Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New DNA Analysis Allows for Greater Understanding of Modern Human Prehistory

From Science Daily:
A University of Utah-led team developed a new method for analyzing DNA sequence data to reconstruct the early history of the archaic human populations. They revealed an evolutionary story that contradicts conventional wisdom about modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

The study1 found that the Neanderthal-Denisovan lineage nearly went extinct after separating from modern humans. Just 300 generations later, Neanderthals and Denisovans diverged from each other around 744,000 years ago. Then, the global Neanderthal population grew to tens of thousands of individuals living in fragmented, isolated populations scattered across Eurasia.

"This hypothesis is against conventional wisdom, but it makes more sense than the conventional wisdom." said Alan Rogers, professor in the Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study that will publish online on August 7, 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
As the authors note, there is mounting evidence of a migration from Africa to Europe, likely by way of the Strait of Gibraltar, in which Acheulean stone tools are introduced by a group which became known as Homo heidelbergensis.  This group, subsequently, split, likely gave rise to the Neandertals  and the Denisovans a bit later.  Then, a second wave of migrations around 90 to 100 ky happened, during which there was hybridization between Neandertals, moderns and Denisovans.

We live in a time where we now have the genomes of archaic Africans, Eurasians, Neandertals, Denisovans and early moderns and can compare them using site pattern analysis.  These authors found that
  • In contrast to previous studies, this one indicates that Neandertal population size was large, on the order of tens of thousands of people, in isolated populations
  • The split between the Neandertals and Denisovans was early, on the order of 744 thousand years ago.  
  • By the time you find these hominins in the fossil record, they had already split from the Denisovans, which explains why the Atapuerca Sima De Los Huesos hominins resemble Neandertals more than Denisovans.
  • Therefore, Neandertal features are thought to have emerged over a long period of time in Europe. 
This analysis will help us rethink our understanding of the fossil material from Gran Dolina, which now likely represents a population from which both the Denisovans and Neandertals split.  This makes sense, given the general, non-derived nature of the fossil material from there.  Things are slowly (maybe?) falling into place.

1Alan R. Rogers, Ryan J. Bohlender, and Chad D. Huff. Early history of Neanderthals and Denisovans. PNAS, August 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1706426114

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New 13 Million-Year-Old Miocene Ape Discovery in Kenya

National Geographic (and other outlets) is reporting on a new skull discovered in northern Kenya, near Lake Turkana that is 13 million years old and may reflect the morphology of a sister group to the stem group of hominoids, the group that contains modern apes and humans.  Michael Greshko writes:

“We’ve been looking for ape fossils for years—this is the first time we’re getting a skull that’s complete,” says Isaiah Nengo, the De Anza College anthropologist who led the discovery, supported by a National Geographic Society grant and the Stony Brook University-affiliated Turkana Basin Institute.

Roughly the size of a lemon, the skull belongs to a newly identified species of early ape named Nyanzapithecus alesi. Some of its features resemble those of today’s living Old World monkeys and apes, and the face bears a striking resemblance to today’s infant gibbons.

What’s more, N. alesi offers insight into early apes’ brains, the team reports in their study, published today in Nature. With a volume of about seven tablespoons, N. alesi’s brain cavity was more than double that of other Old World monkeys from the time.
The Miocene is generally thought of as the “Age of the Apes” because there were so many genera (30) and species (over 40) of apes pretty much all over the Old World. As the authors note, however, up to this point, most of the remains have been just jaws and teeth.  This skull is an incredible find and will add immensely to our understanding of this time period. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Full Page Ad in Chattanooga Times Free Press: Livesay Resign!

A number of alumni and former faculty of Bryan College took out a full-page ad in the Chattanooga Times Free Press calling on President Stephen Livesay to resign from the college and for the Board of Trustees to resign as well.  The ad showed up in the print edition of the paper but has been transcribed to a page on Change.org here.  It reads in part:
President Livesay has failed to act biblically toward believers who disagree with him. Consistent reports from a number of those who have worked at the College show that Livesay does not follow the mandates of Matthew 18:15 and Ephesians 4:13-16 to discuss his differences with other believers in a humble, loving way that could promote correction and reconciliation. Instead, he treats all disagreement with his views as evil and uses deception, threats, and job termination to silence dialogue and hide dissent.
President Livesay has continued to incite the opposition of Christian men and women of proven faith and integrity. Pastors, Christian professionals, faculty and staff who have made sacrifices over many years for Christ and His ministry at Bryan College, and some of Bryan’s brightest and most faithful students, alumni, and friends have spoken up again and again against Livesay’s failures in godly servant-leadership. Yet he has refused to repent and goes on dividing and damaging the body of Christ at Bryan (John 17:20-21).
Rather than doing its job as a supervisory body that exercises authority over the president, the Bryan Board of Trustees has passively and blindly followed the president.
It is difficult to know what effect this letter will have on Livesay. There is nothing quite like being universally disliked.  It is clear that the fortunes and reputation of the college have taken a huge hit, so much so that Mike Adams, the conservative columnist and faculty at UNC Wilmington, has suggested that the college be shut down.  There are very few things worse for a Christian college than to be accused of ethical violations and moral turpitude.  I'm not sure how this one is going to turn out.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ken Ham Takes Potshot at Bill Nye on Climate Change

Ken Ham...Bill Nye...a plague on both of your houses.  While Bill Nye is out trying to save the world, and Ken Ham is out trying to save the world, the two of them tangled again.  First, Bill Nye was quoted as saying that we will only get serious about climate change when the older generation, who he claims comprise the largest group of climate change deniers, dies off.  From Mandy Mayfield:
“Climate change deniers, by way of example, are older. It's generational,” Nye told the Los Angeles Times. Nye said that he is calling them out with “due respect,” acknowledging that he is “now one of them.”

“We're just going to have to wait for those people to 'age out,' as they say," Nye went on, adding that “age out” is a euphemism for “die.” “But it'll happen, I guarantee you — that'll happen.”
Ken Ham took exception to this. As the Gospel Herald Society notes:
Ham accused Nye of "decrying the older generation" with his comments.

"He knows the younger generation are by and large more brainwashed in secularism and evolutionary teaching and are generally not taught how to think critically," Ham said. "Thus, he is hoping the younger generation will be more supportive of his false anti-observational science views of climate change."

As earlier reported, Nye previously came under fire when, on the season finale of his Netflix show, "Bill Nye Saves the World," he suggested that American families ought to be penalized for having "extra kids" as a solution to overpopulation and climate change.
Well, first off, accepting evolutionary theory and the evidence for an old earth do not constitute a rejection of critical thinking.  If you accept the argument that scientific evidence supports the young earth position, then you need to apply critical thinking to this argument.  Many problems occur when you do.

Here is an example of what I mean: I recently attended a Classical Conversations home school meeting in advance of the new school year.  At the meeting, someone had, for sale, a timeline of history.  I noticed a few odd things about the timeline.
  • It began in 4004 B.C., a date commonly accepted in young earth creationist circles but reflecting a somewhat facile interpretation of the biblical chronologies, which have been shown by numerous theologians and biblical historians to be incomplete or replete with symbolism.  
  • It places the world-wide flood squarely at 2500 B.C.
  • The early Egyptian, Minoan and Sumerian histories are completely absent.  The reason for this is, of course, that if the flood happened in 2500 B.C., anything happening elsewhere in the world not recorded in Genesis simply didn't happen.  No Chinese histories dating back prior to the Shang Dynasty are recorded, either.  
How do you square these things with “critical thinking?”  Objectively, these histories reflect real people, living in real places, doing real things.

As far as Bill Nye is concerned, whatever there was of the objective, humble scientist that did "Bill Nye, The Science Guy" seems long gone, replaced by some loud, obnoxious SJW in a lab coat.  Where once he gave kids a presentation on what it means to be either XY or XX, he is now hawking "Sex Junk" a truly awful video on sex.

Further, his idea of penalizing American families for having extra kids is laughable on its face.  Our population replacement rate is already treading water, as it is.  In Europe and Japan, the populations aren't replacing themselves.  In Japan, schools are closing down because there are not enough rising students to fill them.  If a population does not replace itself, society collapses.  This fact seems to be lost on these climate warriors.

Both Bill Nye and Ken Ham have incredibly warped views on science.  One was a mechanical engineer and the other has an undergraduate degree in science education.  Apparently, neither of those backgrounds are being put to good use.