One of the interesting things going on in the world today is how we use our money. The sale of a T. rex fossil is one example. The skeleton of a massive dinosaur can bring huge profits to the owner. Recently a 13-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known as “Stan” was sold at Christie’s Auction House for $32,000,000. Most of us would wonder why anyone would spend that kind of money on a fossil? Sarah Rose Sharp gave a possible answer in Hyperallergic.com:
“And honestly, can we find a more contemporary symbol than a tyrant king who stomps on all other living things with no regard for propriety, before witnessing the extinction of his species based on natural science beyond his control?”
Daily we see reports of leaders in politics, media, and technology raking in vast amounts of money no matter who gets hurt in the process.Jesus dealt with this mindset in His day. The parable Jesus told in Luke 12:16-21 is a picture of what is happening today. We should heed His follow-up teaching in verses 22-34. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21 tell us what we should hold as important. Luke 18:10-14 demonstrates the attitude we should have.
The sale of a dinosaur fossil for massive amounts of money is just one more illustration of how we use our money and where we place our priorities.
One of the weaknesses of evolution’s explanation of the origin of all living things is that it is built on an assumption called uniformitarianism. The idea is that “the present is the key to the past” meaning that no process operated in the past that is not going on today. If there have been global catastrophes wiping out most living creatures, then the theories of gradualism have a problem with explaining life’s origins. Flash-frozen extinct species indicate global catastrophes.
Many years ago, we reported on the 1979 find of an extinct steppe bison mummy near Fairbanks, Alaska. The perfectly preserved corpse had been frozen for thousands of years. The gold miner who discovered the mummy called it “Blue Babe” after the mythical Paul Bunyon’s ox. That was because exposure to air caused it to turn blue due to iron phosphate. Blue Babe (pictured) is now on display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
As the permafrost melts in Arctic areas, people are finding more frozen animals, including mammoths and wooly rhinos. The latest one is a cave bear found on the Lyakhovsky Islands in Russia. Once again, the specimen is complete with all of the soft tissues intact. These animals were preserved in a state we don’t see happening today. They seem to be flash-frozen, not just preserved by falling into a crevasse in a glacier. All of the animals found are extinct, but studies of their DNA and their preservation conditions are opening doors to the scientific research of the past.
As scientists find more flash-frozen extinct species, there will be revisions of theories about the history of life on Earth. One positive aspect of global warming is that it will expand our understanding of life in the past.
“THE UNIVERSAL RULE OF GRADUATE WORK–MAKE SURE YOUR DATA SUPPORTS YOUR CONCLUSIONS!”
When I was doing research for my master’s degree, that statement was posted on the graduate studies bulletin board at Indiana University. I have no idea who put it there, but I can tell you it got a pretty strong response from the school’s dean. Unfortunately, there is more truth to it than most of us would like to admit, and it is not just graduate students to whom it applies.
One of the problems any scientific researcher has is getting funding for the work, and you don’t get funding unless you produce results. There have been several cases in National Geographic where the magazine reported some incredible find by a researcher they were funding and later discovered that the claimed discovery was a hoax. We have reported on these in the past. (For example HERE, HERE, and HERE.)
One of the disciplines where this problem has been very apparent is in the finds of fossil humans. In 1974 Donald Johanson found pieces of a skeleton in Ethiopia. While they were excavating the fossil, the radio was playing the song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Johanson decided to name the specimen “Lucy.” The find was announced at the Nobel Symposium in 1978 and was hailed as the first ape to walk upright, and thus it was a proven link between apes and humans.
The primary evidence that Lucy walked upright was a knee joint, which was clearly from an individual that walked in an upright position. Evidence that the rest of the skeleton was clearly from an ape included a V-shaped mandible, a very small brain, and a humerus and femur that were the same size. Lucy has made the covers of numerous magazines and even toured the United States.
It has now been announced that the researchers found the knee joint, which they used to prove Lucy was walking in an erect position, more than two miles from the rest of the skeleton. It also came from a stratum 200 feet lower than the one where the rest of the skeleton was found. Richard Leakey, the Director of Kenya’s National Museum, said that “the evidence for the alleged transformation from ape to man is extremely unconvincing. It is overwhelmingly likely that Lucy was no more than a variety of pygmy chimpanzee.” Johanson has agreed that Lucy was not related to humans at all.
Why does this kind of thing happen? Researchers tend to accept a theory and then look for evidence to support that theory. They adopt the philosophy “make sure your data supports your conclusions.” The media wants instant gratification, and the result is that front-page stories are frequently not factual. Several books have addressed this problem. The Fossil Chroniclesby Dean Falk is a useful resource. See The Wall Street Journal for October 8, 2011, section C6 for a review by Brian Switek.
The researchers are victims of the system, but atheistic attacks on the Bible that depend on the media stories are obviously vulnerable to this issue. We need to have our brains engaged when we read anything, and that is true of the Bible as well as scientific reports in the media.
The subject of human evolution is an area that continues to change with new techniques and new data, such as the study of a fossil nicknamed Little Foot. This area is of interest to those of us involved in apologetics – the study of evidence for the existence of God. The biblical concept of human creation is that we are created in the “image of God.” That message is clearly not referring to our physical makeup or how we look. God is a spirit (John 4:24), and it is our spiritual makeup, which is in God’s image.
The origin of the races of humans is interesting historically, but especially now with the “black lives matter” movement. Evolutionists at the time of Darwin claimed that black people were early prototypes of humans, but were not fully human and therefore could be treated like animals. For many people, that belief, as absurd as it is, was the justification for slavery. As far as apologetics is concerned, the uniqueness of all humans is rooted in human spiritual abilities. Those include the capacity to worship, the ability to create music and art, the ability to feel spiritual emotions, and our concept of self-awareness.
The assumption that humans evolved from some ancient ape-like animal has been fraught with difficulties and controversy. A skeleton of Australopithecus prometheus found at Sterkfontein in South Africa has added to the discussion. The fossil nicknamed Little Foot has a well-preserved atlas vertebra that sits just beneath the cranium at the top of the spinal column. By studying this vertebra, scientists can determine the flow of blood to the brain.
Little Foot’s blood flow was significantly lower than the flow into human brains, which means that Little Foot’s brain was severely restricted. Scientists classify it as Australopithecus, which refers to a group of apes and monkeys. New data adds to the evidence that science needs to clarify the physical models of change in monkeys, apes, and, most importantly, in humans.
Any attempt to use science to denigrate a race of humans as inferior is unsupported by the evidence. We see human uniqueness in the truth of the simple biblical statement, “God that made the world and all things within it … has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the earth…” (Acts 17:24 and 26).
I find it interesting how various denominational creationists handle the existence of dinosaurs and how they fit into the Genesis 1 account. We still see some who deny that dinosaurs ever existed even though we have many specimens, including dehydrated ones. Others maintain that dinosaurs were innocent plant-eating friends of Adam and Eve. That is even though paleontologists have found fossils of smaller dinosaurs in the stomachs of more massive dinosaurs. Still, others ignore the literal meaning of the animals listed in Genesis 1, and they include dinosaurs in the “beasts of the earth” category. Some maintain that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds, and so they are in verse 20. So can we find dinosaurs in Genesis 1?
Recent studies of dinosaur eggs have introduced new data for those who study dinosaurs and the Bible to consider. Detailed studies of Hypacrosaurus eggs have shown that there are growth lines in the shells of the eggs. We don’t see those growth lines in bird eggs, which hatch in a relatively short time. Some of the eggs studied by researchers have growth lines indicating very long incubation periods – in some cases, up to 12 months.
We see growth lines in modern reptiles that bury their eggs and let them incubate for months. Changes in temperature and other environmental factors mean the eggs go through periods of dormancy when the growth lines appear. This lengthy process is especially true of large eggs. Researchers have found some dinosaur eggs the size of footballs, which would require a very long incubation period. All of this would suggest that the large dinosaurs, at least, were not birds. The more data we get on the dinosaurs, the more evidence shows that they were not directly related to any modern animal. They were a group of their own.
Just as God did not tell us about viruses, bacteria, and unique animals like the platypus, He didn’t tell us about dinosaurs in Genesis 1. They were part of the preparation of the Earth for humans. When we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” we are reading an undated historical account that simply says God did it – not how or how long it took. The week of Genesis 1:3-31 hadn’t started yet. When it began, the animals described were those familiar to Moses and his readers.
An old joke which showed up periodically during my college graduate work said, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” Because grants and scholarships depended on having success in your scientific research, it was tempting to cherry-pick data to support whatever you were claiming about your topic. That problem is still with us, and it has shown its head in reports of Greenland stromatolites.
Stromatolites are fossil deposits made by algae. (The picture shows a stromatolite fossil.) We see them not only in some shallow marine environments today, but we also find them in some of the oldest rocks on Earth. The Gunflint Chert along Lake Superior in Ontario contains some of the earliest stromatolites, but the rocks in Greenland are even older. Because many theories of the development of life on Earth depend upon finding marine life forms in Earth’s oldest rocks, there have been several premature news reports of Greenland stromatolites.
Abigail Allwood is recognized as an expert on stromatolites and has studied the oldest known stromatolites in Australia. She went to Greenland to examine the Greenland stromatolites. She concludes that they are not fossils, but only rocks that have experienced a great deal of tectonic activity. Ms. Allwood collected rocks just a few feet from the claimed stromatolites and found significant evidence of diastrophism, a type of plate tectonics which deforms Earth’s crust. She found no evidence of real fossils.
Naturally, the authors of the original paper on the Greenland stromatolites disagree with Allwood, but that is the way science works. Scientific testing answers the questions of authenticity and eventually reveals the truth. Unfortunately, false religious theories are frequently untestable and stay in existence for a very long time.
The familiar name “Neanderthal” came from the place where scientists found the first skulls in 1856 near Neander, Germany. Writers have published numerous articles about Neanderthals. Most of the articles have been very misleading about who the Neanderthals were, what they looked like, how they lived, and what connection they have to modern humans. Neanderthal research presents a changing picture.
The popular perception of Neanderthals has been connected to the term “ape-man” often used to describe them. At the Max Planck Institute early in the 20th century, a French paleontologist depicted Neanderthals as “apelike and backward.” In 1953, a movie titled The Neanderthal Man popularized them as primitive humans with passions and desires common to apes. The view for years was that the Neanderthals were brutes who huddled in cold caves gnawing on slabs of slain mammoths.
The truth is that Neanderthals walked upright and had larger brains and larger lung capacities than modern humans. They made complex tools, built shelters, created and traded jewelry, wore clothes, created art, buried their dead, had language and a form of worship. What has convinced scientists to change their understanding has been Neanderthal research and the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome. Comparisons of the Neanderthal genome and the modern European genome shows that up to 4% of modern human genes came from Neanderthals. They were not brutes or ape-men. They were totally human.
Probably much of the reason for the negative stereotyping is the “out of Africa” scenario promoted by many as the origin of human history. Some scientists have not wanted to admit that human origins seem to have come from a more northern source. Dr. Joao Zilhao, a Portuguese paleoanthropologist and an expert on Neanderthals, says: “The mainstream narrative of our origins has been fairly straightforward: the exodus of modern humans from Africa was depicted like it was a biblical event: Chosen ones replacing debased Europeans, the Neanderthals. Nonsense, all of it.”
Neanderthals were not apes or brutes of a different species of humans. They were a race of humans that had specific physiological characteristics that are somewhat different from the appearance of humans today. The Neanderthal Museum near Dusseldorf, Germany, displays a recreation of a Neanderthal by renowned paleo-artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis. He is groomed, wearing a business suit, and looking like the politician he could have been. For that matter, his name might have been Adam. As Neanderthal research continues, we will see what develops.
— John N. Clayton
We recently reported on an amazing fossil find in Qingjiang, China. That discovery allows us to learn more about the Cambrian Explosion of life on Earth. Now we have another major fossil find. This one is near Bowman, North Dakota. This fossil trove validates the asteroid collision in the Gulf of Mexico and explains the extinction of the dinosaurs.
One of the assumptions of Darwinian Naturalists is uniformitarianism. They claim that everything we see can be explained by science and that no process has happened in the past that is not going on today. A process so violent that it would destroy virtually all life on Earth does not allow constant small changes over millennia to produce the biota on today’s Earth.
In 1980 Luis and Walter Alvarez produced evidence that an asteroid had hit the Earth near a Mexican town named Chicxulub. According to the Alvarez hypothesis, that impact contributed to the demise of many forms of life, including dinosaurs. Many years later Antonio Camargo and Glen Penfield provided evidence that there was a large crater in the Yucatan Peninsula. Recently Robert DePalma found a fossil bed that ends any speculation about this event. NationalGeographic.com gave the following description:
“..a 7.5-mile wide asteroid smashed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico. It ripped a hole in the Earth’s crust some 50 miles wide and 18 miles deep. Mega-earthquakes and colossal tsunamis rippled out from the impact site, and billions of tons of molten rock was hurled into the sky and across thousands of miles. That debris fell back to Earth as tiny globs of glass known as tektites in a pulverizing rain that lasted for 45 minutes.”
The major fossil find discovered by DePalma near Bowman, North Dakota, is full of fossils of sea creatures mixed up with trees and land-dwelling animals. The gills of the fish are clogged with tektites. There seems to be very little doubt that this deposit is confirmation of the asteroid collision.
Paleontologists who study the earliest fossils of life on Earth refer to an event they call the “Cambrian Explosion.” The fossils from that event are unique because they have advanced body plans and no previous ancestors. A vast range of marine species that lived in an ancient sea suddenly appeared in the fossil record. A new discovery of fossils from the Cambrian Explosion is known as the Quingiang biota. Scientists are calling it one of the most significant fossil discoveries in the last 100 years.
Scientists made the find near the Danshui River in the Hubei province of China. It appears to be an ancient mudslide that buried a vast range of fossils. The site contains at least 20,000 individual specimens. At last report, 4,351 fossils have been examined, and they represent 101 different species. Fifty-three of those are new to science meaning that fossils of those species have not been found before. Because they were buried so quickly, not just shells, but even some soft parts have been preserved including muscles, guts, etc.
During my senior year in high school amateur fossil collector Francis Tully discovered the fossil of an extraordinary animal in the Mazon Creek collecting area near Chicago. It was so odd that the state of Illinois made it the state’s official fossil. The scientific name of this extinct animal is Tullimonstrum gregarium, but it is colloquially known as the Tully monster.
The rocks around Chicago are part of an old reef, and a well-known part of the rock formation is the world’s largest gravel pit called “Thornton Reef.” I have taken students to that quarry several times when I was teaching earth science. It is an amazing fossil collecting area.
The Tully monster was tube-shaped with eyes on a stalk sticking off of the ten-inch long body. It had a mouth which was very long and terminated in what appeared to be a single pincer style of grabber similar to a lobster. Newer finds suggest that the animal had a notochord which was essentially a primitive backbone. The shape of the notochord is similar to that seen in lampreys. Researchers at Yale University say lampreys are analogs, but there is a great deal left to learn about the mysterious lifestyle of this ancient creature.
A very unusual set of circumstances is required to preserve an animal fossil such as Tully monster. Finds like that are rare events, but since the 1950s many more Tully monster fossils have been found, all in Illinois. We have much to learn about what animals lived and how they lived in the past. Future discoveries will alter our understanding of how God prepared the Earth for humans.