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.
Please read this before you write an angry letter. We publish a printed journal which we mail to those who requests it. In our first quarter edition, we had an article titled “Branded.” One of the points we made in that article is that evolution is not a dirty word.
In the article, we pointed out that one of the things turn people away from the Church is labeling people based on misinformation. We cited some examples such as racial prejudice. That is an area that I had to deal with when I was a child, and the Ku Klux Klan threatened our home and especially my father.
A current example of labeling or branding I have experienced involves the use of the term “evolution.” Those of us who believe in science experience animosity from some Christians who view science as an alternative to belief in God. The whole foundation of this ministry is that science supports the Bible and faith in God. We regularly get hate mail from people who claim to be Christians and accuse us of replacing God with science. That is just the opposite of what we are doing. First Peter 3:15 tells us to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks us of the reason for the hope that is in us.” Passages like Romans 1:18-21, Proverbs 8, Psalms 139:6-16, and Psalms 19:1-3 all tell us to observe God’s incredible wisdom and creative capacity by studying the world around us.
In the article titled “Branded” we had headings titled “Science Is Not a Not Dirty Word” and “Evolution Is Not a Dirty Word.” To make sure there were no misunderstandings, we explained what evolution means. When I say “I believe in evolution” I am not talking about a particular theory of evolution, I am talking about the fact of evolution. The fact of evolution refers to an unfolding change over time.
F. LaGard Smith in his wonderful criticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution titled Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem uses small e and capital E to separate the theory from the fact. (See our review of Smith’s book in our third quarter 2018 journal.) The 142 varieties of chickens that exist today were produced by unfolding change (evolution). That is a fact. It is a fact that there were no cockapoos, peekapoos, Charolais cattle, or Nancy Reagan roses on Noah’s Ark. It is a fact that Jacob by evolution took Laban’s flocks and secured his own superior flocks. (See Genesis 30:31-43.) When young people take a biology class, they learn about how agriculture uses this kind of change which is called “evolution.” To put this at odds with the belief that the Bible is the Word of God is a tragic mistake.
We explained that in the article, but we have had some hate mail from people who saw “Evolution is not a dirty word” as a heading and apparently didn’t read the article. Instead, they sent off an angry letter announcing that I was an evolutionist and an enemy of Christ. What they did, was to show how truthful our article was. This kind of attitude has been going on for a very long time with books written and articles printed branding me and this ministry rather than recognizing that the mean-spirited attitude displayed in their writing is more of an issue than any theory of evolution.
You can read the original article online by clicking HERE, and see for yourself that evolution is not a dirty word. (Neither is science.)
Although space-travel movies are exciting and fun, they are not very realistic. Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light. There is overwhelming proof that he was right. That fact has an impact on the reality of space travel.
Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross wrote an excellent book entitled Why the Universe is the Way It Is. In this book, he states that due to the laws of physics the top speed of a spaceship would be limited to about one percent of the speed of light, or 6.7 million miles (10.8 million km) per hour. Based on that, he says that for aliens to travel from any other planetary system where intelligent beings could possibly exist would take at least 25,000 years! (Remember that it will take nine months just to travel to Mars, our neighboring planet.)
So when you watch a two-hour movie in which people travel from one planetary system to another at hyper-light-speed, remember that it’s only Hollywood. The reality of space travel is not what we see in the movies. We live in a universe designed by a Creator who gave us a special place with everything we need to live. Is there any kind of life, not just intelligent life, anywhere else in this vast universe? We don’t know, but the chances of meeting intelligent beings from another planet are very, very slim. That’s the reality of space travel.
By the way, my picture is poking a little fun at a statement made by the well-known atheist biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. He begins chapter 1 by stating, “Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?’”
So does discovering evolution indicate advanced civilization and the level of our intelligence? More importantly, does evolution explain the reason for our existence? Personally, I think the reason for our existence is not found in evolution, but begins in Genesis chapter 1 and is developed in the rest of the Bible.
One of the indicators that scientists use to measure evolutionary development is a test that determines whether an animal has an awareness of itself. The test involves placing a mirror in front of the organism and then observing the animal to see if it gives evidence that it recognizes that what it sees in the mirror is an image of itself. A recent report says that a fish can pass this self-awareness test.
Self-awareness has been used to categorize animals as having higher intelligence than others. Scientists have considered the mirror test to be the “gold standard.” Applying that test they have determined that great apes, bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, Eurasian magpies, and Asian elephants are all very intelligent and therefore highly evolved. Now a fish known as the cleaner wrasse passes the self-awareness test and must be added to the list.
Researchers in Germany placed a mark on the four-inch fish in a location that could only be seen in a mirror. The cleaner wrasses checked their reflection multiple times and then tried to remove the mark by rubbing their bodies on hard surfaces. With no mirrors, the fish didn’t try to remove the mark. When the mark was placed on the mirror, the fish ignored it.
We should note that the cleaner wrasse survives by inspecting larger fish for parasites and dead tissue. The larger fish waits patiently while the wrasse cleans it by eating what it finds. This mutual relationship protects the health of the larger fish while providing food for the wrasse. Symbiotic relationships like that can be more easily explained by design than by evolutionary theory. Since the wrasse is designed to look for unwanted detritus on the bodies of other fish, perhaps that is why it is keen to notice marks on its own body.
If self-awareness shows high intelligence, we must now add a fish to the list of intelligent mammals and birds. Dr. Alex Jordan reported that the fish “behaviorally fulfills all criteria of the mirror test.” Dr. Jordan says that either the species is self-aware or the gold standard test needs updating.
One of the underlying assumptions of Darwinism is something called uniformitarianismwhich says that no process operated in the past that is not going on today. The snappy way of saying it is “the past is the key to understanding the present.” Impact craters disrupt the uniform history of Earth.
Evolution assumes that the conditions on Earth’s surface have been relatively stable as they are today. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been earthquakes or forest fires or hurricanes or global warming in the past because obviously there have been. What it does mean is that there have not been global events that would affect all living things. Something like a global flood would not be uniformitarian. If water covered all of the land, vast numbers of animals would have drowned causing a profound effect on the history of life.
The December 22, 2018 – January 5, 2019 issue of Science News (page 40) carried a fascinating report on how many impact craters there are in the crust of the Earth. We have taken groups to see the Barringer Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona. It is a relatively small impact crater only 1.2 Km in diameter. The Chicxulub Crater in Mexico was 150 Km in diameter. Scientists believe it had global implications for life. We have reported on this crater before, and we have talked about other craters scientists have discovered. There are now 190 confirmed impact craters in the Earth Impact Database at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. Scientists estimate that there are perhaps 350 impact craters that have yet to be discovered.
February 12 is Darwin Day to mark the birthday of Charles Darwin. There is an organization which exists to encourage encourages schools, museums, churches, and universities through the registry of the Darwin Day Celebration website. The stated purpose is to “honor the life and work of Charles Darwin.” The National Center for Science Education is the major supporter of the celebration.
Leading up to Darwin Day, February 8-10 this year is designated as Evolution Weekend. Michael Zimmerman who initiated this event says, “Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between science and religion.” He goes on to say, “Those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.” According to Zimmerman, 202 congregations in 45 states and five foreign countries are holding Evolution Weekend events. Several large denominations are a part of this effort.
We agree that we do not have to choose between science and faith. We have posted many articles pointing out that evolution is not the issue. Change certainly happens in living things, and the Bible talks about specific examples of evolution such as what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks. The issue is Naturalism, based on common descent from one-celled life to human beings.
One of the problems with putting together an accurate picture of the past is determining what is real and what isn’t. Whether we are talking about fossils or archaeological discoveries, there are always people who make fake artifact claims. Sometimes they do it as a means to get notoriety, sometimes to get money, and sometimes both. Time magazine, February 4-11, 2019, page 10, presented is a short list of famous fakes:
THE PILTDOWN MAN was introduced as a missing link in human evolution. Amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed to have discovered the skull in 1912. Forty years later it was exposed as a forgery. The portrait painted in 1915 by John Cooke shows a group of distinguished scientists examining the faked skull. Notice the picture of Charles Darwin on the wall.
SCOTTISH STONE CIRCLE has been a subject of archaeological interest because it was considered to be a remnant of early man. It turned out to be a structure that a local farmer built in the 1990s.
THE GOLDEN TIARA was supposed to have belonged to an ancient Scythian king. The Louvre purchased it in 1896, and it was later shown to be a fake made by an Odessa goldsmith.
THE MISSISSIPPI MUMMY was part of the old Capitol Museum since 1920. It was claimed to be from the time of Christ and perhaps related to Joseph and Mary’s time in Egypt. In 1969 a medical student X-rayed it and found it was composed of paper-mâché, a wooden frame, and nails. Fake artifact claims often take a long time to be discovered.
PINGYI MISSING LINK TO DINOSAURS was a fossil pictured on the cover of National Geographic in 1999 as proof that birds descended from dinosaurs. The fossil is actually a fake composed by a local farmer. Chinese paleontologists estimate that more than 80% of the marine reptiles displayed in China’s museums are forged.
All of this is a demonstration of a challenge to scientists to continually be aware that the old “rule of graduate work” made in jest is always with us. It says “make sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” Fake artifact claims sometimes result from the pressure put on researchers to publish or perish. When the truth becomes known it can be painfully embarrassing for the scientists involved. For us laymen, no matter what our belief system is, it is essential to be careful with our sources of information.
–John N. Clayton
Environmentalists claim that animal species are becoming extinct and that we must preserve their DNA. The problem with this claim is that as the environment changes, animals may not be able to survive. An example is animals that have a very specialized diet, such as eating mostly on bamboo. If something wipes out the bamboo, what are these animals to do? We can save samples of their DNA, but moving them away from their natural habitat to a different place where bamboo is growing may not be the answer. It can expose them to predators and diseases that were not present in their original environment. We call this human wildlife management. While in some cases it can correct what humans have done, there are many cases where humans are not the cause. Massive investments may only delay the inevitable extinction of an animal.
The red wolf is a current example of human wildlife management. Red wolves were once common across a large region of Texas and Louisiana. The red wolf was classified as endangered in 1967 and extinct in 1980, although some were living in zoos and wildlife facilities. In the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bred red wolves and in 1986 introduced them to the wild in North Carolina. By 2006 there were over 100 wolves in North Carolina, but the population was not healthy. Many were killed by farmers and ranchers so that by April of 2018, fewer than 50 remained.
Recently a pack of red wolves was found on Galveston Island in Texas. At first, red wolf advocates were delighted. Then they became dismayed when scientists found that the Galveston wolves had DNA that was different from the original red wolves. The change in the DNA may be in part from coyotes in the area. We would suggest that God created red wolves to occupy a particular environmental niche. When that niche was changed, no matter what changed it, another design feature kicked in. That design feature which God has placed in living things is hybridization.
Hybridization is the interbreeding of two animals who are genetically close but not identical. The offspring produced by this mix of genes is often stronger and more resilient than either of the parents. When the Endangered Species Act was implemented in the 1970s hybridization was considered to be something to avoid. The reality is that God’s design allows animals to continue to prosper through hybridization.
Elizabeth Heppenheimer is a biologist from Princeton who has been studying the wolves on Galveston Island. She says, “Now we know hybridization is relatively common in natural systems and does not always have negative consequences, but the policy (of human wildlife management) hasn’t quite caught up with this notion.”
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.
Fifty-nine percent of the American public says that science and religion are often in conflict according to Pew Research in a survey conducted in 2015. Are science and faith enemies?
The report said that “Some 73% of adults who seldom or never attend religious services say science and religion are often in conflict, while half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say the same.” The interesting thing is that just half of adults who attend religious services at least weekly say science and religion are often in conflict. Apparently, the people who are not religious see a conflict between science and faith more than religious people do. Perhaps that is the reason they reject faith in God. They have been told that science rules out the possibility that God exists. That is not true.
The point of the DOES GOD EXIST? program is to show that science and faith are friends, not enemies. The problem is that both believers and unbelievers would rather throw stones than resolve issues. Both sides have become entrenched in their own doctrines and refuse to follow the facts wherever they lead. There are Christians who build museums and insist that the universe cannot possibly be more than 10,000 (or even 6,000) years old. Some scientists write best-selling books saying that the existence of God has been disproven by evolution. Both cannot be right. However, but both could be wrong.