News to Note, December 11, 2010

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

Featured in News to Know

ET has “got to be,” pass the arsenic, living fossils or not, evidence all around us, the Ark—still controversial, and more in this week’s News to Note.

1. Daily Growth in Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life?

Is the evidence for extraterrestrial life “mounting daily”? It’s the first we’ve heard of it!

2. Earth Alien Discovery Under Attack

Last week we reported on hot news that “alien” life had been discovered—albeit aliens from earth. But since then the widely reported research has come under attack.

3. BBC News: “Crocs Dispel ‘Living Fossil’ Myth

Long called a “living fossil,” a new report argues that crocodilians are actually quite distinct from their petrified parentage.

Scientists apply the nickname “living fossil” to creatures with us today that very closely resemble fossils found “far back” in the fossil record (i.e., in layers deemed very old). Sometimes, the organisms were known only from the fossil record, their extinction taught as scientific fact. That is, until they’re found alive and well in the present, as in the case of the coelacanth fish.

Crocodilians no longer deserve that term, however, according to a new report published by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. The scientists coming to that conclusion have finished their analysis of a fossil species named Simosuchus clarki, found a decade ago in Madagascar. Unlike modern crocodilians (a taxonomic order including crocodiles, alligators, gharials, and caimans), S. clarki has a short, blunt snout, a short tail, and compact body—making it quite distinct from today’s crocodilians. And unlike the crocodilians we know, S. clarki would have lived inland in a “semi-arid grassland habitat.”

The researchers conclude that these major differences indicate how much change evolution has brought to the crocodilian order. But how do the scientists know that S. clarki is indeed the evolutionary ancestor of crocodilians, as opposed to being a separate lineage? The answer, of course, is that they don’t really know; the framework of evolution forces the conclusion. Taking away that framework, we can see S. clarki as a separate lineage from the same reptilian kind or from a different kind entirely. Either way, the fact that modern crocodilians have changed little over supposed millions of years keeps them as prime examples of living fossils.

For more information:

4. "Top-Ten" List Declares Evidence of Evolution

Are the evidences of evolution walking around with us every day? A recent “top ten” list answers in the affirmative.

5. Ark Encounter Surrounded by Debate

The media has provided ongoing coverage of Ark Encounter, the new project co-sponsored by Answers in Genesis. And—no surprise—the project is increasingly surrounded by debate.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • “Evangelical Christians, in particular, are now one of America’s best-educated demographics,” notes a New York Times column on the changing dynamics of the culture war. Maybe that comment will help chip away at the frequent (and false) caricature of evangelicals as intellectually deficient.
  • Along similar lines, Answers in Genesis CCO Mark Looy wrote the Louisville Courier-Journal a letter of correction in reply to an editorial that had inaccurately claimed, “No serious scientist upholds” young-earth creationism.
  • Religion makes people happier—but it’s not because of God, as LiveScience coverage of the news gleefully notes. Survey results revealed a happiness gap between the religious and the irreligious but found the relationship was most strongly associated with the social networks individuals build through churches. To some, that seems to imply that there is no God, but obviously that goes way beyond the survey results.
  • Was it a horse? A dragon? Or both? The fossil Hippodraco scutodens—the “shield-toothed horse-dragon”—was discovered in 2004 in Utah and described in a recent issue of PLoS ONE. So did our ancestors interact with this “dragon”?
  • Hobbits” on the Indonesian island of Flores may have interacted with giant storks, fossil wing bones suggest. The find is further evidence that our (fully) human ancestors survived among giant animals—as we do today, of course.

For more information: Get Answers

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!

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