Showing posts from December, 2016

Recent creationist comments on Homo naledi

This one's going to be pretty technical.  You've been warned.

Last year, creationists proposed a bunch of explanations for Homo naledi, with each major organization suggesting something different.  My own analysis was published in May, and I concluded that the baraminological analysis supported putting H. naledi in the human holobaramin.  In the same issue of JCTSB, O'Micks did a separate baraminology study and found that H. naledi clustered with other members of Homo, so O'Micks concluded that it was probably part of the human holobaramin.

Just a few weeks ago, O'Micks published a followup to his original analysis in Answers Research Journal, wherein he did a complete about face.  He tried to add postcranial characters to his original analysis.  In doing so, he cut his sample of species to just a handful of his original study.  O'Micks discovered that his new sample of characters did not show correlation between Homo naledi and other members of Homo.  He clai…

My Top Twelve Science & Creation Stories of 2016, Part 3

OK, longsuffering readers, here at last are my top four science and creation stories of 2016.

I'm not a physicist and don't fully understand why gravity waves are such a big deal, but I know a big story when I see it.  The observation of gravity waves was hailed as the breakthrough of the year by Science.  The story as I understand it goes like this: Einstein's theory of gravity, general relativity, suggested that waves of gravity (just like waves of water) might exist.  Einstein himself was evidently undecided about whether they could be discovered, since it would take massive gravity sources in orbit of each other to observe them.  In February, physicists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory spotted waves coming from two black holes.  This discovery was a big confirmation of Einstein's general relativity and might just launch a whole new science of studying gravity waves.  That's no small accomplishment.

Magnified by the 2016 summer Olympics…

My Top Twelve Science & Creation Stories of 2016, Part 2

In my previous post, I revealed the first part of my top twelve science and creation stories of 2016.  Here, we'll look at the next four items.

Back in 2005, the Biologic Institute was formed as a research organization to explore intelligent design, the idea that life's complexity can best be understood as the result of intentional design.  Biologic's director is Doug Axe, a 1990 graduate of the California Institute of Technology.  He and his colleagues have been doing research on protein function, and this book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (from HarperOne) describes in general terms how that research relates to the basic intuition that living things are designed.  I haven't always had positive things to say about intelligent design in the past, but I have to admit that they genuinely want to do research, which is commendable.  I also think it's fascinating that the Amazon reviews of the book have very few one-star reviews co…

My Top Twelve Science & Creation Stories of 2016, Part 1

I've never done a top twelve list before, but they seem quite popular for click bait so I figured I'd give it a try.  Consider yourself click baited.  Hopefully I can add a few thoughts that will make the bait worthwhile.  As with any top whatever lists, there's a bit of arbitrary favoritism mixed in with popularity here.  So these are a few stories that grabbed my attention put into an order that's kind of like importance.  Top twelve lists ain't rocket science.  Here we go:

That weird rock in the picture above is a fossilized Tully monster, Tullimonstrum gregarium, named for their discoverer Francis Tully.  This weird creature has been known since 1955 only from the Mazon Creek fossil beds in Illinois.  These critters are really strange, with eyes mounted on stalks and a mouth at the end of a long, narrow snout.  What could this thing possibly be? McCoy and colleagues published a research paper this year that described a detailed examination of 1,200 different fo…

Scientists aren't always sure

Sometimes I get a front row seat to evangelicals trying to convince other evangelicals that evolution is true.  I've heard these presentations in person.  I've read them on the web.  I've seen them in books.  One thing that repeatedly bugs me about them is the certainty with which they are presented.  I've heard that there is no doubt about evolution.  We can be absolutely sure about evolution.  If you reject evolution, then you've rejected science itself and you have no integrity.  Because we're SURE about evolution.

Well, that's not true.  There's always room for uncertainty.  That's how science works.  That's how it advances.  There are always questions we don't have answers to, and there is always a possibility that even the most cherished theories will be overturned as new evidence comes to light.  If things were completely settled, science would just stop, but it's not stopping.  It keeps moving forward.

Take the great Tree of Lif…

New fossil hominin trackways from famous Laetoli site

Back in July of this year, I posted a brief note about news articles from Africa that described new hominin trackways found at the Laetoli footprint site.  Yesterday, eLife (the journal that brought us the first reports of Homo naledi) published a paper by Masao and colleagues describing these new trackways.

According to the report, the new prints were discovered during a survey to estimate the impact of a new museum construction project at Laetoli.  Contrary to earlier reports, they are actually 150 meters south of the previously described tracks.  They are in the same rock layer as the original tracks (although the authors aren't entirely certain they were made at the same time), and they're going in the same direction.  The biggest news is that they are substantially larger than the previous tracks.  The researchers estimate that the creatures who made the tracks were about 165 cm tall and around 45 kg (that's about 5'5" and 99 pounds).  The largest of the tra…

Just what is a dinosaur anyway?

As expected, the discovery last week of a feathered dinosaur tail elicited some interesting responses.  Overall, the reactions from creationist ministries were pretty close to what I expected: "It's not a dinosaur; it's a bird."  You can read Frank Sherwin's thoughts at ICR or David Menton's take at AIG, and if you're so inclined, there's another unsigned piece over at ENV.  On the other hand, Marcus Ross wrote a really detailed discussion where he agreed with me that the tail is probably not a bird.

Frankly, I can understand the skepticism.  After all, it is just a small segment of a tail. There isn't much there to make a positive identification from.  We can't be absolutely certain it's a dinosaur, and we can't be absolutely certain that it's a bird.  That's one of my complaints, too.  Nearly every reaction I've read criticizes the press (especially National Geographic) for being so certain that it's a dinosaur, but …

Readers respond to feathered dinosaurs

I received some interesting emails in response to my post last week on feathered dinosaurs.  I asked the authors if I could share them anonymously, and they agreed.  I've edited them slightly to remove names.  I don't really want to distract from the point by getting into an argument about this or that ministry.  So here is response #1:
I appreciated your post about the preserved tail and feathers; thanks for continuing to bring things like this to the attention of the YEC community. This new find is soooo amazing!  Thanks for expressing your excitement and encouraging others to celebrate how creation--all of it--reveals God's glory!  I expect ministries like [redacted] to respond to this with negativity and skepticism, which is really too bad.  They will probably claim this is just a bird, since it undeniably has feathers. Just wanted to mention a couple of things in response to your post.  Regarding Archaeoraptor, it was indeed a composite, but the species used were both…

God made dinosaurs with BEAUTIFUL feathers!

For some reason, feathered dinosaurs have become a touchy subject among creationists.  As far as I'm aware, the major creationist organizations still do not accept the existence of feathered dinosaurs.  Either the fossils are not really dinosaurs and have real bird feathers, or the fossils are real dinosaurs but the feathers aren't really feathers, or it's all just a hoax.  There is certainly precedent for being suspicious of feathered dinosaur fossils.  Back in 1999, National Geographic ended up with egg on its face after it put Archaeoraptor on its front cover.  Turns out, Archaeoraptor was a fraud, two different fossils stuck together by shady fossil dealers.

On the other hand, there are many, many other feathered dinosaur fossils that have been discovered since then.  I had the opportunity to see one up close and personal at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History back in 2013.  Now, you can't really see much in a museum exhibit, but it was still pretty cool seeing …

Lab Meeting 3: Trillium Breakthrough!

Science isn't always pretty.  This is only the third "Lab Meeting" post I've done this semester.  I was hoping to update a lot more often, but sometimes there are unforeseen problems that need to be ironed out and things slow down.  This is definitely one of those occasions.  We've been hacking away at a baffling PCR problem for the last month or so, and we've only just resolved it.

I mentioned previously that one of our projects was to study flower genes in trilliums.  Trilliums are a really interesting species group, and there are many different species here in the southeast.  We've been looking very closely at a mutant trillium that has only petals for flower parts.  My intern and I want to find the genes that control flowering from trillium specimens that we collected this past summer, and for us, that involves a process call Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).  PCR is like a copy machine for DNA.  You put an original piece of DNA into the PCR machine, …

Research Reminder in a Busy Week

Classes are drawing to a close, and I've been busy this week finishing up my ICC abstracts.  I've been working on a HUGE mammal created kinds project, which is turning out much better than I expected.  I'm trying to do statistical analyses on every mammal group that I can get my hands on.  I've done about 20% of them, which doesn't sound like much, but it's a big move forward for baraminology.

As I was working on the ICC abstract this morning, I remembered that I ought to remind everyone that the deadline for CBS members to have the CBS pay for their submission fees is Monday.  If you're a CBS member and you want to take advantage of this offer, you need to submit your abstract to the ICC then forward your submission receipt to the CBS.  Get more details at the CBS website.

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