Now you’ve seen a purple crab . . .
Bright purple with red-tipped claws, a newly discovered species of crab has been added to the list of truly photogenic creatures. German taxonomist Hendrik Freitag has carefully catalogued the characteristics of crabs collected in the Greater Palawan province of the Philippines and found four new species of the freshwater crab genus Insulamon, bringing the total known species to five. (The other four vary in color but are mostly shades of purple.)
Greater Palawan consists of a mainland region and several nearby islands, probably providing opportunities for geographic isolation that facilitated speciation. Freitag’s analysis focused not on color but on the structural characteristics of the five species, which differ slightly from each other in fairly subtle ways. “Insulamon palawanense . . . is the most widely distributed species on Palawan Island and might therefore be more variable than the other species of the genus that appear more restricted to intra-island biogeographical subregions,” Freitag reports.1 No information is yet available regarding the question of interspecies reproduction, but there is no reason to assume they couldn’t still interbreed. The size of the five crab species varies, but all are in the one to two inch range.
Though Freitag’s study published in Raffles Bulletin of Zoology makes no ancestral evolutionary claims, he told National Geographic, “The particular violet coloration might just have evolved by chance, and must not necessarily have a very specific function or reason aside from being a general visual signal for recognition.”2
“It is known that crabs can discriminate colours,” Freitag explained. “Therefore, it seems likely that the colouration has a signal function for the social behaviour, e.g. mating. This could explain why large males of various Insulamon species are more reddish compared to the generally violet females and immature males.”
Indeed, to say the purple color “might have just evolved by chance” is just a statement of what all evolution is supposed to be—the accumulation of randomly occurring changes. Three of these species, are restricted to specific creeks, geographically cut off from other Insulamon crabs because they can only survive in freshwater.3 Such isolation can promote speciation. But that has nothing to do with evolution of new kinds of creatures.
These new species and their fantastic photographs provide an opportunity to appreciate the biodiversity that can develop within a created kind. Creationists are sometimes wrongly accused of claiming that animals don’t change. In reality, variation and speciation do occur within created kinds, but no evidence shows new “kinds” evolving. Nevertheless, impressive variation can occur, especially when isolation of creatures with particular characteristics occurs. No new information is created, and some may even be lost, but the result can be greater biodiversity, all without benefit of either eons of time or upward evolution.
Dry Dredger’s local fossil stumps experts.
“This is the ultimate cold case,” says Dayton’s Ron Fine, who after nearly forty years of fossil hunting has found a fossil that baffles the experts. Fine, a member of an association of amateur paleontologists known as the Dry Dredgers, spent all of last summer digging the huge fossil from a hillside in Kenton County, Kentucky, by Route 17 (in the next county over from Boone County, where the Creation Museum is located). Fine has found many fossils over the years, but nothing this big. “When I finally finished [excavating,] it was three-and-a-half feet wide and six-and-a-half feet long. In a world of thumb-sized fossils, that’s gigantic!”4 In fact, University of Cincinnati geologist Carl Brett says, “This is the largest fossil that has ever been extracted from this age of rock in this area or maybe even in the world.”5
“I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil,” Fine says. “Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That’s the best description I can give.”4 Fine put his “Humpty Godzillus” back together with “eight bottles of Super Glue”5 and presented his find to the Dry Dredgers in Cincinnati and then to the regional meeting of the Geological Society of America in Dayton.
Fine dubbed the big multilobed, “goose flesh” textured fossil “Godzillus.” “I picked that name to make it sound more scientific,”5 Fine says. “Like Godzilla, it’s a primordial beast that found its way to the modern era.” And although experts from Purdue and the University of Cincinnati think the fossil represents something biological, as University of Cincinnati geologist David Meyer says, “We just don’t know yet exactly what it is.”4
“The Dry Dredgers bring in some amazing finds,” agrees Brett, “but we’ve never been stumped.”5 Suggestions have included a sponge or a seaweed, and Meyer adds, “This thing is not boney. It is not a fish.” Meyer, co-author of A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region, explains, “Cincinnati was covered by a sea, 100 to 200 feet deep. Primitive shellfish lived in it. But no fish.”
Fine found the fossil in Upper Ordovician rock conventionally dated 450 million years old. The Cincinnati area is rich in fossils, particularly invertebrate sea creatures (like the trilobite fossils that are stuck onto Godzillus6), so much so that similar strata are called “Cincinnatian” elsewhere in North America. This region has intrigued fossil hunters since the 1790s, and the Dry Dredgers has just celebrated its 70th anniversary.6 According to Answers in Genesis geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling, this area’s Ordovician rock layer is “one of the most well stocked and uniquely well-preserved ‘fossil graveyards’ on the planet.”7
Our region’s Ordovician fossils, mostly extinct sea creatures, are preserved in alternating layers of limestone and clay mudstone. These fossils appear to have been ripped asunder and, like Godzillus, are commonly found near road cuts. Secular and creationist scientists agree the fossils in this area were subjected to violent storm conditions. Today, the Cincinnati area is 500 miles from the sea. Secular scientists speculate that the ocean rose such that this region was actually submerged near the coastline.
Biblical history of the global Flood explains these findings—the violent storms, the submergence of the whole region, the types of fossils, and the patterns of burial. Ordovician rock, like the Cambrian layer just below it, is deep in the geologic column and contains fossils of the first creatures to be torn from their habitats and catastrophically buried during the global Flood. As the fountains of the deep broke up (Genesis 17:1), volcanic activity would have generated violently surging ocean waters initially destroying and burying sea creatures living on or near the sea bottoms. These are just the sorts of creatures preserved in the Cincinnatian strata. The geologic column doesn’t tell us when these creatures evolved but rather when they died and were buried in the Flood. Much of the geologic column is a timeline of the tumultuous Flood year in earth’s history, not a timeline of the evolutionary emergence of life.
Easing out of hammocks into earthbound beds presumably helped apelike ancestors awaken to new possibilities.
Evolutionary anthropologists presume apelike ancestors had to learn to walk upright to become human, but once they stopped hanging out in trees they had to change their sleeping arrangements. “It has long been believed that coming down from the trees was a crucial evolutionary shift,” says Cambridge anthropologist Kathelijne Koops. She led a team studying the unusual nesting behavior of chimpanzees in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea, West Africa, to discover whether those apelike ancestors slept in trees or on the ground.
All great apes build some sort of nest, typically by interweaving tree branches. Gorillas build on the ground, but orangutans and chimps build mostly in trees. A separate study of orangutan nests reports these one-time-use engineering marvels are made from bent branches. According to author A. Roland Ennos, “It’s very similar to weaving a basket, they have to break the branches, weave them together and form a nice, strong, rigid structure. . . . They are almost as complex as a man-made shelter you might make. They [the orangutans] know how the wood is going to break, and they have a feel for how strong they have to make it (the nest). That shows the apes have intelligence and have a feel for the physics of their environment.”8
Some chimps in the Nimba Mountains build around 20% of their nests on the ground. (Normally over 95% of chimp nests are arboreal.) Koop and company went to Guinea’s Seringbara forest to discover why. They hoped to learn whether the earliest humans had already made the transition to ground-based snoozing before they evolved or had to develop their modern nocturnal habits later.
“We believe that, like modern apes, the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans also slept in the trees 6 million years ago,” said Dr. Koops. “However, these nests are not preserved in the fossil or archaeological record, so it is impossible to study directly the ancient transition from sleeping in trees to building shelters on the ground. Recording this rare behaviour in the chimpanzee, our closest relative, may provide vital clues.”
Similar chimps in the Congo build nests on the ground despite the prevalence of leopards,9 so lack of predators doesn’t explain the cavalier camping behavior. Some evolutionary anthropologists have speculated early humans learned to ward off predators with fire to get a good night’s sleep, but these researchers discount this explanation for ground sleeping since they reckon the earliest controlled use of fire occurred 1 million years ago, almost a million years too late to keep the night beasties away from the most primitive humans (evolutionarily speaking), Homo erectus.10
Noting that there are plenty of trees available in Seringbara, Koop wondered if ground nests belonged to males guarding females in the trees above. However, DNA testing of hairs found in 46 ground-based nests and 7 nearby nests in the lower tree branches showed that while the majority of the ground nests were built by males, they were not necessarily associated with female nests above.
“These chimpanzees offer a rare opportunity to investigate why a population of wild apes chooses to sleep on the ground,” Koops explains. “We showed that ground-nesting was not caused by male mate-guarding behaviour, a lack of trees in which to nest, or because of fire. This suggests that our direct ancestors were neither the only, nor the first, species to come down from the trees. . . . This chimpanzees’ behaviour suggests a more deep-seated, gradual transition from tree-to-ground sleep.” The 46 ground nests examined belonged to only 12 individuals, indicating the ground preference was habitual. Koop’s team concludes, “We showed that terrestriality is not a necessary condition for habitual ground-nesting, which raises the possibility that ground sleep may have been practiced in some populations of pre-erectus humans.”9
Since the male-built ground nests apparently do not represent an early evolution of chivalry, the researchers suggest the males, being heavier, are at greater risk for a branch-breaking rude awakening.9 Expanding on the liberating concept that hominins stepped out of the trees without the need for a night-light, Colorado evolutionary anthropologist Thomas Wynn, commenting on the study, suggests the transition from hammock to pallet allowed our distant ancestors to get more REM sleep “which he says is important for memory consolidation and cognition.”10 Carol Ward, a Missouri evolutionary anatomist, explains that “a common feature of REM sleep is muscle paralysis, which make it precarious for apes that sleep in trees.”10 However, she adds that there are “too many differences between chimps and early hominins to draw firm conclusions about early human behavior from chimp studies.”10
Dr. Ward, an evolutionist, notes that all of these conclusions are speculative.10 We would go a step further and say “imaginative.” This entire scenario is based on the assumption that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. Yet so-called hominin fossils are either ape or human, not transitional creatures. And just as neither bipedality nor cooked food gave a non-human creature the leg-up to become human, neither did the ability to sack out on the ground.
Biblically we know that God created animals (including apes) and humans as separate creations on the 6th day of Creation week. God made humans in His image with unique mental and spiritual attributes. And while our Common Designer gave humans and apes certain similar physical features, He also created many distinct physical differences (not to mention a huge gap in intelligence and a different spiritual nature). Nothing in the fossil record or genetics confirms humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. Whether chimps sleep on the ground or not tells us nothing about human ancestry.
Louisiana’s Science Education Act weathers challenge.
The Senate Education Committee for the second straight year has rejected a proposal to repeal Louisiana’s groundbreaking Science Education Act of 2008. The effort to repeal the bill was rejected 2-to-1. Louisiana led the way for similar academic freedom laws in other states, the most recent being the Tennessee Teacher Protection Act, which went into effect April 20.
Louisiana’s law (LSEA) encourages school officials to “foster an environment within the public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”11
Under Louisiana’s law, teachers must “teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.”11
Zack Koppelin, a graduate of Louisiana’s public schools who is now a college freshman, declares, “These supplemental materials will be creationist materials.” Koppelin says the LSEA “opens the door for the unconstitutional teaching of creationism to be snuck [sic] into public school science classes under the guise of letting teachers provide supplemental materials to critique evolution with absolutely no oversight.”12 Without academic credentials or professional experience, freshman Koppelin was nevertheless allowed to share his opinion with the senators during his testimony before the committee and said that “the law was hurting Louisiana’s reputation.”13
Despite such accusations that LSEA sanctions religious teaching in science classrooms—as depicted last year in a Doonesbury cartoon14—the LSEA does not permit teachers to promote any religious doctrine, and the information they present must be “scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.” State and local school officials are encouraged by the LSEA to offer teachers guidance in choosing these materials. Furthermore, materials (such as lists of thought-provoking questions at www.textaddons.com) are readily available to encourage critical thinking skills in the analysis of controversial scientific positions.
The Louisiana governor’s office stands behind the LSEA. Governor Jindal signed the bill into law in 2008. Regarding the recent attempt at repeal, the governor’s representative stated, “Repealing the Science Education Act would show no benefit for children, has no evidence that it would improve educational outcomes across the state, and all it would do is seemingly limit educators’ ability to teach other viewpoints in their classrooms.”12
Since LSEA went into effect, according to Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum Action, “To date, not a single complaint has been filed, not a single school board has moved to address a related concern and not one lawsuit is on record to correct inappropriate action on behalf of a Science Education Act infraction!”15 The Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel and an education department official confirmed that there have been no complaints about creationism being taught. “In other words,” as Mills told the committee, “this repeal that is before you today is a political solution in search of a problem.”12
Ironically, those that oppose allowing teachers to teach students to critically examine controversial scientific ideas typically deny any controversy exists. For example, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) claims LSEA “opened the door for scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution and climate science to be taught.”13 (As we discussed in our coverage of Tennessee’s Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act,16 even secular scientists disagree about these issues, and scientists and teachers willing to examine the scientific weaknesses of popular positions do not forfeit their credentials.) Yet opponents of laws protecting academic freedom must vociferously maintain—amid all the controversy—that no controversy actually exists. Why? Because discussion of “scientific critiques” of “any explanation of life”17 are legally discussable in public school classrooms. The ACLU has said so. Thus, to stifle discussion and restrain academic freedom, experts who hold popular opinions must declare, in effect, “Science has spoken, we believe it, that settles it.”
Incidentally, the United States Supreme Court has made clear in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.” And that—the teaching of critical thinking skills—the ability to objectively analyze even the most popular scientific notions—is the goal of the LSEA and similar laws springing up around the country. What better way to raise up a generation of creative scientists, problem-solvers able to think “outside the box”?
We are obviously pleased to hear the LSEA and the academic freedom it represents have survived this challenge. That said, we remind our readers that we have never suggested public school teachers should be required to teach creation. Such a policy would not only violate existing laws, it would be counter-productive to insist an instructor with an evolutionary worldview abandon it to teach a creation science position.
Questions about origins are matters of historical, not observational, science. Every person has a bias affecting the way he or she interprets scientific evidence concerning origins. We encourage Christian parents and churches to teach not only critical thinking skills but also the truth of the Bible as God’s Word. At church and at home, students need to be taught that the Bible is confirmed by science even while they are given the freedom to critically examine conventional textbook content at school.
Carlsbad collection carries kinds of antibiotic resistance beyond the reach of modern medicine’s wonder drugs.
Deep in Lechuguilla Cave, a large isolated cave within Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico, researchers have collected bacteria demonstrating resistance to at least 14 different antibiotics. With no possibility of human contamination, long cut off even from the possibility of water penetration from outside the cave, these bacteria have never been exposed to man-made antibiotics. Therefore, the researchers believe their findings support the idea that, while pharmaceuticals don’t trigger the evolution of drug resistance genes, natural antibiotics and antibiotic resistance “evolved over millions of years.”18
McMaster University’s Gerry Wright and University of Akron professor Hazel Barton’s team found many strains of bacteria that are harmless to humans but resistant to many antibiotics. One carried in its genome the blueprint for resistance to a modern antibiotic-of-last-resort. All the bacteria harbored some antibiotic resistance, and practically every class of modern antibiotics was represented in the resistance genes of some bacteria in the cave. These ancient resistance genes could show up in dangerous bacteria and, through natural selection, become a major problem.
“Our study shows that antibiotic resistance is hard-wired into bacteria,” Wright says, “It could be billions of years old, but we have only been trying to understand it for the last 70 years. This has important clinical implications.” Barton explains, “We can say to doctors, ‘While this isn’t a problem right now, it could be in the future so you need to be aware of this pre-existing resistance and be prepared if it emerges in the clinic. Or you are going to have a problem.’”
“Most practitioners believe that bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance in the clinic,” Wright says. “As doctors prescribe antibiotics, they select for members of the community that are resistant to these drugs. Over time, these organisms spread and eventually the bacteria that commonly cause these infections are all resistant. In extreme cases these organisms are resistant to seven or more drugs and are untreatable using traditional treatment. . . . The actual source of much of this resistance is harmless bacteria that live in the environment.”
Many microorganisms horizontally transfer genetic information among themselves. Thus, harmless bacteria, such as those deep in Carlsbad, could provide pathogenic bacteria with the genetic information to resist medicine’s best weapons. Many practicing physicians are well aware of the role of natural selection in promoting the survival and selection of bacteria that already harbor genetic information equipping them to resist antibiotics. That bacteria already possessed information for antibiotic resistance long before the modern pharmaceutical industry began producing wonder drugs was demonstrated in 1988 when explorers frozen since 1845 were found to harbor resistant bacteria in their colons. The present research team last year proved antibiotic resistance frozen in Ice Age permafrost was carried in ancient bacterial genomes. (See News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review for more information.) Nevertheless, antibiotic resistance has become one of the most popular “proofs” of evolution as evolutionary promoters fail to distinguish between the selection of pre-existing information and the production of new genetic material.
On the other hand, antibiotics are often derived from or modeled on natural substances that have long been present in ordinary ecosystems. Therefore, the team writes, “The mechanisms of antibiotic modification and inactivation [strategies bacteria “use” to resist antibiotics] are evidence of highly specific evolutionary adaptations to evade the cytotoxic action of these antibiotics.”18 From that standpoint, the discovery of such widespread resistance genes suggests, Wright says, “that there are far more antibiotics in the environment that could be found and used to treat currently untreatable infections.” Wright and Barton’s research “supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient, and hard wired in the microbial pangenome.”18 They add, “Such elements are the result of evolution through natural selection; this therefore implies that antibiotic resistance has a long evolutionary past.”18 There was a time when people thought bacteria evolved resistance because they “needed” to. But—as demonstrated by this group’s work and by the 1988 study—variations and mutations that confer resistance are already in the genomes of some bacteria. The “resistance information” does not necessarily develop in response to the antibiotic threat. But the pre-existence of that genetic information for resistance does not demonstrate evolution over millions of years. The “growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural” is a confirmation of the role of natural selection acting on microbes that horizontally transfer information. None of this research supports any sort of molecules-to-man evolutionary concepts or even the “deep time” implied in the phrase “long evolutionary past.”
As the research team suggests, models for more useful antibiotics may be found in nature because natural selection has likely facilitated the persistence of resistance genes in isolated bacteria in response to the existence of natural antibiotics. Yet the more ominous flip side of their news is a reminder for vigilance, not in expectation of an “evolutionary war on humanity” but rather alertness for the “sobering successes of natural selection” in a sin-cursed world.
Antibiotic resistance not only fails to prove the evolution of new kinds of organisms but actually demonstrates our Creator’s wisdom. God created microbes for important functions, and the majority are still harmless. The existence of biochemical means to keep bacterial populations in check as well as the genetic information to enable microbes to resist such “natural antibiotics” likely provided a balance in the pre-Fall world. Changing conditions in the post-Fall world have allowed helpful bacteria to become dangerous (see The Genesis of Pathogenic E. coli). A combination of mutations, horizontally transferred genes, environmental changes, and host changes can transform harmless microorganisms into pathogens. Frankly, from an evolutionary point of view, killing the host is a particularly bad idea! Biblical understanding explains the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance.
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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