1,800 turtles violently swept into a watery grave: found in Chinese Jurassic rock layer.
Fossil graveyards are always dramatic finds, and a Jurassic turtle bone bed in the Turpan Basin of northwestern China’s Xinjiang province is no exception. “Bones upon bones, we couldn’t believe our eyes,” says paleontologist Oliver Wings. German and Chinese paleontologists found this fossil graveyard in 2008 and have been working to excavate a portion and analyze some of the turtles. University of Tübingen’s fossil turtle specialist Walter Joyce says, “This site has probably more than doubled the known number of individual turtles from the Jurassic. Some of the shells were stacked up on top of one another in the rock.”
This is the fossil site on Mesa Chelonia in northwestern China’s autonomous region of Xinjiang. The researchers suspect the graveyard is Middle Jurassic, but emphasize that stratigraphy in the region is “still in its infancy” and therefore “may arrive at other results in the future.”2 Image credit: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin on www.livescience.com
Though there are fossilized sharks, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and mammals in the region, this graveyard seems to belong to the turtles. There are many complete turtle skeletons as well as disarticulated ones. The shells are most heavily concentrated in a 10–20 cm (4–8 inches) thick layer in an area 10 x 2 meters (about 33 x 6½ feet) along Mesa Chelonia.2 Based on a finding of 18 turtles in one half-square meter block and noting neighboring areas of the mesa with lots of turtles, the team calculates the graveyard could contain as many as 1,800 turtle fossils.
Why were these turtles all buried together? Because “drought-induced mass accumulations of turtles”2 occur in modern-day Australia, the team believes the turtles had gathered in a riverbed during a drought, died there, and then were struck by a flash flood that carried the lot of them along in a southwesterly direction with a great deal of sediment, depositing them where we find them today.
Geological evidence for such a drought is lacking, however. The team writes, “The sedimentological evidence to support this drought scenario is unfortunately limited. Among geological criteria for drought sediments, none are present at Mesa Chelonia. In particular, there is no evidence for mud cracks, evaporites, or caliche [a drought-associated mineral deposit] in any of the strata associated with the fossils.”2
The researchers propose a drought-induced gathering to explain the congregation of so many turtles, but the evidence to support it is not only “unfortunately limited” but completely lacking. The evidence for the drought is non-existent, and they cite none. On the other hand, they do describe the “high population density . . . in many modern turtle communities”2 and also note that turtles in another fossil graveyard, the Green River Formation’s Black Mountain turtle layer, “faithfully reflect”2 such a high population density.3 There is therefore no need to hypothesize a drought to explain the gathering.
Though evidence does not support a pre-burial drought, the findings do support a sudden and catastrophic burial. The researchers say the lack of stratification or sorting and the inclusion of vertically embedded turtles indicate the water-borne debris was a high-density, high-energy, turbulent mudflow. The lack of abrasion on the fossils suggests they were not carried far, and the lack of scavenging suggests they were buried quickly.2
A violent mudflow that carried away a population of turtles, ripping some to pieces and burying them suddenly, is consistent with the global Flood. Additionally, the underlying bed, the researchers note, was sufficiently soft to be deformed and shaped by the turtle-transporting mudflow,4 another finding consistent with the rapid accumulation of sedimentary layers during the global Flood. Catastrophic deposition associated with the global Flood produced many fossil graveyards around the world and explains the turtles of Turpan Basin.
HIV mutation may make it more vulnerable to vaccines.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has frustrated efforts to create an effective vaccine. Analysis of naturally developed antibodies in a few infected patients, however, has uncovered a pattern in HIV mutations, a pattern that could be the key to developing an HIV vaccine.
Your immune system uses antibodies to attack invaders, but antibodies typically recognize only a small region of an invader. The recognizable regions of HIV, however, are well hidden. Thus this virus initially evades detection. After it binds to its target cells (T-lymphocytes and macrophages), the immune system recognizes it and produces antibodies. Then, however, rapid mutation in the HIV genome typically makes enough unrecognizable versions of the virus to maintain the infection. And because the target cells are part of the human immune system, the infected person remains disastrously vulnerable to other infections.
HIV targets human cells that have CD4 on their surface. The virus’s glycoprotein envelope (gp120) binds to CD4, essentially unlocking the cell to allow HIV to enter and take over the cell. The most potent types of “broadly cross-neutralizing antibodies” to HIV can recognize a certain glycan sugar attached to the 332nd amino acid of this gp120 glycoprotein envelope. However, in patients initially infected, most HIV are not glycosylated at position 332. So how, investigators wondered, could this antibody be broadly effective?
At South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service, Penny Moore and Lynn Morris have discovered the answer. They found that two HIV-infected women whose original HIV (like most) was not glycosylated at position 332 began producing increasing amounts of the antibody designed to recognize that marker. Because the immune system generally designs antibodies to attack what it has been exposed to, this did not seem to make sense. “We were astonished,” Moore said.
Further investigation of 70 patients revealed that in a third of them the viral population changed in just 6 months to HIV glycosylated at position 332.5
Glycosylation at position 332, it turns out, is caused by a mutation in the original virus. And it is this very mutation that enables the HIV possessing it to escape the usual volley of antibodies generated during the initial infection. Such glycosylated mutant viruses enter the cells and “escape from the first wave of antibodies.” But the very mutation that facilitates the original infection could potentially become the target of attack by natural antibodies in some patients, and hopefully, the eventual target of attack by manmade ones.
“This is the first time we’ve really understood that viral evolution itself shapes the antibodies that come out,” said Moore. The researchers write, “These findings highlight the dynamic interplay between early antibodies and viral escape in driving the evolution of conserved BCN [broadly cross-neutralizing] antibody epitopes [target sites].” Moore adds, “Being able to work out the pattern of viral evolution will help us think about designing vaccines.” Not that anyone expects this to be an easy task, but the discovery offers a clue that will hopefully lead to an effective strategy to deal with this devastating infection.
This encouraging discovery illustrates the unfortunate way the word evolution gets applied to vastly different phenomena. The broadest definition of the word evolution as just “change” fits what we see here. Of the ordinary mutations that occur in the original infecting virus, a particular mutation (glycosylation at amino acid 332) renders HIV more capable of successfully evading host defenses and invading target cells. Those invading viruses replicate their mutated genome using the infected cells’ machinery and produce a viral population naturally selected to have the glycosylation. But this new glycosylation is a recognizable target that new antibodies can attack.
But this change is not evidence of Darwinian evolution. The change in the viral genome did not provide the virus with the tools to become something different than a virus. The original viral genome was altered, but it did not make upward progress toward becoming a living thing or some sort of non-virus. Thus, the usual application of the word evolution—in the sense of “molecules-to-man evolution”—does not apply here. Unfortunately, as we noted just last week,6 proponents of evolution habitually point to the changes in the pathogenicity of bacteria and viruses and their responses to antibiotics, vaccines, and other treatments as examples to support the belief that bacteria changed into bats, bananas, blue whales, and bacteriologists over the course of millions of years of natural selection and mutations.
Nothing about this new discovery depended on a belief in molecules-to-man evolution. This discovery resulted from the rigorous application of scientific observational skills in the study of the immune system God designed. The findings illustrate one way the immune system is equipped to fight pathogens in this sin-cursed world.
“Giant impact hypothesis” makes a comeback.
Shining down night after night, defying a series of evolutionary hypotheses to explain its origin, is the moon. Evolutionary astronomers have suggested many possibilities over the years, but each has significant problems, such as geochemical discrepancies or failure to measure up in computer simulations. Of course, in a determined effort to come up with a naturalistic explanation for the satellite that reflects sunlight into our night sky, the starting conditions in simulations (which conveniently cannot be verified) can be adjusted until a mathematical model finally works. Geochemical analyses—actual laboratory measurements of moon rocks, for instance—would seem harder to fudge, but alas even those results must be interpreted.
The giant impact hypothesis, originally proposed in the 1970s, like other moon origin ideas, has had its share of problems. The giant impact story holds that, about 30 million years after our solar system began to form, a Mars-sized proto-planet (Theia) collided with earth. As a result of the explosion, Theia’s heavy elements (like iron) sunk into earth’s core while the lighter elements of both earth and Theia vaporized and spewed out into space. Some of the debris then presumably coalesced to form the moon.
While the giant impact notion seemed to explain the moon’s apparently small iron core, other serious problems remain—such as the dynamics of spewing enough material into space to build a moon, having those pieces actually stick together, establishing a stable orbit, and disposing of excessive angular momentum. Despite these problems, for many the “giant impact” has remained the default choice because it seemed to have fewer difficulties than other proposals.7
Geochemists now report they have the first definitive physical evidence in support of the giant impact hypothesis. A team analyzed zinc isotopes present in lunar rocks from 20 different locations. They compared the results with analyses of earth rocks and meteorites thought to be from Mars. The moon rocks have a higher percentage of the heavier zinc isotopes than earth rocks and these meteorites.
When rock is vaporized, the lighter isotopes (at least those of moderately volatile elements, like zinc) tend to be vaporized first. Therefore, if earth was really struck by Theia and the vapor vented into the vacuum of space, the remaining debris should theoretically have a higher proportion of heavier isotopes remaining. If that debris clumped together to make the moon, then moon rocks should all have a higher proportion of heavier zinc isotopes than earth and Martian rock.
“When a rock is melted and then evaporated, the light isotopes enter the vapor phase faster than the heavy isotopes,” explains Washington University professor Frédéric Moynier, who led the study. “You end up with a vapor enriched in the light isotopes and a solid residue enriched in the heavier isotopes. If you lose the vapor, the residue will be enriched in the heavy isotopes compared to the starting material.”
Since all of the “lunar magmatic rocks are enriched in the heavy isotopes of zinc and have lower zinc concentrations than terrestrial or Martian igneous rocks,”8 the geochemists believe that isotopic ratio was established by a primordial vaporization event that affected the entire moon, not by isolated volcanic eruptions.
While the authors of the paper published in Nature consider their results to be “compelling evidence for evaporative loss of volatile elements during lunar formation,”8 we need to see how this sort of “evidence” compares to that of investigations closer to home. In the course of investigating a crime, forensic scientists may discover evidence consistent with many possible scenarios, but they ultimately seek for witnesses to validate what really happened. Building a convincing story without corroborating witnesses is a good way to convict the innocent.
Analogously, finding an isotopic ratio that fits a desired story for the moon’s origins does not make that story true. Even beyond the other problems with the giant impact hypothesis, the greatest problem remains: its lack of a corroborating witness. In fact, the only eyewitness account attesting to the origin of the moon is provided by God in Genesis 1:14–19.9
The biblical idea, that God created the moon ex nihilo (from nothing) about 6,000 years ago along with the rest of our solar system and the stars, does not seek to “explain” why the moon has a different proportion of zinc isotopes, but it does not have to. Any models describing the history of the solar system must be consistent with this historical fact revealed in the Bible to have the possibility of being valid. Evolutionary astronomers, by ignoring the biblical account, ignore their one completely reliable Eyewitness.
Evolutionists claim to have demonstrated the evolution of a new function through gene duplication.
How can an old gene learn new tricks? That has long been a problem for evolutionists trying to explain how increasing genetic complexity evolved. Despite implicit faith that “gene duplications allow evolution of genes with new functions,”10 no one has actually shown how that could happen. Now, scientists from Sweden’s Uppsala University and the University of California, Davis, believe that they have witnessed just such evolution of a novel genetic function.
Because some random mutations involve gene duplications, geneticist Susumu Ohno in 1970 suggested that duplicate copies of genes acquired new and useful functions, got enhanced by natural selection, and added to the genetic complexity of evolving organisms. Since mutations are generally not helpful, however, evolutionists have had a hard time showing how they could survive the process of natural selection long enough to become useful. Since mutations actually don’t add any new information, they have also had a hard time coming up with any examples to demonstrate how copies of old genes could acquire new functions.
To get around this problem, John Roth, Dan Andersson, and their colleagues decided to assume that the useful function to be “acquired” was already present and only needed to be amplified by time, chance, and natural selection. Many genes have multiple functions. In their model, they chose a strain of the bacteria Salmonella that had lost the main gene needed to make the amino acid tryptophan. However, the bacteria had another gene, one for making the amino acid histidine, which was also able to produce tryptophan, albeit weakly. They grew the bacteria in a tryptophan-deprived environment for 3,000 generations and discovered that the surviving population had multiple copies of the “dual-function gene.”11 Those with duplication mutations had been favored for survival because they had greater ability to make the tryptophan they needed.
Microbial evolutionary biochemist Antony Dean of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, commenting on the discovery, said, “Ohno will go down as a very important historical figure, but Andersson has the new model for how genes duplicate. His theory is square one.”11
The main problem with using this discovery to support evolutionary theory is that no new function actually came into existence. The dual-function gene already existed in the organism. The genetic information was not new; it was already there. Natural selection in the tryptophan-deprived environment favored the survival and reproduction of those bacteria that had multiple copies of the gene, but no novel function had to evolve. The original bacteria already had a redundant way to make tryptophan.
By analogy, a book contains information. A million copies of the book do not contain a million-times more information, just more copies of the same information.
These bacteria did not evolve an innovation. They did not acquire new genetic information, as duplication of an existing gene is nothing new. They did not even do anything new or innovative with old information. All they did was experience a duplication mutation that allowed them to efficiently express an existing ability to manufacture tryptophan.
Cornell University evolutionary geneticist Richard Meisel cautions that this evolutionary mechanism may be limited to bacteria and viruses,11 which brings up another rather obvious point: nothing about this discovery provides a mechanism for Salmonella to become any new kind of more complex organism, only another variety of Salmonella. Mutations—even duplications that provide extra copies of something useful—do not provide new genetic information or the raw material that “moves bacteria in an upward evolutionary direction.”12
Interpretations of data from Deep Evolutionary Exploratory Probe reflect evolutionary expectations.
Surprising many scientists who thought galaxies stopped evolving once they were formed, a report published October 5, 2012, in the Astrophysical Journal states that the evolution of galaxies is ongoing. NASA’s Deep Evolutionary Exploratory Probe (DEEP) project is an ongoing survey of galaxies. The latest report interprets data from telescopic and spectroscopic analyses of 544 galaxies, indicating that large disk-shaped galaxies have evolved to a more ordered state over time.
“Astronomers thought disk galaxies in the nearby universe had settled into their present form by about eight billion years ago, with little additional development since,” says lead author Susan Kassin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “The trend we’ve observed instead shows the opposite — that galaxies were steadily changing over this time period.”
The survey, which focused on galaxies two to eight billion light years from the Milky Way, indicated that more distant galaxies looked more chaotic, and closer ones more distinct. The researchers also report, “Massive galaxies are the most well ordered at all times examined, with higher rotation velocities and less disordered motions than less massive galaxies.”13 Our own Milky Way galaxy, they say, “must have gone through the same rough-and-tumble evolution as the galaxies in the DEEP2 sample, and gradually settled into its present state as the sun and solar system were being formed.”
The authors suspect that previously incorrect conclusions—that those galaxies were not changing—were the result of insufficient sampling. “Previous studies removed [did not include] galaxies that did not look like the well-ordered rotating disks now common in the universe today,” explained coauthor Benjamin Weiner. “By neglecting them, these studies examined only those rare galaxies in the distant universe that are well-behaved and concluded that galaxies didn’t change.”
So does this mean the case for galactic evolution is closed? Are astronomers actually looking back through past billions of years and watching galaxies evolving through time?
DEEP2’s data is a collection of actual observations—analogous to snapshots—but those observations are subject to interpretation. Evolutionary thinkers interpret those “snapshots” as evidence of gradual evolution. In fact, even the mission statement of DEEP indicates that obtaining evidence for such evolution is the goal of the project. DEEP2’s “scientific goals are to study the evolution of properties of galaxies and the evolution of the clustering of galaxies compared to samples at low redshift.”14
Dr. Danny Faulkner, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of South Carolina Lancaster,15 in an interview with Christian News Network, explained this important distinction. Dr. Faulkner said:
This type of observation has really not been tried before, because you need to do spectroscopy — that’s spreading the light out in different wavelengths and measuring emission features in the spectrum. It requires an enormous amount of light and the largest telescopes available.
What I’m concerned with here is that we see basically snapshots. We have photographs of galaxies; we have measurements of motions of gas within them, and people tend to want to interpret them in terms of evolution – going in many cases from less order to more order, which is not the way we see the world work.
The evolutionary interpretation reflects an ongoing violation of the second law of thermodynamics. In nature, systems go from a state of high order to low order, and from higher to lower gravitational energy. Why would galaxies therefore gradually wind themselves up into a more high-energy state? Dr. Faulkner points out that the observations show only “different galaxies with different characteristics at different distances.” He questions the validity of the interpretation claiming their orderliness has been increasing over time, saying:
We see the systematic differences showing up in this study, but is it really going from less order to more order? I have to question that interpretation completely. The only other systematic difference that I’m aware of is that at great distances, galaxies are a bit bluer than they are locally.
As a creationist, I believe that we could interpret these systematic differences in probably a different way. [NASA is] choosing to interpret [their studies] entirely in terms of a gradual evolution of processes. I don’t think that’s necessarily warranted.
Secular astronomers have proposed various theories to explain how stars clustered together as galaxies. The theory that small clusters have merged to form those we see today, Dr. Faulkner explained, has become popular in the last decade or so. Nevertheless, secular scientists still have no explanation for the perfectly “anthropic” (suitable for man) location of the earth in its solar system, a subject Kassin noted would require further research.
God created the stars in space on the fourth day of Creation Week, according to Genesis 1:16, about 6,000 years ago. And despite their interpretations to the contrary, astronomers have not actually observed the birth of stars, but only stars with different characteristics they interpret to be in different evolutionary stages. Furthermore, God designed the earth to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18), and therefore provided its unique position, perfectly suited for the life He placed on it.
The DEEP2 observations do not contradict God’s Word, though the evolutionary overlay with which they are interpreted does. Noting the many wonders yet to be discovered in astronomy, Dr. Faulkner concludes:
I don’t have an answer yet for these things, but I’m confident that with time and reflection and God’s leading, we can come up with very physically robust explanations of what we’re seeing here within a creationist framework. I don’t feel threatened at all [by evolutionary claims]. I think this [the DEEP2 observations] can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
Creationist astronomers, like all creation scientists, understand that for an interpretation of scientific observations to have any chance of being correct, it must be in accord with God’s Word and the history of the universe God has there provided.
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