Friday Falsehoods #1

Here are my answers:


1. Surprising Human Hand Bone Challenges Evolution, Brian Thomas, 10 January:

A hand bone found in northern Kenya surprised researchers when it surfaced in rock layers assigned a supposed age of about 1.4 million years, making it the oldest dated human bone but still “young” enough to challenge its age assignment. If the secular community is correct in asserting that this discovery outdates the supposed earliest accepted human fossil by almost half a million years, then the find merely illustrates how human anatomy has resisted evolutionary changes for that long.

What, exactly, counts as the “oldest dated human bone”? If we only count modern Homo sapiens bones then this is definitely more than just half a million years older than the previous record, but nobody is calling it a H. sapiens bone. Instead, it’s more likely a H. erectus bone – the species that seems to have been first to collect most of the modern human non-skull morphology – and is definitely not the oldest of its kind.

Deeper reading: The bone is a third metacarpal, and is notable for the presence of a “styloid process,” a small knob of bone for muscle attachment. Here’s one of the figures from the paper:

Various wristbones

“(A) 3D scan images, from left to right, in radial (Upper) and dorsal view (Lower) of third metacarpals of a common chimpanzee, Australopithecus afarensis (A.L. 438-1d), Australopithecus sediba (MH 2), a Neandertal (Shanidar 4), and a modern human (USNM 380447). All are shown as from the right hand and scaled to approximately the same articular length. Note the distinctive styloid process (black arrows) is present only in the modern human and Neandertal specimens. (B) Photograph of KNM-WT 51260 in radial, ulnar, dorsal, and volar views (Left) and proximal and distal views (Right). Note the presence of a distinctly human-like styloid process.”

It’s a pretty tiny knob. That’s a picture that has been used, in various forms, on a variety of different news stories on this subject, but not Thomas’. To him this is a key feature that separates the immutable kinds, here humans from apes, and showing a picture of it (and in doing so demonstrate its insignificance) would not be a good move.

The “half a million years” comment probably comes from the fact that this metacarpal is around 600,000 years older than the previously oldest known metacarpal with a styloid process. There is in fact a ~900,000 year gap in the fossil record when it comes to this particular bone, after which we see styloid processes but before which we do not. The new bone slots right in, but of course that only means that there are now two gaps.


2. One-Hour Oil Production?, Brian Thomas, 13 January:

Lead researcher Douglas Elliott said in a PNNL news release, “In a sense, we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We’re just doing it much, much faster.”

How much faster? Let’s do the math: A process that takes one hour in a laboratory is over 26 billion times faster than one that supposedly takes three million years, for example. These lab experiments clearly show oil can form fast. But, what they can’t demonstrate is whether this process can in fact extend over a million years, as uniformitarian scientists contend. Maybe it simply can’t.

Those who still remember high-school chemistry may be familiar with the Haber process, in which normally unreactive atmospheric nitrogen is pressurised in order to produce useful quantities of ammonia for fertiliser. By changing the pressure and temperature it is often possible to significantly increase – or decrease – the speed at which a chemical reaction takes place. In this case a quantity of oil was produced in a matter of hours by running algae through a high pressure/temperature system that the researchers designed. The fact that the process of oil formation can be made to run billions of times faster when performed in human-controlled conditions does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that standard, slower processes can’t also occur in nature.


3. Mouse Study Shows ‘Junk DNA’ Is Actually Required, Jeffrey Tomkins, 15 January:

It was once believed that the regions in between the protein-coding genes of the genome were wastelands of alleged nonfunctional “junk DNA.” However, we now know that these previously misunderstood regions are teeming with functional activity—and a new study shows they are actually required for life.

This one is easy: there’s a world of difference between “non-protein coding” and “junk DNA.”

Deeper reading: The study involved identifying 18 long non-coding RNAs in mice, and removing them to see what happened. Tomkins explains how RNAs that overlap with known genes were removed from consideration, as they could produce false positives, but neglects to mention how RNAs that didn’t already show evidence of functionality (e.g. by being conserved between species) were also excluded from the 18. This study demonstrates that some long non-coding RNAs are functional, but not that they all are by any stretch of the imagination.


4. Amber Flowers Challenge Dinosaur Depictions, Brian Thomas, 17 January:

Dinosaur dioramas don’t display flowers and grasses—supposedly because they had not yet evolved. But it takes only one piece of the right kind of evidence to disprove a whole paradigm. Amazing amber fossils from Burma (now Myanmar) refute the idea that flowers were absent in the supposed Age of Reptiles by showing the abrupt appearance of fully-formed flowers.

Publishing in Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, three scientists described a cluster of small, possibly rose-like flowers encased in amber assigned an age of 100 million years—well within the timeframe that evolutionists ascribe to dinosaurs.

Depending on when you grew up you encountered different sources of children’s dinosaur information. I grew up with the original Walking With Dinosaurs series: this is by now a long way behind the times, but looking at the companion book I have here beside me it seems that even they talked extensively about the evolution of flowering plants and were perefectly prepared to illustrate dinosaurs along side them when appropriate. In other words, I dunno what Thomas has been looking at. A 100 million year old flower is significant, but it isn’t a new record. This reminds me of the time that he made much of the discovery of a dinosaur fossil along with a “bird” (which was actually another dinosaur), a crocodilian, and a toad, because it means that they must be “out of place” as only dinosaurs are supposed to have lived during the mesozoic.

8 thoughts on “Friday Falsehoods #1

  1. These are all examples that lead me to the principle “never trust what a creationist says.”

    When I saw those reports of an old human bone, I read that as from an earlier species than homo sapiens. Somehow creationists have an uncanny ability to get stuff wrong.

    As a wordpress blogger, I’m a bit curious as to the technicalities of what you did on that “next page” thingy.

  2. Dr Carl Werner has been making a good living of his claim that, because mammals lived alongside the dinosaurs (and they were modern mammals too —- we all know that when an evolutionist says “opossum-like” it was really just an opossum), that the whole idea of evolution is now invalidated.

    Oh, and the scientists have been trying to “conceal” this from the public, because they don’t show these mammal skeletons in museums (note that almost all of the complete Mesozoic mammals are from China, and are in the museums there).

  3. In the kids’ show “Dinosaur Train” they have a pterosaur who loves raising flowers. They go back in time on the Dinosaur Train to earlier eras when there were no flowers.

    So it’s BS. We’ve known for many years that there were flowers in the Cretaceous.

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