Monday, July 30, 2012

Johan Huibers’ Ark

I mentioned this a bit back. In Holland, Johan Huibers has built a life-size replica of Noah's Ark in Dordrecht. Robert Nisbet of SkyNews HD writes:
He used the ancient measurement of the cubit - the length of a man's arm from the elbow to the fingertips - to build the craft according to Biblical proportions.

In Genesis the ark is described as being 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high so the mammoth effort took him and his team of five just over four years to finish.
The ark is apparently a museum although they wanted to float it over to the London Olympics:
Deborah Venema-Huibers, manager of the Ark, told Sky News that they had to abandon plans to sail the ark to the London Olympics after they were asked to make the wooden boat safer for visitors.

She said: "We would like to carry three thousand people on the boat (so) you can't say: 'We'll leave it like that'. You have (to clear) everything with the fire department, as it is all wood. It took such a long time that we had to skip the Olympics."
Still, this is kinda neat and, who knows; on a local level, this might have worked.

New BioLogos Posts

The two posts on Homo erectus are up at these locations:

Please stop by and comment.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Klinghoffer Responds to McBride Review

David Klinghoffer, who often writes histrionically for the Discovery Institute, has written a response to Paul McBride's review of Science & Human Origins called “Paul McBridge: Darwinist Hero of the Hour.” For some reason, he clings to this word “Darwinist,” as though it actually describes anyone who practices evolutionary biology. He really means it perjoratively, of course. He writes:
Yet there's a familiar pattern where these very same bloggers, including some scientists at reputable universities, shy from actually reading material from the intelligent-design community. At best, they'll find someone else who claims to have read it and rely on his say-so that the book or article is no good.
He could say that about me and, in this instance, be correct. I have not read the book yet. He claims that Darwinists are afraid of ID arguments. This is nonsense. There are very long reviews of Signature in the Cell by a number of “Darwinists.” I have read several Phillip Johnson books and reviewed them. The problem is that the arguments don't change.

William Dembski has written several books on how he thinks complex specified information applies to biology. When people shoot holes in the arguments, he just shuts the comments down. Further, he makes no attempt to have his articles published in biology journals.

Stephen Meyer's work Signature in the Cell is based partly on Douglas Axe's work and ideas, which are then regurgitated for the new book. Those arguments haven't changed.

Instead of getting a palaeoanthropologist to write a chapter on human origins fossils, they get a lawyer who has no training in the field to do it. I don't need to read Casey Luskin's arguments against human evolution in Science & Human Origins. I have read them before. They haven't changed—even in the face of new evidence.

I intend to read the book but for now I am content that Paul McBride has identified the principle problems. They are the same ones that were present in ID five years ago.

A Good Video on Radiometric Dating

Joy Walters has a video on BioLogos that explains in layman's terms why radiometric dating is sound and how hominin/hominid fossils have been dated. Go watch!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Science & Human Origins: A Not So Positive Review by Paul McBride

Douglas Axe, Ann Gauger and Casey Luskin have a new book out called Science & Human Origins. I have not had a chance to pick it up yet but it looks like the authors have learned nothing from the recent exchanges with folks like Dennis Venema and PZ Myers. The same faulty ideas still hold sway. Paul McBride has reviewed the book here. McBride points out an immediate problem that seems to characterize the ID camp in general. Ann Gauger writes:
I personally am convinced that unguided, unintelligent processes can’t do the job, not only because the neo-Darwinian mechanism is utterly insufficient, but also because we are beings capable of intelligence and creativity.
This is argument from personal incredulity and has no place in scientific discourse. If this is indeed how she feels, then it must color how she does her experiments and how she gathers her conclusions. If she is not open to this possibility, she has no business writing this book.

McBride remarks that chapter two, which is written by Douglas Axe, discusses his and Gauger's recent work where it was found that the time necessary to get one protein to evolve into another, contemporaneous protein is longer than the universe has existed. Other researchers have pointed out the logical error in this experiment but McBride's statement is succinct:
If Gauger and Axe couldn't get a single protein to evolve a novel function of their choosing then surely massive evolutionary changes are impossible. Actually, no. Gauger and Axe's experiment is a profound misunderstanding of evolution. The real question is not "Can X be turned into Y?" because that sense of direction requires preordination, which is not theorised to be a part of evolution. If we remove this preordination, the question becomes "Can X turn into something else?".
It is more than a little ironic that Axe and Gauger argue that, left to its own devices, evolution cannot foster new genetic material due to its randomness and then, to show that this is so, introduce an experiment in which evolution is directed and non-random. Didn't any of the editors catch this? Axe and Gauger do not seem to understand the concepts of exaptation and neutral mutations.

Casey Luskin wrote the chapter on the fossil record. McBride quotes Luskin:
There are many gaps and virtually no plausible transitional fossils that are generally accepted, even by evolutionists, to be direct human ancestors. Thus, public claims of evolutionists to the contrary, the appearance of humans in the fossil record appears to be been anything but a gradual Darwinian evolutionary process. The Darwinian belief that humans evolved from apelike species requires inferences that go beyond the evidence and is not supported by the fossil record.
Luskin isn't listening. He has shut his ears and refuses to listen to what people are saying about the evidence. As I will remark in my next BioLogos posts (and something McBride points out), the earliest Homo erectus individuals have cranial capacities of around 700 cc3, while the later ones have cranial capacities of up to 1225cc3. Does this overlap those of modern humans? Barely. And the suite of characteristics that are on display in your average Homo erectus are not modern human in any way. They are getting there, but they are not there yet. Then we have archaic Homo sapiens, such as Kabwe from what is now Zimbabwe, which is obviously evolved over Homo erectus but not quite modern human either. These people show up in Asia (Dali and Mapa in China and Ngandong in Indonesia), Europe (Petralona, Swanscombe, Steinheim, Atapuerca, to name a few) and they are obviously intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens in some way. Are they direct ancestors? Maybe, maybe not, but they are transitional. Luskin is arguing unilineal ancestry without allowing for the possibility of collateral ancestry.

The earliest modern remains that we have are from the site of Herto, on the Bouri Peninsula in the Afar triangle, in Ethiopia and they date to around 160,000. Even so, there are a few characteristics that link these remains to earlier, archaic Homo sapiens. There may be no absolute evidence that these represent our ancestors, but who is to say they aren't? We know that we have modern humans in the Near East at 100,000 that still show some signs of not being quite like us. By 40,000 they do. If these are not transitional sequences, what would qualify?

McBride's conclusion contains the following paragraph:
I have been left wondering why the Discovery Institute, or intelligent design advocates in general, or biblical literalists feel a need to try and accommodate science when they have a belief in a supernatural entity capable of breaking natural laws. In the case of this book, it has left them needing to make all kinds of awkward criticisms of fields in which the authors clearly lack expertise. A lawyer is not the right guy to challenge the world's palaeoanthropologists, nor the world's geneticists. Certainly, he shouldn't be trying to take them all on at once. It will end with him trying to smear the reputation of scientists rather than engaging with their ideas. Accusations that the entire field of palaeoanthropology is driven by personal disputes and that Francis Collins is a bad Christian are simply not compelling reading in a book that is putatively about scientific argument.
Leaving aside the issue of miracles, since I believe they can and do happen and are not restricted to the physical, observable world, McBride is partly correct in his assessment about the abilities of these authors to address the material. The problem is deeper than that, however. At least in the case of Luskin, there is an unwillingness to alter one's viewpoints in the face of additional evidence to the contrary. Here, there is a distinct similarity to the young-earth creationist camp, who have little to no scientific integrity. As McBride points out, Luskin's views have not altered since 2006. I pointed out these problems two years ago in a BioLogos post. I know that he read the post because we corresponded briefly about it. It is therefore, doubly disconcerting that he would continue to hold onto this “no transitional fossils” idea as if it were still defensible.

This is a book I clearly need to pick up and read, although I am quite certain it will just make my blood boil to do so.


I have two new BioLogos posts going up this weekend (hopefully). Stay tuned. These will cover Asian Homo erectus.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Louisiana Pays Attention

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has a report that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has passed stricter rules for schools that are accepting government vouchers. Writes Andrew Vanacore:
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a new set of academic standards Tuesday for private schools participating in Louisiana's expanded voucher program. By a vote of 9-2, the 11-member panel, known as BESE, adopted a plan proposed by state Superintendent John White that will require private schools to hit roughly the same academic bar that public schools do in order to continue accepting more students through the program.
The standards exclude those schools with less than forty students, however, which has drawn criticism. It is hard not to see this as a result of widespread coverage of Louisiana school children looking for the Loch Ness Monster and being taught creationism.
Test scores aside, the program is also drawing concerns that state tax dollars could end up going to schools that reject evolution in favor of creationism. Zack Kopplin, a college student who gained notoriety in 2010 when he attacked a state law that critics saw as a backdoor endorsement of creationist ideas, turned up at the BESE meeting Tuesday with a list of schools in the voucher program that appear to promote a biblical interpretation of human origins.

Kopplin cited a line from the student handbook at Faith Academy, in Gonzalez, requiring students to "defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible versus traditional scientific theory."
Somebody saw the handwriting on the wall and realized that if the voucher program was going to survive and not suffer a constitutional challenge, changes had to be made to make sure that creationism wasn't being taught and they weren't using curricula that trash evolution.
White's plan gives BESE responsibility for ensuring private schools "maintain a curriculum of quality at least equal to that prescribed for similar public schools," with the power to hand down penalties "including ineligibility to participate or ineligibility to accept new students."

But during a conference call Tuesday, White suggested that he would rely instead on the science portion of the state's LEAP exams to weed out schools that aren't teaching biology up to acceptable standards. "The test measures evolution," he said.
As it should.

Monday, July 23, 2012

For the Want of a Chromosome Pair

Slate has an article on how we ended up with 46 chromosomes. Despite the colloquial writing style, there is some good information about how we got one less set of chromosomes than Chimpanzees, our closest relatives. Sam Kean writes:

Around a million years ago, in some fateful man or woman in Africa, what were the 12th and 13th human chromosomes (and still are the 12th and 13th chromosomes in many primates) got entangled at their tips. Instead of separating cleanly, 12 and 13 fused together, like one belt buckled onto another. This amalgam eventually became human chromosome 2.

Fusions like this are not uncommon—one in every 1,000 babies has some sort of chromosomal fusion—and most go unnoticed because they don’t upset anyone’s health. (The ends of chromosomes contain few genes, so often nothing gets disrupted.) However, a fusion by itself can’t explain the drop from 48 to 46. A fusion leaves a person with 47 chromosomes, not 46, and the odds of two identical fusions in the same cell are remote. And even after the drop to 47, the person still has to reproduce to pass on the trait, a serious barrier.

He would have to find a person also with 47 chromosomes and, despite the possibility of many miscarriages, one in thirty-six would inherit both fused chromosomes and have 46. This must have had some sort of selective advantage because that is the form in which we find ourselves today. It has been suggested that there was a genetic bottleneck (Venema also writes about this) and it is possible that this was the point that the 46 variant took over. it is thought-provoking, if speculative. One thing is certain: we have fewer chromosomes than chimpanzees and it is because of a chromosomal fusion. The key here is that we and chimpanzees share a last common ancestor.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Musings From the Atlanta Constitution on Louisiana

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Constitution wonders “Is Louisiana the future of Georgia’s education system?” He writes:
John White, Louisiana’s school superintendent, has told the press that it should be up to parents, not the state, to gauge whether private schools are delivering a quality education. “To me, it’s a moral outrage that the government would say, ‘We know what’s best for your child,’” White said. “Who are we to tell parents we know better?”

That “who are we to judge?” question is critically important. When fully implemented, the Louisiana program has the potential to shift well over a billion dollars a year in taxpayer money out of the public system into the hands of private for-profit and non-profit schools. Surely that gives state officials not just the right but the obligation to ensure that the money is well-spent and delivers quality education. But that’s counter to the philosophy driving the school voucher movement.
The purpose of the school voucher program for kids is so that they can get a better education, not a different one. While it is certainly true that there are horror stories of schools where the school theatre department is told that they can't perform West Side Story because it is racist and puts on The Vagina Monologues instead and politically correct thought runs rampant, science education should not be up for discussion.

If the science doesn't follow what is accepted by experts all over the planet, there should be no federal money going to it, whatever. Aside from the Establishment Clause issues, it is simply promoting bad science and using the school system to do it. If I were the state, I would shut this program down immediately.

On another level, it is deeply disappointing that these schools using these curricula seem to think that they are producing kids that can ever be competitive in science fields when they get taught this nonsense. It is my sincere hope that more colleges and universities will deny entrance to students that come out of these schools and who cannot demonstrate basic knowledge of astronomy, geology, cosmology and biology.

I disagree with him about what drives the school voucher movement, though. In us and in most people that I know, the desire to seek education outside the public schools is driven by the desire to make sure our kids get the best education that they can. Of all of the public schools in my area, only a few are decent and, as I mentioned above, one does not have to go far to find horror stories of bad public school teachers and schools. In most cases, the home-schooled kids are more prepared for college academically than their public school peers—except in science.

Other dangers await, as well. I have a friend who's daughter has drifted away from the faith and in the context of this, when her parents asked her how her home school education was, she replied “I wish you had told me more about evolution.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More on the Louisiana School Voucher Program

I have a tendency to support school vouchers because it allows students to escape horrible schools for which they are zoned and steps up the accountability of the public schools to at least try to give students a good education. Using those vouchers to promote creationism, however, is not acceptable. also thinks so and is circulating a petition to that effect. They write, in part:
Northeast Baptist School, in West Monroe, approved for 40 voucher slots and $340,000 in taxpayer dollars, uses ABeka and Bob Jones University science textbooks. Researcher and writer Rachel Tabachnick, who examined these textbooks, reports that it is “clear that no instruction is included in the text that would conflict with young earth creationism.” Using such books endangers the educational prospects of students in Christian schools. In 2010, the University of California won a federal lawsuit, ASCI [Association of Christian Schools International] v. Stearns, in which the judge ruled in favor of UC’s right to refuse to recognize high school credits for science classes taken in Christian schools that used such books. UC contended that such instruction is “inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."
I am actually surprised, on one level, that the UC decision has not gained more airplay, since it should have had a far-reaching impact on the home school movement. Many universities may simply not want to involve themselves at that level, however.

Between this story and the search for the Loch Ness Monster, I smell a large class-action suit in the wind that may make Dover look like a small affair. On one level, I certainly hope so. On another, I grieve for how this will hurt the voucher program. It gives those opposed to it unnecessary ammunition and if, based on this, other states torpedoed voucher programs, who could blame them? All in all, an unwise move on Jindal's part.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

One Reason Palaeoanthropology Is So Hard

The Star, from South Africa has a nice story on a hunk of rock that contains the second of the skeletons pulled from the South African cave site of Malapa, the first of which was the nice juvenile Australopithecus sediba individual. Shaun Smillie writes:
Last night, in Shanghai, China, scientists from Wits University’s Institute for Human Evolution announced the discovery of fossils buried deep in a piece of rock about a metre in diameter. They are believed to be the remains of Karabo, one of the two Australopithecus sediba skeletons that were discovered at Malapa, in the Cradle of Humankind, in 2009.

Karabo’s partial skeleton was removed from the Malapa site, but the rock appears to contain more of his bones.
One is reminded of the arduous task that awaited Raymond Dart as he sat before the stone breccia that contained the first australopithecine to be discovered in South Africa. It took him seventy three days to pry apart the limestone to extract the remains.

This is something that is often missed by the popular press and creationists: fossils are rare and complete fossils are even rarer. And, unlike the kind of archaeological work that goes on in neolithic or bronze age sites, human fossil remains are usually found in concretions—limestone or some other hard rock—and are very hard to extricate cleanly. In the case of Ardipithecus ramidus (or “Ardi”), the extraction took years because the bones were so brittle. Jamie Shreeve writes in National Geographic that as soon as bones were removed, they were doused with hardener to make sure they did not fall apart. Then, once they are removed comes the equally arduous task of trying to reconstitute the pieces. Complete skulls are rare and even the most complete ones have to be put back together. Once we have them, they are great tools for discovering how we came to be and the stages that got us here. But it takes a lot of work just to get to that point. It will be nice when we get the second A. sediba skeleton out to see how it compares to the one we already have.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Native American Migrations

USA Today reports on genetic research indicating three separate waves of migration out of Asia into the New World beginning around 15 ooo years ago. Dan Vergano writes:
North and South America were totally empty of people until the first arrivals from Siberia crossed a land bridge into Alaska, spreading in a few thousand years to the tip of South America. The genetic study may help settle a debate between a long-held view that the populating of the continents came as one event instead of the more recently supported notion, backed by this study in the journal Nature, that the migration happened in three distinct waves.

"Our study makes clear that mixing of these three ancient populations is the story of Native American arrival," says geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School, lead author of the study
As far back as I can remember in graduate school, I was taught that there were at least two, probably three migrations. The two that I remember studying were from the Lena River Basin in Siberia and the Amur River basin, on the border of Russia and China. There were probably more than that, as there are some Native American populations that have gene fixation for certain blood types, a situation that would only occur in a drift/founder effect situation. I remember Dick Jantz teaching us this twenty years ago, at UT.

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Monday, July 09, 2012

Christianity Today: “A Tale of Two Scientists”

Christianity Today has an article by Tim Stafford on Darrel Falk and Todd Wood. Darrel is the president of BioLogos (Disclosure: I write for BioLogos) and Todd Wood is the biologist at Bryan College in Dayton Tennessee and, as far as I can tell, the only young earth creationist who honestly treats the geological and biological evidence. Of Falk he writes:
He took a postdoctoral fellowship in Southern California. On one memorable day, he was at the beach with his family when he saw a church bus arrive in the parking lot. From the lettering on the side, he could see the bus was from a Nazarene church, the denomination of his boyhood. "This church family, I reasoned, was having a picnic, just like I used to love so much." The sight prompted deep sadness, as he thought of his daughters. They would never go on a church picnic. They would never gain the richest part of his heritage. "I longed to go back, if only for the sake of my daughters. But I could not go back—the chasm that separated us was too great. One of the widest sections of the gulf was my belief in gradual creation."
When I read this, I realized that it resonated with me. I was in church one day and my pastor was giving a sermon on Genesis, in particular the pre-flood world, and it shook me. While I believe in Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings, I realized I didn't believe what my pastor was saying. What he was describing was an outgrowth of a deep, convicted faith that is unencumbered by modern science, or by racking doubts of whether anything in the first eleven chapters of Genesis is true in a literal sense or is it all myth. I can't go back to that faith. I know that it puts me at odds with a great many of my friends but, as Falk alludes to, the gulf is too great. When my friends ask me to explain why I think the evidence for an old earth and evolution is so good, I hesitate. In some ways I don't want them to lose that innocence and yet, in other ways, I am convinced that the young earth hermeneutic is wrong and can be destructive to the faith.

Wood has always struck me as someone who has a very regard for scientific integrity and the ability to correctly analyze scientific research, even if he does not believe their conclusions. In the past, I have been critical of what I perceive to be cognitive dissonance in his approach to his science. That is perhaps, unfair. I think that he truly does believe that there is evidence of change but that this points to something we just haven't fathomed yet.

Having said that, the biological/evolutionary evidence doesn't exist in a vacuum—it rests on the geological and biogeographical evidence of an ancient earth—and he has yet to properly address it and its relationship to biological diversity. As of now, he seems either unwilling to do so or feels it is irrelevant to his research. Given his approach to biological science and his general castigation of the level of research of his fellow young-earth creationists, I would be curious to know what he thinks of this evidence.

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Saturday, July 07, 2012

“Dear South Korea, thank you for making us look less stupid. Sincerely, the United States of America.”

That, according to a story in TES, is a reader's comment on the story that young earth creationism is making inroads in South Korea. Michael Fitzpatrick writes:
Long thought of as an American problem among developed countries, the South Korean government recently surprised everyone by allowing school textbook publishers to leave out examples that demonstrate Darwin's theory of evolution at work.

Following a creationist campaign by one of South Korea's many vociferous Christian groups - some of whom recently tried to ban Lady Gaga from the country - Korea's education ministry unexpectedly gave the OK for the deletion. What is even more remarkable is that such removals were only "suggestions" from the government, but seven science textbook publishers forged ahead with the changes anyway. As a consequence, references to the theory of evolution, such as the avian ancestor archaeopteryx and "the changes of horse over time", have disappeared from textbooks.

More surprisingly still for a country that is viewed by some in the West as a sine qua non when it comes to excellence in science education, the Society for Textbook Revise, which wants so-called "intelligent design" taught at schools, counts professors of biology and high school science teachers among its ranks. They are not alone. According to Nature magazine, a survey of trainee teachers in the country found that 40 per cent of biology teachers agreed with the statement that "much of the scientific community doubts if evolution occurs", and half disagreed that "modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes".
When one looks at the Earth at night image,
there is a sharp line between North and South Korea because of the economic development in South Korea. Further, I have read that South Korea is the most internet-connected country in the world. How has this idea that has so poisoned science education here in the United States gained traction? This will have severe consequences for science education overall and biological education in specific. Some of the most exciting areas of emerging science are biomedical and genomic research. Both rely heavily on an understanding of how selection and mutation work. Without those underpinnings, the South Korean students will fall behind. That the textbook writers were so complicit in the actions is unconscionable. As the scientists in Texas and Louisiana fought back, so must those in South Korea or soon, they will be unable to compete in these areas.

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Friday, July 06, 2012

More Trouble For the “Ark-n-Park”

The financial troubles continue for the Creation Museum's Noah's Ark display, or as Barry Lynn affectionately calls it, the “Ark-n-Park.” Yes, I used the possessive because AiG is up to their eyeballs in the project. Liz Goodwin, of Yahoo, writes:
When you walk into the Creation Museum, one of the first things you see is an exhibit of a doe-eyed human child crouched next to a velociraptor dinosaur. The two seem not at all surprised that their epochs have collided. Homo sapiens and velociraptors missed each other by a good 65 million years, according to most scientists, but in the world of the Creation Museum, humans and dinosaurs were created on the same day 6,000 years ago, coexisting peacefully in the Garden of Eden. A thousand years later, a 600-year-old man ushered them onto Noah's ark.
Velociraptors, huh? You mean these things? The ones with retractable claws and sharp teeth? The best killing machines in the dinosaur world?

She continues:
The group initially announced that it expected to break ground on the park in 2011, before eventually pushing that date back to 2014. But in June, in an interview in the Creation Museum's “Noah's Cafe,” Ark Encounter vice president Michael Zovath told Yahoo News that the group no longer has a date in mind for the construction to begin. It has been unable to raise sufficient amounts of money, despite pleas to the Creation Museum's visitors to donate to the project.

“Fundraising is really tough,” Zovath said, blaming the recession. “It's not moving so fast as we hoped.” The private LLC that is building the park would need to raise another $20 million before it can break ground, he said. So far, it's taken in $5.6 million in donations and $17 million in private investments.

To add to the bad news, the Creation Museum is having its lowest attendance year yet. Last fiscal year, 280,000 people visited, compared to 404,000 the first year it opened in 2007. Zovath thinks that potential visitors have been less willing to travel to the museum because of the poor economy.
Yah, well, that is probably true. The economy has had that kind of effect on a lot of businesses. I suspect that the project will eventually be built. After all, as Murphy once said:“No one can kill a bad idea.” She ends with:
Sometimes, the museum tackles evolution and its huge disagreement with science head-on, through exhibits on Charles Darwin and the Grand Canyon. At other times, certain displays seemed to entirely ignore the scientific consensus on an issue. A show on finches, a small type of bird that helped Darwin first hypothesize that one species of animal could turn into many different species, doesn't mention their key role in his scientific discovery. "Scientists are puzzled how so many finch species could arise, displaying such a vast array of traits," the exhibit reads. "The Bible provides the explanation. In the beginning of time, six thousand years ago, God created every kind of bird, including the finch kind, and He gave them the ability to 'multiply upon the earth.'"
No, actually, they aren't puzzled

This is the kind of thing that makes me a very hateful person. Darwin's explanation for why the finches were different has been around for 150 years. But aside from the fact that Darwin used the finches because it was a good illustration of selection in different environments, the above statement is nothing short of a lie. A lie written with a straight face and behind which there is no compunction to tell the truth. It is this moral turpitude that allows them to say that there are no transitional fossils as well.

This is why I have no respect for Ken Ham or what he does. If the Ark-n-Park doesn't get built, that will be one less blight on the landscape.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Mount Carmel Caves Nominated to Join World Heritage List

Four caves that have extensive evidence of human Palaeolithic occupation have been placed on the World Heritage List. They are Tabun, Jamal, El-Wad and Skhul. Tabun and Skhul are near and dear to the heart of every palaeoanthropologist as being the site of the early modern and Neandertal remains described in The Stone Age of Mount Carmel, by McCown and Keith, which was published in 1937. The story, from the Jerusalem Post, notes:
The sites are “located in one of the best preserved fossilized reefs of the Mediterranean region” and contain cultural deposits filled with 500,000 years of human evolution, from the Lower Paleolithic era to the present day, said a summary document that the World Heritage Committee printed in May.

The Nahal Me’arot caves provide “a definitive chronological framework at a key period of human development,” according to the summary document. Archeological evidence found in the region indicates the appearance of modern humans who conducted deliberate burials and who were exploring early stone architecture, as well as transitioning from hunting and gathering to agricultural processes.
This is long overdue. The Mount Carmel area is also traditionally where Elijah struck down the prophets of Baal.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

More Feathered Dinosaurs

Science Daily has a story on the discovery of more feathered dinosaurs. From down in the story:
Theropods are bipedal, mostly carnivorous dinosaurs. In recent years, scientists have discovered that many extinct theropods had feathers. But this feathering has only been found in theropods that are classified as coelurosaurs, a diverse group including animals like T. rex and birds. Sciurumimus -- identified as a megalosaur, not a coelurosaur -- is the first exception to this rule. The new species also sits deep within the evolutionary tree of theropods, much more so than coelurosaurs, meaning that the species that stem from Sciurumimus are likely to have similar characteristics.
Once again, we are seeing that, in response to changing climate, some dinosaurs are evolving feathers to keep warm. The writer alludes to this at the end of the quote. It is likely that the ancestors of both branches of theropods will have rudimentary feathers. The coelurosaurs simply took it and ran with it.

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