What’s wrong with this picture? (Evolutionists critique Doctor Who.)
Dinosaurs, a perennial favorite in pop culture, finally made an appearance last week in BBC One’s revived television program Doctor Who. After all, Doctor Who has free run of time and space, so meeting up with dinosaurs was only a matter of, well, time!
“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” episode 2 of series 7, treated those who love Doctor Who to a delightful program packed with comedy, drama, and a bit of the dark side. (That’s it: no spoilers here! But if you hate spoilers, you might want to delay reading the sources of this news item until you’ve watched it yourself.) In the wake of the episode's debut, dino-bloggers such as free-lance writer Brian Switek and the writers of “Love in the time of Chasmosaurs,”1 while admitting the program was pretty well-done, took the show to task for its “errors.”
First of all, Switek wrote, “My apologies to the Doctor, ‘pterodactyl’ isn’t the proper term for these animals. The proper general term for these flapping archosaurs is ‘pterosaur.’ ‘Pterodactyl’ is an outdated term derived from the genus name of the first pterosaur recognized by science, but the term isn’t used by specialists anymore. It’s time to put ‘pterodactyl’ to rest.” Of course, within the science fiction world, the Doctor can travel virtually anywhere in space and time, so nothing he says is really out of date, and scientific terminology, which is man-made, changes all the time.
More troubling to evolutionary paleontologists and those who blog about their beliefs is the distinct lack of feathers on the Doctor’s Cretaceous castaways. One blogger wrote, “Alas, Doctor Who trotted out the usual silly Jurassic Park-esque bunny-handed monstrosities, virtually devoid of feathers.”2 Concerning a young Tyrannosaurus, Switek writes, “Sadly the juvenile tyrant is neither fuzzy nor sufficiently awkward-looking.” He believes fossil evidence indicates that such juveniles were not only “leggy” and “slim” but also that they were “fluffy flesh-rippers.” (Fossils of Yutyrranus are among those that appear to have not feathers but some sort of artifact best termed “dino-fuzz.”)
The raptors in the show also suffered from “insufficient feathery coats,” Switek writes, adding “Filmmakers seem reluctant to drape feathers over dromaeosaurids, but . . . we know that these dinosaurs had exquisite plumage covering almost their entire body. If you’re going to have raptors, they should be intricately feathery.” The presumption that dromaeosaurids—the family of “raptors”—were “intricately feathery” comes from a combination of “dino-fuzz” (such as tufts of filaments on Sinornithosaurus, but without the anatomical characteristics of actual feathers) mixed with the evolutionary determination that birds must be the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs.
Evolutionists since Darwin have desperately needed evidence that feathers evolved from something. Darwin himself commented, “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!”3 Furthermore, evolutionists have been unable to document evolutionary progression in feather morphology over time, despite their insistence that filaments like these were the evolutionary prototypes of actual feathers. And some fossils with clear anatomical evidence of genuine feathers, such as Microraptor gui (see Did Microraptor gui invent the biplane before the Wright brothers?), are simply fossils of true birds, such as the ones in your backyard.4 Only evolutionary imagination connects these dots. The Bible records God’s eyewitness account that he created flying creatures—which includes of course birds—the day before He created land animals—which includes dinosaurs—and man. Thus only the grossest of biblical compromise can suppose that birds evolved from anything, including dinosaurs.
So creationists who enjoy good science fiction can continue to relegate the comments about millions of years of evolution in our favorites to the category of “fiction,” knowing full well that the God of the Bible has told us the truth. Meanwhile, we can also chuckle that at least this time filmmakers chose to ruffle the feathers of the paleo-bloggers by failing to jump on the “intricately feathered” bandwagon.
Blind cavefish cousins provide evidence consistent with Flood geology model of earth’s history.
Cavefish confined by their blindness and dependence on the freshwater environments of their native caves can’t exactly go wandering around the world. Now, a genetic analysis of blind goby fish from Madagascar and Australia—separated by about 6,000 miles of ocean—shows that the fish are cousins. Scientists say this is strong support for the fact that southern landmasses were once combined as a supercontinent, which they call Gondwana.
“This is the first time that a taxonomically robust study has shown that blind cave vertebrates on either side of an ocean are each other's closest relatives,” says lead author Prosanta Chakrabarty of Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science. “This is a great example of biology informing geology. Often, that's how things work. These animals have no eyes and live in isolated freshwater caves, so it is highly unlikely they could have crossed oceans to inhabit new environments.”
The blind goby from Madagascar, pictured on top, not only has an Australian cousin, it also shares its Madagascan environs with a colorful member of its own genus, shown below. The colorful species is as yet unnamed. Image from www.amnh.org.
As a bonus, researchers discovered a darkly pigmented variety of the blind Madagascar fish—a colorful cousin, yet unnamed. They believe it evolved from the unpigmented version. “It has generally been thought that cave organisms are unable to evolve to live in other environments, in other words to ‘reverse’ their specializations for a subterranean life,” co-author John Sparks of the American Museum of Natural History says. “Our results, and the fact that we have recently discovered new cavefish species in both Madagascar and Australia belonging to these genera, are intriguing from another perspective: they show that caves are not so-called ‘evolutionary dead ends.’”
Genetic analysis demonstrated the Australian and Madagascar versions of this fish, though they have different genus names, are genetically similar and appear to suffer from the same sight-costing mutation. Thus they apparently share a common ancestral goby fish. In an effort to pinpoint the timing of their divergence, however, the researchers relied on circular reasoning by which molecular clock data is interpreted on the basis of unknown past mutation rates and the fossil record. Since both depend on unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions inherent in the long-age interpretation of radiometric data, the vast ages (45–110 million years) calculated for the fish’s ancestral divergence are flawed.
Blind colorless cavefish, such as these gobies, are sometimes put forth as evidence for evolution. As the researchers write, “Blindness and reduced eyes have evolved rarely in fishes and in gobies in particular (which contains more than 2200 species).”5 Living in dark caves, they have no need for sight or pigmented coloration to protect them from the sun or to attract mates.
Blind fish don’t demonstrate evolution. They are just mutated varieties of fish. The ordinary process of natural selection and other processes can explain their presence in dark caves unsuited to similar sighted varieties of the same kind of fish. In this sin-cursed world, mutations destroy genetic information, but mutations preventing normal eye development would not be a problem for fish living in perpetual darkness. Such mutations would not be selected against. Why? Because, in such darkness, vision would not help fish find food. Some species are even known to have their other senses heightened. Thus a population of the blind fish could easily develop and thrive in the dark, but not in the light. Such a process would not require extraordinary spans of time. Speciation commonly occurs rapidly and observably. And such a process certainly is no example of molecules-to-man evolution. Fish they were and fish they are, just fish with less functional genetic information than before.
The discovery of a pigmented version of the fish should also be no surprise, as it represents not the evolution of new information but a variant of the genetic information already present in the genome of goby fish. Its pigment is not proof that new genetic information can be acquired in caves (or anywhere else). Furthermore, pigmentation would offer no selective advantage in a cave. And neither pigmentation nor the lack of it would be selected against in a perpetually dark environment.
These findings are, of course, consistent with the existence of a transitory supercontinent during the Flood. Such landmasses are consistent with models of Flood geology. We do not need evolutionary timescales to explain the breakup of such a landmass. Simulations of the tectonic activity associated with the global Flood explain the catastrophic breakup. Read more about it at A Catastrophic Breakup.6
Since God created all things including all kinds of fish in the beginning, it is no surprise that goby fish share a common ancestor—a created fish from which they descended, not a non-fish from which they evolved. These goby fish are found in limestone caves carved in Flood-deposited sedimentary rock. It may well be that the goby ancestor of these blind gobies mutated and established a blind population prior to the Flood or even during the severe environmental pressures of the Flood year. Then, surviving in these cave refuges, the population may have been separated within a matter of months by the dramatic changes in earth's geography associated with the Flood.
Atheists offended by a cross-shaped artifact seek to “protect” people from the full story of 9/11.
Atheists continue their court battle to expunge a poignant reminder of the tragedy. Why? Because that symbol—a T-shaped piece of steel found among the amorphous mass of debris shortly after the disaster—historically reminded rescue workers at the site that our God, Jesus Christ, cares. The battle to keep the Ground Zero Cross in the 9/11 Memorial rages significantly onward.
Every artifact has a history, a story that makes it significant. Historically, this 10-ton cross-shaped piece of debris was discovered by Frank Silecchia on September 13, 2001, shortly after recovering three bodies. According to reports at the time, the find had a dramatic effect on many workers wading in the carnage of the Twin Towers. Ten days later, the New York Post’s Ron Dreher reported, “As word of the find has spread at ground zero, exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed rescue workers have been flocking to the site to pray and meditate. ‘People have a very emotional reaction when they see it,’ says the Rev. Carl Bassett, an FBI chaplain. ‘They are amazed to see something like that in all the disarray. There’s no symmetry to anything down there, except those crosses.’”7
On October 5, 2001, a ceremony was held acknowledging the role of the 17-foot-tall steel cross in keeping hope alive for the bedraggled and burdened rescuers. State quarters representing the home states of some of the rescuers were welded to the base. A bagpipe peeled out “Amazing Grace.” And Catholic Friar Brian Jordan bestowed a ceremonial blessing on the site. The “Cross” was eventually transported to a street corner near St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan.8
Recognizing the artifact’s historical significance, the Memorial’s designers brought the “Cross” home to Ground Zero. The Memorial Foundation’s president, Joe Daniels, says the Ground Zero Cross is a powerful part of the 9/11 story “because it provided comfort to so many people—it is a part of the history of the space.” The American Atheists are seeking to prohibit inclusion of the Ground Zero Cross in the Memorial, contending its presence violates the Bill of Rights “establishment clause” prohibiting the government from making laws establishing a state religion.
CNN’s legal analyst Jeff Toobin points out, “I think the odds of a court ordering the cross removed are literally zero. The museum is not building a place for religious worship, they are preserving a historical relic that was meaningful to a great many people and part of the story of 9/11. When the government is surveying a historic development, the government does not have to exclude religions images and artifacts from its displays.”
The Memorial is not government funded. Furthermore, there is legal precedent declaring that even government-funded museums may display religious materials because they are not only a part of history but also because the displaying a religious symbol does not constitute establishing a religion or even believing it.8
Not all atheists support this lawsuit. Many consider it “frivolous.”9 Atheist Susan Jacoby of the Washington Post acknowledges the suit “misconstrues the First Amendment.”9 The outcome of the court battle will have profound implications for all public museums.
So, as Ken Ham recently asked in a video discussing the Bill Nye ruckus,10 why do the atheists care? After all, despite American Atheist president David Silverman’s contention that those who support inclusion of the Ground Zero Cross are deifying a piece of rubble,11 the Ground Zero Cross is not being displayed as an object of worship. The Ground Zero Cross is offensive to atheists because it is a reminder of history’s greatest miracle.
The greatest miracle is that the Creator of the universe—a holy and omnipotent God against whom all humanity has rebelled—seeks fellowship with his rebellious creatures (us) and has made a way for us to truly know Him and to understand His great love by entering our history. Jesus Christ lived in our sin-cursed world as a sinless man and died in our place to bear the guilt of our rebellion, our sin, so that we humans could be restored to a right relationship with God.
This cross-shaped piece of debris reminded rescuers at Ground Zero and still reminds people today that our Savior has not abandoned us despite our rebellion. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Nature reveals our Creator (Romans 1:18–25). No one can ban those phenomena—their testimony is available to all—so secularists use their interpretations of historical science to try to explain all things without God. In this case, however, they wish to use the courts to banish this visual reminder of God’s truth.
Many people in the world hate the cross because it is a reminder that they, like all of us, are guilty sinners—rebels against our Creator. At least for now, we can be thankful that the majority of people in this country still recognize that this nation historically has Christian roots. That makes the recognition and significance accorded to the cross-shaped girders part of history too, the history of that unforgettable day, 9/11/2001.
In the wake of 9/11, many people asked questions about divine justice: how a loving God could allow such death and suffering. As a C.S. Lewis character Ransom comments in his science fiction classic Perelandra, “God can make good use of all that happens. But the loss is real.”12 Understanding the Bible’s answer to this question can help those who suffer—which eventually includes most of us—and those who are appointed to someday die—which includes all of us until Christ returns. Read more about this in Were They “Worse Sinners”? which includes the link to download a free resource to share in times of suffering.
Breaking the code was only the beginning.
Less than a year into the new millennium the Human Genome Project identified the nearly three billion nucleotides in the human genome—a remarkable accomplishment. But like a mysterious unknown language, the genome did not come with a lexicon explaining its meaning. The multinational project nicknamed ENCODE—for Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements—was launched to learn the language of the human genome. The recent release of its second phase via 30 papers published in various journals contains exciting information. But these publications are creating controversy among some evolutionists who complain about the media “hype” and dispute the ENCODE researchers’ conclusions.
DNA consists of sequences of nucleotides, like letters in an alphabet. Groups of nucleotides that direct the formation of particular proteins are called genes. As researchers studied the human genome, they soon learned that only about 2% of the genome consisted of genes, the rest being nicknamed “junk.”
Many evolutionary scientists have maintained that “junk DNA” represents the evolutionary leftovers from millions of years of evolution. They cannot explain, however, why useless “junk,” 98% of our DNA, would hang around for millions of years, surviving the natural selection process, when it had no function. Intuitively, of course, scientists realized that somewhere in that 98% must be something useful, but both the name and the concept of “junk” has persisted.
As researchers began cracking our genome’s code, they found that humans only have about 20,000 genes, not nearly enough to explain our complexity. Many human genes resemble other organisms’ genes, a fact often held up as “proof” that all living things share an evolutionary ancestry. Creation scientists, of course, recognize that our common Designer has logically used similar genes to make similar proteins to serve the biochemical and structural needs of many organisms. Furthermore, this discovery demonstrated that there had to be more information in the genome than just those 20,000 genes.
By 2007, the preliminary phase of the ENCODE project, which analyzed just 1% of the human genome, had generated strong suspicion that most of the genome was functional. The recent release of the last five years of ENCODE research has confirmed that at least 80% of the genome is “biochemically active,” evidence that it probably “does” something. ENCODE scientist Tom Gingeras explains, “Almost every nucleotide is associated with a function of some sort or another, and we now know where they are, what binds to them, what their associations are, and more.”
With further research studying additional cell types, according to ENCODE’s lead coordinator Ewan Birney, “It’s likely that 80 percent will go to 100 percent. We don’t really have any large chunks of redundant DNA. This metaphor of junk isn’t that useful.” He adds that ENCODE results have shown the human genome is “full of things doing stuff.” But what stuff each part is doing will be the subject for ENCODE’s next phase. Birney thinks, “It’s going to take this century to fill in all the details.”
Much of the non-coding DNA is engaged in gene regulation—determining when genes make their proteins. Scientists have long realized that individual cell types must have a way to switch on the part of the DNA they need, but the discovery that the majority of the “junk” DNA is involved in this regulatory function has come as a surprise. ENCODE researchers have also learned that very small variations in this non-coding DNA are associated with increased risk for many common diseases. This information holds hope that many diseases may someday be amenable to treatments never before imagined.
Some evolutionists are upset about the findings. For instance, even though the “biochemical activity” the ENCODE researchers documented in 80% of the genome was specifically associated with RNA or DNA (not just random chemical reactions),13 evolutionist bloggers are hastening to point out that just because a portion of DNA engages in biochemical activity, there is no reason to believe it actually has a function.14
Toronto biochemist Larry Moran, who was not involved in the project, in his evolutionary blog “Sandwalk,” says the journalist interviewing Birney “blew it,” adding, “The creationists are going to love this. . . . This is going to make my life very complicated.”15
Secularists are determined to write God out of our origins, so we are not surprised to see the controversy erupt over evidence of intricate complexity designed throughout the human genome. Molecular geneticist Dr. Georgia Purdom explains, “Evolutionists don't like the definition of ‘functional’ that ENCODE is using. They truly believe that even if the DNA is transcribed to RNA that it is still not doing anything as RNA. Since organisms are usually very efficient in the sense that they have highly regulated pathways to turn on and off genes, I find it hard to believe that they would waste energy transcribing something that has no function. That is where the worldview difference really comes into effect. I don't believe the genome is the result of random chance over time with a lot of evolutionary leftovers still prevalent in our DNA that haven't been ‘selected out’ yet. I believe the genome was designed and created by God and that much of the ‘junk’ DNA will be found to have a function because God is a logical and orderly Creator.” Dr. Purdom will explore the evolutionists’ objections more thoroughly in her Answers in Genesis blog post, part 2 of her coverage of ENCODE, next week.
Experimental science like ENCODE deciphers the genetic code, but even ENCODE cannot look back through time or show that people evolved through natural processes of molecules-to-man evolution. However, these discoveries have given us a glimpse of God’s amazing creative design. They also hint at the often subtle ways “mistakes” in the genome that have crept into that design in the wake of sin’s curse to cause disease. We look forward eagerly to the additional information to be learned as research continues as well as to future medical applications.
A Teach-the-Controversy approach is good for education, good for science, and truly better for both sides.
“Using scientific disagreements over topics such as evolution to help students learn more about how science deals with controversy is a valuable part of the learning process,” according to Louisiana’s Central Community School Board member Jim Lloyd. Lloyd is author of the school board’s new policy to provide helpful guidance to teachers who wish to teach about controversial scientific topics such as evolution, global warming, and human cloning.
“A ‘Teach-the-Controversy’ approach helps both advocates and critics of evolutionary theory to have a better understanding of the claims of evolution and its supporting evidence,” Lloyd explains. “Teaching this and all subjects objectively means presenting both the scientific evidence for and against each theory.” Louisiana’s ground-breaking 2008 Science Education Act (LSEA) permits teachers to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” With LSEA Louisiana led the way for other states such as Tennessee to take similar action. (See “The Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act.”) Local districts were given the freedom to assist their teachers to determine how to use discussion of controversial subjects to build critical thinking skills in their students. Many teachers have expressed a desire for such guidance. As Lloyd recalls:
Not long ago, the Association of Professional Educators of Louisiana polled its members and learned that a large percentage of them welcomed guidance concerning how to better teach controversial science subjects. The following year, Supt. Bob Webber of the Ouachita Parish School System quietly surveyed his own science teachers and learned that 100 percent welcomed some specific guidance on this issue.
That led to a unanimous adoption of the Science Curriculum Policy by the Ouachita school system. The policy passed constitutional scrutiny by the board’s legal counsel, and it has received no legal challenges.
Having determined the same need existed among Central Community’s teachers, the Central Community School Board has now followed the lead of Ouachita Parish School System in pledging to equip its teachers to take advantage of the academic freedom granted them under Louisiana law. Present at the meeting, where the proposal passed 6-0, was a representative of the Ouachita school system with a letter from 20 Ouachita teachers expressing their appreciation for Ouachita’s policy.
Teachers have two reasons to desire guidance in this matter. One is of course their heartfelt desire to equip their students with scientific understanding and discernment. As Lloyd explains, “The President told us, ‘Our quality of science education lags behind that of many other nations,’ and it is important that our science education should distinguish between the data and testable theories of science on the one hand, and unproven philosophical claims made in the name of science on the other hand.”
The Central Community School Board has made it clear that they want their students to receive a premier science education. They recognize that equipping teachers to teach about controversial positions is the best way to do this. The school board felt the resolution would be helpful after learning from their teachers that they were hesitant to “teach the controversy” without more direction from the schools. Resources are available, such as those at www.textaddons.com, to help teachers encourage critical thinking about controversial topics. Despite the usual outcry of evolution advocates, this policy is not “creationist code language”16 designed to get teachers to teach creation science to students.
Additionally, teachers wish to remain within the law. “There is false belief that it is unconstitutional to teach criticisms of topics such as evolution, when the Constitution does the opposite. It actually prohibits the censoring of scientific ideas,” Lloyd explains, in reference to our constitutional protection of free speech. “Teaching the controversy is legal and legitimate.” Furthermore, as we discussed in The Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act, “The ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State both agree that ‘Any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught.’”
Louisiana law and Central Community’s new policy do not require teachers to teach creation science, and we have never suggested public school teachers should be forced to teach creation. Such a policy, besides violating existing law, would be counter-productive: the creation science position would likely be taught poorly by many evolutionary instructors. We are pleased to see Central Community’s willingness to assist its teachers in teaching students how science really works.
All that said, when discussing origins (historical science), we hasten to point out that scientific evidence does not speak for itself. Every person has a bias affecting the way he or she views scientific evidence. Therefore, we exhort Christian parents and churches to re-double their efforts to teach not only critical thinking skills but also the truth of the Bible as God’s Word. Students need to be taught that the Bible is consistent with science both at church and at home even while learning to critique conventional textbook content at school.
BioLogos biologist Dennis Venema of Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia shares what it’s like to teach evolution to Christian undergraduates. “The Sorrows and Joys of Teaching Evolution at an Evangelical Christian University” describes how he gradually eases evolution into the minds of Christian students by casually mentioning “millions of years” in his discussion of fruit fly speciation. He then guides students to deduce that one of our human chromosomes must have evolved from fusion of two chromosomes in a human ancestor (after splitting from some shared ancestor with apes) by showing students pictures of the chromosomes without the labels. Having thus led them down the path to evolutionary thinking without directly mentioning human evolution, he then springs what he considers to be the incontrovertible facts of evolution on them and attempts to help them through the crisis of faith his lessons have induced. He claims his students grow spiritually and feel closer to God by coming to believe that God used evolution to create the world’s biology over millions of years. However, encouraging young people to distrust what God plainly said He did and to trust instead man’s fallible unverifiable opinions about the unobservable untestable past does not help them to grow closer to God. It only helps them to compromise and distrust Him. Venema says doing this brings him deep joy, yet since Jesus Christ said (John 5:46–47) that failure to accept the writings of Moses could undermine faith in Him, how much damage is Venema doing to young people entrusted to TWU’s care? As Ken Ham pointed out in a recent blog, TWU’s goal is “to transform lives through Christ-centered higher education.” In what way is disregarding and twisting the words of Christ, by whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16) and in whom dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), a positive, Christ-centered transformation? For more information, see Feedback: “The Search for the Historical Adam” and Population Genomics and Good News.
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