Choice of timeline determines the story.
The Jurassic jawbone of a long extinct creature has resurfaced in China to add a new chapter to the saga of its mysterious identity. In 1947 paleontologist Yang Zhongjian (aka C. C. Young) initially identified the “single badly damaged partial snout”1 as part of a sauropod dinosaur named Lufengosaurus magnus. However, Young later decided the bone belonged to a phytosaur, not a dinosaur, and renamed it Pachysuchus imperfectus. The fossil was found in early Jurassic deposits near Lufeng, China, but phytosaurs “should” have been extinct by the end of the Triassic era. Thus the fossil “became an important milestone for phytosaurs.” Somehow it then was misplaced in China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology, hindering further investigation. Its recent re-discovery and re-re-identification as a dinosaur has restored the evolutionary version of dinosaur development to its commonly accepted form.
Phytosaurs, extinct crocodilian creatures distinguished by nasal openings set far back on the skull near the eyes, are currently classified as archosaurs, along with dinosaurs, crocodiles, and even birds. However, the archosaur branch containing phytosaurs has only one still-living representative, crocodiles. The phytosaurs are believed by evolutionists to be victims of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, so discovery of Jurassic members is controversial.
Paleonotologists Paul Barrett and Xu Xing found the fragment and have determined Young’s original dinosaurian assessment was correct. “The damaged skull piece exhibits many traits never seen in phytosaurs but that closely match what paleontologists have documented among sauropodomorph dinosaurs,”1 Xu Xing says. Too little remains to determine the species.
The reclassification restores the story that phytosaurs “lived alongside and probably preyed on early dinosaurs, were wiped out at the end of the Triassic” and so were out of the way as “dinosaurs rose to global dominance.” In fact, Barrett suggests that rock layers containing post-Triassic phytosaurs elsewhere in the world are erroneously dated and should be re-dated as Triassic.1 (This illustrates the somewhat circular approach to assigning dates in the fossil record.)
While demonstrating the difficulties of identifying some creatures from their fossilized remains, putting Pachysuchus back to a more acceptable spot in the evolutionary timeline does not prove the authenticity of the evolutionary story. The geologic column is viewed by evolutionists as a record of the evolution and extinction of life forms over millions of years. This interpretation is dearly held despite the lack of the transitional forms to authenticate it or observable evidence of biological evolution of new kinds of creatures to show its feasibility.
The biblical account of the global Flood—resulting in catastrophic burial of billions of creatures beneath tons of water-borne sediment as their habitats were wiped out—tells the true story of most of the geologic column. The creatures buried were descended from the kinds created by God in the beginning. Their presence in those rock layers does not mark their evolutionary emergence or extinction. A person’s worldview determines his interpretation of the story in the rocks.
Weird walkers weigh in on supposed hominid evolution.
April’s annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) in Portland, Oregon, devoted a half-day to fossilized footprints. As a part of this “Pleistocene scene”2 graduate student Kevin Hatala presented a comparison of the footprints of barefoot Kenyan herders with five Pleistocene footprints from Kenya’s Ileret site.
Believed by evolutionists to be 1.5 million years old, the footprints were initially thought to “reflect a thoroughly modern walking style.” Comparison of the footprints with those of 38 habitually barefoot Daasanach Kenyan herders, however, with measurements of print depths at ten pressure points, suggested a difference in gait.
“We can infer that the ancient Ileret individuals had a normal, functional gait, but they may have walked differently than we do,” Hatala said. He indicated that it’s uncertain just how these hominids walked and whether they belonged to Homo erectus, a possible direct human ancestor, or to the side-branch species Paranthropus boisei.
The Kenyan herders placed their prints in moistened sand thought to mimic the quick-setting sand in which the original prints were made. Analysis suggests the prints’ owners were walking, not running, and that they were about 5 feet, 6, inches tall, weighing 110 pounds, matching Daasanach people of today.
Other highlights of the AAPA’s focus on feet included a discussion of Burtele foot we discussed recently3 as well as analysis of the likely gait of Australopithecus sediba, another ape fossil we discussed last fall in “Sediba with a little sleight of hand.”4 The Burtele fossil is dated by evolutionists at 3.4 million years ago, and Au. sediba, around 2 million years. Both of these skeletal specimens differ from humans, but anthropologists suggest they were somewhat bipedal. The Burtele foot could grasp with its big toe and Au. sediba feet, according to Jeremy DeSilva, suggest the owner was prone to hyperpronate (turn its feet inward) as it walked.2 DeSilva said Au. sediba had “a really weird foot. Diversity in upright stances must have extended for a long time during hominid evolution.”
We are not surprised that the anatomy from two ape specimens differed significantly from that of modern humans, and we’ve recently examined the questionable nature of attributing a legitimate bipedal gait to the Burtele fossil and Au. sediba. (See News to Note, April 7, 2012 and Sediba with a little sleight of hand.)
And as to the footprints from Kenya, if they belonged to a truly bipedal individual as Hatala suggests, then they likely were not made by Paranthropus boisei, an extinct ape commonly known as “Nutcracker man” although it was neither a nutcracker nor a man.5 If they belonged to Homo erectus, then slight differences in the pressure patterns on the bottom of the foot do not indicate a less evolved kind of human. We saw last fall a report of some relative shortening in the legs of Neanderthals.6 Slight variations in gait or leg proportions of different groups of humans does not make any of them less than human or show they were evolving on a path toward full humanity. Both Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis were humans who descended from Noah’s family following the Flood, people who have disappeared today but were no less human than we are.
Imitating an upright walk would not make an ape more human, and apes are not designed to walk upright efficiently. The skeletal structure of their hips and legs is unsuitable. The preoccupation of evolutionary anthropologists with bipedality springs from a determination to exploit differences between apes and humans in an effort to prove evolution happened and show how. But neither cooking food,7 nor sleeping on the ground,8 nor walking upright could transform a hypothetical apelike ancestor into a human being.
God created the first two humans in His image, having unique mental and spiritual attributes, on the 6th day of Creation Week. He made land animals, including apes, the same day, according to Genesis chapter one. And while our Common Designer gave us some similar physical features, He created apes and humans with distinct intellectual and spiritual differences. Nothing in the fossil record or genetics demonstrates human evolution from apelike ancestors. Humanity’s ancestors were Adam and Eve, created by God about 6,000 years ago fully able to walk—no evolution required.
Big dinosaurs won the battle but lost the war, and the real winners took to the skies.
The latest evidence, according to a Swiss researcher, suggests dinosaurs did not evolve their gigantic sizes due to the richness of their environment.9 Therefore, the dinosaurs needed another reason to evolve enormity. A new evolutionary model proposed by Zurich’s Daryl Cordon suggests dinosaurs grew big to outcompete other dinosaurs. Being successful, these big dinosaurs ruled the world by the time catastrophic mass extinction struck (possibly in the form of a meteor).
“The most successful (dinosaurs) were the very large ones that were able to escape the competition trap and replenish their numbers. After the mass extinction, they again tried to evolve large size, but to escape the competition trap they had to become multi-ton animals,” says Codron.
But having won the battle for supremacy, these same big dinosaurs lost the war for long-term survival of their species. Dinosaurs laid eggs. Egg size is limited by shell thickness. “One cannot have a very large egg with a very thin shell, otherwise it would simply break open,” Codron explains. “The shell itself is limited in thickness. It cannot become so thick that gas can no longer diffuse through it, which would deprive the embryo of oxygen. For a very small egg-laying animal this is no problem, but it does mean that very large animals have to produce relatively small eggs.”
The giant dinosaurs’ eggs therefore had to remain small despite their large adult size. Small hatchlings, to reach adulthood, then had to grow through many size categories and consequently survive competition in many ecological niches. Codron’s model proposes the big dinosaurs had won the battle before the big catastrophe struck, destroying—as the popular scenario goes—all creatures above about 22 to 55 pounds.
“The question that haunted some people including me is . . . why did the mammals survive and why did the dinosaurs not. I think we have a very good answer for that,” says co-author Marcus Clauss.10 Following the catastrophe, the majority of those left to replenish the earth would have been the large species. With reduced numbers, their small fry became crunchy critters for mammalian neighbors. (The fossil record does contain evidence of a juvenile dinosaur in the stomach of a large mammal, a Repenomamus.) Meanwhile, mammalian young survived on mothers’ milk. Thus, having placed all their eggs in one basket—metaphorically speaking—dinosaurs finally went extinct.
The final chapter in the story proposed by Codron explains the proliferation of birds. Many (though not all) evolutionists believe dinosaurs evolved into birds. Therefore, after the catastrophic extinction, Codron proposes some smaller dinosaurs learned to fly and “slipped the surly bonds of Earth”11 to fill the ecological niches of the air.
Codron bases his model, published in Biology Letters, on mathematical simulations of populations with a variety of body sizes. The model represents an attempt to explain the fossil record within the evolutionary worldview and thus demonstrates the influence of worldview on the way evidence is interpreted. A biblical worldview would assign a different timescale to the geologic column’s fossils—noting the majority of them to have been deposited over a matter of months and not millions of years—and would identify the catastrophe not as death striking from the sky but rather the global Flood.12
There is no reason to doubt that after the Flood animals descended from those preserved on the Ark faced competition and environmental challenges. Many weathered those challenges and replenished the earth, but some of those became extinct later just as animals go extinct today.
To suppose “the most successful dinosaurs were the very large ones” reflects an evolutionary interpretation of the fact that, in the fossil record, the dinosaurs represented in the higher rock layers are primarily the larger ones. However, the Flood model interprets much of the geologic column as a record of the order of burial during the time of the rising floodwaters. As such, larger size may have helped some to evade rising water longer, with their “success” being measured in weeks, not eons.
But to agree that environmental challenges and competition contributed to the extinction of some species after the catastrophic global Flood—just as we see in today’s world—is NOT to agree that some kinds of animals evolved into other kinds. For instance, the aerial success of birds does not require them to have evolved upward from dinosaurs but only to have flown off the Ark at the end of the Flood year.
Likewise to agree that egg size is limited by various physical and biological constraints does not prove why some dinosaurs grew so big, only why big dinosaurs had to lay small eggs. This is an interesting biological phenomenon but in no way supports the idea that dinosaurs had to evolve from anything or into anything. The population models Codron proposes are not unreasonable, but their application to evolutionary scenarios is just so much storytelling. Reliable answers in matters of historical science require an eyewitness account, and, for questions of origins of life and various kinds of animals, the only source is the Creator’s eyewitness account in the Bible.
Molecular magic still requires a “magician.”
The chemical origin of life remains the “holy grail” of evolutionists seeking to explain how life randomly emerged from lifelessness. Biochemists led by Philipp Holliger report in Science they have synthesized six DNA analogues (called XNAs) and demonstrated that corresponding enzymes can copy them and let them evolve.
Holliger’s group writes, “Beyond heredity, specific XNAs have the capacity for Darwinian evolution and folding into defined structures. Thus, heredity and evolution, two hallmarks of life, are not limited to DNA and RNA but are likely to be emergent properties of polymers capable of information storage.”13 By showing that molecules other than those in the genomes of earth’s life forms can carry reproducible genetic information and evolve, they believe they’re solving the mystery of the chemical origins of life.
DNA and RNA are polymers with nucleic acids (“NA’s”) attached to backbones of sugar molecules. The “D” and the “R” stand for the type of sugar. XNAs are synthetic polymers that use the same nucleic acids as DNA but different sugar molecules (“X”) for the ladder stringing them together. Since the nucleic acid (NA) sequence encodes information, an XNA copy of a DNA strand is analogous to using the same words but recording them on papyrus instead of paper.
Normally, in cells, DNA molecules are copied by unzipping the DNA double-helix and attaching a series of corresponding nucleic acids to the DNA templates. DNA polymerase enzymes read and copy DNA. DNA stores the genetic blueprint for living organisms. Therefore, for life to evolve from non-living chemicals, some sort of information-containing, self-replicating molecules would first have to form by random processes (and, of course, to then build the organisms called for in the cellular blueprints).
Holliger’s group made XNAs by finding several DNA polymerases able to bind to both DNA and a particular XNA. Those enzymes made XNA copies from DNA originals and also then made DNA strands from corresponding XNAs. Thus the XNAs proved to be copy-able by the sort of process cells use to copy ordinary DNA.
To demonstrate XNAs could evolve, an XNA was “designed to cling to a particular . . . target [and] those that failed to do so were washed away.” After several rounds of selection, each copying only molecules able to stick to the targets, the resulting copies contained faithful representations of any variant or mutation present. Since the process preserved those variations, the researchers say the XNAs evolved.
“We've been able to show that both heredity—information storage and propagation—and evolution, which are really two hallmarks of life, can be reproduced and implemented in alternative polymers other than DNA and RNA,”14 Holliger explains. In other words, he contends life could as well evolve from other nucleic acid polymers, with there being nothing so special about DNA and RNA.
Holliger does not claim to have either synthesized life or seen life evolve in the laboratory. Despite headlines suggesting the contrary—like “Scientists show that manmade nucleic acids can replicate and evolve”15—XNAs cannot replicate themselves. Living things must be able to reproduce. But an article in the Winnipeg Free Press states, “There may be no moment when the first life emerged, but instead an evolutionary process by which chemicals most of us would consider non-life gradually gave rise to living cells through natural selection.”
Molecules-to-man evolution, on the other hand, would require random interaction of chemicals producing molecules able to store information and replicate themselves. Furthermore, those lifeless randomly interacting chemicals would have to be able to create the informational blueprint for an actual organism and the code to transmit that information as well as a system for deciphering and implementing those coded instructions. Nothing in biology has ever been observed to do this. This study does not change that fact.
Additionally, the authors claim XNAs undergo Darwinian evolution because their culling process resembles natural selection, selecting the “best” copies to replicate. However, these “evolved” XNAs, by copying genetic variations, did not produce new genetic information but merely altered some of the original information. Evolution of new kinds of life would require creation of new information, something natural selection cannot provide.
Furthermore, the writer for the Winnipeg Free Press, explaining this connection between natural selection and life, writes, “Scientists don’t have a universal definition for life, but they do agree that to qualify as life, an organism must be subject to natural selection.” The implication is that since living things must respond to natural selection, to follow the rules of natural selection is to “evolve” and to therefore come closer to primordial life than ordinary molecules. However, being subject to natural selection does not conversely constitute sufficient grounds to be considered evolving and somehow lifelike. This connection represents a logical fallacy.
“That molecules other than DNA and RNA can successfully carry information does not solve the problem of where actual genetic information came from. This study has simply shown that other molecular components could work in a genetic system. But XNA replication does not demonstrate how randomly produced genetic information could direct the formation of a living organism,” explains molecular geneticist Dr. Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis. The XNAs only contained the information or the non-sense codes provided by their intelligent designers. Like a Xerox copy machine, the “evolution” observed in Holliger’s laboratory produced nothing new but only copied that which was previously created.
Without a Designer to supply genetic information, life from chemicals can neither sneak nor leap into existence. Showing other molecules can carry information fails to demonstrate a source for that information. And even if a molecular polymer (such as RNA “ribozymes”) can replicate itself, it contains no information unless that information is supplied by an outside source. From the Bible’s eyewitness account, we know that the source of all life and all the information contained in living things is the Creator God.
When the clock’s answers don’t meet expectations, get a new clock.
Molecular clock predictions of the time required to evolve humans and their supposed primate relatives from apelike ancestors have long made demands the fossil record could not meet. According to evolutionists, the oldest primate fossils just weren’t old enough. Evolutionary anthropologists Michael Steiper and Erik Seiffert have devised a new model recalibrating the clock along completely new criteria. According to their model, the known fossils are old enough. In the minds of evolutionists, this method demonstrates the accuracy of their evolutionary model. Though the method was only applied to primate fossils, the authors suggest their method could be used to reconcile numerous other such discrepancies in the mammalian fossil record.
Molecular clocks are calibrated in accord with dates assigned to fossils and the mutation rates of DNA. Since evolution of new life forms supposedly occurs by accumulating favorable mutations, knowing the mutation rate is essential to evolutionary time estimates. Conventional molecular clock estimates have demanded primate ancestral forms date back to 82 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous part of the geologic column. Unfortunately for evolutionary paleontologists, the oldest primate fossils are only 56 million years old. The new model, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, recalibrates the molecular clock used for primates. It eliminates the gap by indicating “young” primate fossils really are old enough.
Steiper and Seiffert propose that the mutation rate and therefore the speed with which evolution happened slowed down as body size and brain size increased. (Perhaps larger animals reproduced less often and thus provided fewer opportunities for inheritable mutations to occur, or perhaps the higher metabolic rate of little mammals cooked their DNA and made it mutate faster, they surmise.) Noting that measurable mutation rates in primates are very variable, they write, “Relaxed clock methods are especially appropriate for primates, because this clade exhibits large and systematic variation in molecular rates both within and among groups.”16
To prove the “hominoid slowdown”16 in mutation rate correlated with increasing body and brain size, they statistically analyzed skeletal and skull sizes of various primate fossils. They then compared those sizes to the accepted fossil dates. By thus calculating a new rate of evolution, they reassessed the expected times various primates should have appeared in the fossil record and found times closer to their new estimates.
They write, “In other words, we predict the molecular rates of long-extinct primates using our knowledge of their phenotypic attributes rooted in the fossil and extant data. This is a significant departure from the traditional method of generating molecular rates using fossils as calibrations. Because our method estimates molecular rates by using paleontological, phylogenetic, geological, and neontological sources, we feel that it has strong advantages over traditional calibration techniques.”16
The authors recommend their new method as an easy and accurate method of assessing the expected speed of evolution. After all, fossil sizes are measurable and therefore more accessible than predicted mutation rates in the deep past. We’ve written here a great deal about the unverifiable nature of such molecular clock assumptions. (See Circular Clock for discussion of the statistical sleight of hand noted even by evolutionists and Molecular Clock Off-Line and Gorilla genome’s surprises for more about variations of mutation rates.)
On the surface, the idea of measuring something physical in the present instead of predicting what mutation rates should have been in the unobservable past sounds like observational science instead of historical science. However, the new method is still based on the assumption that evolution of new kinds of animals from simpler ones occurred. The fossils are real, but estimates of their ages are fraught with unverifiable assumptions, and the notion that one kind evolved into another is imaginary. Such evolution has never been observed. Accumulation of mutations has never been shown to produce the gain of information required to evolve a new kind of creature. Therefore calculations of the “rate of evolution” are based on imagination, not fact, and are of no real value.
So why, if primates didn’t simply evolve as late-comers in earth’s history, are they absent from the deeper parts of the geologic column? We are often asked, similarly, why fossils of humans who died in the global Flood are not found but only fossils of people who died in the Ice Age, preserved in the uppermost rock layers. The answer, provided by the biblically consistent Flood model, sees the geologic column is a record of the order of burial. During the weeks in which the Floodwaters rose and violently destroyed and buried the occupants of habitat after habitat under tons of sediment, humans and animals most capable of fleeing—such as monkeys and apes and birds—doubtless did so. Ultimately they were of course overwhelmed, and most would have decayed. By that time, the bulk of the fossils in the geologic column had been entombed. Thus the Bible provides a historical record that is consistent with the findings in the fossil record, and no new clock is required.
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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