Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution

Dino baby: offal disappointment

A 9-inch long baby dinosaur, named Scipionyx samniticus, was found in limestone beds near Naples, Italy. All the small bones have been preserved except those of the tail and lower legs. Surprisingly, part of the intestines and liver can be seen, together with muscles and cartilage associated with the windpipe.

Evolutionists have classified this find with the theropods, which many claim are the ancestors of birds. The breastbone appears birdlike, but in fact the position of the liver shows that the internal structure of Scipionyx is more like a lizard’s than a bird’s—a disappointment for the ‘dinosaurs became birds’ theorists.

Nature, pp. 383–387, 26 March 1998.

Bugs use sophisticated chemical techniques

Chemists thought that they were the only ones to have ever used ‘combinatorial chemistry’—a technique in which hundreds of different chemicals are assembled from the same basic building blocks.

Now the ‘first example of natural combinatorial chemistry’ has been found. Ladybird pupae secrete defensive chemicals into droplets that deter ants. The droplets contain a fascinating mix of complex substances, all assembled from the same organic subunits.

Having a mix of chemical weapons is obviously more effective, and less likely to be thwarted, than a single one. The chemicals in the droplets also continue to change, over time, forming new links and combinations which add to this ‘potent cocktail’ of defence.

Science, pp. 321–323, 17 July 1998.

Living fossil fish turns up—again

The scientific world was stunned when in 1938 the coelacanth fish was discovered alive and well.

For one thing, it looked the same as its fossils which ‘dated’ to as much as 360 million years ago. For another, it was supposed to be our remote ancestor, but its internal anatomy turned out to be all wrong for that. Also, no coelacanth fossils have been found in any layers which are regarded by evolutionists as younger than 65 million years—so it had been declared extinct along with dinosaurs.

Up till last year, the only known coelacanths were some 500 around the Comoros islands near Madagascar. However, last year Dr Mark Erdmann and his wife spotted a live specimen in an Indonesian fish market.

As a result, a second population has been found, some 10,000 km (6,000 miles) from the first, around Indonesia’s Manado Tua Island. Coelacanths can grow up to 1.5 metres (five feet) long.

Dr Erdmann was amazed that biologists had known nothing of this second population, despite local fishermen being quite familiar with it. He said, ‘It’s kind of like finding a dinosaur back in the forest.’

Cincinnati Enquirer, p. B6, 14 November 1998.

Eggs-ilarating dino find

‘A paleontological field of dreams’ is how Time described the recent find in Argentina of thousands upon thousands of fossilized dinosaur eggs. The grapefruit-sized eggs were scattered so densely over an area of 2.5 square km (one square mile) that it was hard to avoid crushing them.

Up to now, only five specimens of dinosaur embryos have been found. They are nothing like these beautifully preserved ones, some of which even show the soft tissue, such as skin and scales. They are the first sauropod embryos found anywhere—titanosaurs, which grew up to 15 metres (50 feet) long from head to tail.

Reports imply that the huge concentration of eggs is being interpreted as a ‘normal’ titanosaur nursery. It is acknowledged, however, that the eggs, which were at various gestational ages, were rapidly buried in silt from a flood.

Time (US edition), pp. 98–99, 30 November 1998.

Nature, pp. 258–261, 19 November 1998.

If the eggs were buried during Noah’s Flood, rather than from post-Flood catastrophism as some think, their dense concentration may have been the result of stress crowding on some temporary high ground during the early stages of Noah’s Flood.

Note the small egg size compared to the huge size of the adult creature. Rather than God sending adult sauropods on board the Ark, young specimens at, or near, sexual maturity would give big space savings.

As rare as a hen’s tooth?

Recently, using tissue from a chicken’s egg, scientists at the University of Connecticut have been able to grow a tooth. This has been claimed as proof that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

What does it really show, stripped of its evolutionary implications? That the chicken included, in the original gene pool of its created kind, some birds which had teeth. Conversely, some reptiles had no teeth.

And this is no big deal for a number of reasons. First, true birds (now extinct) are known which had teeth. Second, the loss or ‘switching off’ of genes expressing the development of a tooth, like the ‘loss’ of wings in some birds, or of eyes on fish in caves, is not an indication of how the information for such structures arose by natural means. ‘Devolution’ would be a better term.

Creationists have written and spoken about this phenomenon of information-losing mutations, some of them even beneficial, for years (e.g. Beetle Bloopers, Creation 19(3):30). The tooth grown from this bird tissue is by definition a bird’s tooth, not a dinosaur’s, even though its modern bearer no longer expresses that gene.

In the same way, today’s toothless platypus is the more specialized (thus genetically depleted) descendant of a much more robust ancestor, whose gene pool included teeth.

The Mirror, p. 18, 9 October 1998.

The possibility, albeit very remote, that the chicken’s ‘tooth gene’ is the result of interspecies viral transfer should not be altogether overlooked.

Surfing lizards wipe out objections

How did animals reach isolated land masses after the Flood? There are a number of plausible explanations, including lowered sea levels during the post-Flood ice age exposing some land bridges; transport by humans in perhaps a few instances; and also the very likely possibility of oceanic transport by rafts of matted vegetation torn off in stormy conditions.

Thus it was significant when three years ago, green iguanas were seen to colonize the island of Anguilla in the West Indies for the first time. Shortly after Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn struck in 1995, local fishermen watched as at least 15 green iguanas surfed on to the island’s eastern beaches. The natural ‘raft’ they were traveling on was up to nine metres (30 feet) across. Their voyage of over 300 km (190 miles) lasted for a month. Follow-up studies have confirmed that they are now firmly established on their new island home, and that lizards similarly reached two other islands in the vicinity.

The Daily Telegraph, p. 16, 3 October 1998.

Nature, p. 556, 8 October 1998.

The size, variety and number of such ‘natural ocean liners’ would have been much greater after the Flood and the inevitable upheavals of weather and geography over subsequent centuries. Even very slow-moving creatures such as sloths would have been able to make longer journeys than expected. Evolutionists themselves have used this concept to explain how large lemurs first crossed to Madagascar, across some 400 km (250 miles) of open water.

Waisted beauty theory

Evolutionary theorizing is increasingly being used to ‘explain’ human behaviour, including what men find beautiful in women.

Widespread surveys in many different cultures all showed that men prefer women with narrow waists and wide hips (i.e. a small waist-to-hip ratio, or WHR).

Such women are more likely to be fertile, with a high ratio of female to male hormones making them more prone to putting fat on the buttocks and thighs than the waist. A small WHR would also indicate that a woman was not currently pregnant, and a wide pelvis would make child-bearing easier.

Evolutionists claimed that such a ‘universal’ preference was because men were genetically selected to prefer such a woman, since she would be more likely to pass on the man’s genes.

Some unconvinced researchers suspected that Western ‘images’ of beauty may have reached most communities in the world. So they chose males from probably the most isolated group in the world, the 300 Matsigenka tribespeople in the village of Yonybato in the Andes.

Their preference was ‘overweight females with thick-set waists.’ Less isolated Matsigenka men, who would have had some contact with Western advertisements, ‘also preferred overweight women but liked thin waists.’ The researchers point out that many such ‘universal’ results used by evolutionary psychology ‘may have only reflected the pervasiveness of Western media.’

The Independent, p. 9, (London) 27 November 1998,.

Nature, pp. 321–322, 26 November 1998.

Moth eyes for space probe

The eyes of some moths are covered with microscopic pyramids that prevent infra-red radiation (heat) being reflected off them. Radiation hitting the moth’s eye diffuses and is then absorbed by the eye surface, making the moth ‘invisible’ to the infra-red vision of the hunting spider.

Researchers at Swinburne University, collaborating with French astronomers, are now using lasers to carve microscopic pyramids into lenses to maximize the resolution of infra-red telescopes that peer into our universe.

Sunday Herald, p. 24, 10 May 1998.

Once again, God thought of it first.

Seeing dino sores

Bruce Rothschild is a ‘paleopathologist’ who has seen all sorts of diseases in dinosaur fossils—bone abscesses and arthritis, for example.

Recently he saw his first dinosaur tumours, in a fragment of vertebral bone from rock assumed, by evolutionary reasoning, to be 110 million years old. They look just like non-cancerous tumours called hemangiomas, which occur today in animals and humans.

It seems that Rothschild has not seen evidence for any evolutionary development of diseases through all this alleged time. ‘Diseases look the same … whether this is now or a hundred million years ago,’ he says.

Discover, p. 26, October 1998.

This highlights a major issue for those who try to compromise the Bible with ‘long-age’ understandings.

Fossils show the same sorts of diseases which afflict man today. So if fossils existed millions of years before Adam, it would mean there was widespread disease before God cursed the creation following Adam’s rebellion.

Laser fish wars

Australian Museum researcher, Dr Andrew Parker, has discovered that Amazonian angel fish, popular in aquariums, use a ‘Star Wars’ type of technology to battle invaders in their territory.

Their scales form a mirror which is the ‘most powerful and efficient reflector known,’ bouncing back 100% of the light falling on it. By shifting their body’s angle to incident light, they are able to ‘focus the full force of sunlight so that a narrow laser-like beam hits their opponent’s eyes.’

This beam is able to burst the enemy’s blood vessels, stunning and sometimes even killing it. Two angel fish will often engage in this sort of ‘light fighting,’ trying to ‘zap’ their opponent’s eye while avoiding the other’s beam.

Sydney Morning Herald, p. 5, 13 October 1998,.

Efficient design, and yet—echoes of the Fall.