Backing off back teeth—is this shrew-like rodent evolving backwards?
Is it a rat? Is it a shrew? It’s a Paucidentomys vermidax, recently discovered in the rainforest of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island. The shrew-rat’s long face and pointed snout resemble that of true shrews. Its unusual teeth have earned it notoriety as the next step in rodent evolution.
The other 2,200 known rodent species have incisors in the front as well as molars in the back of their mouths and are generally well-equipped for gnawing. Paucidentomys vermidax has unusual bicuspid incisors1—useless for gnawing but good for gripping—and no molars for chewing. It lives on earthworms. Appropriately, its Latin name means “few-toothed, worm-eating mouse.”
Reporting in Biology Letters, Jacob Esselstyn and colleagues write, “Stomach contents from a single specimen suggest that the species consumes only earthworms. We posit that by specializing on soft-bodied prey, this species has had no need to process food by chewing, allowing its dentition to evolve for the sole purpose of procuring food. Thus, the removal of functional constraints, often considered a source of evolutionary innovations, may also lead to the loss of the very same traits that fuelled evolutionary diversification in the past.”2
Kevin Rowe, one of the discoverers, says, “This is an example of how species, when faced with a new ecological opportunity, in this case an abundance of earthworms, can evolve the loss of traits that were wildly successful in previous circumstances.”
Indonesian co-author Anang Achmadi, adds, “The specialised incisors of rodents give them the distinct ability to gnaw—a defining characteristic of rodents worldwide. In having lost all teeth except a pair of unusually shaped incisors that are incapable of gnawing, this new rat is unique among rodents.”
Rodents ordinarily have chisel-like incisors kept sharp for gnawing because they grow continuously and have enamel only on the front surfaces. Thus, most rodents sharpen their teeth while gnawing .
Seven other shrew-rat species are native to Sulawesi Island and to Luzon Island in the Philippines. Evolutionary scientists believe they independently evolved to match their wormy habitat.2 Missing much or all of their tooth enamel, their delicate front teeth are also unsuited for gnawing. And instead of the usual rat-quota of three molars in each back-quadrant of their mouths, they may have only one or two small ones.2 Shrew-rats, with extremely long faces suited for catching dinner, are well-adapted vermivores—worm-eaters—and have no need to chew.2
What makes this particular shrew-rat, Paucidentomys vermidax, unique is the somewhat pointy shape of its front teeth and the lack of molars. Careful examination reveals the sockets for molars are present but not the teeth.2
Despite the assertion that this creature demonstrates evolution, it didn’t evolve into a new kind of animal. As a rodent, it may have lost some genetic information for standard issue rodent choppers, but that makes it simply a variation within one of the rodent kinds God originally created. It is not a transitional rodent. It is not evolving into a non-rodent. It’s just a variety of shrew-rat with extreme versions of the qualities common to shrew-rats. And losing genetic information is not a path to gain genetic information to fuel upward evolution of new kinds of creatures.
Plant mites sail through the sands of time untouched by evolutionary change.
Three tiny arthropods have been found in amber from Triassic deposits in Italy’s Dolomite Alps. “Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years,” says David Grimaldi, world-renowned expert on amber and fossilized arthropods.
Arthropod (insects, spiders, and crustaceans) fossils, according to evolutionists, are over 400 million years old. However, those in amber only dated back to about 130 million years (by evolutionary reckoning) prior to this discovery. These newly found tiny (2-6 mm) droplets of dried resin with their tiny passengers are dated, on the basis of uniformitarian assumptions about the age of surrounding rocks, to 230 million years. The two gall mites and a partially preserved fly are the first arthropod specimens found in Triassic amber.
“The ancient gall mites are surprisingly similar to ones seen today, says Grimaldi. “You would think that by going back to the Triassic you'd find a transitional form of gall mite, but no,” he adds. “Even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there—a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws, and mouthparts.”
Because evolutionists think that flowers had not yet evolved when these creatures were trapped, they contend the specimens prove gall mites evolved before flowering plants. “When flowering plants entered the scene, these mites shifted their feeding habits, and today, only 3 percent of the species live on conifers. This shows how gall mites tracked plants in time and evolved with their hosts,” explains Grimaldi. “There was a huge change in the flora and fauna in the Triassic because it was right after one of the most profound mass extinctions in history, at the end of the Permian. It's an important time to study if you want to know how life evolved.”
Historical science requires scientists to interpret data memorializing the unobservable past. Evolutionary scientists, having a prior conviction that molecules-to-man evolution through random natural processes explains all we see in nature and the fossil record, interpret even this lack of evolution as evolution (as loss of information3 was an example in the previous item!). Grimaldi is amazed by the lack of transitional forms, but the biblical principle of being created to reproduce “after their kinds” precludes such transitions. Grimaldi notes that only 3% of gall mites still eat from conifers, yet the flower-eaters are still gall mites.
This discovery does not show gall mites evolved as flowering plants evolved, but rather that the ones in this amber happened to munch on conifers. Their preservation within Triassic amber does not prove that flowering plants did not exist elsewhere at the same time. Biblical history—with the creation of plants on the 3rd day of Creation week—indicates that flowering plants and conifers were created the same day. Many layers of sediment in the fossil record preserve organisms such as this, reflecting the order in which they were buried as habitats were overwhelmed by the turbulent rise of the floodwaters during the global Flood. Since flowering plants existed from Day Three onwards, they were around when the floodwaters buried the amber containing these gall mites, but they were simply buried a few weeks later during the Flood.
These bits of amber preserve these gall mites in exquisite detail. By demonstrating that gall mites fail to demonstrate evolutionary change over their supposed millions-of-years of existence, they provide a graphic affirmation of the truth of God’s Word.
Early modern human skull in Asia meets mixed response.
An early modern human’s skull that apparently washed into a Laotian limestone cave long ago has anthropologists rethinking the wheres, whens, and hows of early human migration. Some evolutionary anthropologists believe the reconstructed cranium represents the oldest documented early modern human presence in mainland Southeast Asia. Others raise concerns about the accuracy of the dating.
The skull fragments were found deep within the Cave of Monkeys (aka Tam Pa Ling cave) high in the mountains of Laos. (The cave is named for monkeys that frequent nearby papaya and banana trees, not for any evolutionary reason.) No artifacts or signs of human occupation have been found, and the sediment in the cave appears to have been washed in, resulting in a topsy-turvy mixture of dates for the material surrounding the skull.
The researchers, writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, report the skull was washed in and covered by over two meters of sediment long ago. They have narrowed their range of possible dates for the skull by radiocarbon and optical luminescence dating4 of the sediment as well as uranium series dating of the frontal bone. By combining information from multiple methods, the researchers propose the skull is at least 46,000 to 51,000 years old but no more than 63,000 years old.
This discovery, according to the study’s authors, helps resolve the “paleontological gap in the Late Pleistocene of Southeast Asia”5 by demonstrating that early modern humans must have dispersed from Africa through multiple routes simultaneously. It shows early modern humans were in Asia along with those viewed by evolutionary anthropologists as less evolved “archaic” people, like the Red Deer Cave people recently discovered in China.6
The skull from Laos (TPL-1, named for the Tam Pa Ling cave) has small teeth like modern humans, lacks brow ridges and other Neanderthal features, and is nearly identical to skulls of other early modern humans. Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum agrees that TPL-1 predates other Homo sapiens discovered in Asia by 20,000 years.7
On the other hand, Darren Curnoe, co-discoverer of the unusual looking humans at China’s Red Deer Cave, questions the dates assigned to this skull. Curnoe points out that the sediment in the cave has been severely disturbed, washed out, and replaced. He writes,
Within less than one metre, the age goes from 51,000 years to 2,700 years old (a difference of more than 48,000 years) . . . Another concern with the dating is that the age estimates are somewhat out of sequence and in conflict. There are dates on sand grains in the cave of 48,000 years a good two metres below the skull’s recovery unit and a date of 46,000 years 20cm below it.8
And though the researchers indicate the sand grain dates “should provide a result close to the ‘true’ burial age,” Curnoe points out,
The skull is dated directly, using a different method, to about 63,000 years old, but with large errors. Dates using the radiocarbon method are also out of order (inverted), suggesting the soils have been disturbed once they were formed.8
Notwithstanding, the researchers believe their discovery of “Late Pleistocene human remains” offers a more reliable proof of early modern human presence in the region than “molecular clocks of unknown precision applied to extant [living] human genetic data”5 and anthropological dating methods that “inappropriately equate technology with human biology.”5 They agree with conventional evolutionary anthropologists that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa 150,000 to 200,000 years ago and dispersed, but they believe their discovery demonstrates that the dispersal was farther, faster, and more complex than previously suspected.
“The typical thinking [regarding migration routes into Asia] was that once modern humans hugged the coastline to go from India to Southeast Asia, they went southward into Indonesia and Australasia (the region comprising Australia, New Zealand and neighboring Pacific islands),” coauthor Laura Shackelford explains. “We think they absolutely did that, but we're also suggesting other populations probably went north or northeast toward China, and some went through the mountains into mainland Southeast Asia, taking advantage of river systems. Beforehand, no one thought they would have gone into the mountains of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.”
The evolutionary interpreters of the data surrounding TPL-1 and other ancient people see potential flaws in the assumptions used to date the skull, yet they fail to acknowledge the unverifiable assumptions underlying long-age interpretations of radiometric data in general.9Evolutionary anthropologists with a prior conviction that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors point to additional unverifiable untestable assumptions for support.10
God provided in the Bible His own account of how He created man in His own image, distinct from animals, without evolution, about 6,000 years ago. Furthermore, biblical history documents the eventual post-Flood dispersal of human beings from the Tower of Babel. All the varieties of human beings we find in the fossil record are descended from those people. Several varieties of people evidently became extinct by the end of the Ice Age, but there is no reason to believe that any of these people were lower on the evolutionary scale than each other or modern people, since we are all descended from Noah’s family.
Denisovan DNA’s secrets—unveiled and interpreted
Denisovans are a recently discovered member of the human family, represented so far by only a finger bone and two teeth from Siberia. However, Denisovan DNA is already better studied than that of Neanderthals. Researchers sequencing their DNA with a new technique confirm that a substantial portion of modern Papuan DNA seems to have been obtained from Denisovans and that Denisovans, Neanderthals, and early modern humans all intermingled. By comparing the number of mutations in the Denisovan DNA with those in modern human DNA, they estimate the Denisovan girl died 75,000 years ago. Furthermore, they now claim to have additional evidence tracing the evolution of humans from an ape-like ancestor.
Efforts to sequence Neanderthals have been hampered by contamination with bacterial and modern human DNA. Only about 5% of the DNA from Neanderthal samples is actually Neanderthal DNA. By contrast, 70% of the DNA obtained from the Denisovan fragments seems to belong to the original owner. The partial sampling of her DNA in 2010 revealed that the Denisovan was a previously unknown archaic human. Now, a practically complete DNA sequence has been obtained using a new “high-coverage” technique. Results are consistent with a somewhat dark-skinned female with brown hair and eyes.
The researchers compared Denisovan DNA with that of chimps and modern humans. They believe any genomic similarity between modern humans and Denisovans to be evidence of changes that occurred as humans and chimps diverged from their common ancestor. For instance, they believe that human chromosome #2 is a fusion of two chromosomes that remain separate in chimps. Since Denisovan DNA is just like a modern human in this respect, they place the chromosomal fusion deeper in the genetic past than the Denisovan-modern human split.11
Comparing Denisovan DNA to modern human DNA, less than a tenth of a percent of the differences were in regions “known to affect the expression or structure of genes.” Many were in areas affecting the nervous system. And many of these differences were in areas of the genome associated with various skin and eye pathology. The rest of the differences were insignificant. Furthermore, the minimal evidence of genetic diversity in the DNA suggests that the Denisovan population was quite small.
Thus it seems that Denisovans and modern humans had a great deal in common, as did Denisovans and Neanderthals.12 Estimates of the antiquity of the DNA are based on a number of unverifiable assumptions about human evolution in general and about mutation rates in particular. Therefore, even though the number of differences between Denisovan DNA and that of modern humans can be assessed, interpretations about the age those differences represent are based on unverifiable assumptions.
According to the Bible, all human beings are descended from Adam, so we are not surprised to find that Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans share genetic characteristics. Their similarities with each other and their differences from chimps are not evidence that chimps, Denisovans, and modern humans share an ape-like ancestor or that one human chromosome is an evolution-derived chromosomal fusion. Humans (including Denisovans) and apes are simply different and were created differently by God from the beginning.
Belief in human evolution: cause, co-conspirator, or cure for racism?
Racism is a destructive, ugly attitude that has plagued the world for centuries. But where did it come from and what is its cure? Anthropologist Nina Jablonski’s essay in the 29 August 2012 issue of New Scientist traces the history of racism in the western world. She details the influence of pre-Darwinian taxonomists, philosophers, conquest-minded Europeans, economic opportunists, and even the subtle psychology of prejudice. She finally mentions the eventual rise of social Darwinism as the final scientific justification for racism. However, her essay implies that a better understanding of human evolution is part of the cure.
Racism, as Jablonski correctly states, is rooted in the erroneous notion that intellectual potential, moral character, and behavioral inclinations are linked to skin shade, with the superior qualities genetically linked to lighter skin. But then, by way of “unraveling the origins and persistence of this erroneous belief system,” Jablonski writes:
Let us consider first how the diversity of human skin colouration evolved. . . . All humans evolved in Africa under strong equatorial sun and had skin that was dark and rich in protective eumelanin [the pigment primarily responsible for differences in skin shade]. For more than half of the history of our species, from roughly 200,000 to 80,000 years ago, we were Africans and our pigmentation was fine-tuned as we moved and adapted to local conditions across Africa. . . . Migrations brought people into places that were less and less sunny, and genetic changes—mutations—occurred to produce lightly pigmented skin.”
She goes on to explain how “the evolution of depigmented skin” was favored by natural selection in places with less sunlight because lighter skinned people could produce vitamin D more easily than darker people. Jablonski fails to address the presence of darker-skinned Tasmanian natives far from the equator or lighter skinned natives of Java near the equator.
But her treatment of the skin shade issue is also simplistic in another way. In tracing how differences in skin shade became associated with inferiority and how those ideas acquired the support of science, Jablonski glosses over the dramatic effect of Charles Darwin’s popular writings. While evolutionists did not invent racism, evolution has been used to promote racism to horrifying degrees. History shows this to be the case in Nazi Germany. History also reveals this in the persecution of Australian Aborigines and of other less-publicized atrocities, such as the systematic destruction of Namibian natives in the 20th century.13
Even the titles of Darwin’s famous volumes, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man, proclaimed Darwin’s own belief that some people groups are more highly evolved than others. In The Descent of Man, Darwin repeatedly called people with darker skin “degraded” and hundreds of times described them as “savages.” Darwin’s own words provided “scientific” justification for the next century of “racially” based atrocities. Evolutionist Stephen J. Gould observed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”14
Jablonski admits, “The rise of social Darwinism in the late 19th century further reinforced the notion that the superiority of the white race was part of the natural order because certain ‘stocks’ were more highly evolved and culturally superior because of the ‘fitness’ and ‘adaptations,’ and she adds, “The notion of colour had taken on full scientific trappings.” This is at least a nod to the Darwinian force acknowledged by Gould to have wreaked havoc on countless lives. From Jablonski’s wording here, though, one might even think “social Darwinists” had misinterpreted their master.
Jablonski writes, “We are all one people,” as genetic evidence confirms. Yet the history contained in God’s Word attests to this truth and explains why it is so. From their beginning 6,000 years ago human beings have known they were all of one blood. Adam and Eve doubtless told their descendants, and Noah’s family surely told theirs. The Apostle Paul reiterated this truth in Acts 17:26, telling the Athenians that God “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” In sharp contrast to Darwin’s books, the Bible does not say or imply that racism is ever justified.15 The Bible also does not refer to “races.” The Bible refers to tribes, tongues, people, and nations, and Christ’s blood will redeem people “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
We are all of one blood, but not because we evolved. We are all of one blood because we all descended from Adam, just as God said. And the origin of traits like visible skin shade is no mystery for the student of biblical history. The genome of Adam and Eve contained the genetic building blocks for all the variations of skin shade we see today. Their skin likely expressed these traits as a middle brown tone. Their descendants would thus have been able to have a variety of skin shades by the simple variations of existing genes, without having to “evolve” anything. And as people later dispersed from the Tower of Babel, various genetic effects related to isolation of groups resulted in concentration of certain traits among some.
Evolutionary anthropologists cannot on the basis of evolution explain the genetic evidence that “we are all one people.” Furthermore, secularist evolutionary dogma cannot provide a consistent basis for even declaring that racism is morally reprehensible. Without an authoritative source for morality provided by God’s standards, morality is really a matter of man’s opinions, and everyone can justify doing what is right in his own eyes. Racism is evil, but evolutionary ideas cannot explain why it is evil or provide its solution.
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