No Doubt About It: These Proteins are From Dinosaurs

Fossil of a Brachylophosaurus at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.  (click for credit)

Fossil of a Brachylophosaurus at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. (click for credit)

In 2005, Dr. Mary Schweitzer shocked the paleontology community by reporting that she had found soft tissue in a Tyrannosaurus fossil that was thought to be 65 million years old. Since then, numerous other cases of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils have been reported (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). Currently, the “record holder” for soft tissue is a worm fossil that is supposed to be 550 million years old!

While such discoveries have been met with skepticism, the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that there is soft tissue in many fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old. Of course, the next obvious issue to address is the chemical makeup of these soft tissues. Are the large biomolecules that we expect to find in soft tissue there? Are they intact or severely decayed? After all, most proteins are expected to decay significantly in as “little” as 30,000 years. Despite this fact, some of these fossils contain what appear to be intact proteins.

Now, of course, there is always the possibility of contamination. Fossil collection isn’t the cleanest of pursuits, and proteins are found pretty much everywhere on the planet. Thus, it is possible that the proteins which have been discovered in dinosaur bones aren’t really from the dinosaurs. However, two recent studies indicate that contamination cannot be the explanation. These proteins are real, and they really are from the dinosaurs themselves.

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Jay Wile, From a Student’s Perspective

A "portrait" of me, drawn by Jessica M.

A “portrait” of me, drawn by Jessica M.

I love hearing from students after they have taken a course or two from me and then gone on to pursue their goals. I enjoy each report and am thrilled that my courses meant so much to them. I do have to admit, however, that I enjoy some reports more than others. Some students credit me for their love of science, and that means the world to me! Others suggest that they couldn’t have been successful in pursuit of their goals without my courses. I tend to doubt that, but I appreciate the sentiment. Some students say that my courses have helped them in their spiritual life, and that means the most. There are times, however, that I get a report that is both meaningful and downright hilarious, at least to me! Such was the case a few days ago, when I got an email from Jessica M.

She wrote to tell me that she took my general chemistry course (which is out of print – I recommend using this one now) and my advanced chemistry course several years ago and is now in college, pursuing a degree in nursing. She says that college chemistry is going well, and it is bringing back a lot of good memories, so she wanted to thank me for being an integral part of her homeschool-high school years. Of course, that meant a great deal to me. However, I have to admit that I was more intrigued by something else she wrote:

As a homeschooler, you were one of my first “favorite professors” (next to my parents and Andrew Pudewa). Extrapolating from your often-humorous, lighthearted writing style, I invented a jovial stickman-character of you who often appeared in the margins of my books to make comments (together with the three Chemistry Nerds and Mr. Mole).

If you have ever experienced a class with Andrew Pudewa, you would know that it is no insult to finish behind him in a student’s “favorite professors” list, but that’s not what really intrigued me. I wanted to learn more about this “jovial stickman-character,” so I asked her if she would mind sending me some examples, and when she did, I spent the next several minutes laughing out loud!

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The Future of Creation Science is Bright

Dr. John Sanford (right) and me (left) at the Creation Science Fellowship Meeting in Costa Mesa, California.

Dr. John Sanford (right) and me (left) at the Creation Science Fellowship Meeting in Costa Mesa, California.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to walk among giants…well…at least figuratively speaking. I got to participate in panel discussion with Dr. Steve Austin, Dr. John Baumgardner, and Dr. John Sanford. Anyone who has spent much time researching the origins issue will recognize at least one of these individuals, as they are all excellent scientists who write and do research from a creationist perspective. I didn’t think I belonged on the panel, since I consider them all to be much more accomplished and talented scientists than me, but the people at the Creation Science Fellowship in Costa Mesa, California seemed to think I could contribute to the discussion, so I was included.

While the panel discussion was well attended and very productive (I will discuss it a bit in a moment), the most exciting aspect of the trip for me was meeting Dr. Sanford. He is an incredibly gifted geneticist. For example, he co-invented the “gene gun,” a device that can introduce DNA from one organism into a completely different species of organism. He has also done some excellent creationist research (see here and here, for example) and has written what I consider to be the best book about genetics and evolution, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of The Genome. I have discussed parts of it in previous posts (see here and here).

I was also thrilled to hear about an organization he is leading, which is called Logos Research Associates. It is a group of scientists who are committed to doing original, cutting-edge scientific research from a creationist perspective. Their current projects investigate issues in oceanography, genetics, geophysics, and geology. The more I discussed his organization and its projects, the more excited I became. The projects are incredibly interesting, and the way they are addressing the scientific issues involved is spot-on. He told me about a couple of papers that are in the process of being finalized right now, and once they are published, you can bet that I will write about them.

Scientists like Dr. Sanford and organizations like Logos Research Associates make me think that the future of creation science is very bright.

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College Professors’ Impressions of Homeschool Graduates

A happy college graduate (click for credit)

A happy college graduate (click for credit)

Many of my readers probably know that I started working with homeschoolers because of my experiences with homeschool graduates when I was on the faculty at Ball State University. As a group, they were not only academically superior to their peers, but they were also significantly more well-adjusted. I often share this fact when I am speaking to homeschool audiences, so it didn’t surprise me when a homeschool blogger (Michelle) sent me some questions about my experiences with homeschool graduates at the university level. As I indicated to her, I have experienced homeschool graduates at both a secular university (Ball State) and a Christian university (Anderson University). Based on my experiences, I can state with some confidence that, on average, homeschool graduates excel at the university level, be it in a secular or Christian environment. Several studies back up those experiences (see here, here, here, here, and here).

Michelle told me that she was writing a blog post about professors’ impressions of homeschool graduates, and she asked me four specific questions. I answered them as best I could and then (like many things) promptly forgot about it. Yesterday, I received another email from Michelle, telling me that she had finished the project and had published her post. After reading it, I decided that I had to share it. I think it provides some really valuable insights, especially for parents who are currently homeschooling and want their children to pursue higher education.

Unlike the studies that I spend a lot of my time discussing, the results of her survey of college professors is not scientific. It has a tiny sample size and makes no attempt to be representative of the population of college professors as a whole. Nevertheless, it is incredibly valuable, because the college professors who were surveyed offer some excellent advice to homeschooling parents, and they provide perspectives about homeschool graduates in higher education that would be hard to measure in a more scientific survey.

I strongly encourage you to read the entire article, but I do want to offer a bit of “color commentary.”

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More Archaeological Evidence Supporting Scripture

An aerial view of Khirbat Qeiyafa, which is most likely the Biblical city of Shaaraim. (click for credit)

An aerial view of Khirbat Qeiyafa, which is most likely the Biblical city of Shaaraim.
(click for credit)

It has become fashionable among many Biblical scholars to doubt the historical veracity of the Old Testament. In particular, whereas the Old Testament characterizes Israel at the time of King David as a large empire with active trading over long distances, some popular Biblical scholars characterize it as a simple, agrarian society. In addition, while the Old Testament speaks of King David as a civilized king who ruled over an impressive empire, these same scholars claim that he was more of a tribal war chief. National Geographic, for example, describes how Dr. Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, characterizes Israel and its king:

During David’s time, as Finkelstein casts it, Jerusalem was little more than a “hill-country village,” David himself a raggedy upstart akin to Pancho Villa, and his legion of followers more like “500 people with sticks in their hands shouting and cursing and spitting — not the stuff of great armies of chariots described in the text.”

Like many of today’s scholarly ideas, Finkelstein’s view is completely at odds with the scientific evidence, but that rarely stands in the way of a popular ideas, especially among those who study the Bible!

More than three years ago, I wrote about excavations taking place at a city called Khirbat Qeiyafa. The city has been dated to the 11th-century BC, and in that article, I discuss the fact that it contains a palace that the archaeologists think might have belonged to King David. Whether or not the palace belonged to David, the remains of the city clearly indicate a sophisticated kingdom like the Old Testament describes, and the archaeological evidence found in the excavation indicates that it was most certainly an Israelite city.

New archaeological evidence from that excavation goes further in debunking views like those of Finkelstein and adds even more evidence for the historical veracity of the Old Testament. Interestingly enough, this new evidence was first discovered by an amateur!

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Ark Encounter Attendance Reported to be High

A view of the Ark Encounter (click for a larger image)

A view of the Ark Encounter (click for a larger image)

In early August, I toured the Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter. Overall, I was impressed with the facility, and I thought that regardless of your view on origins, it would be a very interesting place to tour, if you can afford it. Of course, there are those who aren’t as favorably disposed towards the Ark Encounter, and they have a different view. Because I try to read all sides of an issue, I visited several anti-Ark websites prior to and after my visit, and many of them claimed that The Ark Encounter wasn’t getting a lot of visitors (see here, here, here, and here, for example.). I didn’t quite understand that, because the day I went (a Thursday in August), the place seemed pretty crowded. As I noted in my article, I had to wait 20 minutes to see one exhibit, because of the long line of people.

That’s why I was interested to read the December 31st entry on Ken Ham’s Blog. In that post, Mr. Ham lists seven ways that God blessed Answers in Genesis in 2016, and number three is:

Number of guests at the Ark. We’ve seen nearly 500,000 guests visit the Ark Encounter since it opened. Almost half a million people—including skeptics—have been encouraged to trust God’s Word and the gospel through the Ark!

The Ark Encounter opened on July 7, 2016. As of December 31, then, it had been open for a bit less than half a year. Thus, it seems likely that by July 6, 2017, the Ark Encounter could have as many as a million guests, perhaps more.

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Another Atheist Who Became a Christian

Dr. Yingguang Liu is on the faculty at Liberty University. (click for source)

Dr. Yingguang Liu is on the faculty at Liberty University. (click for source)

I recently read a very interesting interview with Dr. Yingguang Liu, who was born and raised in rural China. From as early as he remembers, he was taught atheism, and he didn’t know anyone who had religious beliefs. He lived an impoverished life but was an excellent student. Upon graduating high school, he was accepted into medical school and ended up earning his Bachelor of Medicine degree. Because he had experienced patients with hepatitis, he wanted to find a cure, so he earned his Master of Medicine degree in order to do medical research. However, he quickly became disillusioned. In his words (which are similar to those of Dr. Judith Curry):

During those years, I learned something about the negative side of science. The equation for a scientific career was: Science + politics = grants = fame + fortune. I was disillusioned by the monopoly and hypocrisy of the scientific community.

As a result of his disillusionment, Dr. Liu decided to work as a physician. He spent four years as an infectious disease expert at Jinan Infectious Diseases Hospital. He then moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. at Ohio State University, and that’s where he first met Christians.

A Chinese Bible Study group had printed advertisements for a picnic, and he attended it, not really knowing what the group was all about. He said that he was he was attracted by their friendliness and welcoming smiles, so he started attending their Bible study. During their first winter break, he went to a Chinese Christian Conference in Chicago with the group, and at the end of one of the messages, he accepted Jesus Christ as his “Saviour, Master, and Friend.”

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Climate Scientist Resigns Because of the “Craziness” of the Field

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry (click for source)

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry
(click for source)

Dr. Judith Curry holds an earned Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from The University of Chicago. For the past 14 years, she has been on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and for the majority of that time, she was the chairperson of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She has authored 186 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has two books to her credit. By any objective measure, she is a giant in the field of climate science.

I wrote about Dr. Curry more than six years ago, when Scientific American branded her a heretic. What was Curry’s heinous crime against science? She didn’t toe the party line when it came to global warming. She didn’t claim that global warming wasn’t occurring, and she didn’t claim that people aren’t responsible. Instead, she simply started stressing the real uncertainties involved in climate science. That, of course, is an unpardonable sin, and as a result, she is routinely demonized by those who know significantly less than she does about climate.

Why has she decided to resign, even though she has not reached traditional retirement age? She discusses this on her blog, and I encourage you to read the entire article. Like most of the entries on her blog, it is thoughtful and revealing. She mentions several factors that have contributed to her resignation, and then she says this:

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide… [emphasis mine]

The sad fact is that her observations are 100% accurate, and they can be applied to at least one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.

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Lichen Kept This Secret from Scientists for Almost 150 Years!

The stringy stuff hanging on this tree is a lichen from the genus Bryoria. (click for credit)

The stringy stuff hanging on this tree is a lichen from the genus Bryoria.
(click for credit)

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am fascinated by mutualism – the phenomenon where two organisms of different species work together to benefit one another (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). Creationists expect such relationships to be common throughout nature, and at least one line of research seems to indicate that some organisms are designed to produce them. I suspect that we understand very little about this amazing process, and it is probably more common than most scientists think.

Consider, for example, the longest-studied mutualistic relationship. Way back in 1867, Swiss botanist Dr. Simon Schwendener proposed that a lichen (like the one pictured to the left) is not a single organism. Instead, it is composed of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga (the singular form of algae), that work together so that each benefits. His hypothesis was rejected by the scientific consensus, but as has been the case throughout the history of science, the consensus was demonstrated to be wrong, and Dr. Schwendener was vindicated. Nowadays, the lichen is one of the most common examples given to explain the concept of mutualism. The alga does photosynthesis and shares its food and oxygen with the fungus, while the fungus supports the alga and supplies it with water and salts.

You would think that since Dr. Schwendener proposed this mutualistic relationship nearly 150 years ago, scientists would know pretty much everything there is to know about lichen. However, there was one major mystery that hadn’t been solved over that entire timespan – how can genetically similar lichen be so wildly different? The picture above, for example, is of a specific lichen, Bryoria fremontii. Another lichen from the same genus, Bryoria tortuosa, is composed of the same species of fungus and the same species of alga. From a genetic standpoint, the fungus and alga in both lichens are virtually identical. Nevertheless, one lichen is brown while the other is yellow. In addition, one produces a chemical known as vulpinic acid, while the other does not.

How can two lichen composed of genetically-identical partners look and behave so differently? We may now know the answer, which has been hiding in plain sight for almost 150 years!

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An Atheist Becomes a Christian After Reading The Lord of the Rings

The view from inside Bag End. (Photo by Kathleen Wile)

The view from inside Bag End. (Photo by Kathleen Wile)

If you hadn’t already guess it by now, I am a nerd. As a result, you will probably not be surprised by the fact that I have been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since I first read the series in the late 1970s. More importantly, however, I am married to one of the world’s biggest fans of the trilogy. She knows pretty much everything about the books and their talented author, and in her mind, they tell the best fictional story ever told. She also liked the movies that were made based on the books, even though she had some issues with them. As a result, when we went on a speaking tour of New Zealand several years ago, we wanted to see at least some of the sites where the films were made.

Pretty much the only place that looks anything like it did in the movies is Hobbiton, the town where Bilbo Baggins lived. My wife and I toured it eagerly and were thrilled to learn that we could actually go into Bilbo’s “home,” Bag End. In actuality, the inside of Bag End seen in the movies wasn’t at the Hobbiton set. It was on a sound stage somewhere else. However, the owners had excavated a small cave behind Bag End’s entrance. We went in, and she took the photo you see above, allowing us to always remember the view from Bag End.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I ran across a very interesting article entitled, I Was an Atheist Until I Read “The Lord of the Rings.” The title alone is intriguing enough, but longtime readers of this blog are probably aware that I collect stories about atheists who became Christians. If this story isn’t a perfect fit for my blog, then, I don’t know what is!

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