Forensic fantasy, dinosaur nursery, Darwinian linguistics, land ho, jetlag geometry, and more.
Dinosaur babies frozen in time
Linguists lobbying against evolutionary oversimplifications refuse to yield to the authority of statistics
Which whale of a tale is true?
What does jetlag have to do with fruitflies and morning-glories?
And Don’t Miss . . .
- In a new twist of evolutionary paradigm, a study published in Human Ecology suggests Neanderthals became extinct because they were too good at survival. Julien Riel-Salvatore and Michael Barton propose, on the basis of computer analysis of archaeological artifacts, that Neanderthal humans were so adept at surviving the harsh conditions of the last (actually the only) Ice Age that instead of being wiped out, they flourished and intermarried with modern human populations so successfully they lost their unique identity. Riel-Salvatore explains, “It’s been long believed that Neanderthals were outcompeted by fitter modern humans and they could not adapt. We are changing the main narrative. Neanderthals were just as adaptable and in many ways, simply victims of their own success. Neanderthals had proven that they could roll with the punches and when they met the more numerous modern humans, they adapted again. But modern humans probably saw the Neanderthals as possible mates. As a result, over time, the Neanderthals died out as a physically recognizable population.” In essence, Neanderthals diluted themselves into “biological extinction.” Perhaps we should dub this the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em extinction-of-the-fittest principle.” Of course, we know from the Bible that God created Adam and Eve in His own image and that all humans, including Neanderthals, are their descendants rather than products gradual evolution from molecules to animals to man.
- Curiosity, NASA’s new robotic Mars rover, is a “mobile lab with many added capabilities that can help us ask more complex questions than ever, such as what makes a planet habitable,” according to astrobiologist Pamela Conrad. Curiosity, scheduled to launch this weekend, will land in a crater that has “accumulated diverse layers of sediment over time” and analyze the chemicals in them. Conrad explains, “The problem with investigating the past or present habitability of Mars, “is that we've never found definitive evidence of life on Mars, so we don’t know what makes one spot good or not for the kind of life that may or may not be there . . . . We now have this wealth of information about all the extreme environments on Earth that organisms can live on that have expanded our notion of what might be possible.” Astrobiologists assume life evolved on Earth and therefore plan to evaluate places where it could have evolved on Mars. Typically, they assume that if water is present then life could evolve. And if “biomolecules” (chemicals useful to living things, as found in some meteorites) are present, they assume those could have provided building blocks for life to evolve. While imbuing the project with the excitement of a cosmic scavenger hunt, such thinking introduces a scientific bias from the beginning. The Bible tells us God created life on Earth in an orderly fashion about 6,000 years ago. Since life did not evolve through random processes on Earth, we should not assume it did so elsewhere.
- Fossilized skin from a mosasaur, an extinct sea reptile, has the same sort of design features as sharks and dolphins. The skin was found with its mosasaur skeleton in the 1950s in an Upper Cretaceous formation in Kansas. The intricate details of the scales are visible “from both the outside and the inside. That's a first. On the inside they have special supportive structures that … anchor to the soft tissue,” Lund’s Johan Lindgren said. "The scales have a ridge on each scale that helps channel the water” to reduce frictional drag as the animal swam. The fibers forming the attachment to the underlying dermis are arranged in alternating layers with differing orientations, which increases skin rigidity in extant animals. “Presumably, this arrangement minimizes creasing of the skin, thereby counteracting fluid drag by retaining a smooth body surface,” write the investigators. This information is changing ideas about the appearance of mosasaurs, which “for 200 years [have] been reconstructed as these serpentine creatures.” Lindgren explains. “An emergence of evidence, including the stuff we found, indicates that they underwent the same kind of [convergent] evolution as whales, and they became streamlined.” What the information has actually revealed are intricate design features God used in creating various kinds of streamlined aquatic animals. Those features did not evolve convergently, randomly reinventing the same marvelous designs the same way over and over again over millions of years. God made all kinds of sea creatures on the fifth day of Creation week about 6,000 years ago, equipping each with all it needed.
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