Make Sure Your Data Supports Your Conclusions

Make Sure Your Data Supports Your Conclusions

“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 Chronicles by 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.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Fossil Nicknamed Little Foot

Foot Bones of the Fossil Nicknamed Little Foot
Fossil Little Foot’s little foot

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).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Archaeology magazine

Dinosaurs in Genesis 1

Dinosaurs in Genesis 1

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.

We would suggest that this conclusion is very much in agreement with the biblical teachings. Dinosaurs were created by God to help prepare the Earth for humans. Dinosaurs were the gardeners of prehistoric times, pruning the plants and allowing massive vegetation to be preserved in the form of coal and other fossil fuels. We don’t see dinosaurs in Genesis 1 because they were not part of the “creation week.” The Hebrew words used in Genesis were all animals that Moses knew.

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.

For more on this, we encourage you to go to doesgodexist.org and read the free booklet “God’s Revelation In His Rocks and His Word.” You can also purchase printed copies at THIS LINK.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Greenland Stromatolites and Faux Fossils

 Greenland Stromatolites are Faux Fossils but this one is real.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.

In science and faith, we should follow the evidence wherever it leads. It appears that in the case of the Greenland stromatolites, we have faux fossils and not the real thing.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Discover Magazine, June 2019, page 10.

Neanderthal Research Continues

Neanderthal ResearchThe 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

Reference: Smithsonian Magazine, May 2019.

Major Fossil Find Again

Major Fossil Find AgainWe 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.

The present is not a clear picture of the past. Processes have taken place that are not happening today. The story of life on Earth is far more complex than either Darwin or Moses could have understood. Given the number of asteroids that we know exist in space, it is incredible that our planet has been spared another impact, but maybe Someone is looking out for us.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Quingiang Biota and the Cambrian Explosion

Quingiang Biota and the Cambrian Explosion

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.

This find gives further support to the Cambrian Explosion model that says marine life suddenly appeared on planet Earth. This conflicts with the Darwinian concept that life evolved over a long time with one form gradually changing into another. The biblical narrative tells us “God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life” (Genesis 1:20). That is what the Quingiang biota shows.
— John N. Clayton ©2019

Data from The Week, April 12, 2019, page 21 and wikipedia.org.

Tully Monster

Tully Monster
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.

At the same time, there is much we can understand about what has led to the Earth we enjoy. That is because much of Earth’s history has been preserved in the rocks. A booklet available on our doesgodexist.org website is “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.” We encourage you to read that free online booklet for more information on this topic.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, May 2016, page 14, and Wikipedia.

Clayton Museum Adds Children’s Section

Clayton Museum- Onager
Foster Stanback is a collector of artifacts of historical significance. In 2015 he established a museum in York Nebraska to house many of those artifacts. Because of our long association with Foster, he honored our work together by naming it the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.

The Clayton Museum houses an amazing collection of items from the time of Christ and earlier. The museum focuses on ancient Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire. The oldest artifacts are an Egyptian mace head and an ax head, both approximately 5000 years old. You can see a 3500-year-old Egyptian toolkit comparable to what was used at the time the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.

The Roman collection from the first to third centuries is especially impressive since it includes everything from personal grooming items to weapons of war. You can see an authentic Roman gladius (sword), a Roman soldier’s helmet, and pieces of armor. A reconstructed Roman onager (a type of catapult) stands near the center of the museum. The displays help us to understand the conditions and way of life that existed in Biblical times and during the time of Christ.

The Clayton Museum of Ancient History has had over 10,000 visitors, including many school groups. They have added a section devoted to children, with interactive displays and a variety of kid-friendly exhibits. The museum is ideally suited for families as there is something for everyone. It is located on the York College campus in York, Nebraska, in the lower level of the Mackey Center. Parking and admission are free. For hours and a map click HERE. You can call for information or to schedule a tour (402)363-5748.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Liem’s Paradox and God’s Design

Liem's Paradox and God's Design
People who believe in naturalism face some interesting problems. One of them is the fact that what evolution predicts should happen doesn’t always happen. This phenomenon is known as Liem’s paradox. Let me explain it.

I am reminded of a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago when I was in a teacher-training program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The leader gave us a demonstration of natural selection that was so easy to understand that it could we could use it in teaching low-level biology students the basics of evolution. Three small fish were introduced into a tank containing a northern pike that had not eaten for several days. One was very healthy, one was slightly impaired with several fins missing, and one was severely impaired with most of its fins missing.

We were asked to predict what the pike would do. We all agreed the pike would eat the impaired fish immediately and then the slightly impaired fish and the healthy fish would probably not be eaten. What happened was that the pike chased the healthy fish around and around the tank as we watched for over an hour. The pike never could catch the healthy fish and never ate the other two. There were all kinds of theoretical explanations for what we observed.

Animals are adapted to eat certain foods. Dr. Karel Liem of Harvard University did a study of a fish in Mexico called Minckley’s cichlid. Those fish have highly specialized pebblelike teeth which are perfect for eating the hard-shell snails that are plentiful in their native environment. What Liem discovered was that these fish would swim right past the snails if they could find softer food. They seemed to avoid the food that their bodies had become adapted to eating.

This evolutionary paradox is called Liem’s paradox, and it is seen over and over in nature. Gorillas will walk miles past copious supplies of stems and leaves which is their typical diet, to get soft sugary fruits that are harder to reach and require long walks. Gorillas in captivity will avoid fibrous foods like celery if they are offered sugary, fleshy fruits, even though those fruits are harder to digest and not good for them.

Liem’s paradox is not hard to understand if we believe that God designed animals to live in specific habitats. The design of animals is always to meet the most austere conditions in their environments. In the case of Minckley’s cichlid the fish will always have the snails to fall back on in hard times, but by being diverse in their diet, they save the snails for times when food is not readily available.

In Uganda’s Kibale National Park there are two different species of monkeys–the mangabey monkeys and the red-tailed guenon monkeys. The mangabey monkeys have flat, thickly enameled molars that allow them to crush hard, brittle foods. The red-tailed guenon monkeys have thinner teeth but have come to share the environment with the mangabey monkeys. Both species of monkeys eat the soft fruits and fleshy young leaves that are around them. In 1997 there was a severe drought, and the soft fruit and leaves were no longer available. The mangabey monkeys survived because they could crack seeds and get at hard foodstuffs which they did not eat until they had to. Animals are designed to get through the hard times but will pass up their special adaptions designed for survival so they can eat preferred foods.

We humans do the same thing. There are times when we eat something we may not like in order to survive, but unlike most animals, our bodies are designed to eat just about anything. We need to remember, “I will praise thee, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14) when we look at the diversity of stuff to eat in our local supermarket. We are reminded that Liem’s Paradox is only a paradox to those who are committed to naturalism.
–John N. Clayton © 2018