Development of “pre-hands” in fish said to show how terrestrial animals evolved limbs.
Evolutionists maintain that land animals evolved from fish. Scientists reporting in Developmental Cell say that their experiments have demonstrated a possible genetic mechanism permitting this evolutionary development.
Hox genes, present in many kinds of organisms, are a kind of “genetic switch.” They regulate the expression of other genes. Hoxd13 codes for production of a protein that regulates genes for limb development in mice. Fish produce very small amounts of this protein and form fins.
Researchers therefore injected zebrafish embryos with lots of mouse hoxd13 genes. Within 24 hours fin development slowed, and cartilaginous proliferation began in the region where fins would otherwise have developed. The genetically enhanced fish embryos continued along this line of development for four days before dying. The researchers thought this cartilage growth, though asymmetrical, uncontrolled, and distorted,2 was somewhat reminiscent of that seen in the embryologic precursors of hands and feet.
“Of course, we haven't been able to grow hands,” says Dr. José Luis Gómez-Skarmeta, who with his colleague Dr. Fernando Casares led the research team. But Casares believes that increased expression of regulatory genes like hoxd13 in ancestral fish may have unlocked the genetic key to terrestrial evolution.
“We found that in the zebrafish, the mouse hoxd13 control element was capable of driving gene expression in the distal fin rudiment,” Casares explained. “This result indicates that molecular machinery capable of activating this control element was also present in the last common ancestor of finned and legged animals and is proven by its remnants in zebrafish.”
In the evolutionary scenario suggested here, growing limbs instead of fins would not be so much a matter of acquiring new genetic information as it would be “switching on” information already present. Evolutionists are convinced that the fossil record demonstrates that fish actually did this—developed limbs. Some extinct fish and even living ones like lungfish and coelacanths have lobed fins. Many evolutionists view such fish as examples of the evolutionary transition to terrestrial walking.
The fossil record and the living world reveal biodiversity among fish, not their evolution. There are finless fish, fish with ordinary fins, and fish with lobed fins. But all these creatures are fish. The fossil record does not demonstrate the needed transitions. Among living fish, coelacanths are lobe-finned fish that breathe with gills. Lungfish have spindly lobed fins without any long limb bones or any sacrum to stabilize the “lobes” for walking. Lungfish are able to move about in shallow water and can even breathe air. Both fish function well in their environments but lack any sort of skeletal transition toward terrestrial life.
Rather than imitating an evolutionary process that supposedly produced an organism adapted for life on land, this research showed how disruption of a single genetic regulatory mechanism designed by God wrecked the normal development of the embryonic fish. Just four days later they all died.
God created all kinds of fish on the fifth day of Creation week, each able to reproduce after its kind. Just one day later, He created land animals and man. He did this about 6,000 years ago, not millions of years ago. He did not require evolutionary processes to produce terrestrial vertebrates but only His word.
Better understanding of genetic regulation in embryonic development is important in our understanding of some birth defects. Gómez-Skarmeta explained, “In the case of genes involved in limb formation, their abnormal function is associated with diseases such as synpolydactyly and hand-foot-genital syndrome.” However, nothing about this research provides support for evolution. The potential medical advantage depends solely on the experimental science accomplished here, not on evolutionary presuppositions.
A common Designer—our Creator—used similar genes to accomplish somewhat similar functions in many different organisms. Genes to regulate the proper expression of other genes are part of the finely tuned intricate design of each organism. And in a sin-cursed world, sometimes those designs go awry. Common genes are a result of having a common Designer, not a common ancestor.
Pro-abortion writer claims that our “diabolically clever” support for life is a “sneaky, dirty trick.”
The death toll from Roe v. Wade’s legalization of abortion 40 years ago in the U.S.A. is already approaching 55 million. As America enters its fifth decade since that infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision declared that a woman’s “right to privacy” trumps her unborn baby’s right to live, a staff writer for Salon has come out and plainly proclaimed the foundational and inherently selfish belief behind the pro-abortion “pro-choice” movement. Mary Elizabeth Williams protests the “semantic power” of those who “try to control” the “reproductive choices” of women. She writes:
Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word “life.” Life! Who wants to argue with that? Who wants be on the side of … not-life? That’s why the language of those who support abortion has for so long been carefully couched in other terms. While opponents of abortion eagerly describe themselves as “pro-life,” the rest of us have had to scramble around with not nearly as big-ticket words like “choice” and “reproductive freedom.”
Williams makes a startling admission for those who think the battle against abortion is primarily about debating when life begins. She writes:
I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.
Williams goes on to declare that making distinctions about how far along a pregnancy is when deciding on a fetus’s fate is logically absurd. This, incidentally, is precisely the logical absurdity promulgated by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, and on this one point I agree with Williams. She explains:
When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?
Though as an obstetrician, a woman, mother, and a Christian, I have long been involved in efforts to demonstrate that human life is a continuum that begins at fertilization and to encourage women with unexpected pregnancies to “choose life,” and so I was not totally surprised to read Ms. Williams statements. Some women are awakened to the truth by an ultrasound of their moving baby’s hands and choose to let their child live. But frankly, in my experience, it is not often the question of whether or not the baby growing inside them is a human life that ultimately determines what most women decide in the throes of their “choice.” It is instead what they already believe about other things. Things like how their personal wishes, plans, and convenience rank when weighed against things like the rights of another human being to even exist or the authority of their Creator.
Williams is quite correct in her assertion—or admission—that the unborn are human beings. But her conclusion—that the inconvenience or even the distress occasioned by an unwanted pregnancy justifies a woman’s choice to kill her baby—is based on the “me first” philosophy that Adam and Eve espoused 6,000 years ago. That “me first” philosophy is at the heart of the sinful nature all humans have had since our first parents rebelled against God (Genesis 3). And that “me first” sinful philosophy of life has been responsible for the many curses of sin that have corrupted humanity and our world ever since.
In sharp contrast to this self-centered sinful philosophy that leads to corruption and death—including the death of the unborn—we see Jesus Christ the Son of God, who sacrificed Himself by coming from heaven to live in this corrupt world, finally dying on the Cross to pay the price for all (Hebrews 2:9). And thanks to Christ’s sacrifice, we do not have to remain slaves to the “me first” attitude Williams encourages us to embrace. “Me first” ultimately leads to death. Jesus Christ, through His self-sacrificing love for each of us, offers us life, abundant life, now and forever.
Teeth of Homo erectus grew like modern human teeth but not like chimps.
A dentist once told me that I didn’t need to floss all my teeth—only the ones I wanted to keep! Teeth show wear from abrasion and accumulation of dental calculus on the outside, particularly without the benefit of modern dental hygiene. But the inside of our teeth also tells a story. Our permanent teeth, because they are designed to last a lifetime, preserve a record of their growth in their microscopic structure. A study comparing the teeth of modern humans, chimpanzees, and hominid fossils has found results that surprised evolutionary researchers. In a nutshell, they discovered that the teeth of Homo erectus had a growth pattern matching that of modern humans and not chimpanzees.
“Our roots are stuck in the past,” commented study coauthor M. Christopher Dean, indicating his belief that molar roots had failed to keep up with human evolution.
In order for teeth not to rip out of the jaw once chewing begins, they need sturdy roots. The study’s authors noted that the hardest bit of data to uncover was the age at which chimpanzee teeth begin to peek through the gums—presumably owing to the general unwillingness of young chimpanzees to open wide for a gum inspection. Ultimately they did succeed in comparing the age at which chimp and modern human teeth erupt to the age at which the tooth roots begin to grow rapidly. If chimps are somewhat uncooperative, it can be safely said that hominid fossils are unforgivably reticent about the age at which their teeth erupt, as fossils can’t be observed teething in real time and don’t have gums. Once their teeth erupted, though, the original owners likely began to use them to chew, so eruption was gauged by the presence of abrasion.3
Dean and Tim Cole compared the age of the tooth crowns to the age of the roots indirectly. They examined the teeth of modern humans, chimpanzees, and four “hominids” by looking at the microscopic structure. Tooth growth follows a circadian rhythm. Tooth enamel covering the crown and the dentine core of a tooth’s root both contain telltale microscopic markings produced by daily fluctuations in growth.They first determined in modern specimens the growth rate represented by these markings. Then, by comparing the markings in crowns and roots, they were able to calculate whether or not each tooth root had a significant head start.3
Chimpanzee molars, it turns out, simultaneously erupt through the gums and get a root growth spurt. Modern humans, however, begin growing a sturdy root for their molars long before the teeth erupt. Four “hominid” molars, felt by Cole and Dean to represent the course of human evolution from ape-like ancestors, included three apes (one being an australopithecine) and one Homo erectus. The researchers were surprised to find the molar from the Homo erectus showed a growth pattern comparable to modern humans, with the root having gotten a head start in growth before the tooth erupted.3
Homo erectus had smaller teeth than apes. (So do modern humans.) And humans have a longer childhood than apes. The researchers propose that smaller teeth in Homo erectus represented an evolutionary change from ape-like ancestors reflecting a human’s longer childhood and diet of more cooked foods. They indicate that selection pressure caused the teeth to erupt later in a human than an ape because the childhood is longer. But they consider the fact that molar roots begin growing much earlier than human teeth to be an “evolutionary leftover,” saying that tooth roots don’t cost the body much energy and so failed to evolve a delay in development as hominids became more human.3
This research provides a good example of how objective data can be given an evolutionary spin in order to try to make it support the evolutionary story. The researchers offer no experimental support for the evolutionary interpretation because there is none.
A much more straightforward—not to mention biblically correct—way to view the data is to note that humans and chimps develop differently because they do not share an evolutionary ancestor. Homo erectus’s molar grew like a modern person’s molar because both are human. God’s design for human development includes longer childhood than apes, smaller teeth than apes, and molar roots that begin growing long before the teeth erupt. God created apes and humans on the same day about 6,000 years ago without using evolutionary predecessors.
It’s an itsy-bitsy . . . dinosaur? Or bird?
Flying out China’s seemingly endless supply of so-called “feathered dinosaurs” is the latest superlative—or rather the most diminutive—addition to the growing collection: the Eosinopteryx brevipenna. This big name for the smallest member of the illustrious group literally means “red-winged and short-feathered.” The animal was nearly a foot long (30 centimeters), roughly 8 inches shorter than the Late Jurassic Archaeopteryx.4
The fossil, purchased from a dealer, was from the Tiaojishan Formation of Liaoning Province, the source of many fossils reported to be “feathered dinosaurs.” The authors of the analysis in Nature Communications write that they consider the likelihood of forgery “low,” and note that fossils from the area are difficult to date due to complicated stratigraphic patterns. They believe the fossil came from a region estimated to be Middle to Late Jurassic, conventionally dated between 165 +/- 1.2 and 153 +/- 2 million years old.5
This is a close-up of a pennaceous feather from Eosinopteryx’s wing. The feather’s shaft is visible in the upper right corner and the barbs below. Image credit: P. Godefroit et al., “Reduced plumage and flight ability of a new Jurassic paravian theropod from China,” Nature Communications (2013) doi:10.1038/ncomms2389 published online 22 January 2013.
This is a close-up of what is thought to be downy feathery tufts from the tail of Eosinopteryx. Image credit: P. Godefroit et al., “Reduced plumage and flight ability of a new Jurassic paravian theropod from China,” Nature Communications (2013) doi:10.1038/ncomms2389 published online 22 January 2013.
Eosinopteryx brevipenna resembled Anchiornis in its bone structure, the researchers write. Also, they report Eosinopteryx had actual pennaceous feathers on its wings and upper hindlegs. Unlike Anchiornis, the leg feathers did not extend to its feet. Eosinopteryx also had a proportionately shorter tail and lacked pennaceous tail feathers, though the researchers suspect it had downy ones.5 They classify Eosinopteryx as a “sister taxon” to Anchiornis although they say it has comparatively less plumage and a shorter wingspan. Recent research has suggested that the feathers of both Anchiornis and Archaeopteryx were arranged in asymmetrical layers that would have made flight aerodynamically possible by allowing the birds to generate lift.6 Eosinopteryx, however, likely could not get off the ground.
Though the wing feathers were one-and-a-half times as long as the humerus (upper limb bone), the researchers believe the anatomy of its wing bones would have virtually precluded effective flapping. The authors write, “With a shorter humerus and manus [compared to the Anchiornis] and a reduced plumage, Eosinopteryx had a much shorter wing span than other feathered paravians including Archaeopteryx, Wellnhoferia and Anchiornis. The straight and closely aligned ulna-radius of Eosinopteryx also means that pronation/supination of the manus with respect to the upper arm would have been limited; combined with the absence of a bony sternum and weakly developed proximal humerus, these attributes suggest the Eosinopteryx had little or no ability to oscillate the arms to produce a wing beat.”5
The authors suspect Eosinopteryx was a better runner than Anchiornis, however. The foot feathers and curved claws of Anchiornis may have interfered with its efforts to run. “However, with reduced plumage and short uncurved pedal claws,” they write, “Eosinopteryx would have been able to run unimpeded.”5 “It's such a well preserved complete skeleton of a small dinosaur,” coauthor Gareth Dyke explains. “It would have lived in a forested, swampy environment. I imagine it running around and jumping around from tree trunk to tree trunk, maybe using its wings to speed up its running.”
The fact that this animal, then, had real feathers but was adapted for only ground locomotion prompts evolutionary thinkers to ascribe the survival advantage of feathered wings to be insulation or mate attraction. The authors indicate the apparent biodiversity of feathered animals in the Middle/Late Jurassic means the feathers had to have evolved much earlier. Dyke says, “This discovery sheds further doubt on the theory that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx - or ‘first bird’ as it is sometimes referred to - was pivotal in the evolution of modern birds. Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought.”
As we evaluate the reported findings and sort facts from the conjecture, we should point out that the “collection of so-called feathered dinosaurs” to which we refer here is a very diverse group. This group typically includes dinosaur fossils with “dinofuzz” but no actual feathers as well as some birds with genuine feathers, such as Microraptor. Anchiornis has actual pennaceous feathers, as seen in published photographs,7 and is an example of the latter—a bird.8 Anchiornis also appears to have had feathers like those of the extinct toothed bird Archaeopteryx on its legs and feet. Thus, with actual pennaceous (anatomically mature modern feathers), Eosinopteryx brevipenna is also a bird, not a tiny dinosaur.
But why, then, does the report in Nature Communications indicate the animal is a dinosaur? When we examine the method used in the analysis, we find researchers used a computer program to compare the anatomical features of a number of “dinosaurs,” specifically theropods. According to this data analysis, Eosinopteryx brevipenna fit these dinosaur criteria and emerged as sister to Anchiornis.
The animals whose anatomical measurements were included in the category of “dinosaurs,” however, included Archaeopteryx (an extinct bird whose controversial re-classification as a dinosaur we discussed in News to Note, July 30, 2011) and even the ordinary house sparrow.9 Is it any wonder, then, that evolutionists considered this feathered animal to be a dinosaur? By these criteria, dinosaurs are tweeting in your backyard.
Yet classification systems such as these are man-made and, in this case, based on evolutionary assumptions. Biological classifications were originally based on common characteristics, but evolutionists prefer classification systems based on common ancestry and therefore now generally insist on considering birds to be highly evolved dinosaurs. Nevertheless, there are a host of insurmountable problems in the evolutionary dinosaur-to-bird scenario. Respiratory systems, body aerodynamics, finger embryology, and the complexities of the feather compared to scales present issues of irreducible complexities for the evolutionary paradigm.
The fossil record does not reveal an evolutionary progression in feather development, nor does it reveal transitional animals that are part bird and part dinosaur. The order of fossils in the fossil record is largely a record of the order various creatures were buried when their habitats were overcome by the rising waters of the biblical global Flood. This happened in the space of a few weeks, not millions of years. The presumed millions of years are based on unverifiable assumptions. Thus the fossil record does not demonstrate that birds evolved from dinosaurs, just as in the history of biology, no scientific observations have ever shown a way that dinosaurs could acquire the genetic information to make the dramatic changes that would have been necessary to evolve into birds.
Looking for water in all the right places.
Early Mars missions failed to find life on the Red Planet, so the focus shifted to finding evidence for water. As high resolution photographs taken by orbital reconnaissance craft and rovers such as Opportunity showed evidence that Mars may have once had liquid water, the effort to look for evidence of life the water may have spawned has intensified. After all, we could sum up an article of evolutionary faith with the statement, “And the water ‘said,’ let there be life.”
Recent research has suggested that Mars may actually be a fairly target-rich environment as the search for the past presence of water and associated evidence of past life go on. For instance, in January a Brown University team published an analysis of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs of two heavily cratered regions. They suggest ridges visible in the photos were likely formed by water flowing beneath the surface. “This gives us a point of observation to say there was enough fracturing and fluid flow in the crust to sustain at least a regionally viable subsurface hydrology,” Lee Saper said of his analysis. “The overarching theme of NASA’s planetary exploration has been to follow the water. So if in fact these fractures that turned into these ridges were flowing with hydrothermal fluid, they could have been a viable biosphere.”10
McLaughlin Crater is another likely candidate, according to geochemist John Parnell and planetary geologist Joseph Michalski. In a paper also published in January, they point out that craters are probably the most promising places to search. In craters the meteorites have already done the work of drilling deeply into the Martian surface, sometimes tossing rocks that may have been affected by subsurface water into the bottom of the hole. Like the Brown University team, Parnell and Michalski have examined high-resolution photographs. They report evidence of geologic layers and debris flow that are strong evidence, in their estimation, of “groundwater upwelling.” They therefore recommend McLaughlin Crater as a future high priority destination for direct examination.11
“We could be so close to discovering if there is, or was, life on Mars,” says Parnell. “We know from studies that a substantial proportion of all life on Earth is also in the subsurface and by studying the McLaughlin Crater we can see similar conditions beneath the surface of Mars thanks to observations on the rocks brought up by the meteorite strike. There can be no life on the surface of Mars because it is bathed in radiation and it's completely frozen. However, life in the sub surface would be protected from that. And there is no reason why there isn't bacteria or other microbes that were or still are living in the small cracks well below the surface of Mars.”12
Yellowknife Bay, the lowest elevation in Gale Crater, looks like a promising drilling site for the Mars rover Curiosity. Fissures and mineral-filled veins suggests past action of underground water. NASA scientists hope to find definitive geochemical evidence of a wet Martian past and perhaps some biochemical evidence that life, even subsurface life, once existed. Evolutionists believe that life could evolve in the prolonged presence of liquid water, even though science has never demonstrated any way life could randomly evolve from non-living elements. Image credit: MSSS/Caltech/NASA through news.nationalgeographic.com
Meanwhile, Mars rover Curiosity has reached the lowest point in Gale Crater and is about to begin drilling. Detouring temporarily from the planned visit to examine sedimentary rocks at the base of Mount Sharp, the rover’s earth-bound support team considers the site, called Yellowknife Bay, a “candy store” of targets. They expect to find a variety of hydrated minerals—minerals that have incorporated water molecules within their chemical structure. Preliminary investigations have revealed mineral-filled veins that are ordinarily only deposited by underground water.
The likelihood that Mars once had a different environment allowing the presence of liquid water does nothing to support the idea that our solar system formed billions of years ago. The belief that life evolved on earth is also based on unverifiable assumptions. If evidence of microbial life—past or present—on Mars is eventually found, evolutionists will of course claim that life proves evolution happened. But in reality, such a finding would simply be evidence that life is (or once was) there, not a demonstration of that life’s origins. The Bible does not say whether God created life on any other planets, but the Bible does tell us God created all life on earth during the first six days of Creation week, the same week in which He created the rest of the universe, about 6,000 years ago. Discovery of evidence of water and even life on Mars would not disprove or undermine that biblical truth.
Last fall veteran substitute teacher Walter Tutka told the last student in line, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” The student repeatedly asked Tutka for the source of the catchy quotation. Tutka finally showed him Matthew 20:16, and the student borrowed and returned Tutka’s Bible. The New Jersey school board subsequently suspended Tutka for distributing religious literature at school and for failing to remain neutral on a religious topic. Tutka’s legal representative from Liberty Institute, Hiram Sasser, says, “Certainly this is religious hostility [toward a particular religion] and religious discrimination. . . . There has been no complaint, and all he was doing was satisfying a student's intellectual curiosity.” Must students be protected from hearing phrases with a biblical origin? Literature and conversational English is replete with biblical phrases. This Bible verse even shows up in the M.C. Lars rap song “Geeked Out,” which certainly has nothing to do with promoting Christianity. Are students to have the biblical heritage that enriches the English language expunged from their experience?
Tutka’s answer did not constitute a First Amendment “establishment of a religion” by the government. The school board’s actions, however, did violate First Amendment protections of religious freedom and free speech. English speakers, even those who work in public schools, should not be required to eliminate biblical phrases from their speech or fear answering a student’s question if the answer involves a biblical reference. Such censorious demands not only violate the teacher’s freedom of speech but also harm students’ intellectual experience. Tutka’s termination further demonstrates the school board’s hostility toward a particular religion—another First Amendment violation.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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