Media frenzy triggered by threat of dinosaurian aliens.
“Lizard overlords”?2 “Alien dinosaur chemists”?3 April Fools is over, and you’re not having a flashback to Star Trek: Voyager’s much-maligned episode “Distant Origin,” which features the famous line, “That creature napping in sick-bay is a dinosaur.”4 These eye-catching headlines actually got their start with a press release announcing Dr. Ronald Breslow’s latest article in the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society. The press release asked, “Could ‘advanced’ dinosaurs rule other planets?” It described Breslow’s efforts to explain the chemical origins of life but only after grabbing media attention by stating, “New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs — monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans — may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe.”5
Not to be missed in the official release was the stock dinosaur photo and Breslow’s conclusion—admittedly the only mention of dinosaurs in his article:
An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D-amino acids and L-sugars. Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth. We would be better off not meeting them.
Some comments on the web have implied the ACS press-officer is clueless for not realizing Breslow’s research really has nothing to do with dinosaurs. Others consider that individual brilliant for generating enormous publicity on a mundane topic the public would have otherwise ignored. As one reader of Smithsonian Magazine’s “Dinosaur Tracking” column wrote, “I feel a bit sorry for Breslow – what he probably saw as a throwaway line to finish off the paper and maybe make people stop and think for a moment was turned into the central theme of the press release by a press-officer. Still, it has got him far more publicity than he could possibly have otherwise . . . actually, now I don’t feel sorry for him at all and I want to hire his press officer! ”6
And what about Breslow? Not surprisingly, cyber-comments have also ranged from those recognizing Breslow’s conclusion as “a silly piece of fluff meant to close an otherwise esoteric piece on a humorous note”7 to remarks disparaging his research and insulting his age. (Breslow, 81, a recipient of many professional awards, is a professor of chemistry at Columbia University and a past president of the American Chemical Society.)8
We hesitate to put words in the professor’s mouth, so we’ll let him speak for himself. Breslow explained in an e-mail to the HuffingtonPost, “Mammals survived and became us only because the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid, so on a planet similar to ours without the asteroid collision it is unlikely that human types would be there, more probably advanced lizards (dinosaurs). . . . I just warn that they might well see us as food.”9
Not surprisingly, many evolutionists—eager to either rescue the reputation of evolutionary thinking or correct Breslow’s implications that evolution must follow destined paths of probability—responded quickly. Outspoken evolutionist PZ Myers wrote, “There is no reason to imaging [sic] that a saurian-mammalian transition is anything but a particular quirk of our particular planet’s evolutionary history—it is not a universal” and called Breslow’s paper “badly written nonsense.”9
Breslow’s research addressed the question of how life on earth got the right building blocks to evolve. Biochemical processes require specific mirror image forms of molecules to function. (This is called homochirality. Chiral means “mirror image.”) Many molecular structures can exist in mirror-image forms, and when randomly formed by non-living things, the laws of probability result in an equal number of both left-handed (L) and right-handed (D) molecules. Breslow writes, “For life to start on earth and elsewhere, it is critical that the building blocks—amino acids and sugars—be in predominant homochiral form.”10 He then noted that amino acids found in the Murchison meteorite (Australia, 1969) did not have an equal balance of the mirrored forms. He suggests the unexplained preponderance of “right circularly polarized light in this sector of the universe”10 may have irradiated amino acids on ancient meteorites, selectively destroyed certain mirror image forms, and left the remainder to seed the earth with the building blocks of life. His paper described how laboratory reactions begun with homochiral molecules produce homochiral products. The implication is therefore that prebiotic chemistry begun with homochiral building blocks could have perpetuated itself and built the biochemical world we know.
Without taking issue with Breslow’s actual research, Brian Switek, who wrote the Smithsonian Magazine’s “Dinosaurs From Space!” column, joins the chorus of correctors to point out that while the Permian and Triassic mass extinctions “drastically shaped evolutionary history,” the course of evolution is random. Switek asks, “Why on earth would we expect such patterns to be played out in just the right sequence on another planet? To say that there are dinosaurs on alien worlds presupposes that there is an irresistible direction that all life follows, and that dinosaurs are . . . inevitable actors in the drawn-out drama. There is no evidence that this is so.”
Actually, Dr. Breslow does not claim to have evidence. He does not claim his prebiotic scenario happened. Breslow explains, “Of course showing that it could have happened this way is not the same as showing that it did. Proper theories need the possibility of falsification.”10 Acknowledging that even with the proper building blocks evolutionists have no way to explain the chemical leap into life, Breslow writes, “Finally, of course, we all need ways in which these and other sensible building blocks could assemble into structures with the exciting properties of life.”10
So while evolutionists scramble to explain away Dr. Breslow’s sci-fi savvy conclusion as a senior moment, we will focus on the implications of his other conclusions. Evolutionary notions about the chemical origins of life are completely non-falsifiable. Why? Life already exists. The origin of life is in the unobservable past. Those origins cannot be subjected to the observable, repeatable testing required for confirmation or falsification of scientific theories and hypotheses. Furthermore, nothing in nature has ever demonstrated a way—as Breslow confirms—for life to randomly emerge from non-living chemicals. Biology continues to confirm the law of biogenesis: life comes from life. Why therefore should evolutionary scientists cling to the idea that life once appeared from prebiotic chemicals? Only because of a determination to ignore the only eyewitness account of the origin of life: God’s account in Genesis.
Bookish baboons said to demonstrate reading readiness pre-dated evolutionary emergence of humans.
A half-dozen happy baboons in France learned to recognize standard English words, demonstrating the biological building blocks for literacy are not unique to humans. “These biological mechanisms may be rooted much deeper in human evolutionary history than previously supposed,” write the authors of an analysis of the baboon study.11
Baboons with touch-screen computers were shown thousands of four-letter English words and some “non-words.” According to lead author Jonathan Grainger, “The first thing that comes up is a string of four letters, which at random could be a real English word or what we call a 'non-word' — a string of letters that's not a real English word.”12 They got treats whenever they punched an oval button for a real word or an “X” for a non-word. The non-words featured uncommon letter combinations. All the baboons learned to recognize at least 80 words, and clever Dan learned 308. Most interesting of all is the fact that the baboons became sufficiently familiar with common English letter combinations to score an average of almost 75% accuracy in distinguishing words from non-words they’d never seen.
The evolutionary underpinnings of reading skills have long puzzled evolutionists. Archaeological evidence of reading skills, they say, dates back “about 5,000 years ago in the Middle East.” But “reading spread across the ancient world so quickly that it cannot have required genetic changes and entirely new brain circuitry. Those don't evolve quickly enough. Instead, its rapid spread suggests that reading co-opted existing neural structures.”
Monkeys clearly lack language, so these pattern recognition skills may have evolved to help them recognize each other or objects in the environment, evolutionists suggest. “Brain circuits that evolved to serve one purpose are often ‘recycled’ in humans to support new, culturally specified functions.”11
“Brains are always looking for patterns,” Duke neuroscientist Michael Platt says. “They are always looking to make some statistical pattern analysis of the features and events that are in the environment. And this would just be one of those. . . . It's a very different way of thinking about what reading and writing really are, and it could have some implications, for example, for thinking about how we might improve education in reading and writing for young children.”12
Some suggest this research has implications for literacy education and the treatment of learning disabilities, but even that contention assumes humans evolved from ape-like ancestors or had to evolve cognitive abilities along the path to true humanity. Similar neurological designs may or may not operate the same way in humans and baboons. But if they operate the same way, the cause is our Common Designer and not common ancestry.
God provided the only eyewitness account of human origins in Genesis. We know from the Old Testament that God created Adam and Eve fully human and possessing language about 6,000 years ago. The fact that pattern recognition skills are present in humans and some animals (including pigeons, which can also recognize alphabet letters) does not prove any sort of shared origin or even convergent evolution. The reason the time course for human “evolution” of sufficient braininess to read seems so short is that humans did not have to evolve those abilities at all. And because the human beings dispersed from Babel less than 4,300 years ago, as described in Genesis chapter 10, possessed language skills, we are not surprised to see archaeological evidence of reading and writing—even of multilingual word lists on clay tablets from Ebla—in ancient Middle Eastern cultures.
Did Viking find life on Mars?
A review of data from the 1976 Viking mission suggests unmanned Mars rovers really did find evidence of life. Admittedly, not the sort of sentient life conjured up by C. S. Lewis in Out of the Silent Planet, but maybe some microbial biochemical factories nonetheless. Dr. Gilbert Levin believes Viking was “The most remarkable unmanned mission ever” and doesn’t want space historians to neglect its discoveries when the final chapter on Martian life is written.
“Twenty or thirty years from now, when the economy permits NASA to rise again,” Levin says, “there will be missions to Mars, and they will find life, and they will take credit for it and not mention Viking at all.” Dr. Levin developed Viking’s “Labeled Release” experiment to detect evidence of life and has since spent decades analyzing the data. (He originally named his experiment “Gulliver” in honor of the Lilliputian organisms it was designed to detect.)13
Levin and colleagues have again reviewed all the Viking data, and their analysis, just published in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences, still maintains there is strong evidence of “a robust biological response.”14 They write, “The complexity pattern . . . strongly suggests biology.”14 They believe the results of the “Labeled Release” radioisotope microbe detection tests, which suggested the presence of living organisms, were erroneously written off.
The Labeled Release recipe consisted of Martian dirt samples mixed with radioactively tagged organic nutrients and a drop of water. If the air above the mixture subsequently contained tagged metabolic gases (like carbon dioxide or methane), then scientists were to assume living microbes had metabolized the nutrients. As a control, a separate mixture was zapped with enough heat to kill anything that might be alive. The experiment actually did produce positive results suggesting microbes lived in Martian dirt.
So why did NASA ignore those results? Other experiments failed to corroborate the evidence. For instance, Viking found no evidence of organic compounds in the soil. Living organisms are expected to produce some sort of organics. Therefore, the astrobiologists of the day decided to err on the side of caution and assume there was some other explanation for the results.
Levin anticipates the Curiosity, currently en route to Mars with more sophisticated equipment, will find those elusive organic compounds in the soil. (See News to Note, November 26, 2011 for a discussion of the tests Curiosity carries.)
Of course finding organic compounds would not necessarily mean living things are present, as organic compounds appear to be present even in interstellar dust and lifeless meteorites. But if the microbial life suggested by “Gulliver” is confirmed, Levin—who has been involved with the project since 1958—wants to be sure Viking gets its place in the sun. He says, “The stories increasingly omit any mention of Viking. I think Viking should be lauded rather than ignored.”
According to a developer of the new generation of instruments now being sent to Mars, Paul Mahaffy, “Life on Earth means water, energy and the complexity of carbon chemistry. We'll be looking for all of the above, but with a special emphasis on the complexity.”15 It is just such biological complexity Levin’s team detected in the original Viking data.
The Bible does not say God didn’t create life elsewhere, but the Bible does tell us God created all life on Earth during the first six days of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. And on the fourth day of that week, God records He created the sun, moon, and stars. Scientists have never observed life evolve from non-living components, and the Bible records God’s orderly creation of many kinds of living things without either millions of years or molecules-to-man evolution.
The driving force behind the urgent search for extra-terrestrial life for much of the scientific community is the desire to validate evolutionary ideas. Yet if life were to be indisputably found on another world, its existence would not prove molecules-to-man evolution ever occurred. Such life would simply be another demonstration of God’s creative power to create life where He chooses.
Abuse the elderly and discard the disabled: twin threats of euthanasia
Criminologist Jeremy Prichard, in the latest issue of the Journal of Law and Medicine, counters the call to legalize voluntary euthanasia with a sober warning. Prichard’s article is a response to a recent publication encouraging legalization of euthanasia in Australia because theirs is “a secular society with an aging population.” Prichard asserts the “individual autonomy” championed by euthanasia advocates is often not so free as claimed. The elderly, especially those of limited financial means, are at severe risk for being “pressured, inadvertently or deliberately,” to request death.16
Prichard says the elderly are easily manipulated and may be subtly pressured to relieve their families of the burden they represent. He writes, “Such [euthanasia] procedures may be safe for socially connected, financially independent individuals with high autonomy and self-efficacy, [but] circumstances may be entirely different for isolated patients with low self-efficacy who represent an unwanted burden to their carers, some of whom may benefit financially from the death of the patient (even just in a reduction of financial pressure).”
Noting the ease with which caregivers may lead the elderly or disabled to believe their deaths would be best for all concerned, Prichard warns, “Research on the risks of voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is in its infancy. . . . So far as this article could ascertain, only one qualitative study has investigated the issues of pressure on patients to access voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.”
Dr. Tommy Mitchell, a board-certified doctor of internal medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, now a speaker/writer for Answers in Genesis, comments:
I share Prichard’s concerns about the possibility of manipulation of the elderly in these situations. In my 20 years of medical practice, I saw numerous examples of elderly patients being coerced into decisions by family members who were driven by issues of convenience or finances. In so many ways, the elderly are among the least autonomous in our society.
And not just the elderly are at risk. Two recent cases in Canada have captured media attention. Global Television Network in Canada in March aired a documentary justifying “putting down” the disabled as if they were pets, not human beings. The case of Robert Latimer, convicted of murdering his daughter Tracy, who had cerebral palsy, generated an outpouring of sympathy from the Canadian population and various recommendations to mitigate punishment from the legal system. Annette Corriveau, who has also appeared on the popular Dr. Phil TV program, is the mother of two adult children who are institutionalized with severe mental retardation. She is seeking permission to kill them. She says, “My children were full of life. When they were young, before this disease took hold . . . I just don’t believe that they would want to stay alive the way they are.”17
Canadian Mark Pickup, disabled by multiple sclerosis, responds:
She says that her children, who live in institutionalized care, would opt for assisted suicide if they could communicate with her. How does she know that? They have been uncommunicative since early childhood. Corriveau says they wouldn’t like to live the way they are. Of course they wouldn’t. I don’t want to live triplegic and electric wheelchair dependent from MS — but that doesn’t mean I am better off dead. Annette Corriveau’s children have not expressed a wish to die, they cannot communicate and it’s doubtful they are aware of their circumstances or even their surroundings. It’s their mother who wants them dead.18
Though 90% of the viewing audience responding to Dr. Phil’s poll17 asserted the mother should be allowed to have her children euthanized, morality is not a matter of majority opinion. Dr. Tommy Mitchell echoes Mr. Pickup when he explains:
It is puzzling to me that Ms. Corriveau seems to know what her unresponsive children would “want.” I could just as easily claim that they would want to stay alive. While this situation is certainly tragic, the murder of these two disabled children does not seem to me to be the answer here. If this is allowed, where does it end? In the future, exactly what level of “disability” is required in order for the next person to be euthanized?
Cerebral palsy victim Steve Passmore agrees. Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition finds the sensationalist media coverage of this case “dangerously one-sided”17 and passes on Mr. Passmore’s views:
Many people in society view people with disabilities as having lives that can be euthanized, like a kept pet, because of pain and suffering, that he lives with every day. . . . This story clearly shows the prejudice that people with disabilities experience in society and the threat that euthanasia and assisted suicide place on the lives of people with disabilities.17
The prevalence of the view that human beings are merely a higher form of evolved animal has added fuel to the euthanasia fires. How can such moral issues be decided? What makes one person’s opinion of higher value than another’s? What about people who really do want to kill themselves? Is that wrong?
The only consistent basis for morality is God’s Word. Human beings have many ideas about right and wrong, but as described in the biblical book of Judges, when God’s Word is ignored, everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). Apart from a source of truth from someone greater than man, no person’s moral judgments are more valid than another’s. Only God who created mankind is justly in a position of moral authority over all mankind. God’s account of Creation recorded in the Bible is consistent with what we see in the physical world and validates His ownership of humanity and His right to set our standards. God’s principles should prompt us to always err on the side of protecting the weak and the helpless.
God made man in His image. Therefore all human beings are of equal value in God’s sight whether or not they understand their situation. The lives of the weak and helpless always have value because God made human beings in His image. God prohibits murder according to Genesis 9:6 because He made man in His image. God commands us not to murder (Exodus 20:13) and to defend the “speechless . . . who are appointed to die” (Proverbs 31:8–9). And that is why we must demand the elderly and the disabled be protected, not subtly shoved toward suicide or “mercifully” murdered “for their own good.”
Catastrophically buried together thousands of years ago, dino-mom and eggs come to light.
Two dinosaur eggs buried in Upper Cretaceous rock in Patagonia near a theropod skeleton are stretching the dinosaur evolutionary family tree. Eggs about 7 centimeters in diameter were found less than 20 centimeters from a skeleton presumed to be the mother, prompting speculation about the reproductive biology of these dinosaurs and their relatives.
The dinosaur named Bonapartenykus is a theropod of the sort evolutionists believe gave rise to birds. Others in its branch of the family tree—called Alvarezsauridae—have been found in Jurassic rock in China and deeper Cretaceous rock in South America. Evolutionists consider this branch to be a “basal type” that evolved into more advanced types. However, having found members of this basal type in lower Jurassic rock and throughout the Cretaceous, Martin Kundrát, author of the study published in Cretaceous Research, says, “This shows that basal alvarezsaurids persisted in South America until Latest Cretaceous times,”19 a span of over 100 million years. Analysis of the eggshell microstructure and other characteristics, the researchers hope, will help them to trace the evolution of the egg and its parents.
As to the question of whether this dinosaur had already laid her eggs or died with eggs still inside, researchers cannot be sure. The fact that there were two eggs suggests that—if she was buried with the eggs still inside her oviducts—then she probably had two oviducts as they suspect some other theropods found with paired eggs did. Kundrát considers this “indirect evidence for keeping two eggs in two oviducts,” adding, “They were close to being laid, but the female didn't make it.” Additional analysis, however, failed to rule out the possibility that the dino-mom had been incubating her eggs in a now non-existent nest, making the dinosaur’s reproductive anatomy uncertain.
The eggs also appear to have been playing host to fungi—“the first evidence of fungal contamination of dinosaur eggs.” Though Kundrát compares this finding to the present-day common occurrence of non-lethal fungal contamination of bird eggs, there is no reason to assume this happened only in birds or creatures destined to evolve into them.
Although evolutionists assume the geologic column represents the order of evolving life, in light of biblical history we understand the geologic column as a timeline of catastrophic burials, mostly during the year of the global Flood. Thus, this dinosaur and her eggs succumbed to a load of waterborne sediment about 4,300 years ago. It is therefore not surprising to find similar dinosaurs in several layers since they lived—not evolved—at the same time. It is likewise no surprise to find that fungi fossilized in the Cretaceous rock apparently behaved and looked just like fungi does today. And while the characteristics of eggs and skeletons can help paleontologists classify various kinds of dinosaurs and varieties within those created kinds, there is no evidence that any kind of creatures evolved into other kinds, such as birds. Whatever the relationship of the eggs to the dino-mom, it is clear both mom and eggs were catastrophically buried, whether just before or soon after the eggs were laid, so as to all be so well preserved.
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.
Discover how compromise starting in Genesis has filtered down from Christian seminaries and colleges to pastors—and finally to parents and their children. This erosive legacy is seen in generations of young people leaving the church—two-thirds of them. Get the facts, discover God’s truth, and help bring a new reformation to churches and families by helping to call them back to the authority of God’s Word.
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!