News to Note, November 5, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on November 5, 2011
Featured in News to Know

Toothy travelogue, stellar prebiotics, zombie evolution, leapin’ life spans, Denisovan nuptials , and more in this week’s News to Note.

1. Sauropod Enamel: Sign of Evacuation or Migration?

Sauropod sojourns or enamel of evacuation?

2. Stardust Latest Suspect for Origin of Life

Spectral signposts suggest interstellar seeds of life.

3. Zombies Existing in Nature

Genesis of the zombies’ curse.

4. Non-Genetic Traits Lengthen Roundworm Life Span

Longevity in roundworms lasts until the 3rd generation.

5. Modern East Asians and Denisovans Share Genes

Net of Denisovan cousins widens.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Oxford’s Thomas Higham, re-dating a skull previously dated at 35,000 years, reports modern humans were in England 41,500 to 44,200 years ago. Reported earlier1 this year, his ultrafiltration method removes contaminating traces of carbon-14. Higham says, “Very little carbon 14 remains in specimens more than 30,000 years old, and even tiny amounts of contaminating carbon 14 can make a sample seem much younger than it is.”2 Referring to early human occupation of England, Higham says, “They’re essentially the same as us. . . . Modern humans went out of Africa . . .[but] it may have been that it happened much earlier than we think. And if they were in England by 41,500 years ago, they must have traveled fairly quickly.” The ultrafiltration refinement however is unable to filter away other problems with carbon dating. Carbon dating is based on the assumption that the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere has remained unchanged, ignoring changes caused by reduction in earth’s magnetic field and the drastic loss of biomass at the time of the Flood.3 Biblically, we know that earth is only about 6,000 years old, so these dates are not correct, and the discrepancy is due to problems with the foundational assumptions. But when Higham say those humans in England were the same as us, he is correct. All humans, including Neanderthals, descended from Noah’s family. Those people dispersed from the plains of Shinar less than 4,500 years ago. Therefore, we expect to see evidence of human occupation in far-flung archaeological sites. Read more about carbon dating at Carbon-14 Dating, Carbon-14 in Fossils and Diamonds, and A Creationist Puzzle.
  • Neanderthal people tended to have proportionally shorter lower legs than modern humans. Anthropologists have previously assumed that their bodies adapted to cold climate by having proportionately less surface area but that their gait was very inefficient. However, a study in this month’s American Journal of Physical Anthropology mathematically demonstrates the Neanderthals’ shorter legs were actually perfect for their mountainous habitations. “Studies looking at limb length have always concluded that a shorter limb, including in Neandertals, leads to less efficiency of movement, because they had to take more steps to go a given distance,” says lead author Ryan Higgins. “But the other studies only looked at flat land. Our study suggests that the Neandertals' steps were not less efficient than modern humans in the sloped, mountainous environment where they lived.” The authors, comparing various animal species with representatives in different habitats, also found the trend toward shorter lower legs present in animals, suggesting natural selection would favor shorter legs in mountainous habitats. Biblically we are confident that Neanderthal people were as human as we are and were descended from Noah’s family. Their variations do not indicate a less-evolved or differently evolved form of human. Rather, people segregated and dispersed from the tower of Babel would have had less genetic diversity within their groups. Smaller gene pools and other factors prominent in smaller populations such as founder effects and genetic drift would have led to various distinguishing characteristics, including those affecting stature. Neanderthal people were evidently well suited for the terrain in which they settled.
  • Panzee, the chimpanzee whose speech perception got her the starring role last summer in Current Biology, was the subject of Georgia State graduate student Lisa Heimbauer’s presentation at the 162nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Diego. Heimbauer and colleagues continue to assert that their results support the common ancestry of chimps and humans. Heimbauer maintains, “Humans do not need unique cognitive abilities to process speech. . . Instead, the general auditory processes that we share with apes, and probably a common ancestor, can be used to accomplish speech perception tasks.” She argues that sufficient auditory perception to give rise to speech already existed in an ape-human common ancestor, rather than arising after humans diverged as is popularly thought among other evolutionists. The existence of highly developed auditory perception in finches, chinchillas, and monkeys further argues for the non-uniqueness of speech perception. Biblically we need to realize that determining whether or not chimps (or finches or chinchillas or my dog) can recognize human speech in no way supports the idea of a common ancestry with humans. The question is not when humans diverged: they didn’t. God created each animal with a variety of qualities. The ability to be trained to communicate with humans in no way shows chimps and humans are ancestrally related. Genesis 1:26–27 tells us that God created humans in His own image as a completely separate creation from the animals. Humans have a spiritual nature that animals can never have. Read more about Panzee and people in News to Note, July 9, 2011.

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