Mark Armitage is doing some of today’s most exciting research on fossils (see here, here, here, here, and here). He recently presented some of his research at the 2023 Microscopy and Microanalysis annual meeting, which published its proceedings.
To my mind, there are three important takeaways from the presentation. First, he finds blood clots in fossils that are much older that what has been commonly reported. Most of these reports are about fossils that are supposed to be 65-70 million years old. Some of the fossils he reports on here are supposed to be 270-300 million years old! That’s what the illustration at the top of this article shows. On the left is a standard microscope image of an early Permian amphibian fossil. The yellow material is bone, and the image is centered on a canal that runs through the bone. When the specimen was alive, the canal held blood vessels and nerves. The white area is empty, and the dark material between the empty space and the bone tissue is clotted blood. On the right, you see what happens when that same sample is hit with ultraviolet light. The dark splotches you see come from iron in the blood clot. When hit with ultraviolet light, iron emits light of a specific wavelength, and that’s the wavelength emitted here. Thus, we know this is iron, and since it is in the clot, it is iron from the animal’s blood. If you want to believe the old-earth timescale, then, you have to believe that a blood clot is able to exist for 270-300 million years without rotting away!
That brings me to the second important takeaway. In a desperate attempt to explain how soft tissue can be in fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old, Schweitzer and her colleagues published a paper suggesting that iron is the key to this remarkable preservation. In that paper, they show how iron from blood can reduce the degradation of blood vessels over a period of two years. However, the experiment required that the blood be treated with an anticoagulant. That way, iron could diffuse throughout the tissue that was being preserved. Armitage’s results show that’s not realistic. Instead, the blood clots trap the iron so that it is not available to the rest of the tissue. This adds to the other arguments which indicate that Schweitzer’s iron-preservation hypothesis is not valid.
The last very important takeaway is how these results affect research that has already been done. As Armitage’s paper says:
We also note that many histological dinosaur bone studies reveal unreported clots, thus we encourage workers to examine their sections for iron auto-fluorescence response under UVFL.
In other words, because of Armitage’s work, we can look at past images that have already been published and see that there are blood clots in previously-described fossils that were not recognized by the researchers who published the studies. Thus, paleontologists have the opportunity to learn more from the fossils that they have already examined. I truly hope that at least some of those scientists are curious enough to take Armitage’s suggestion!
There are many people (including many scientists) who really don’t want to think for themselves. As a result, when it comes to a given scientific issue, they simply rely on the “scientific consensus.” After all, with our modern knowledge and technology, how could the scientific consensus possibly be wrong? Sure, it has been wrong in the past, but science has greatly improved over the years. Thus, if the scientific consensus says something, it must be true.
On rare occasions, humans are born with tails — real functioning tails that can even be “wagged” via voluntary muscles contractions in response to emotional stimuli. Although the birth of a baby with a tail is frightening for parents and typically requires surgery, the remarkable human tail is an important part of the even more remarkable tale of our origins — namely evolution.
Basically, he tells the reader that we evolved from animals that had tails, and evolution simply switched it off in people and great apes. However, every now and again, that switch gets reversed, producing a tail. He then goes on to talk about “crazy creationists” and how they try to argue against the reality of this obvious fact. Not surprisingly, he mischaracterizes their explanations, but what is interesting to me is how he tells the reader to evaluate the creationnists’ arguments:
Note the reasoning process here, keeping in mind that 1) there is a consensus in the scientific community that humans are sometimes born with real tails that are evolutionary throwbacks; 2) the gene for tails has been located in the human genome is the same one that mice use to produce their tails; and 3) the issue is not the human tail, but the problem of bad design in nature.
Dr. Giberson is utterly convinced that when babies are born with a “tail,” it is a result of the “tail gene” that humans inherited from a common ancestor being “turned on,” even though evolution turned it off. Why? Because it’s the scientific consensus, and because there is a gene found in both mice and humans, and we “know” that gene produces the tail in mice. There’s just one problem: the latest research indicates that this argument is most likely false.
As Science Alert informs us, there are typically two types of “tails” that babies can be born with: “true tails” and “pseudotails.” While evolutionists originally thought that one or both of them were vestigial remnants of evolution, we now know better. Neither one of them are related to tails in any way. In fact:
As it turns out, both rare appendages probably represent an incomplete fusion of the spinal column, or what’s known as a spinal dysraphism. This suggests their formation is not a harmless ‘regression’ in the evolutionary process but a concerning disturbance in an embryo’s growth most likely resulting from a mix of genetic and environmental factors.
So, not only was the “scientific consensus” wrong about why these babies are born with “tails,” but it probably resulted in some of those babies not being treated properly. After all, if the extra appendage is really the result of abnormal development in the womb (instead of a vestige of evolution), it is probably a warning sign that the baby should be screened for various neurological disorders.
Yes, we do have many genes in common with many mammals, including mice. Many of those genes (not just one) are involved in tail development in some mammals, and they are also involved in the development of the caudaul eminence, a neurological structure that is unrelated to a tail in people. Unlike Dr. Giberson indicates, this isn’t the result of bad design. In fact, it is a result of excellent design, where the Engineer has used a single biological process as the basis by which many different structures are produced. That basic process is then just “tweaked” to produce the specific outcomes that are desired in different organisms.
Now don’t misunderstand my point. Science is continually changing based on new knowledge, so I don’t have a problem with the fact that the scientific consensus has been shown to be wrong in this case (as well as many others). The problem is that people like Dr. Giberson slavishly follow that consensus without ever considering the fact that it might be wrong. Furthermore, they mock other scientists who actually try to follow the evidence without reference to the scientific consensus. This is contrary to the scientific method, and it could inhibit young scientists from ever questioning the scientific consensus. After all, why should newcomers want to expose themselves to such mockery from more experienced scientists?
My advice to young scientists is to ignore the mocking from condescending people like Dr. Giberson. Challenge the scientific consensus whenever you think the evidence requires it, and don’t worry about the opinion of people who won’t think for themselves! My advice to Dr. Giberson is twofold. First, stop slavishly following the scientific consensus. Second, retract the article I am discussing, since we now know the scientific consensus you relied on is most likely wrong.
Not long ago, I wrote about Answers in Genesis severely mischaracterizing Dr. Todd Wood because he refuses to agree with them on certain points related to evolution. One big problem they have is that Dr. Wood exercises faith. Dr. Wood claims that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution (in the flagellate-to-philosopher sense), but he knows it’s not true because of his faith. Strangely enough, Answers in Genesis says that Dr. Wood’s faith is not enough. He must believe based on evidence.
…other than basics of how the human body functions, evolution is perhaps the most important part of biology that all educated citizens should be aware of and, therefore, it should remain in the Std X curriculum which all students study before they choose different specializations in Std XI.
The authors of the article point out that younger students (ages 12-13) will still learn about evolution, and if older students decide to specialize in biology, they will learn about it again. Nevertheless, the authors think it was a huge mistake to remove it from this particular year of study.
Why? They regurgitate the typical evolutionary propaganda that has been repeated over and over again in an attempt to make evolution more important than it really is. For example, they quote Theodosius Dobzhansky’s nonsensical comment that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” and Sir Peter Medawar’s inane idea that the only alternative to evolutionary thinking for a biologist is no thinking at all. In fact, flagellate-to-philosopher evolution makes very little sense in the light of modern biological data, and biologists not thinking in evolutionary terms have made incredible scientific discoveries (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example).
If you read Shashidhara and Joshi’s paper closely enough, you will find the real reason they (and others) are upset:
Following the Copernican and Newtonian intellectual revolutions in Europe, living organisms were the last bastion of “religious” or “supernatural” explanations in nature. The Darwinian intellectual revolution showed, that just as in the case for movement of celestial bodies after Newton, there was no need to invoke supernatural explanations to understand the living world, the diversity, relatedness and adaptedness of life forms, or of human origins (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xppn7ITteZw&pp=ygUeQW1pdGFiaCBKb3NoaSBFdm9sdXRpb24gUG9ldHJ5). Thus, evolution is also a central concept in our modern rational world-view, as opposed to a superstitious or mythological one…
In other words, Shashidhara and Joshi decry the loss of evolutionary content in one part of India’s curriculum because it hinders their attempt to root out any hint of religious or supernatural thinking in science. Never mind that religious thinking produced modern science and is used successfully by modern scientists today (see here, here, and here, for example). They don’t like it, so they want to keep Indian students from considering it.
It’s sad when scientists conflate their personal worldview with science. It’s worse when they try to force students to learn that worldview under the guise of “science education.”
In my previous post, I wrote about the misleading concept of Young-Earth Evolution (YEE) promoted by Answers in Genesis (AiG). In essence, AiG is worried about young-earth creationists who do not wholeheartedly conform to its positions on various issues related to creation and evolution. It says:
YEE ideas are needlessly and dangerously accommodating evolutionary assumptions, ideas, and language. The advocation of subtle ideas out of step with clear Scripture undermines biblical authority, sows confusion, and is a breeding ground for compromise.
What are these “subtle ideas out of step with clear Scripture”? It turns out that they are ideas about which Scripture says absolutely nothing! For example, AiG takes issue with Dr. Matthew McClain, a young-earth vertebrate paleontologist who says that birds are more similar to dinosaurs than they are to any other creatures. This is, of course, a true statement (birds and dinosaurs share an enormous number of similarities), and Scripture says absolutely nothing about that. In fact, while Scripture describes individual animals that were probably dinosaurs (see Job 40:15-24, for example), it doesn’t mention any group of creatures that can be collectively referred to as dinosaurs. Thus, the Bible makes no comparison between birds and dinosaurs.
Why, then, does AiG say that Dr. McClain’s idea is “out of step with clear Scripture”? Well, AiG says:
Dinosaurs are land-dwelling animals. That means they were made on day six of creation (Genesis 1:24–25). Almost all birds are flying creatures to some degree, and they all have wings. Therefore, they most likely were all made on day five (Genesis 1:20–22). By saying or agreeing with the evolutionary claim that birds are dinosaurs or are most similar to dinosaurs, Dr. McLain is mixing groups made on different days of creation.
There are two really big problems with this statement. First and foremost, it ignores Scripture. Leviticus 11:13-19 lists the types of birds that are not to be eaten. What does that list end with? It ends with a BAT! So what Scripture calls a bird is not what modern people call a bird. Any unbiased look at Scripture indicates that when the Old Testament mentions birds, it is referring to all animals that fly, which includes certain mammals. Well, most mammals were made on day six, so Scripture itself mixes groups made on different days. Even AiG has to agree that bats are mammals. In addition, it must agree that whales are mammals. They are swimming creatures, which were also made on day five. Thus, Scripture says that some animals we call mammals were made on day five, while others were made on day six. If some animals we call mammals were created on day five and some on day six, why couldn’t some animals we call dinosaurs have been made on day five and others on day six?
The second problem here is that AiG even admits that all birds were “most likely” made on day five. If AiG has to hedge on its own statement about when all birds were made, how in the world can Dr. McLain’s idea be “out of step with clear Scripture”? AiG is actually admitting that the Scripture isn’t clear on this point. I think what AiG means is that Dr. McClain’s view is out of step with AiG’s interpretation of Scripture. In other words, AiG seems to be conflating its interpretation of Scripture with what clearly comes from Scripture. That’s a very dangerous path to go down!
AiG also has a problem with Dr. McClain’s view that at least some dinosaurs had feathers. This is extremely odd, since AiG has stated previously:
Nothing in the Bible precludes the erstwhile existence of feathered dinosaurs.
So which is it? Is the idea that some dinosaurs might have had feathers “out of step with clear Scripture,” or is there nothing in the Bible that “precludes the erstwhile existence of feathered dinosaurs”? Clearly, AiG’s second statement is the correct one. Why, then, is AiG complaining about Dr. McClain’s view?
In my previous post, I encouraged you to watch a 12-minute video from Dr. Todd Wood that clearly demonstrated AiG is not treating him fairly. In this article, I suggest you watch a 13-minute video to show you that AiG is not treating Dr. McClain fairly either.
Once again, I really appreciate Dr. McClain’s view on this. I have always been skeptical of the idea of feathered dinosaurs (see here, here, here, and here). However, as a young-earth creationist, I want to listen to those who have different viewpoints, especially those who are as well-versed in this issue as Dr. McClain. Based on my reading, Dr. McClain is the most qualified creation scientist to speak on the fossil record of dinosaurs. Whether or not I agree with him, I need to learn as much as I can from him. If AiG really wants to learn the truth about the details of how God created, it should try to learn from him as well!
I have been exposed to a lot of odd ideas over the years: the flat earth, the idea that we never landed on the moon, chemtrails, etc. etc. Well, I can now add another to the list. This one comes from Answers in Genesis (AiG), which is warning Christians about the dangers posed by Young Earth Evolutionists. If you looked at those three words and said “What?”, I don’t blame you. Obviously, there is no such thing as a young-earth evolutionist. Evolution (at least in the sense most people use the term) requires billions of years, so if you are an evolutionist, you cannot believe in a young earth.
What does AiG mean by “young-earth evolutionist”? Apparently, it’s a young-earth creationist who is unwilling to pledge fealty to AiG’s tests of orthodoxy. Consider, for example, Dr. Todd Wood, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and was once the director of bioinformatics at Clemson University’s Genomics Institute. He is a committed Christian, a knowledgeable creationist who has done original research in the field, and an expert in baraminology, the scientific study of what kinds of living organisms were originally created by God. He believes (and teaches) that the days listed in Genesis 1 were roughly 24 hours long, that there was a worldwide Flood that is responsible for most of the fossil-bearing rocks we see today, and that the land animals we see today (with the possible exception of many kinds of insects) are descended from the animals that walked off the Ark after the Floodwaters receded. In short, he is a young-earth creationist.
Why does AiG call him a young-earth evolutionist? Because he is being honest about the data related to origins. For example, AiG takes issue with his famous statement that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. AiG doesn’t like this, because it claims that all this supposed evidence has already been “dealt with,” so none of it qualifies as actual evidence. While the first part of this statement is true, the second part is clearly not, and that goes to the core of the difference between AiG and many serious creation scientists. Yes, creationists have “dealt with” data that seem to support evolution. However, as any serious scientist understands (and AiG gives lip service to), scientific data require interpretation. Yes, creationists can interpret data in a way that is consistent with their ideas, but evolutionists can interpret that same data in a way that is consistent with their ideas. AiG seems to think that once creationists have figured out a way to interpret the data in a manner consistent with their ideas, the data no longer qualify as evidence for evolution. That is simply not true!
Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time seriously studying science understands that there is often no way to decide which interpretation of the data is correct. Often, one side’s interpretation of the data seems desperate, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. Let me give you two examples. First, consider the GULO pseudogene. Evolutionists think that it is a broken version of a gene that was originally functional in early mammals, but mutations rendered it nonfunctional during the course of evolution. Well, the same mutations that are thought to have rendered it nonfunctional in apes are also found in humans. This is thought to be excellent evidence that humans and apes have a common ancestor whose gene had already been rendered nonfunctional, and that nonfunctional gene was passed on to both apes and humans. It’s true that the most straightforward way to interpret the GULO pseudogene is through the lens of common ancestry. Now, of course, there are ways to interpret it in the context of young-earth creation, and I give one of them in the link above. However, if you read it, you can see that it is not the most straightforward interpretation of the data.
Next, consider the phenomenon of homology. Many very different organisms share very similar features. All vertebrates (animals with backbones), for example, have the same basic plan for their forelimbs. Evolutionists assure us that this is because all vertebrates evolved from a common ancestor that passed on its forelimb plan to each of its descendants. In other words, homology is the result of common ancestry. However, there are many, many examples of similar structures that cannot be the result of common ancestry, because evolutionists have decided that those organisms don’t share a common ancestor that could give them that structure. As a result, they say that in such cases, homology is not a result of common ancestry. In other words, sometimes homology is a result of common ancestry, and sometimes it is not. That’s not a very straightforward interpretation of the data. A better interpretation of the data is that organisms were originally made by the same Designer, who simply used the same basic design over and over again when it was appropriate.
So….is the GULO pseudogene evidence for a common ancestor between apes and humans? Absolutely yes! Can creationists accommodate the GULO pseudogene in their view? Yes, but it seems a bit desperate. Is homology evidence for a common Designer? Absolutely yes! Can evolutionists accommodate it in their view? Yes, but it seems a little desperate. To any serious scientist out there, this shouldn’t seem strange. In every field where there are competing theories, those who support one theory have a set of evidence that is very strong, and those who support a competing theory have another set of evidence that is very strong. Typically, both sides can accommodate the other side’s evidence in their theory, but often, that accommodation seems desperate. Indeed, we often make decisions between scientific theories by deciding which one seems the least desperate when dealing with all the data!
Not only does AiG hate admitting that there is evidence for any view that disagrees with its own, it really hates the way Dr. Wood explains how he personally deals with the “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. He says that he has faith. It’s rather odd for a creationist organization to argue against faith, but that seems to be what AiG is doing! It claims that in emphasizing his faith, Dr. Wood comes very close to fideism, which says that faith is opposed to reason. Of course, this is a gross mischaracterization of Dr. Wood’s views, and anyone who has honestly read Dr. Wood’s work understands that.
In fact, you don’t even have to honestly evaluate his work to see that AiG is mischaracterizing Dr. Wood’s views. You just have to go to YouTube and see his 12-minute video about why he is a creationist:
I really encourage you to watch the entire video, because it shows how a serious creationist honestly deals with evidence that seems to contradict his view (he specifically mentions one piece of data and vaguely refers to another). In case you do not, however, let me summarize what he says. Like any real scientist, he says that he is comfortable not having an answer to every question related to origins. As a result, his faith can remain strong despite challenges to it, which allows him to work towards finding answers to those challenges.
Now please note that I do not agree with everything Dr. Wood says. In fact, I disagree with his idea that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. Based on my interpretation of the data, I find that there is some evidence for evolution (which is why serious scientists can believe in it), but the “gobs and gobs” of evidence support the creationist view. However, I am also humble enough (despite what my students might say) to admit that I could be wrong. Thus, I value Dr. Wood and his contributions to creation science. In fact, I thank God for what he is doing!
Please note that AiG calls other very serious creation scientists “young-earth evolutionists.” I plan to address that in at least one more article.
Those who understand the formation of our universe using the Big Bang model are forced to believe that the vast majority of the universe is made up of material about which scientists know absolutely nothing. As shown in the picture, to believe in the Big Bang model today, you must believe that all the matter involved in all the experiments done by all the scientists in history makes up only about 5% of the universe. 72% of the universe is composed of dark energy, a form of energy that was completely unknown until the 1990s and is so far undetectable and not understood at all. The other 23% is made of dark matter, which is matter that we cannot see because of the limitations of our experimental capabilities. Scientists have been trying to detect dark matter for decades, but so far, nothing has been found.
Why must those who are guided by the Big Bang believe that the vast majority of the universe has gone undetected? The Big Bang model predicted that over time, the expansion of the universe should be slowing down, since all matter is gravitationally attracting all other matter. However, data that started being collected in the 1990s indicate that in the past, the expansion of the universe was slower, which implies that the universe’s expansion is actually speeding up. The current amount of dark energy that is supposed to exist is what’s necessary to retrofit the Big Bang model to allow for this increase in expansion rate.
Belief in dark matter, on the other hand, is used to explain around certain observations that are surprising based on currently-accepted physics. For example, the way most galaxies rotate is not what is expected based on Newton’s Universal theory of Gravitation, but assuming a specific distribution of unseen matter, we can “fix” the galaxies so they rotate as expected. In addition, there are ways to indirectly determine the mass of galaxies, and those indirectly-determined masses usually don’t agree with the masses indicated by the matter that we can see in them. Thus, there must be unseen matter there.
On a personal level, I think dark energy exists only in the minds of those who are committed to the Big Bang Model. I see no serious evidence for its existence. Dark matter, on the other hand, has at least some serious evidence behind it. After all, either the physics we currently say we “know” is wrong, dark matter really exists, or something else that hasn’t been theorized exists to explain the discrepancies. Of course, as anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I am just as likely to believe that the physics we currently “know” is wrong. As a result, I have always been intrigued by an alternate model of gravity called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). Its proponents claim that it can not only account for all the effects currently attributed to dark matter, but it has also made predictions which have later been confirmed by new data.
Well, one of its proponents recently wrote an article for The Institute for Art and Ideas. The title is simple and says it all: “Dark Matter Doesn’t Exist.” He goes through experimental evidences that support MOND, and he notes the failures of multiple searches for dark matter. While I am inclined to think that MOND is more likely to be true than dark matter, I am not convinced that it is the way to go. However, I did find this statement in his article very interesting:
We need to scientifically understand why the dark-matter based model, being the most falsified physical theory in the history of humankind, continues to be religiously believed to be true by the vast majority of the modern, highly-educated scientists. This is a problem for the sociological and philosophical sciences and suggests a breakdown of the scientific method.
While I am not sure that the dark matter hypothesis is “the most falsified physical theory in the history of humankind,” I wholeheartedly agree with him on the rest of his point. However, I would broaden his statement to include many other scientific theories, like evolution as a creation myth, the dogmatic belief that the earth is billions of years old, and the Big Bang model. One of the problems that exists in science today is that too many scientists believe these theories with a religious fervor. As a result, they tend to reject all the evidence that questions them. This, of course, holds back science.
While I don’t know if MOND is the correct answer to the question of why certain astrophysical observations are not consistent with currently-accepted physics, I can say that this particular MOND proponent has hit the nail on the head when it comes to a very big problem in today’s scientific enterprise!
Over the years, I have documented a lot of ignorant statements made by someone who claims to be “The Science Guy” (see here, here, here, here, and here). However, the most ignorant statement I have ever heard Bill Nye utter is:
Denial of evolution is unique to the United States.
In several previous posts, I have reviewed how this statement is demonstrably false, but I was recently made aware of a peer-reviewed study that confirms this fact. Now, of course, I seriously doubt that any amount of data will change Bill Nye’s mind, since he doesn’t seem to use scientific data while forming his opinions. Nevertheless, I hope the data will be useful to others.
The study, published in the International Journal of Science Education, compared the views of Korean biology teachers to those of American biology teachers when it comes to evolution. It then did a literature review of studies done on science teachers in other countries. Before I discuss the specifics, let me give you their overall conclusion:
…it is clear that science teacher antipathy or ambivalence toward evolution is by no means a problem restricted to the USA
I am not sure they could make that any clearer. And note that since they call this a “problem,” they are clearly in Bill Nye’s camp when it comes to wanting everyone to genuflect at the altar of Darwinism.
The details of the paper are more interesting to me, however, because while they clearly show that many Korean biology teachers have doubts about evolution, those doubts are different from the ones held by American biology teachers. For example, when asked to evaluate the statement, “Much of the scientific community doubts if evolution occurs,” 52.4% of Korean biology teachers agreed, while only 6.3% of American biology teachers agreed. However, when given the statement, “The theory of evolution cannot be correct since it disagrees with the Biblical account of creation,” only 3.0% of Korean biology teachers agreed, while more than four times as many (12.1%) American biology teachers agreed. Similarly, almost three times as many Korean biology teachers as American biology teachers agreed that, “The theory of evolution is based on speculation and not valid scientific observation and testing” (36.3% versus 13.6%).
Now the group of Korean biology teachers studied was small – only 33 in total. However, data based group of 33 individuals is estimated to have a statistical error of about 17% (square root of 33 divided by 33), which means that when the percentages are close, you can’t tell if there really is a difference between the groups. For example, 75.0% of American biology teachers and 81.8% of Korean biology teachers agreed with the statement, “Evolution is a scientifically valid theory.” Those numbers are well within 17% of one another, so there is no way to know whether or not Korean biology teachers are more likely than American biology teachers to believe that evolution is a scientifically-valid theory. However, the differences noted in the previous examples are high enough to conclude that American and Korean biology teachers think differently when it comes to those questions.
If I look at the 20 questions the study asked Korean biology teachers and compare their answers to those of the American biology teachers, I am left to conclude that in Korea, biology teachers aren’t inclined to disagree with evolution based on religious ideas. They seem to disagree with evolution based on their understanding of the science that relates to it. I find that interesting, because that’s why I first doubted evolution as an origin story. I was an atheist who did not believe in evolution, because even as a young science student, I saw that evolution didn’t align with the data. To this day, if I were not a Christian, I would still not think that evolution is a valid explanation for origins, since the data speak so strongly against it.
The media is abuzz with a “new” fossil discovery. Consider, for example, this article, which says:
A new species of ancient human dubbed Homo longi, or “Dragon Man,” could potentially change the way we understand human evolution, scientists said Friday.
A reader asked me to comment on the discovery, which I am happy to do. Please remember, however, I am not a paleontologist nor a biologist, so my comments are clearly from a non-expert position. Nevertheless, I think I can add a bit of perspective that is sadly missing in most discussions of this fossil find.
First, while this fossil is just making the news, it is anything but new. As one of the three scientific papers written about it informs us, the skull was discovered in 1933 by a man who was part of a team constructing a bridge. He hid it in an abandoned well, apparently with the idea to retrieve it later. However, he never did. Three generations later, the family learned about the skull and recovered it. One of the scientists who wrote the papers learned about it and convinced the family to donate the skull to the Geoscience Museum of Hebei GEO University back in 2018.
So what’s “new” isn’t the discovery of the fossil; it’s the analysis contained in the scientific papers.
Of course, one part of the analysis tried to answer the question of how old the skull is. Two different radioactive dating methods were used (comparing the ratio of two thorium isotopes as well as comparing the ratio of one thorium isotope and one uranium isotope). As is typical with radioactive dating, the two different methods didn’t agree with one another, and even the same method gave different ages depending on where the sample was taken from the skull. In the end, the ages based on these analyses ranged from 62±3 thousand years old to 296±8 thousand years old. Based on many factors, the authors said that the youngest this fossil could be was 146,000 years old.
Before I move on, I want to use these data to highlight something I have discussed before. The numbers that follow the “±” sign represent what scientists call error bars. They are supposed to tell you the most likely range over which the measurement can actually fall. When you read “62±3 thousand years old,” that is supposed to mean, “62,000 years is the most likely date, but it could be as low as 59,000 years or as high as 65,000 years.” In fact, the actual date could be lower or higher, but the most likely range is 59,000 years to 65,000 years. Notice, of course, that these error bars are utterly meaningless, since the measurements ranged from 59,000 years old to 304,000 years. This is one of the many problems with radioactive dating. Error bars that are utterly meaningless are constantly reported, giving the illusion of a very precise measurement, when in reality, the measurement is anything but precise!
With the “measured” age of the skull out of the way, let’s discuss the main issue. The scientific papers, as well as the media reports, indicate that this is a new species of human. It doesn’t represent “modern” humans, and it doesn’t represent other known “archaic” humans. There is one big problem with this idea. The paper says that based on the characteristics of this skull, the human it represents is more closely-related to modern humans than is Neanderthal Man. The problem, of course, is that we know Neanderthal Man is fully human, because we know that Neanderthal Man interbred with modern humans. Thus, Neanderthal Man is from the same species as modern man. Since this skull indicates its owner is even more closely related to modern humans, it is a modern human as well.
So while this skull can tell us something about the variety that has existed among humans over the years, it tells us nothing about the “story” of human evolution. It simply represents another variety of human being.
Over the years, I have read (and met) several creation scientists for whom I developed great respect. For example, I consider Dr. John Sanford’s work to be not only brilliant, but also very important when it comes to understanding genetics and evolution. I have been fortunate enough to get to know him personally, and his keen intellect is overshadowed only by his deep devotion to our Lord. I personally think of him as a scientist on par with John Ray or Robert Boyle.
I recently got an email from him promoting a documentary entitled Dismantled: A Scientific Deconstruction of the Theory of Evolution (excerpts here). I am not a fan of documentaries, because they often devolve into propaganda pieces. However, since Dr. Sanford is featured in it, along with other creationist luminaries like Dr. Robert Carter, Dr. Georgia Purdom, and Dr. Nathaniel T. Jeanson, I decided to watch it.
Overall, I was quite pleased. I didn’t like the beginning very much (more about that in a moment), but once the documentary got into the serious science, I thought it did a very good job of communicating important truths about nature in a way that non-scientists can understand.
Early on, for example, it makes the standard (and important) distinction between microevolution and macroevolution. It discusses how dogs descended from wolves and then makes the point that this microevolution is well understood: It involves using selection to discard genetic information instead of producing new genetic information. This, of course, is the opposite of what is needed for macroevolution, the naturalist’s creation myth. To illustrate this fact, the documentary makes the point that you can selectively breed wolves to make Chihuahuas, but because of the loss of information required by the process, you cannot selectively breed Chihuahuas to make wolves. I have never heard it put quite that way before.
The documentary spends a lot of time on human evolution, looking at both the genetic issues and the fossil evidence. Dr. Sanford brings up the “waiting time” problem that he has done original research on, which shows that the genetic changes required to go from some ape-like creature to man would take much, much longer than the evolutionary timescale allows. The Laetoli footprints are discussed, as are many of the other fossil-related problems with human evolution. One of the best parts of this section is where Dr. Carter discusses how evolutionists ignore the measured mutation rates in populations because they aren’t consistent with evolutionary theory. Thus, they replace the known mutation rates with ones that have been calculated to be consistent with evolutionary theory.
Speaking of Dr. Carter, he has the best line in the documentary. Towards the end, he sums up the recent genetic evidence for mitochondrial Eve, Y-chromosome Adam, a human population bottleneck, etc. He discusses how evolutionists didn’t expect any of these things, but they are necessary if the Biblical account is true. He then says:
So what we’re seeing over time is that the evolutionary model is getting more Biblical.
While I had never thought of it that way, I completely agree!
Now before I end, I do want to point out that I strongly disagree with the first part of the documentary, which tries to claim that evolution isn’t really science; it’s history. As such, it’s not the same as the science that cures disease and makes Mars rovers, because it studies something that is not repeatable: the past. This is a very common assertion among creationists, but it is utterly false.
In fact, epidemiology has cured disease by studying the past. More importantly, the study of the past is definitely repeatable. We cannot repeat the past itself, but we can study the evidence related to the past, develop a hypothesis, and then test that hypothesis with more observations of the evidence related to the past. We can repeat such observations in different parts of the world, and if the hypothesis is repeatedly verified, it is just as scientific as a hypothesis about a medical procedure. A theory is scientific if it makes predictions that can be observationally verified. This is true whether the theory is about the past, present, or future.
Despite this glaring flaw, I do think the documentary is worth watching, especially if you need an overview of how the latest scientific discoveries support the creationist position.
NOTE: You can watch the documentary on Answers TV as part of a free trial and then see if you like Answers TV enough to continue the subscription.