Lots more loris species than previously thought, all sweating out their survival
A primate with a venomous bite is definitely an oddity, but it turns out there are more species of the Asian slow loris—the primate that protects itself this way—than previously thought. The loris is a lemur-like nocturnal primate with a nasty noxious nip that effectively discourages parasites and predators.
Lemurs and lorises are in a different primate suborder from monkeys and apes, though all are well-designed for their arboreal acrobatics. Anatomically, lemurs and lorises have larger orbits, relatively smaller brains, and more highly developed senses of smell and hearing than monkeys. There are two genuses of lorises—the slender lorises (Loris genus) and the slow lorises (Nycticebus genus). Until recently, the slow loris was thought to only have one living species. Researchers Anna Nekaris and Rachel Munds report in the American Journal of Primatology that there are actually four species distinguishable by their facial markings. One of these, Nycticebus kayan, is a new discovery.
This hungry sun bear, a nocturnal predator, is all ready for a lunch of loris. Watch the video at www.bbc.co.uk to see how she reacts to a swab of loris “sweat ‘n spit” concealed in the basket. Image credit: BBC at www.bbc.co.uk.
The slow loris is well named for its slow and stealthy movements through the night forests. With a varied diet including fruit, tree gum, small animals, and a host of creepy crawlies, the loris is equipped with a unique ability that aids in its efforts to protect its territory from rivals, repel nasty parasites, and discourage all but the boldest predators. Unfortunately, the loris—being slow and cute—is not so successful at repelling humans engaged in illegal animal trafficking, though the bite it leaves may be long in healing. New knowledge that there are multiple species of slow lorises in addition to an increasing understanding of how loris toxin can be depleted in captivity reveals why attempts to re-patriate rescued animals (those whose teeth haven’t been yanked out) back to the wild are usually unsuccessful.
This loris’s poison is activated to its full toxicity when mixed with saliva, so Dr. Nekaris also collects some loris saliva with a syringe. She will mix the saliva and the brachial oil to make a natural pesticide that is also abhorrent to large predators. See www.bbc.co.uk for a video-log of the leech test. Image credit: BBC at www.bbc.co.uk.
The loris secretes a steroid alkaloid poison through an apocrine sweat gland near its elbow. This “brachial oil,” when mixed with its saliva, can kill leeches and send hungry bears searching for something more savory. Researchers think the loris may get its supply of poison from the “grisly grubs”1 it eats. (We see a similar phenomenon in poison dart tree frogs, which are only toxic when they consume the diet available to them in the wild.) The loris greedily consumes millipedes and many such creatures other animals avoid. Millipedes and ants contain chemical toxins similar to those in the loris. The loris itself is immune to the toxic effects of its snacks and its own sweat. A mother loris typically combs her toxin-rich saliva through the fur of her baby before she embarks on a night of hunting, leaving the baby safely in the nest.
Creationist biologists researching various “created kinds” of animals believe lorises constitute one such created kind. The diversity of loris species therefore developed in the years since the global Flood. Speciation, an observable phenomenal, is variation within a created kind and is not the same thing as the evolution of new kinds of creatures, which has never been observed.
The loris’s ability to take advantage of toxic substances in its diet to deal with threats is a good example of the defense structures that developed after man’s sin brought suffering and death into the world of people and animals. (Read more about it at How Did Defense/Attack Structures Come About? and Unexpectedly Vegetarian Animals—What Does it Mean?) Study of slow loris venom should increase not only our understanding of predator-prey interactions but ironically—as with the study of mamba venom.2 may lead to pharmacological advances.3 for more about slow loris preservation and venom research.
What carved the Grand Canyon?
A couple of weeks ago we discussed4 how some scientists still suggest a flood of epic proportions may have carved the enormous Black Sea basin to the proportions we see it today, even though the geology of the region fails to provide evidence for such a flood.
But what about the Grand Canyon? Because its northern rim, which includes the Kaibab Plateau through which the canyon is cut, is at a high elevation, the Colorado River as we know it today could not have carved the Grand Canyon. (After all, water doesn’t flow uphill, not even if allowed to try it for millions of years!) The Grand Canyon was carved through—not around—the uplifted plateau. However, even secular geologists do not agree on when or how the canyon was formed.5
Some geologists seek the canyon’s source in an ancestral, yet-to-be-found river, perhaps in Utah. However, the canyon lacks the sort of erosion debris and geologic formations that would be present if it had formed through a slow process over millions of years, so some geologists believe a catastrophic flood formed it. Some of these—including geologists who accept the biblical history of the global Flood—maintain the Grand Canyon was carved by a sudden release of water dammed up behind the Kaibab uplift (aka Kaibab Upwarp). Creationist geologists believe this water was trapped in the aftermath of the global Flood.
A study in December’s issue of Geosphere attempts to refute the idea that the Grand Canyon was carved through an uplifted plateau by trapped lakewater breaking through the high Kaibab Upwarp. The Geosphere study focuses on an analysis of the sedimentary remains of Hopi Lake. The author ignores that which biblical creationist geologists believe held most of the water that catastrophically broke free to carve the canyon in the years after the global Flood. This map shows the locations of three former lakes on the Colorado Plateau. The lakes were likely formed in the aftermath of the global Flood as some of the water running off of the uplifted plateau was trapped behind naturally forming dams. See chapter 18 of New Answers Book 3 for a more complete discussion. Image credit: page 103 of Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, edited by Dr. Steven Austin (Santee, California: Institute for Creation Research, 1994) through www.creationinthecrossfire.org.
William Dickinson, a University of Arizona geology professor, wishes to discredit the flood-origin theory of the Grand Canyon’s origins. “I don't think it's a valid story, and my main purpose is to dismantle it,” he says, referring to his latest study, published December 13, 2012, in Geosphere. Dickinson reports that analysis of the sediment remaining from Lake Hopi (aka Lake Bidahochi) shows it was the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake but was too shallow to have produced sufficient floodwater to have breeched the ridge and carved the canyon. He says, “There's no evidence from sedimentology that it was ever a deep lake.”
Geologist Richard Young adds that the sediment remaining from Lake Hopi also indicates the lake is too young to have carved the canyon. He says, “There's no way the lake could have been there for 20 [million] or 10 million years.”
While Dickinson is now certain that the flood-from-a-lake theory is now laid to rest, he isn’t prepared to say where the canyon-carving-river he posits was. Describing the direction he’d like to see research move in, he explains, “One of the hardest things to hindcast is to know how big a river you're looking for in Grand Canyon country. What was the river like up in Utah? I hope that if people would just abandon the Hopi Lake spillover game, their thoughts would lead them on to worrying about Utah.”
So has the Flood geology model, which explains the geology of the Grand Canyon, just taken a dive? No. Dickinson only considered Lake Hopi, which—based on the geology of the region—was not the only source of bottled-up post-Flood lakewater for canyon-carving. Biblical Flood geologists implicate the much larger Canyonlands Lake as the main catastrophic agent that broke through the Kaibab uplift and sliced through the barely hardened Flood sediments of the Colorado Plateau. Creationist geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis explains, “What Dickinson conveniently forgets is that the Flood geologists don’t rely on Lake Bidahochi for carving the Canyon. He conveniently ignores the very much bigger Canyonlands Lake.”
The dating of Hopi Lake sediments that Young mentions are based on unverifiable assumptions, but based on biblical history the lakewaters don’t need to have been there for 10-20 million years to have had a minor role in carving the canyon. If these sediments were the result of subsequent deposits in lakewaters left by the global Flood, they are in fact less than 4,500 years old.
Furthermore, as the journalist from “Our Amazing Planet” mentions in her article, the sediments of the Bidahochi Formation rest atop a great unconformity, “a missing period of geologic time, with the 8-million-year-old lake silt blanketing the 225-million-year-old pink mudstone that forms the Painted Desert.” Biblical flood geologists don’t need to explain these “missing millions of years.”
The formation of the Grand Canyon defies the explanations offered by evolutionary geologists. It was carved through a plateau that had already been uplifted by some sort of geologic process. If this plateau was lifted up at the end of the global Flood, then floodwaters rapidly draining off of it scoured away what secular geologists believe to be millions of years’ worth of sediment. Some floodwater was trapped to form a huge lake system. During the post-Flood years, water levels eventually grew and breached the natural dams to carve the canyon, a monument to catastrophe. Dickinson’s study does not lay this scenario to rest.
Revolutionary DNA sequencing technique said to be “a powerful new tool to fish for genes that have recently evolved.”
Before leaving 2012 behind, it is worth noting the discovery that headed the Science Magazine runner-up list for “Breakthrough of the Year.” Ranking just behind the hitherto elusive Higgs boson and in the same elite group with Curiosity’s arrival on Mars, the new technique for sequencing ancient DNA discovered by Matthias Meyer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology made the 2012 closing headlines. We discussed that discovery here on November 5, explaining that Denisovan DNA has left a footprint in the genomes of some modern humans. (This discovery of course is completely consistent with biblical history. All humans since the time of the global Flood share a common ancestry from Noah’s family.)
“Ancient DNA” like that recovered from a Denisovan girl’s finger bone and Neanderthal fossils tends to be degraded to single-stranded fragments. Matthias Meyer’s method allows those fragments to be sequenced, allowing a more complete peek at the genome of their long-dead owner. This breakthrough is exciting, but let’s take a brief look at the reasons it gets kudos from Science Magazine in order to be better prepared for both the information and interpretations expected in the new year as the technique is applied to more DNA samples.
Because the Denisovan finger bone and teeth belonged to a human being, the researchers were able to “read” some of the genetic code. The DNA fragments can be matched up to their corresponding places on the modern human genome. The Denisovan girl probably had brown hair and eyes and a brown-toned skin. But what other claims propelled this discovery to the top-rank in Science Magazine’s eyes? The editors write:
It also allowed the team to use DNA to estimate that the girl died between 74,000 and 82,000 years ago—the first time researchers had used genomic information to date an archaic human. The high quality of the genome gives researchers a powerful new tool to fish for genes that have recently evolved, providing a “near-complete” catalog of the handful of genetic changes that separate us from Denisovans, who were close kin to Neandertals.
Can DNA be used to “date an archaic human” with the same reliability as it can be used to supply the colors for her portrait? Does the fishing expedition for genes supply evidence of a human evolutionary pathway from ape-like ancestors through primitive humans to the intellectual paragons of today? The answer to both of these questions is “no.”
Since the Denisovan’s DNA is human DNA, it is reasonable to “read” its information using what we know of modern human DNA. Conclusions about eye color and recognition of Denisovan DNA signatures in the DNA of some modern southeast Asian people are reasonable in light of observable, experimental, operational science. All the subjects involved in these interpretations are actual humans. But the inferences about how long ago Denisovans lived are based on unverifiable, worldview-based assumptions. Molecular clock dating requires not only assumptions that mutation rates have remained constant but also calibration dates. Those dates are derived from the scientifically unverifiable interpretations of radiometric dating methods dictating the age of the layers in which fossils are found. Thus the “clock claims” about when Denisovans lived are not acceptable.
Evolutionary anthropologists assume that hundreds of thousands of years elapsed between the evolutionary advent of various Homo species on the earthly scene. And they assume that humans must have gradually evolved from ape-like ancestors and through a series of progressively less primitive human forms. Yet nothing about Denisovan DNA discoveries supports this view. The Denisovans and Neanderthals were simply humans who lived in the post-Flood world, and like some other varieties of humans they have left their fossilized remains in Ice Age sediment. Denisovan and Neanderthal genes are so human because they are human, and their differences with modern humans are simply human variations. Their lives and their extinction are not evidence for either molecules-to-man evolution or proof that humans had to evolve through primitive evolutionary forms.
Search for evolutionary explanation of languages falls short and lands at Babel.
Apes around the world can understand each other, so why do intellectually superior humans have around 7,000 distinct languages? queries evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel. Pagel, a professor at the University of Reading in the U.K., heads a team searching for an evolutionary explanation for our many languages. “Why,” he asks, “would humans evolve a system of communication that prevents them with communicating with other members of the same species?”6
From an evolutionary point of view, any trait that advanced humanity beyond its supposed ape-like ancestry must have offered a survival advantage. So, in a New Scientist editorial called “War of words: The language paradox explained,” Pagel writes:
You could take a gorilla or chimpanzee from its troop and plop it down anywhere these species are found, and it would know how to communicate. You could repeat this with donkeys, crickets or goldfish and get the same outcome.
This highlights an intriguing paradox at the heart of human communication. If language evolved to allow us to exchange information, how come most people cannot understand what most other people are saying?
In other words, if humans evolved language in order to communicate with each other, then why did language continue to evolve in a way that interfered with such communication? Pagel finds the biblical explanation best. Of course, he does not consider the Bible to be a reliable historical source and therefore tries to apply its principles to his model of social evolution. He writes:
This perennial question [why there are so many languages] was famously addressed in the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, which tells of how humans developed the conceit that they could use their shared language to cooperate in the building of a tower that would take them to heaven. God, angered at this attempt to usurp his power, destroyed the tower and to ensure it would not be rebuilt he scattered the people and confused them by giving them different languages. The myth leads to the amusing irony that our separate languages exist to prevent us from communicating. The surprise is that this might not be far from the truth. . . .
For the myriad biological species in the tropics, there are advantages to being different because it allows each to adapt to its own ecological niche. But humans all occupy the same niche, and splitting into distinct cultural and linguistic groups actually brings disadvantages, such as slowing the movement of ideas, technologies and people. It also makes societies more vulnerable to risks and plain bad luck. So why not have one large group with a shared language?
Pagel adds, “We should expect new languages to arise as people spread out and occupy new lands because as soon as groups become isolated from one another their languages begin to drift apart and adapt to local needs.” But then he notes that the opposite appears to have happened, writing, “But the real puzzle is that the greatest diversity of human societies and languages arises not where people are most spread out [like the Arctic], but where they are most closely packed together [like Papua New Guinea, where neighboring tribes typically speak distinctly different languages].”
Research recently published in Science compares linguistic data in an attempt to trace the origin of Indo-European languages. The authors suggest that these languages emerged from the region of Anatolia (Asia Minor).7
Nothing in the new research or in Pagel’s editorial supports the notion that humans had to evolve from intellectually inferior animals and a trail of primitive hominids. In fact, it is the very fact that human languages fly in the face of evolutionary ideas that prompts Pagel to call our linguistic history an evolutionary “paradox.” Though he not only considers the biblical account of the tower of Babel a myth but errs in his re-telling of it, he at least recognizes the actual effect God’s linguistic judgment had.
Pagel misrepresents the purpose for which God confused the languages as well as the actual events. The historical account of the tower of Babel is recorded in Genesis 11. Following the global Flood, God commanded people to spread out and repopulate the earth. The bulk of humanity refused and instead consolidated power in one area and built the tower, but not to gain access to heaven. Nothing in the Bible says that was their goal or that God got angry at their attempted forced entry. Genesis 11:4 records, “And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’” Thus the tower was part of the unifying efforts of the people as they combined their efforts to build a single civilization in one place in defiance of God’s instruction.
God scattered the people by confusing their languages because their unified rebellion gave them much power to defy God’s plans. The Bible says nothing about God destroying the tower. Genesis 11:6–9 records,
And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
As intelligent people dispersed from the tower of Babel and their groups became isolated, the “movement of ideas and technology” was slowed, and humanity’s power and ability to perpetrate ungodliness and evil was limited. God provides another clue as to His plans for mankind and the reason it was necessary to limit man’s potential by linguistically interfering with unity and cooperation: Acts 17:26–27 records the Apostle Paul saying, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Though missionaries and Bible translators all over the world must work hard to make God’s Word and the good news of the gospel available to people in their own languages, Paul’s message lets us know that the lack of a language barrier would have allowed sinful humanity to make this sin-cursed world even more evil and resistant to the gospel message than it is.
The biblical history of the dispersion from the tower of Babel also indicates that diversity of language emerged from the area of “a plain in the land of Shinar” away from which many groups of people traveled some time after the global Flood. Noah’s Ark had come to rest in “the mountains of Ararat,” so geographically the region would have been in the region we know as the Middle East. Thus, not only Pagel’s linguistic analysis but also the geographical conclusions from the latest linguistic research (suggesting the Indo-European languages diversified from the region of Asia Minor) are essentially consistent with the historical facts supplied to us through God’s Word.
Science teacher reveals his unscientific bias and blind spot.
The January 2013 issue of Scientific American features an article sharing a science teacher’s perspective on his visit to the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky (near Cincinnati, Ohio). Despite the common claim that scientists objectively evaluate their observations, this teacher’s predetermined decision to reject and mock all he saw is clear from the beginning.
Opening up with a mock plea for mutual tolerance, the article’s subtitle is “A science teacher asks if scientists and biblical literalists can get along.” From the first, this schoolteacher announces that he refuses to admit that a genuine scientist can be a Bible-believer. Perhaps the teacher is unaware of the history that shows some of the greatest scientists of all time have believed the Bible. Sir Isaac Newton, for instance, believed that God had created an orderly universe in which the laws of motion he had discovered would operate in space as they did on earth. For its part, Answers in Genesis, which operates the Creation Museum, has several full-time staff who hold earned doctorates who speak at the museum.
Scientists draw conclusions based on observations and controlled testing. This teacher already had his conclusions about the Creation Museum established before he arrived and apparently searched for fodder he could spin to support his predetermined opinion.
One major difference between secular scientists and Bible-believing scientists is that, when drawing conclusions about the origins of life and of the earth, secular scientists tend to ignore the fact that events surrounding our origins are not available for controlled scientific testing. After all, a planet full of life is already here. We cannot know what the original conditions of its origins were without an eyewitness account to confirm our suspicions. Bible-believing scientists accept God’s eyewitness account, whereas secular scientists accept practically any alternative to avoid accepting God’s Word, yet they do so without the capacity to confirm their worldview-based beliefs.
The teacher writes, “A literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be reconciled with modern science.” He gives many examples of technological advances we all enjoy and says that people who use those scientific fruits do so while rejecting the science that underlies them. Yet he, like Bill Nye and so many others, is confusing modern experimental science with historical origins science.
The teacher claims, “Creationists begin with answers and work to prove that those answers are right,” adding, “This is antithetical to the scientific process.” The teacher must not read much of the scientific literature written by secular evolutionary scientists! Their papers typically begin with the assumption that molecules-to-man evolution occurred. These papers present such evolutionary processes as self-evident facts, not on the basis of scientific support or controlled testing but simply on the basis of the fact we exist.
The emergence of life from non-life though random natural processes has never been observed. The random acquisition of genetic information to produce new functions and more complex kinds of organisms has never been observed. The transformation of one kind of organism into a different kind of more complex organism has never been observed. Yet evolutionary scientists, those who produce the material this teacher embraces, simply assume that if we exist, we must have evolved. While evolutionary scientific research papers spend a lot of ink trying to explain how evolution occurred, they never question whether it occurred.
The science teacher says, “40 percent of the American electorate seems to have forgotten what science is.” We must ask however whether this teacher understands the nature of experimental science and its applications. Can he not see the difference between controlled scientific testing and worldview-based assumptions? Evidently not. Unfortunately, it is likely his students will also fail to learn this critical thinking skill. Will they, like their teacher, accept with undiscerning eyes whatever “authoritative” humanistic sources tell them without understanding the fallible unverifiable foundation on which evolutionary beliefs are based?
Analysis of another recent anti-creationist Scientific American piece (posted to the magazine’s blog) can be found below.
“What Should Teachers Say to Religious Students who Doubt Evolution?” is the title of a recent blog in Scientific American. In it college teacher John Horgan declares that it is his job to prod young people “into questioning their most cherished beliefs.” Christians young and old should examine their beliefs in light of God’s Word. (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1, and numerous other Scriptures exhort us to be biblically discerning.) All of us need to practice using the trustworthy “biblical glasses” provided by our Creator to correctly understand everything from morality to science. But Horgan is attempting to subvert students’ confidence in God’s Word by replacing God’s authority with his own. He explains in the article how by distancing himself from God-bashers like atheist Richard Dawkins and those who claim evolutionary science has answered life’s “whys” as well as the “hows,” he is able to teach religious students that “the theory of evolution by natural selection is arguably the single most profound insight into reality that humanity has ever achieved” and that it is supported by “mountains of evidence” from fossils to DNA. Like other evolutionists, he mistakenly believes that scientific insight into realities of the untestable past can be made without reliance on worldview-based assumptions. We cannot know about the unobservable past without some sort of eyewitness account. God provided this in the Bible. Furthermore, the “mountains of evidence” in the fossil record and DNA do not show evolution from one kind of creature into new more complex ones and do not show how molecules-to-man evolution could or even did happen. Such evolutionary conclusions are interpretations that assume—without any scientifically testable support—that life could randomly emerge from non-living elements through natural processes and that organisms could acquire genetic information to increase their own complexity. Read more about Horgan’s claims in Ken Ham’s blog at blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2012/12/31/professors-who-deliberately-shake-the-faith-of-our-children
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