Controversy? What controversy? Giant’s Causeway’s new visitor center becomes target for protest.
Apparently some people are not content with having their views classified as “mainstream science.” They rise up in protest when anyone acknowledges that other views exist, declining to accord other people even a modicum of respect. Such a group has started a campaign demanding the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, just opened in Northern Ireland under the auspices of the National Trust, remove its “creationist exhibits.” Ironically, the new visitors center, which in its interactive audio program graciously acknowledges some people espouse alternative explanations of the Causeway’s origins, does not have any “creationist exhibits.”
“I don’t mind creation stories presented as mythology, but to suggest there is any debate that Earth is 4.54 billion years old is nonsense,” tweeted TV personality Brian Cox. Evolutionist Richard Dawkins criticized the National Trust, saying, “The age of the Earth is a matter of scientific fact, not opinion, and balance and fairness do not enter into matters of fact. The National Trust should not have given any consideration whatsoever to the intellectual baboons of young Earth creationism.”1 Another well-known evolutionist, Jerry Coyne, accuses the National Trust of “lying about this [the 60 million year age of the Causeway] to its visitors”2 by informing them that Giant’s Causeway has been and still is a focal point in the debate about the age of the earth. After all, Coyne writes, “For the rest of the world—including all scientists and people not blinded by faith—that debate was settled decades ago.”2
Giant’s Causeway consists of over 40,000 basalt columns containing evidence of 7 lava flows sandwiching sedimentary layers. The formation has various characteristics consistent with eruptions during the global Flood. Image provided by AiG–UK/Europe.
Dr. Tommy Mitchell at Giant’s Causeway during his speaking tour of Northern Ireland in November – December 2011, while the new visitors’ center was still under construction. Note the basalt columns of moderate height to the right and the signage explaining the National Trust’s position on the origin of Giant’s Causeway. Image from Dr. Tommy Mitchell.
Note the millions-of-years explanation of the Causeway’s origin in this signage photographed by Dr. Tommy Mitchell during his 2011 visit. Both secularist and creationist explanations note the intermittent tectonic activity that produced multiple lava flows. In the secular scientists’ view depicted on the signage, lava flowed periodically, and sediment-laden cooling water were provided by a river over millions of years. But these million-year dates are based on unverifiable assumptions. See to learn about these assumptions and about how the global Flood about 4,500 years ago (as described in the Bible) explains how the Causeway formed quickly. Image of National Trust Giant’s Causeway signage photographed by Dr. Tommy Mitchell, 2011.
“Orbit,” the mascot from “Operation Space,” a 2009 Answers in Genesis-produced Vacation Bible School curriculum, here makes his own wish amid the hexagonally cracked memorials to the power of the global Flood—a wish that children and adults worldwide would learn that the things we see in this world (like Giant’s Causeway) really do agree with what we read in God’s Word. Image provided by AiG–UK/Europe, taken during Dr. Mitchell’s 2011 speaking tour. You can follow Orbit’s continuing adventures at www.facebook.com/AiG.UKE.
Boy makes a wish in the “wishing chair” at Giant’s Causeway in a scene from a 1954 video narrated by Richard Dimbleby. After alluding to the legendary giants credited with the Causeway’s origins, Dimbleby says, “But there are some spoiled sports who say that the phenomena at the causeway are almost identical with those known to be due to shrinkage in recent lava and that a rock which cracks up due to shrinkage on cooling is theoretically bound to split into hexagonal columns and that with little doubt these columns with their predominantly hexagonal form are the result of shrinkage on cooling. It’s easy to understand how this extraordinary formation could have been thought the work of man and not of nature.” Be sure to watch the video with incredible close-ups and beautiful vistas, which lose nothing from their vintage film quality, at www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18678834.
Responding on BBC Radio Ulster, Causeway project director Graham Thompson indicated that, while the National Trust accepts the 60-million-year-old position, it respects those who have a different point of view and acknowledges that debate over the origin of Giant’s Causeway is genuine. He therefore refused to classify creationists in the category of those who believe in Finn MacCool mythology.3 Thompson said, “It’s a fact today that there is still a series of debates surrounding the formation of the Causeway but the exhibit is about that debate as opposed to how the Causeway was formed.”4
The National Trust is a UK conservation charity whose mission is “protecting historic places and green spaces, and opening them up for ever, for everyone.”5 The Trust’s new underground complex hidden beneath a sloping grass roof, in addition to exhibits illustrating the prevailing view among secular scientists, features “an interactive audio exhibition in which visitors can hear some of the different debates from historical characters.”6 According to a statement issued by the Trust, “In this exhibition we also acknowledge that for some people, this debate continues today and we reflect and respect the fact that creationists today have a different perspective on the age of the Earth from that of mainstream science.”6 The audios and displays do not, however, explain the creation science interpretation.
True to its mission to make Giant’s Causeway a place “for everyone,” the National Trust, which receives no public funding,3 was, according to project director Thompson, “absolutely, categorically” not pressured to acknowledge the on-going debate.3 The Trust received input from a number of organizations and individuals of many persuasions.3 Among those was the Caleb Foundation. Representing many Christians from Northern Ireland, Caleb Foundation chairman Wallace Thompson said, “We have worked closely with the National Trust over many months with a view to ensuring that the new Causeway Visitor Centre includes an acknowledgement both of the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and of the ongoing debate around this. We are pleased that the National Trust worked positively with us and that this has now been included at the new Visitor Centre.” Thompson added, “We fully accept the Trust’s commitment to its position on how the Causeway was formed, but this new centre both respects and acknowledges an alternative viewpoint and the continuing debate, and that means it will be a welcoming and enriching experience for all who visit.”
In a sense, the clash of worldviews represented by two differing interpretations of the geology along the County Antrim coastline is itself a part of continuing human history. The oldest battle on earth—between the view that acknowledges the authority of God and the alternative view that does not—is key to the Causeway’s history. The global Flood, God’s judgment on mankind’s rebellion, explains the Causeway’s geology.
Giant’s Causeway is comprised of about 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, some soaring 100 feet (30 meters) above the water’s surface. They are made up of seven separate lava flows interspersed with sedimentary layers. Catastrophic tectonic activity (“the fountains of the great deep were broken up” according to Genesis 7:11) associated with the global Flood provides the framework for explaining the evidence of intermittent volcanic activity seen in the basalt columns. Surges of sediment-laden water that would have cooled the hardening lava and caused it to crack—as seen in the accompanying photos and a classic video at www.bbc.co.uk—would have also characterized the early weeks of the Flood as the waters rose (Genesis 7:17–19). As the narrator of the 1954 video explains, “The phenomena at the causeway are almost identical with those known to be due to shrinkage in recent lava and . . . a rock which cracks up due to shrinkage on cooling is theoretically bound to split into hexagonal columns and . . . with little doubt these columns with their predominantly hexagonal form are the result of shrinkage on cooling.”7 The Flood model, describing the geologic catastrophe that happened about 4,500 years ago, is a biblically and scientifically consistent explanation for the phenomena seen at Giant’s Causeway.
The “Flood model” is not considered “mainstream science” but is just as scientific as the secular version of history. Both creation science and so-called “mainstream” science are efforts to explain a past not witnessed by any scientist and not subject to controlled experimental testing. Both explanations involve worldview-based interpretations, but only the creation scientists’ point of view has an eyewitness account available to guide interpretation of what we see.
Read more about Finn MacCool and Finn Gall, the legendary creators of Causeway, as well as the many evidences testifying to how the global Flood described in the biblical history actually produced those magnificent columns in “Giant’s Causeway of Northern Ireland.”8
And be sure to read Ken Ham’s blog “Refreshing News from Northern Ireland: But Would Secularists in the USA Be This Tolerant?” and learn how to obtain a free copy of Answers in Genesis Giant’s Causeway brochure. (Hurry, the deadline is July 31.) Ken will be speaking in Northern Ireland August 5–13, 2012.
Migrating flatfish eye expected to flummox creationists.
Flatfish—those odd-looking fish like flounder that have both eyes on the same side of their heads—have long been an evolutionary puzzle. Their sudden appearance in the fossil record without any sort of foregoing transitional forms has puzzled evolutionists. A few years ago, Oxford paleontologist Matthew Friedman published his study of Heteronectes, a fossil from Lower Eocene rock in Italy, conventionally dated at about 50 million years, as well as a similar fossilized extinct fish called Amphistium. He concluded that because one eye’s orbit was at or close to the top of the fish’s head in these fossils, they were transitional forms.
Transitional forms may be thought of as the “holy grail” of evolutionists, for if all kinds of organisms evolved from other kinds of organisms, then transitional forms in which features were gradually changing into distinctly different features should be abundant in the fossil record (e.g., the scale of a reptile becoming the feather of a bird). They are not, however. Friedman mentions the notable lack of transitional forms among spiny-finned fish, for example, when he writes, “Within acanthomorphs, our inability to tackle questions related to the sequence of changes underlying the assembly of specialized features or bodyplans in the absence of fossil data is not limited to this flatfish example.”9
The left and right sides of Heteronectes’s head, showing the orbit on the right side to be in the middle, but the eye on the left profile view is deviated, upward, near the top of the head. We can well imagine this variety of flatfish propped slightly on one fin like modern flatfish, able to keep an eye on a wide range of happenings. (Credit: Image by M. Friedman, obtained through phys.org/news/2012-06-mystery-flatfish.html)
Below the X-ray of Heteronectes are before-and-after photos of the fossil, showing the improvement in visible detail after the acid-transfer procedure. Study of these details confirms the fish has skeletal characteristics typically found in flatfish, with the supposedly “incomplete orbital migration”10 of the eye being the primary distinction. However, the variation of eye position represents a variation found in extinct flatfish, not evidence of evolution between kinds of creatures. (Credit: Image by M. Friedman, obtained through phys.org/news/2012-06-mystery-flatfish.html)
In an encore performance of his 2008 study, Oxford paleontologist Matthew Friedman has now used an acid-transfer technique to dissolve some of the matrix from around a fossilized flatfish analyzed previously. His re-examination of the fossil confirms his previous findings. The fish differs from modern flatfish in only minor ways with the exception of the eyes. Heteronectes’s left eye is located near the top of the skull but has not migrated to the opposite side.
Friedman’s conclusion—that Heteronectes is a transitional form between fish with symmetrical skulls and the hundreds of flatfish species with two eyes on the same side of their heads—remains unchanged. He concludes that the lack of transitional forms from the fossil record “lies in the way the fossils are treated.”9
Yet despite Friedman’s fine work freeing the fish from its stony tomb, creationists will still consider Friedman’s conclusions to be, as the Institute for Creation Research zoologist Frank Sherwin put it in 2008, “underwhelming.”11 Sherwin added, “We have no problem with the variation within flatfish. What we’re asking is, Show me how a fish came from a nonfish ancestor.”11
Adult flatfish, with their bizarre cranial asymmetry, actually begin life with cranial symmetry. Then, as a flatfish larva develops into a juvenile flatfish, one eye migrates to the other side of the head. Juvenile flatfish are known to swim at odd angles until the development is complete and they adapt.12 Not only is this orbital transit a normal part of flatfish development, but at every stage of the process the fish is still a fish.
Furthermore, Friedman explained in a 2008 interview, “It’s possible that even the intermediate eye position would have provided an evolutionary advantage for the fish. Living flatfish often don’t lie completely flat on the sea floor—they prop themselves up with their fins. Once you get that extra degree of movement, having a slightly shifted eye is going to be a lot better than having no shifted eye at all.”12 Thus, Friedman, in 2008 and again in 2012, has described a reason that various permutations of the eye asymmetry would be of potential advantage to varieties of flatfish, including the extinct Heteronectes and Amphistium. But he has not described evolutionary transitional forms, just varieties of flatfish. In fact, these extinct kinds of flatfish are fossilized in the same rock layers as ordinary flatfish, their supposed evolutionary descendants. As Sherwin told the National Geographic reporter in 2008, “Fish have always been fish, all the way down to the lower Cambrian, [conventionally dated 542 to 488 million years ago].”12
Commenting on Friedman’s study, Los Angeles Natural History Museum expert on fossilized fish, John Long, said, “This is a profound discovery which clearly shows that intermediate fossil forms, which according to certain creationist theories shouldn’t exist, are regularly turning up as scientists keep looking for them.” However, creationists do not claim variations within created kinds “shouldn’t exist”! Nothing about this discovery or its “re-discovery” screams transitional form or demonstrates evolution of one kind of creature into another kind of creature. God created all kinds of fish on the fifth day of Creation Week about 6,000 years ago, as His eyewitness account in Genesis records. And all kinds of fish were designed to reproduce after their kinds (Genesis 1:20–23). The created kinds of fish were equipped by God with the genetic information to vary within their kinds, but not to evolve into new kinds of creatures.
Creation Museum dinosaur makes a surprise appearance . . . on Smithsonian brochures.
Have you ever seen the eye-catching, scientifically accurate dinosaur sculpture below? Well if you haven’t, you’ll have to come to the Creation Museum near Cincinnati to see it, not the Smithsonian Museum as you might have thought from seeing Smithsonian IMAX Theater advertisements.
Answers in Genesis staff member’s 8-year-old daughter, who recognized the Creation Museum’s dinosaur on the Smithsonian flyer. (Image provided by her parents and used with their permission.)
The daughter of an Answers in Genesis staff member recently noticed flyers in her family’s hotel that prominently featured a familiar dinosaur: the very one found in the Creation Museum’s “Starting Points” room.
In the “Starting Points” room, Creation Museum guests learn that a person’s “starting point”—God’s Word or man’s fallible opinions—guide his interpretation of scientific information relevant to our origins. Historical science represents an attempt to draw conclusions about the untestable past, such as biological origins. Both creation scientists and evolutionary scientists examine the same data—such as dinosaur fossils—but draw different conclusions—such as how old the fossils are and whether their spot in the geologic column represents their evolutionary appearance or their sudden burial due to the global Flood.
The Smithsonian had apparently chosen the photo from a stock photo source to draw potential visitors’ attention to its flyers. We are confident that the Smithsonian was unaware the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis owned the rights to this image. The Creation Museum notified the Smithsonian’s representative, saying, “We believe that the image was taken by someone visiting our museum and then sold on a photo stock website without permission. We understand that the Smithsonian was most likely unaware of the unauthorized use of the image.” The Smithsonian’s representative has responded: “We were unaware of the rights issues surrounding the image and are now working to remove it from our IMAX theater promotions. Thank you for bringing our attention to this matter.”
Of course, as Ken Ham wrote in his blog, the Creation Museum would have been willing to allow use of this image provided due credit to its source was given—but then that would have been quite an admission on the part of the Smithsonian!
Looking for hints-there-might-ever-have-been-life in all the right places … on Mars
Curiosity, the latest Mars rover, is set to land on the Red Planet on August 5. Though no Mars lander has ever found any evidence of life, past or present, NASA researchers are hopeful. Long in planning, NASA scientists continue refining their analyses suggesting the best places to search. And according to a study by Alexander Pavlov and colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, those places will mostly be just a bit beneath the surface.13
“Right now the challenge is that past Martian landers haven’t seen any organic material whatsoever,” said the study’s lead author Alexander Pavlov. “We know that organic molecules have to be there, but we can’t find any of them in the soil.”14 Pavlov’s team contends that, despite billions of years of bombardment by cosmic radiation, small organic molecules could still exist just 5–10 centimeters (2–4 inches) beneath the surface.
Of course, the presence of small organic molecules would not prove life ever existed on Mars. Organic molecules, thought to be the products of spontaneous chemical reactions, have been found in meteorites. (See News to Note, March 17, 2012 for a discussion of some of these.) The researchers believe that larger organic molecules—those with ten or more carbon atoms—would be more suggestive of a biological origin but would also be more likely to have broken down over time.
Previously, efforts to locate organics have analyzed possibilities below the maximum depth cosmic radiation can reach, about 1.5 meters (5 feet). But such deep drilling is not particularly practical. Pavlov’s team examined the possibilities for the shallower depths by modeling the soil and rock composition of Mars, the best guesses of the planet’s atmospheric density through time, and likely energy levels of cosmic radiation.
By such modeling based on the Red Planet’s history, the researchers suggest the rover explore “young” craters—those they believe to be less than 10 million years old. “You want to go to fresh craters,” Pavlov explained, “because there’s probably a better chance to detect complex organic molecules. Let nature work for you.” The idea of course is that the surface inside a fresher crater has had less time exposed to cosmic radiation than an undisturbed nearby older surface.
The methods of estimating the dates of events on Mars are as subject to unverifiable assumptions as methods from estimating the age of the earth—and even more so, actually, since there has been no radiometric dating of material ever performed on actual Martian samples. Regardless of age, it does make sense that any organic molecules beneath the surface would have experienced less total exposure to radiation than undisturbed landscapes. Yet the presence of organic molecules does not prove life exists or ever existed on Mars.
While the Bible does not say that God didn’t create life on other planets, the Bible does tell us God created all life on earth during the first six days of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. A person does not have to be an evolutionist to wonder if there is any evidence of life on Mars. However, evolutionists generally think that life could have evolved anywhere conditions are right. They therefore believe that finding life’s footprint on Mars would confirm life evolved there just as they believe it did on earth. However, no mechanism has ever been observed on earth or anywhere else whereby life could randomly emerge from non-living elements. And if life were ever to be found on Mars, knowing it was there would not prove how it got there. Assuming it was not a contaminant from earth, its existence would just be a testimony to the fact that God can create life anyplace He chooses.
Bits of plant material from Australopithecus sediba’s teeth sneak a peek at diet.
Already winning status in the press as the “new human species from South Africa” (a description from April 2012’s Scientific American)15 despite its controversial place in the Homo sapiens lineage even among evolutionists, two of the Australopithecus sediba fossils from Lee Berger’s South African now-famous find (see News to Note, December 31, 2011: Year in Review) have acquired acclaim for their unique diet. Analysis of phytoliths—tiny bits of plant material found fossilized in their dental calculus—suggests Au. sediba ate a variety of foods that included bark.
Similar dietary studies have been done on other fossils no longer considered in the human lineage (such as “Nutcracker man,” considered an evolutionary dead-end, and which is neither man nor a nut-cracker, see News to Note, May 14, 2011) and also on fossils of early Homo (humans). Lead author Amanda Henry and colleagues including Lee Berger report their “results from the first extraction of plant phytoliths from dental calculus of an early hominin” reveal Au. sediba’s overall diet differed from what is known of “other hominins in the region and elsewhere.”16 Promoted as the oldest known direct ancestor of Homo erectus by Berger due to some minor variations from other australopithecine apes,17 sediba’s reputation for uniqueness now continues through dietary analysis.
Carbon isotope analysis of plant material can help categorize the source of plant material. Most carbon in nature is carbon-12. A tiny amount is carbon-13, a non-radioactive form having one extra neutron per atom. Plants utilize carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, but the first step varies. Most plants, such as trees and shrubs, first form a three-carbon compound. Others, such as tropical grasses, start with a four-carbon compound. Plants utilizing the three-carbon approach discriminate against carbon dioxide containing carbon-13. Thus, isotopic analysis of food residue combined with the pattern of dental scratches can offer clues to diet.
Analysis of the teeth and tooth tartar in the sediba specimens suggested a diet consisting primarily of plants obtained from trees, such as fruit, leaves, and bark. While resembling the diet of modern chimpanzees, there was more variety in that more of the grassy C-4 plants were present than normally found in chimpanzees. The latter finding is more typical of other australopith species, “Nutcracker man,” and extinct early Homo species.16 Therefore, the results are interpreted as support for Au. sediba’s intermediate oldest-human-ancestor position on the evolutionary lineage of humanity.
“There is more variety in our past than we expected,” says Henry. “We’re seeing more variation among the diets and behaviors of early hominins than we’d previously seen.”18 She says the findings suggest “there wasn’t a single, straight line from an early, primitive hominin to us. Many of our ancestors and relatives branched out, tried new things and generally worked at doing what was best in their environment at that particular time.”18 Evolutionists define hominin as members of “the lineage that includes humans and their relatives after they split from those of chimpanzees.”18
Evolutionists typically play paleo-Scrabble with data on isolated bits of fossils from fingertips to tooth tartar to support the candidacy of various fossils for prime spots on the human ancestral tree, ranking how ape-like or human-like various traits are. The recent rancor over sediba is recounted in “Sediba with a little sleight of hand.”19 However, in truth there are apes and there are humans. There is variety among apes, and there is variety among humans, but there is no proof that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors.
Evolutionists accept as axiomatic, however, that humans must have evolved from ape-like ancestors and then examine anatomical features they interpret as intermediate to determine the lines of ancestry. Now we can add dietary features to this list of traits. Evolutionists believe the kind of food an ape-like creature consumed contributed to its capacity for cerebral evolution toward human brain status. (After all, we’ve all learned the importance of brain food!20) But nothing about an animal’s diet can provide it with the genetic information to change into a human. For all their touted similarities, which are not unexpected considering we share a Common Designer, humans and apes have enormous differences. Those differences include the physical,21 the genetic,22 the intellectual, and the spiritual.
We know from the book of Genesis that God did not use one type of organism as raw material for the next but instead spoke each kind into existence over the course of a few days. Apes and human beings were each created on the sixth day of Creation Week about 6,000 years ago. But human beings have a spiritual nature apes have never had (and will never have). Only humans were made in the image of God. As for Au. sediba, just as analysis of its fossils reveals it to be a variety of australopithecine ape, so its dietary patterns are consistent with those of apes. The only descendants of ape-like ancestors were more apes.
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