racism. In fact, the Bible does not even consider people to belong to different races but rather shows all people of all varieties are descended from Adam and Eve. All people groups and variations developed over the past 6,000 years are equal in the sight of God and have redemption through Jesus Christ’s shed blood equally available to them.
Thus, to recall the past association of confused church doctrine with apartheid is to recall a historical tragedy. Thankfully, South African Christian churches, some of which never bought into the biblically unsound racist position, were ultimately instrumental in abolishing such racial discrimination. But to equate “anti-evolution” with apartheid is an illogical travesty.
“The inability to observe past mutation rates means that the timing of events from genetic data remains uncertain,” report Cambridge geneticists.6
The gorilla, like the chimpanzee and orangutan, now has its genome sequenced. Cambridge researchers report a few surprises. Nevertheless, they hope according to their leader Richard Curbin to discover “what happened genetically in our evolutionary history, and of how those genes affect the brain and other properties that make us modern humans.” They are searching for “genetic factors that led to the emergence of human thought.”
Molecular clock calculations for divergence from our proposed apelike ancestor were “at variance with certain aspects of the fossil record, including several fossils which have been proposed—though not universally accepted—to be hominins, and therefore to postdate the human-chimpanzee split,”6 the researchers write. “Indeed, the relationship between molecular and fossil evidence has remained difficult to resolve despite the accumulation of genetic data.”6
In an effort to explain this discrepancy, the researchers suggest “mutation rates changing over time.”6 They add, “An alternative explanation for the apparent discrepancy in fossil and genetic dates (leaving aside the issue of whether fossil taxa have been correctly placed) is that ancestral demography may have affected the genetic influences.”6
While evolutionary geneticists would never concede the entire Darwinian presumption underlying their conclusions depends on unverifiable, unobservable past events never seen in the present, they admit “the inability to observe past mutation rates means that the timing of events from genetic data remains uncertain.”6 As a compromise position, they suggest the orangutan, gorilla, and chimpanzee diverged from the common ancestor shared with humans 14 million, 10 million, and 6 million years ago. This solution keeps conventional evolutionary branch points intact, with the chimpanzee remaining the closest human relative, but pushes the timing farther back.
Gorillas and humans also share a surprisingly large number of genes, they report, as do gorillas and chimpanzees. One of the genes shared by gorillas and humans relates to hearing. Evolutionists have generally thought language developed as a result of human auditory improvements. However, discovery of this special gene in gorillas calls “into question a previous link made between accelerated evolution of auditory genes in humans and language evolution.”6 That leaves evolutionary anthropologists back at square one on the language question. Genetic anthropologist Wolfgang Enard explains, “If you find this in the gorilla, this option is out of the window.”7 As creationist Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins reports in his analysis, the “Gorilla Genome Is Bad News for Evolution”!8
Furthermore, language demands the use of symbols and requires abstract thinking. The question of “when the first genes emerged that made humans capable of abstract thought” remains the puzzle Durbin’s group hopes to solve. Of course, the Bible’s account of history explains the origin of language. God created Adam and Eve fully able to communicate and gave Adam the job of naming the animals.
Molecular clock calculations appear authoritative and factual. Yet molecular clocks depend upon unverifiable assumptions about the unobservable untestable past. For instance, mutation rates must be constant for conclusions to be valid. Even in the short term, that assumption has already been disproven in humans. (See “Molecular clock off-line” in News to Note, June 18, 2011.) As these researchers note, such calculations suffer from “the inability to observe past mutation rates.” But the root of the problem goes deeper, to the heart of the statistical methods involved, as we discussed in News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review.
Furthermore, dating the fossil record—another possible flaw they mention—is based on additional unverifiable assumptions about a number of uniform constants in the past—from sedimentation rates to radioactive decay rates. And yet beyond the “when” is the question of “how.” How could the genetic information to change one kind of organism into another kind be randomly acquired through genetically destructive mutations? Neither molecular genetics nor the fossil record has produced evidence of transitional forms, only distinct kinds of organisms with variations within the kinds—findings consistent with God’s report in Genesis chapter one that He created all kinds of living things with the inference that they were to reproduce after their kinds.
Statistical percentages of human and ape genome similarity also appear impressive—“Initial comparisons confirm that chimpanzees are our closest relatives, sharing 99% of our DNA. Gorillas come a close second with 98%, and orangutans third with a 97% share.” But many casual observers don’t realize how much bias is built into these numbers. Molecular geneticist and creationist Dr. Georgia Purdom says, “People need to understand that many assumptions by the scientists, like human evolution from an ape-like ancestor, have a direct effect on how the scientists compare the genomes. They compare them in a way that will achieve the conclusion they have already determined is true—that humans and apes share common ancestry. It's truly a case of circular reasoning!”
Not only are “matching” areas preselected for comparison and thereby overemphasized, unmatched areas are systematically ignored. Publicized percentages further disguise the magnitude of ape-human differences. Millions of differences go “uncounted.” (See How Genomes are Sequenced and Why it Matters: Implications for Studies in Comparative Genomics of Humans and Chimpanzees and Genome-Wide DNA Alignment Similarity (Identity) for 40,000 Chimpanzee DNA Sequences Queried against the Human Genome is 86–89% for more about these methods.)
Even if geneticists determine actual genetic differences that enable humans to think abstractly, they will not have demonstrated how those differences “emerged.” Observation of all such “evolutionary history” about common ancestry is not only clouded by the mists of unconquerable time but actually created by the imaginative assumptions of evolutionists determined to reject the only eyewitness account of human origins—God’s eyewitness account in Genesis telling us He created Adam and Eve in His own image.
Many meat-eating mammals have mutated sweet sense.
Mammals are generally able to detect sweet tastes due to a gene called Tas1r2, but cats were recently found to have a mutation in this gene and nonfunctional sweet taste receptors as a result. The Monell Chemical Sense Center team that discovered kitties lack a “sweet tooth” just published their survey of 12 other mammalian taste abilities. Diet seemed significantly related to loss of sweet sense-ability, with loss most notable among carnivores.
“Sweet taste was thought to be nearly a universal trait in animals,” says behavioral biologist Gary Beauchamp. “That evolution has independently led to its loss in so many different species was quite unexpected.” Seven carnivores in the group—the sea lion, fur seal, Pacific harbor seal, Asian otter, spotted hyena, fossa, and banded lingsang—had defective sweet receptor genes. The mutations disabling the gene, however, varied. Five of the animals tested—the aardwolf, Canadian otter, spectacled bear, raccoon, and red wolf—had intact sweet receptors. This group includes carnivores and omnivores. Additional testing of the two marine mammals, both of which typically swallow food whole, revealed nonfunctioning receptors for some other tastes as well.
“Different animals live in different sensory worlds and this particularly applies to their worlds of food. Our findings provide further evidence that what animals like to eat - and this includes humans - is dependent to a significant degree on their basic taste receptor biology,” says Beauchamp. The team writes, “These data provide strong support for the view that loss of taste receptor function in mammals is widespread and directly related to feeding specializations.”9
The team did not, however, demonstrate any advantage to widespread loss of the functional “sweet tooth.” And clearly there is more to be learned about other roles for taste receptors as such receptors have been found in a variety of unexpected locations in mammals—the intestine, pancreas, nose, and lungs.
Plants are the main source of dietary sugars. The widespread presence of sweet receptor genes in carnivorous mammals may seem puzzling to evolutionists wondering why they evolved in the first place. However, from the Bible we know that all animals were originally vegetarians. Genesis 1:29–30 says, “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so.” Therefore, it makes sense from a biblical perspective that God would have provided animals and humans with functioning sweet receptors. That the gene is not particularly varied is also no surprise, as the receptors would detect the same sorts of sugar molecules for all.
Following Adam’s sin, the entire creation suffered under a curse and at some point violence began. We cannot know for certain when animals became carnivorous, but over time many clearly did. The fossil record, most of which was preserved during the global Flood, shows evidence of such behavior. Creatures vary within their kinds, so the eventual loss of a sense not particularly useful to certain kinds of animals through mutations and other factors (such as natural selection or random selection of those genetic traits in small populations—like those after the global Flood) is not unexpected. This change can only be considered an example of “convergent evolution”10 in the sense that ordinary variation and loss of information through mutations occurring separately in various kinds of creatures produced similar results. There is certainly nothing in the study to support the idea of upward evolution of new kinds of creatures from common ancestors. [Ed note: wording clarified March 19, 2012.]
Some like it hot; some like it cold; some think extraterrestrial amino acids seeded earth billions of years ago.
NASA scientists report extraterrestrial amino acids in meteorites showing evidence of exposure to extremely high temperatures. “Although we've found amino acids in carbon-rich meteorites before, we weren't expecting to find them in these specific groups, since the high temperatures they experienced tend to destroy amino acids,” says Dr. Aaron Burton, lead author on the paper announcing the discovery in Meteoritics and Planetary Science. “However,” he adds, “the kind of amino acids we discovered in these meteorites indicates that they were produced by a different, high-temperature process as their parent asteroids gradually cooled down.”
Previously found meteoric amino acids appear to have been produced by a spontaneous chemical reaction between water, cyanide, ammonia, and some simple organic compounds called aldehydes and ketones. Most of the amino acids found in these 14 Antarctic meteorites however are straight-chain amino acids that could have been produced spontaneously in a chemical reaction between hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen at high temperatures. Temperatures of 200 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit are required to promote this reaction, and no water is required. The random mixture of simple amino acids was not limited to the amino acids found in proteins, so the researchers do not think they were contaminants.
Why the excitement? The researchers write, “Carbonaceous meteorites are known to contain a wealth of indigenous organic molecules, including amino acids, which suggests that these meteorites could have been an important source of prebiotic organic material during the origins of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere.”11 Since no water is required for this mode of high temperature amino acid synthesis, Burton says, “You can begin making some prebiotic components of life very early, before you have asteroids or planets with liquid water,” possibly “on dust grains in the solar nebula” that evolutionists believe condensed to form the solar system. Thus, though evolutionary scientists believe liquid water is necessary for life to evolve, these reactions could have gotten molecules-to-man evolution off to a good start by providing ready-made raw materials.
The notion that such prebiotic preparation could have eased the way for the evolution of life is based on a number of unverifiable assumptions. First of all, the nebular hypothesis explanation of the origin of the solar system suffers from flawed physics, such as the non-conservation of angular momentum and the notion that colliding stardust would stick together well enough to form planets instead of just shattering into evermore debris. More importantly, nothing observed in science suggests random collections of non-living “prebiotic” chemicals could randomly assemble themselves into living cells.
The Bible tells us God spoke the earth into existence about 6,000 years ago. On the third, fifth, and sixth days of Creation week, He created the living components of His creation. He made the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. Genesis specifies God made Adam from the dust of the ground.12
There are many chemical reactions that can produce the chemicals we see in living things, but God created ex nihilo—from nothing. God did not require a space nebula to supply His raw materials.
Biological observations tell us life only comes from life. And information must be provided by a source of information. The living Creator God made all physical matter and all living things in the beginning, about 6,000 years ago.
The real scandal here is . . .that two utilitarians—of all people!—are contending that ideas should have no consequences. Isn’t bioethics a form of applied ethics? Doesn’t it aim to change the world? Peter Singer, who is the intellectual godfather of all the characters in this little drama, characteristically entitled his most influential book Practical Ethics. . . .’ We are not policy makers, we are philosophers, and we deal with concepts, not with legal policy,’ they [Giubilini and Minerva] pleaded. Could anything be more naïve? Immediately people become convinced that a course of action (e.g., protecting whales, abortion rights, same-sex marriage) is ethical, they begin demanding it as a right. Ideas always have consequences. Sometimes very bad consequences.15
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!
Help keep these daily articles coming. Support AiG.
“Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” This DVD features Bill Nye and Ken Ham debating one of the biggest questions concerning the scientific community today.
Answers magazine is the Bible-affirming, creation-based magazine from Answers in Genesis. In it you will find fascinating content and stunning photographs that present creation and worldview articles along with relevant cultural topics. Each quarterly issue includes a detachable chart, a pullout children’s magazine, a unique animal highlight, excellent layman and semi-technical articles, plus bonus content. Why wait? Subscribe today and get a FREE DVD download!