Tag Archives: Evolution

Dawkins Debunked? Guess Again!

Professor Richard Dawkins is highly respected worldwide as a scientist, an outspoken atheist, and author of The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, and a dozen or so other best-selling books about biology, biography, and atheism. On February 13, 2009, he was part of a team of scientists invited to take part in the dissection of a giraffe’s neck to study its recurrent laryngeal nerve. Such a dissection had been done on a giraffe only once before that we have record of, in 1838. So it was good to be able to do it again on a giraffe that had died in a  zoo.

As expected, this nerve — two nerves actually; one on each side — was found to go from the animal’s brain all the way down its long neck to the area of its its heart, just missing the larynx by about an inch. Then it wrapped around a major artery (a different on one each side), and ran back up to control the larynx at the top of the neck. Altogether, the nerve is about 15 feet longer than necessary, which exposes it to a variety of unnecessary dangers.

Dawkins says we expect imperfections from evolution.

Dawkins points out that this is exactly the kind of thing we expect from evolution, and he explains why. The giraffe inherited its incredibly long nerves from its fish ancestors, where the arrangement was practical because fish have no necks.  As fish morphed into amphibians, then reptiles, and finally birds and mammals, the arrangement became less and less practical. But evolution can’t change something like that just because it’s no longer the best arrangement; evolution has to work with what it has. When a problem is serious enough, it can lead to the extinction of a species. This is one reason why an estimated 99% (at least) of all species that ever lived live no more.

Dawkins points out several reasons why no intelligent designer would have created the giraffe that way. It’s the kind of thing one would only expect to find if evolution were true, as it is.

In the video below, Rick Gerhardt, who is both a conservation biologist and a Christian apologist, discusses Dawkins’ video and tries pitifully to debunk it. He specializes in avian ecology and has special interests also in beetles and snakes. The kinds of of arguments he makes here don’t sound like a scientist of any kind, but they sound exactly like the kinds of arguments I read from ignorant creationists all the time.

You be the judge. I say, “Shame on Rick Gerhardt for trying to debunk good science.”



60-million-year-old Fish Fossils Excavated

Five nearly perfect 60-million-year-old fish fossils found in a block of sandstone in Evanston, Calgary

60-million-year-old Fish Fossil

For Edgar Nernberg, it was just another day on the job site. Little did he know that once his excavator began to rip through the ground below, a snapshot from the past would soon be revealed.

Nernberg, who works for a local excavation company, was busy digging a basement for a new home in the northwest community of Evanston when he noticed something.

“The something I noticed was quite extraordinary, I knew right away that this was different from the other fossils I have uncovered in my many years of excavating and collecting fossils,” says Nernberg, who also happens to have a keen interest in fossils dating back to his childhood growing up on a farm in Manitoba.

“The first seashell  fossils I saw were shown to me by my father in the rocks we had to pick off of our farmland in Manitoba, and I’ve been watching for and collecting fossils ever since.”

UToday – University of Calgary

Ironically, Edgar Nernberg, a young-earth creationist who believes the world is about six thousand years old, had found five separate 60-million-year-old fish in very good condition. Nernberg and three friends had built the first “creation museum” in Canada in Big Valley, Alberta. He was not somebody who just kind of assumed that what he had heard about God creating “heaven and earth” about six thousand years ago might be true. He evidently believed it fervently.

Here’s the Dinosaurs and Humans display from his “creation science museum.” I haven’t been there, and can’t read the text in the picture; but I assume it probably tries to prove that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time during the past 6,000 years. This is a common, but incorrect, belief among such “young earth creationists.”

Dinosaurs actually lived for well over a hundred million years and then mostly went extinct about 66 million years ago. Humans appeared on the planet around 195,000 years ago, or almost 66 million years later.

Big Valley Creation Science Museum, Canada Dinos and Humans Display

“I better call a paleontologist.”

He wanted to add these fish to his fossil collection, but Alberta law requires turning them over to a university or a museum. A real museum. (I don’t blame him. I’d want them, too.)

The unearthing of the fossils was a complete surprise. Five nearly perfect fish were concealed in a block of sandstone in the Paskapoo Formation, a 60-million-year-old rock formation that underlies Calgary.

Since moving to Calgary 12 years ago, Nernberg has had the opportunity to excavate hundreds of basements there and in surrounding communities. “In that process I’ve occasionally come across clams, snails, leaf impressions and wood remains embedded in the sandstone. When the five fish fossils presented themselves to me in the excavator bucket, the first thing I said was you’re coming home with me. The second thing was I better call a paleontologist.”

The creationist TV show Genesis Week, which is hosted by a friend of Nernberg, refers to it as “the find of the century.” Well, that’s probably an exaggeration; but it was a pretty important group of fossils. Then they go on and comment correctly that carbon dating cannot show how old it is. They poke fun at the Young Turks, who evidently referred mistakenly to carbon dating in a video about these fish.

There are at least two reasons why carbon dating would not have been appropriate for these 60-million-year-old fish fossils:

  1. Carbon dating is not suitable for anything more than about 60 thousand years old. A 50-million-year-old rock must be dated by uranium decomposition or any of several other methods.
  2. Sandstone contains little or no carbon, anyway.

Strangely, after making their correct comment about carbon dating, they describe how carbon dating shows all their supposedly millions-of-years-old fossils to have formed between 5,000 and 50,000 years ago and claims this shows they were all laid down about the same time. It does not, of course.

Hello, Genesis Week. Get them dated using the proper methods by scientists who know what they’re doing. Then tell us how old they are and what it means.

Nernberg contacted Darla Zelenitsky, paleontologist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary.

“Because complete fossils are relatively rare from this time period in Alberta, any such discoveries are significant as they shed light on the nature and diversity of animals that lived not long after the extinction of the dinosaurs,” says Zelenitsky. “These fossil fish are important because they are very primitive representatives of a large group of bony fish known today.”

60-million-year-old Fish Fossil in Sandstone Slab

“Bony fish” includes most common fish like trout, perch, goldfish, catfish, and tuna. The group does not include sharks, rays, and their relatives, which have only cartilage for skeletons. Their lineage split from bony fish early, and are surprisingly more closely related to humans and other mammals than they are to the bony fish.

Shedding light on a period of mass extinction

This find will allow researchers to learn more about a time period following a major mass extinction that occurred around 66 million years ago that killed off 75 per cent of all species, including the non-avian dinosaurs.

“It’s really important that fossil findings be brought to the attention of a paleontologist at a major university or museum so they can be assessed, cleaned and properly cared for,” says Zelenitsky. “Although sometimes fossils can be difficult to recognize while embedded in rock, significant finds can be made by anyone virtually anywhere in the province.”

All fossils in Alberta are property of the province, not of the landowners or the individuals who find them.

“Picking fossils up from the ground surface, or surface collection, is allowed in Alberta only with landowner permission,” says Zelenitsky. “However, removing or excavation of fossils from the ground can only be done by a professional paleontologist with a permit.”

60-million-year-old Fish Fossil Excavated

The 60-million-year-old fish fossils will now go to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, where they will be cleaned, studied by scientists, and probably go on display.

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis made his usual snarky type of remark, “But here is a creationist who did real observational science (probably better than what many evolutionists would do) by recognizing the fossil he discovered—and a world-class one at that.”

Ken, this creationist was NOT doing science. He was making his living by digging a basement for a  house! He only gets credit for obeying the law of the land.



4-legged Snake Gets Creationists All Shook Up

4-legged snakeSnakes are reptiles, which means they descended from reptile ancestors. Ancient reptiles descended from even more ancient amphibians, which descended from lobe-finned fish between 350 and 400 million years ago. These fish had thick, muscular fins corresponding to the legs of a modern quadruped. Each of the four fins had a single bone attached to the body of the fish. At the end of that bone was a joint with two bones attached. At the end of the two bones was a group of smaller bones corresponding roughly to our hands and fingers. Or feet and toes.

As the fish evolved into amphibians, the fins morphed into legs with 5-toed feet on the ends. When some of them evolved into reptiles and eventually into mammals and birds, the pattern remained substantially the same. They all had four legs consisting of one bone attached by a joint to two bones, with feet and five toes on the ends of each.

These animals are known collectively as quadrupeds, because they all have (or have had) four feet. The only exceptions are creatures like birds, which have transformed their front legs into wings; whales, dugongs, and seals, which turned their legs into flippers; primates, which have changed their front legs into arms; snakes and certain rare tropical amphibians that have lost their legs completely.

Since snakes descended from those ancient reptiles, they obviously descended from creatures with four legs. This has been known since Darwin’s time.

8-inch 4-legged snake fossil

4-legged snake fossilNow a single specimen of a 4-legged snake has been found in a museum, and creationists are already claiming this provides support for their belief the Bible is the word of God. After all, Genesis says God cursed the serpent that it would henceforth crawl on its belly. The claim is that the snake had four legs and lost them because of God’s curse.

I didn’t even intend to write about this, because we don’t know where the fossil was found, or when, or by whom. It was in a private collection for an undetermined length of time and then transferred to the museum, where it was labeled “Unidentified Fossil Vertebrate.” It is thought to have been originally found somewhere in Brazil.

But somebody needs to counter these creationist claims. Also, the fossil really is a spectacular find!

Conservative Tribune’s headline makes the claim:

“New Fossil Discovery Provides Massive PROOF of Bible’s Story of Adam and Eve.”

They continue:

Adam and Eve may have been the first humans to sin, but it was the snake in the garden who lied and enticed them to do so.

The story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden is ancient. While many Christians and creationists have long held the story to be true, many people have regarding (sic) the account in Genesis as nothing more than a myth.

That all could change now that a new fossil has been discovered that lends support to the existence of the biblical Adam and Eve.

No. Sorry. It won’t change.

A fossil from Brazil which has been hidden in a private collection for decades has now been determined by scientists to show a snake with four legs that it presumably used to walk on instead of slither on its belly.

Again, no. You didn’t read the report right. Those legs are too tiny and too far apart for walking. The snake would already be dragging its belly and wouldn’t need to be cursed. It probably used them to hold its prey (as shown in the artist’s conception above) and maybe to hold its mate.

That is significant when you read the account in Genesis 3:14 where God cursed the snake by taking away his ability to walk, causing it forever after to have to “crawl on his belly.”

See above.

While evolutionists claim that snakes came from marine lizards, the new discovery debunks that theory. Trying to make the fact hit their theory, they now have said that snakes may have ‘evolved’ from terrestrial lizards, meaning that they have always been land animals and evolved to lose their legs.

There have long been two hypotheses of the origin of snakes. Some biologists thought they descended from marine reptiles; others thought they descended from terrestrial reptiles. There are now both marine and freshwater snakes and terrestrial ones, and there just wasn’t enough evidence to know for certain. This discovery lends support to the terrestrial origin hypothesis. This is the way science works, by collecting evidence wherever it can be found until there is adequate support for one way or the other. Or a different idea entirely. Evidence leads the way.

So it is not true, as implied, that science was all wrong and will have to be massively modified.

This discovery may not prove the entire biblical account of Adam and Eve outright, but it does lend support for its validity with substantial evidence that cannot be ignored.

No. Still sorry. It doesn’t lend any credibility at all to your story.

Share this post on Facebook and Twitter because this is a huge discovery that goes against the conventional wisdom of our anti-Christian society.

I wouldn’t, because it doesn’t.

Honestly, as I’ve said before, you people should be sure you understand evolution before you start writing about it.

But let’s continue, now that we’re talking about the 4-legged snake. USA Today quotes  British paleontologist David Martill, who identified the ancient snake in the German museum:

The slab of stone in an obscure museum was labeled “unknown fossil vertebrate.” But when British paleontologist David Martill saw it, he knew at once that it was something extraordinary.

“I thought, ‘Blimey! That’s a snake!’ … Then I looked more closely and said, ‘Bloody hell! It’s got back legs!’” says Martill, of Britain’s University of Portsmouth. When he noticed the fossil also had front legs, “I realized we’d actually got the missing link between lizards and snakes.”

The fossil is estimated to be 110 to 125 million years old, and it’s the first 4-legged snake ever discovered. So, yes. This is important; but it was not unexpected. Several fossil snakes with hind legs have been found, but no forelegs before. Some modern anacondas have

The researchers say it appears to have been a constrictor, and it had the remains of a small animal – perhaps a salamander or frog – in its gut. Thus its scientific name: Tetrapodophis amplectus, or “four-footed snake that embraces.” The researchers nicknamed it “Huggy Snake,” because they said it hugged its prey.

It also had a hinged jaw that allowed it to open wide and curved teeth for holding its prey. It had more than 150 vertebrae in its back and neck and a layer of large, flat scales on its belly, which are “uniquely snake-like,” according to study co-author Longrich. It was only about 8-inches long.

The complete skeleton of Tetrapodophis, with its head on the left (above), was on exhibit at the Solnhofen Museum in Germany labeled “Unknown Fossil Vertebrate,” but nobody had noticed its feet or legs until Martill spotted them during a visit to the museum. For that matter, it hadn’t even been identified as a snake.

4-legged snake fossil with feet

“I thought, ‘Bloody hell, it’s got back legs!'” Martill said. “It had front legs. Nobody had ever seen a snake before with four legs, and yet evolutionary theory predicts that there should be an animal that is transitional between four-legged lizards and snakes, and here it was.”

How many times have you heard creationists claim the are no transitional fossils? It’s a very common claim. Well, here’s one now. There are thousands more, too.

This fossil has other classic snake features, including a short snout, a long braincase, an elongated body, fanged teeth, and a flexible jaw to swallow large prey. It also has a similar vertebral column that allows the snake to be extremely flexible, they said. But it has those legs and feet. With five toes each. I’m not sure how it could be much more transitional.

Tetrapodophis and other ancient snakes hail from Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that covered the Southern Hemisphere. Brazil was a part of it.

Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta, one of the proponents of the marine-origin hypothesis, says he doesn’t think it’s even a snake. He said in an email that the specimen lacks “key features” of the vertebrae that would identify it as a snake. But University of Arizona evolutionary biologist John Wiens, who like Caldwell is not affiliated with Team Huggy, says the new fossil is probably a snake, and a “very interesting” in-between animal at that. Study co-author Longrich points out that the fossil had more than 150 vertebrae in its back and neck and a layer of large, flat scales on its belly. Those traits are “uniquely snake-like,” he says.

Allison Hsiang, a postdoctoral researcher of geology and geophysics at Yale University, who was also not involved in the study, called the newly identified fossil “really cool and important.” She sai, “It fills in the picture that we always kind of knew was there, but here’s the evidence of snakes evolving from lizards with four legs.”



Yi qi: Another Winged Dinosaur

Yi Qi flying

The picture above, from National Geographic, and the one below, from Science News, are artist’s conceptions of Yi qi, another winged dinosaur, found in China and described recently in the journal Nature by Xing Xu and colleagues. This one is pigeon-sized, much smaller than the “poodle from hell” I wrote about a few days ago. The name is Mandarin for “strange wing,” and is pronounced “yee chee.”

Flying dinosaur reconstruction

This winged theropod lived about 160 million years ago, and only one individual has has yet been found. (A theropod is a particular category of dinosaur, from some of which all modern birds descended.)

The fossil is incomplete, missing the hind parts; so the tail in the paintings represents the artist’s imagination.

Unlike the early ancestors of birds, it had a naked, bat-like membrane stretched between the digits of its forelimbs and its body.  While it had feathers, there were none on its wings except for the leading edges.

Flying dinosaur fossils

Because of the missing tail, we don’t know whether the creature could actually glide or fly or both; but the discoverers are guessing from its weight distribution it probably glided mostly.

Two ways reptiles flew


For decades, it has been thought that reptiles took to the skies in one of two ways.

(1.) Many dinosaurs grew feathers–mostly fuzzy pin feathers–probably as protection for their bodies, in the same way fur provides such protection for mammals. Later, some of these developed into long, strong feathers for gliding; and eventually some small, feathered dinosaurs developed wings covered with feathers for flying.

(2.) Pterosaurs, however, were a different branch of reptile which never developed feathers. They flew with long, leathery, bat-like wings.

Yi qi took a strange middle path. It had feathers on it’s body, but only on the leading edges of it’s wings. The rest of the wings were just covered with skin like a pterosaur’s wing.

Nature provided the following amusing video about Yi qi’s possible flight capabilities.

“There are many questions remaining to answer about this bizarre dinosaur,” says Xu, who is making plans to search for more specimens.

In the late Jurassic period, when Yi lived, there were all manner of dinosaurs with varying shapes, sizes, and numbers of wings. It was a world of not-quite-birds and just-about-birds—and now bat-winged dinosaurs, too! [National Geographic]

“What a grand age of experimentation!” says Daniel Ksepka from the Bruce Museum, who was not involved in the study.”




Zhenyuanlong sunia, feathered poodle from hell

Zhenyuanlong suni, dino feathered poodle from hell

Zhenyuanlong sunia, the “feathered poodle from hell,” was the largest known dinosaur with wings.

An almost complete and remarkably well preserved fossil skeleton of the largest winged dinosaur ever known has been discovered in northeast China and named Zhenyuanlong sunia in honor of its discoverer, Chinese paleontologist Junchang Lu. The name is reported to mean “Zhenyuan Sun’s dragon.”

Zhenyuanlong sunia, which was part of a family of feathered, carnivorous dinosaurs that was widespread during the Cretaceous Period, lived about 125 million years ago. It was about 5 feet to 6 feet long and “covered with simple hair-like feathers over much of its body, with large, quill-like feathers on its wings and long tail.” (World)

Zhenyuanlong suni, dino feathered poodle from hell fossil

While Zhenyuanlong sunia almost certainly was not a direct ancestor of modern birds, it was a close relative. It was also a cousin of velociraptor, which apparently also had feathers but not wings.

Scientists have known since the 1970s that certain species of dinosaur had feathers that apparently did not evolve for flying. Most of them were simple filaments that looked more like hair than modern bird feathers. Zhenyuanlong sunia, however, had dense, bird-like feathers covering it’s wings and tail. Recent discoveries suggests that moderately large dinosaurs with strong, complex feathers may have been more common than previously thought.

After seeing pictures of huge, 80-ton monsters eating leaves from tall tree-tops and the tyrannosaurs that preyed on them, it may seem strange to describe a six-foot dinosaur as “large;” but most dinosaurs were actually fairly small. They came in all sizes, but it has been said the “average” dinosaur was only about the size of a chicken. Larger dinosaurs with wings have never been found, although many larger ones apparently had feathers of one kind or another. (And did you ever notice those reptilian scales that still protect the legs and feet of chickens and other birds?)

There seems to be a practical limit on how large a creature can be and still have the strength to fly. This is because generally, as body length doubles in one dimension, space for flying muscles doubles in two dimensions and is multiplied by four, but body mass doubles in all three dimensions and increases by a factor of eight. For this reason, it quickly becomes impossible for larger animals of any kind to have the strength to fly. (This is just a general “rule of thumb,” not a fixed law of nature; because body shapes and designs can also change.)

Dr. Steve Brusatte, from the School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh and co-author of the study, described it (the new dinosaur) as a “feisty little feathered poodle from hell.” (TechTimes)

Because of its size and its short, stubby wings, it is relatively certain these dinosaurs could not fly. The discoverers speculate their wings may have been used for display to attract mates and/or intimidate rivals or possibly to shelter their eggs and chicks. They might also have been used as an aid in jumping or running uphill, in the same ways modern flightless birds sometimes use their wings. It’s entirely possible that wings originally evolved for some of these reasons and only later became useful for flying.

Ignorance is rampant, as usual.

A group of ignoramus commenters on one of the source sites poked fun at the idea that wings might evolve for any reason other than flying. This indicates not only a lack of knowledge, but also a lack of imagination. Many modern animals all over the world use various ways to look larger than they really are. Mammals, for example, have tiny muscles attached to each hair on their bodies that make the hairs stand erect at appropriate times. This makes them look larger and therefore more impressive to potential mates and more intimidating to enemies and rivals. It also lets the hair or fur better protect the body against cold and other environmental assaults. Evolution and biology frequently use an organ for more than one purpose.

Even though humans have lost most of our body hair, we still have this reaction, which we refer to as “having goose bumps.” Feathers, especially on wings, can serve these purposes even more effectively.

Zhenyuanlong suni-dino feathered poodle from hell teethEven though the creature was probably too heavy to fly with its large body and short, stubby wings, it still looked like a bird. “Zhenyuanlong was a dinosaur that really looked like a bird,” said Brusatte. “You wouldn’t think of it differently than a turkey or an emu or a big chicken.”

Well, maybe. Except for those teeth and that long, reptilian tail.



Idiotic Creationist Preacher Thinks He Understands Science Better than Scientists Do

He’s not just ignorant; he’s proud of it. You can tell by listening.

Yup, he really is.

He says “Somewhere in Oklahoma a tornado rolls through a junkyard … (and) magically produces a perfectly red shiny working Lamborghini. You would tell me I was nuts!” Yup. I would.

But he’s trying to say that’s the way evolution works. It isn’t. Not only that, but he’s using an old argument that’s been debunked a thousand times or more, and pretending it’s his own argument.

He knows nothing about either evolution or atheism, yet he thinks he can debunk atheism by talking about evolution. That’s worse than just ignorant or stupid. It’s both.

I don’t think he’s stupid because he believes in God. That just means he’s deluded. He’s both ignorant and stupid because he’s trying to disprove two unrelated things that he doesn’t even understand in three minutes.

Why do so many preachers do that? I honestly don’t know. If you think you want to disprove something, it just makes good sense to be sure you understand it first. You know, to maybe keep from making a fool of yourself like this guy did. And … well, you might even change your mind about disproving it if you really understood it.

I was talking to a preacher friend a few years ago, and the subject of evolution came up. He said (as near as I can remember his words), “I’ve heard a little about evolution from my church members. I probably understand it well enough.” Yeah, right! If I said I’d heard a little bit about Jesus from my fellow atheists, so I probably know all I need to know about him … do you think my preacher friend would buy that? No, I don’t either.

Well, this is one more guy who thinks atheism and evolution are the same thing and tries to disprove one indirectly by trying to disprove the other directly when he understands neither.

Not long ago I posted another video by a self-identified Muslim creationist whom I described with the words “willful, arrogant ignorance.” I’m guessing this guy’s a Christian, though he didn’t identify himself as such in the video. But it doesn’t really matter, because he’s no better. It’s very clear that he is also “willfully ignorant and arrogant.”

He says, “Evolution is not a science, never has and never will be. Why? Because it cannot fit between the parameters of parentheses of science.” If I didn’t know better than to use the words “parameters” and “parentheses” together like that, as if they meant something similar to each other, I’d quit trying to write.

More to the point, scientists themselves think evolution is science. I wonder why they’d think that if it doesn’t meet the criteria of science? And how would this ignoramus know better than they do? Don’t scientists themselves decide what the criteria of science are?

Well, why is evolution not science, according to him? Which “parameters and parentheses of science” does it not fit between? “For one simple reason,” he says. “Because it was never observed. That’s why it’s not science. That’s why it’s called the THEORY of evolution.” You can hear the capital letters in his voice.

Soooooo. Evolution has never been observed, and that’s why it’s not science. Sounds almost convincing, doesn’t it? But is it true?

Of course it’s not true!

All anybody has to do is read On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin or Why Evolution Is True by Biology Professor Jerry Coyne or The Greatest Story Ever Told by Professor Emeritus Richard Dawkins. (They’re all available in our bookstore. See the menu at the top of every page.) If you’re really interested, read all three, as I have. You’ll learn that evolution is all around us and easy to observe.

He continues with his rant, “That’s why it’s called the THEORY of evolution. One man’s theory.” No, that’s not why. He doesn’t even understand what a scientific theory is. (We’ll discuss that soon.) Besides, “one man’s theory?” Recent surveys indicate that more than 99 percent of biologists believe the evidence supports it. It’s hardly “one man’s theory.” It’s one of the best supported theories in science, right up there with the theory of gravity and the germ theory of disease. (Does he think they haven’t been observed either? After all, we call them theories.)

Yes, evolution is science, just as much as physics, chemistry, and geology are science. But it has nothing to do with atheism. Atheism just means one doesn’t believe in God. Or any god. That’s all. It has absolutely nothing to do with what a person might or might not think about natural origins.

Yes, Mr. uh, uh … Well, I can’t understand your name. Sorry. But it doesn’t really matter, anyway. Whatever your name is, you’re both ignorant and stupid. Ignorance can be overcome, but stupid is doubtful.

If you want to argue with intelligent people, you should be sure you understand what you’re arguing about first. And maybe even get a little help from somebody whose IQ is higher than his or her age. Just a friendly tip.



Yersinia pestis a.k.a. Black Plague a.k.a. Black Death

Yersinia pestis

Yersinia pestis, Black Plague, Black Death.

Yersinia pestis (formerly Pasteurella pestis) is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped coccobacillus, a facultative anaerobic bacterium that can infect humans and animals. It causes the deadly disease named plague. Human Y. pestis infection takes three main forms: pneumonic, septicemic, and bubonic plagues. All three forms were responsible for a number of high-mortality epidemics throughout human history, including: the sixth century’s Plague of Justinian; the Black Death, which accounted for the death of at least one-third of the European population between 1347 and 1353; and the 19th century’s Third Pandemic. These plagues probably originated in rodent populations in Europe or much less likely China.

Y. pestis was discovered in 1894 by Alexandre Yersin, a Swiss/French physician and bacteriologist from the Pasteur Institute, during an epidemic of plague in Hong Kong. Yersin was a member of the Pasteur school of thought. Kitasato Shibasaburō, a German-trained Japanese bacteriologist who practiced Koch’s methodology, was also engaged at the time in finding the causative agent of plague. However, Yersin actually linked plague with Y. pestis. Originally named Pasteurella pestis, the organism was renamed in 1967.


During the past few days, I’ve posted beautiful pictures of MERS and ebola viruses attacking monkey cells. This picture is of Yersinia pestis bacteria in the gut of an infected flea.

Y. pestis has been far deadlier than either of the two viruses, but probably only because it’s been around longer and attacked before the advent of modern science or medicine. During a six-year period between 1347 and 1353, it wiped out a third of the population of Europe. Such an outbreak now would be relatively minor, since it’s susceptible to treatment with antibiotics. Viruses, unfortunately, are not.

Live plague bacteria; dead MERS and ebola viruses

Keep in mind that bacteria are live single-celled organisms, whereas viruses are just dead chemicals. Nevertheless, they both reproduce inside appropriate hosts and sometimes cause disease and death. Viruses can do this because they contain genes corresponding vaguely to some of the genes in living organisms. When they enter a living cell, their host’s machinery copies them along with its own DNA. By blindly and unintentionally taking advantage of the cell’s reproductive processes, they reproduce themselves like exceedingly tiny little chemical zombies and even evolve into new forms, just as if they were living creatures. But they are not.

Certain bacteria, like Y. Pestis, also grow mainly inside a host, but for a different set of reasons. That’s where it gets the best combination of nutrients it requires, as well as precise environmental needs like moisture, temperature, protection from the elements, and maybe a thousand other little things. But bacteria are real living creatures many times larger than most viruses, and they have the ability to engulf nutrients, make use of oxygen as we do (in most cases), and make their own proteins and genetic materials without hijacking the host’s chemical factories to do it.

As seen from the Wikipedia quote above, Y. pestis has been a deadly enemy of mankind for at least 1,700 years and strikes in at least three forms. It’s not likely to go away soon, either; because it infects a variety of rodents and other small mammals without killing them. Fleas usually transfer it to humans, although the pneumonic form spreads through coughing and sneezing once somebody gets it.

Ring around the rosie.

The popular children’s game “Ring Around the Rosie” may have originated during one of the ancient epidemics, although some experts disagree about this. English versions include references to sneezing and falling down, as well as “pockets full of posies.” It is said that sneezing was a symptom of the disease, while falling down refers to dying. A “pocket full of posies” was to ward off the smell of death. The “rosie” in the title may have been a rose bush.

Ashes to ashes, we all fall down.

Similar games, using similar tunes and similar lyrics, appear in several other European languages; but experts don’t agree on their sources. The game seems pretty morbid, if that really is what the words refer to; but I suppose a little bit of morbidity is to be expected when it seems as if everybody you know is dying.



Kenneth Smith: The True Origin of Man

Kenneth Smith: The New Spokesman for Creationism?

A parent of a Jefferson County student has filed a federal lawsuit against local, state and federal education officials claiming the teaching of evolution, which he says is a religion, violates his child’s Constitutional rights.

Kenneth Smith, who is representing himself, filed the four-page federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia against the Jefferson County Board of Education, state Superintendent Michael Martirano, National Institute of Health director Francis Collins, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education.

Charlseton Daily Mail, 5-21-2015

Everybody he could think of, apparently. You can download the entire 4-page lawsuit here in pdf form, if you’re interested.

This same Kenneth Smith apparently wrote The True Origin of Man. I tried to call him to verify that, but he never returned my call. Since the quality of his writing is about the same in both the suit and the book, I assume he wrote them both.

Kenneth Smith: The True Origin of Man

I recommend the book only if you’re really curious. I will say for this man that he has a lot of imagination. In fact, most of his “information” that is presented as if it were Biblical is not from the Bible at all; it is only from his deluded brain.

Before I go any further, I should confess that I have not read the entire book. I read up to the point where the “black man-like things” who were descended from Cain and a female gorilla were helping Noah and his sons on the ark, so this is the only part of the book I can comment on. I may read further sometime when I’m in the mood for fantasy. Quotes below, except for the first one, are from that part of the book. They are indented and italicized. (Mis-spellings, poor grammar, and obtuse wording in the quotes are his. I make too many mistakes of my own to take credit for anybody else’s.)

This first one’s from the book ad at Amazon. We know from this what a terribly important book it is. (For the irony challenged, that was sarcasm.)

A major benefit of this book is that the very beginning of man’s history is unveiled in a new light, which will be the talk of many prestigious inner circles of elite social groups and higher arc political policy makers. Majoring student readers of this book will be informed first ahead of their college professors on the new direction of D.N.A.’s future of calculating the mutated percentage cells in any genome. Truth! Some people love being first to know secrets. Others being ahead of the game and the readers of this book will have that cutting edge in life.

The rest of these quotes are wisdom directly from the book itself. First, for example, we learn that he’s an expert on Constitutional law.

The complete misalignment of science and theology has given rise to many lawsuits in the U.S. Supreme Court that to date, remain unresolved and abandon religious and political leadership to govern itself. Recently established laws in the constitution carry a neutral and non-offensive tone, whether printed in school textbooks or not.

I guess that’s important in light of his law suite. I dunno. I’m not a lawyer. Next we learn he’s also an expert in biotechnology.

Early in the twenty-first century, the scientific community celebrated a conclusion in the Human Genome Project that has caused a derailment in the advancement of biotechnology.

That’s strange. I thought modern biotechnology was doing pretty well. Let’s see what else we can learn. The True Origin of Man starts by telling us our ancestors were not Homo sapiens. They were something better.

These original humans have been given a prestigious name, “Imperial Humanus.” Because they are not homosapiens,

He gets his info from the Bible. The good ol’ King James Version. (I guess if it was good for Paul and Silas, it’s good enough for him.) Well, uh, along with a lot of imagination, as previously noted. I don’t remember “Imperial Humanus” any time I read the good old KJV. I wonder how I missed that.

Even though DNA testifies to the human genetic normal specie thorough the variations changes referenced here from scripture in the King James Bible.

I assume English is his first language. It’s hard to tell. I am really not sure what that sentence means, except that he’s referencing the King James Bible.

Now comes the clarification of the truth in detail with no holes of faith, belief, or hypothesis: the exact relationship between DNA and the many mysterious human variations we have today. Step by step, all events will be explained with the stirring emotions that altered the course of history.

OK. We are going to learn the truth now. In detail. With no holes of faith, belief, or hypothesis in it. Let’s see what the real truth is.

The detailed image of man is that he had pure white hair, like snowcapped mountain peaks, which included every hair on his body. He had sapphire blue eyes that reflected the beauty of great oceans, as if viewed from space by God for many centuries. Not a brown speck could be found in man’s eyes, even if you had used the Hubble telescope to look into them. His skin was pale, clear as a flawless cloud in all its whiteness, not a freckle or brown spot of pigment to be found on it anywhere, and not a sickle cell in his entire body. Nor could 100% pure humans pass this sickle cell trait on to their children, because it was genetically impossible, it wasn’t configured in their genome.

Well, the Hubble telescope doesn’t look into anyone’s eyes. It was designed to look at things bigger and farther away. But we’ll let that pass as a figure of speech. This man describes our first ancestors as being pure white, “pale, clear as a flawless cloud in all its whiteness,” with snow-white hair and blue eyes. (If I said that, I’d be branded a racist. But we’ll give Kenneth some leeway there.) Personally, I had assumed our first ancestors were black, since they evolved in Africa before moving on to Europe and other places. Kenneth doesn’t seem to be aware that blue eyes are a mutation that originated in Europe a few thousand years ago.

Adam’s and Eve’s bodies were so perfect there was “not a freckle or brown spot of pigment to be found on it anywhere, and not a sickle cell in his entire body.” Sickle Cell? OK. That probably makes sense. But who would’ve thought that anyway? Somebody who has struggled with the disease, obviously. Either personally or somebody he loves. I’m sorry, Kenneth. I’m very sorry. That’s a ghastly condition, and we need to find a way to treat those who have it and prevent anybody else ever being born with it. But real science is the way. Fantasy won’t work.

But how does he know all this? Did he just make it up? No, no. Not this part. He went to the New Testament for a description of God from John’s vision nightmare nightmare vision. Remember, Adam was said to have been made in God’s image. And Eve was made from Adam. Here’s what God looks like.

This is how much they all looked like, imaged from the likeness of the Lord, who created us. Revelation 1: 14 says his head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow— freshly driven snow— and his eyes were like a flame of fire; alcohol burns a blue flame.

So that’s where the blue eyes idea came from.  God had eyes  like a flame of fire, and alcohol burns with a blue flame; so Adam and Eve had blue eyes. Now I get it. But why alcohol, Kenneth? Wood burns with a variety of colors, doesn’t it? Blue, of course. But also red and orange?

Next we come to the perpetual question, “Where did Cain get his wife?” The Bible doesn’t actually answer this question. When I was a believer, I assumed he married one of his sisters. After all, there was nobody else. But Kenneth has a different idea. Here’s where he goes off into the wild blue yonder.

Cain followed a young courting female ape into the thick brush of the forest. You could see him looking back behind himself, to see if anyone might be looking . . . Then the bushes started to shake . . . Cain fornicated with an animal, a practice some men still carry on today.

Yup. According to the Gospel of Kenneth, Cain had been living in the vicinity of a tribe of gorillas. He didn’t know anything about sex, because his parents had kept it secret from him. In that cave where they curled up around the campfire together? Yeah, right! Anyway, as he watched the gorillas, he realized something was missing from his life. So he followed a horny female into the bushes.

I can’t comment on his last statement there. As far as I know, none of my friends has access to a horny female gorilla.

Here we get our first genetics lesson, when Cain later stumbles upon the ape nursing his own offspring.

One day while walking along in the forest amongst the apes, . . . There in the arms of this docile creature was a nursing half-man, half-ape newborn. DNA states 100% human + 0 combined with 100% primate + 0 = 100 / 2 = 50 + 100 / 2 = 50 for a fused genome of 50/ 50% human, primate offspring produced.

That’s an intimidating formula. What does it mean? It’s just a complicated way of saying that half human plus half ape equals something that’s half human and half ape, only it’s been put into numbers and symbols to try to look ‘scientific.”

The National Center for Science Education website says “The about-the-author line explains, ‘Kenneth Smith after gaining his science degree has spent many years thereafter studying theology and made the ultimate discovery.'” The Kindle version I bought didn’t seem to mention this. But no matter, since he apparently didn’t think to say what kind of science he studied, what kind of degree he got, or what university awarded it. Without that information, trying to sound scientific is all he’s got going for him. So what else can we learn?

Cain is the missing link between men and ape.

I think this is enough.

I really feel sorry for Kenneth. He’s obviously doing something he believes in, and he doesn’t need people like me making fun of him; but what he believes is obviously fantasy. I’m even sorrier for his daughter, who is undoubtedly being teased and ridiculed at school about being part gorilla. It’s really sad.

Fortunately, his suit will surely be dismissed quickly, if it hasn’t been already. His daughter will get to learn the real science that he deplores and calls religion, unless he pulls her out of public school. I hope he doesn’t do that; because she needs the education, including the evolutionary science, to become a veterinarian. (Plus, she’ll learn ALL humans are actually cousins of chimps and even more distant cousins of gorillas, instead of just some of us being great- great-grandkids of gorillas.)

I thought at first Kenneth believed gorillas have sickle cell anemia and transmitted it to humanity through Cain’s lineage, but he mentions a mutation several times; so I’m not sure. The disease actually is caused by a mutation in an African lineage that happened a few thousand years ago, but after the main migration out of the continent. Natural selection increased it in the gene pool because a single mutated gene produces limited immunity to malaria. Two mutated genes in a single genome cause the terrible sickle cell disease.

The lesson we should learn here is that the level of thinking that went into this book and this lawsuit is the same level of thinking that ALWAYS goes into creationism. Sure, there are some smart creationists. I know some of them personally. But they don’t think intelligently about biology and cosmology. They know what they believe–that God made earth and the universe in six days about 6,000 years ago, and He made humans in our present form on the sixth day–and nothing else matters.

Sorry, but that’s just not true.

Regardless what anybody says, the universe really is about 13.7 billion years old, the solar system (including earth) really is about 4.5 billion years old, and all life on earth really did evolve from a germ in the time since our planet congealed from the sun’s primordial disk. Not because I say so. Personally I have very little understanding of the evidence of cosmology. But because there’s so much evidence that cosmologists and physicists who do understand it virtually all agree it’s true. I think it was Neil DeGrasse Tyson who commented, “The great thing about science is it’s still true whether you believe it or not.”

If you’re really curious, buy the Kindle version from Amazon for $3.99. It’s good for a few laughs. (It’s not in my bookstore. I reserve that for books by authors I’ve learned to trust.)


Eric Hovind Justifies Josh Duggar

Josh Duggar
Josh Duggar

I must have been the last person in the world to hear about it. I’m usually not a fan of families with 19 kids. Now we all learn that Josh Duggar, one of the 19 and now 26 years old, did something that wasn’t OK almost half his lifetime ago when he was 14 years old.

Josh is quoted as making the following statement:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends, I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

It is reported that he fondled several of his younger sisters and another girl. What prompted his confession to his parents? I don’t know. Had his sisters already reported him? I have no idea. He said he understands that continuing that path would have ruined his life. Does he also understand that he may have damaged some of their lives as well? Again, I don’t know.

I haven’t read a lot about it. I don’t know the details, and I’m not likely to ever know them. As I already said, I’m not a fan. I don’t know whether the situation was handled well or not. I do know that I’m glad I don’t have to answer for everything I did when I was 14. (No, I didn’t do what Josh Duggar did. Furthermore, I’m not going to tell you what I did do. So there!)

I’m definitely not taking up for the man, but I don’t think what he did when he was 14 years old means he’s a pedophile or that he’s likely to be a rapist. I think it means he was a teenage boy with raging hormones and needs he didn’t know how to provide for. It’s a shame he didn’t have help. No I’m not blaming his parents. Their biggest mistake was having 19 kids! And counting!

What I find absolutely asinine is Eric Hovind’s reaction to the revelation. Eric is the son of Kent Hovind, also known as Dr. Dino, who runs the Pensacola theme park and museum called Dinosaur Adventure Land when he’s not in federal prison for refusing to pay his taxes. I understand Eric runs it in his absence.

Eric Hovind’s Statement

Eric said this on his blog four days ago:

Eric Hovind
Eric Hovind

“If evolution is true, then there is no absolute right and wrong. If evolution is true, Josh should not have admitted his faults over a decade ago because what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules just doesn’t really matter. If evolution is true, there is no ultimate Judge who will hold every man, woman, and child responsible for their actions. And if evolution is true, you will not give an account for every idle word you speak.”

Who cares whether right and wrong are absolute or not? Certain things are still right and wrong, because of the effects they have on people. Relative rights and wrongs work for me. We have laws that determine what’s OK and what’s not OK. If something’s against the law, it’s not OK. Such laws prohibit things that harm people. (Of course that’s oversimplified.)

The fact that each of us is an “evolved bag of molecules” makes absolutely no difference. What matters is that we have brains. So we can hurt. We can feel. What happens to us matters, both as individuals and as groups. The fact that we are evolved simply has nothing to do with it, and Eric Hovind should know that.

Hovind is trying to make points where no points exist. He cannot prove evolution is false, because it isn’t; so he tries to make it seem undesirable. It’s a con, and you should be able to see through it. Similar cons have been going on longer than I can remember, and they’re just as phony now as they were then.

As social animals, we grow up learning not only what’s good for ourselves, but also what’s good for each other, and for the whole group. As societies of social animals, we learn as we go along, and we try to pass that knowledge along to our youth. Sometimes we succeed better than other times.

Most of us probably have some basic morality built into our genes. These rudimentary principles must be trained by our family and school and society and restrained by laws. Some people probably have more innate moral tendencies than others. Certainly some get better training at  home and in school than others. But the fact is that humans are sentient animals. We not only think, but we feel. We suffer. Basically, whatever we can do to prevent suffering or death is good, and whatever we do that causes suffering or death is bad. (Yes, that’s oversimplified, too.)

Remember always that “what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules” matters a lot, if the particular bag of molecules in question has a mind and can feel pain and joy. To think otherwise is just stupid.

Source: http://creationtoday.org/shocking-news-josh-duggar-is-a-sinner/

Earliest Known Ancestor of Modern Birds Spectacularly Well Preserved

Oldest Known Bird Fossil
Oldest Known Bird Fossil

Archaeornithura meemannae pushes back the earliest known ancestor of modern birds by five million years.

Rosa Rubicondior explains, “A team of Chinese paleontologists has discovered a spectacularly well preserved fossil bird from 130 million years ago which neatly fills the gap in the fossil record between proto-birds such as archaeopteryx and modern birds.” She cleverly titled her May 5 article Early Bird Catches the Creationist Worms.

This bird’s feathers were exceptionally well preserved. “The feathers are really beautiful. It is incredible how they were preserved so well for 130 million years,” as  Min Wang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences exclaims.

It’s extremely difficult to fossilize any part of an animal except bones, shells, and teeth. That’s why we have few fossils of anything until animals developed such hard parts around 500 million years ago. These exceptional feathers allow close comparison with modern birds and make the gorgeous artist’s conception above possible.

Put yourself on the planet 130 million years ago. Most of the animals, from horned dinosaurs to swimming, predatory plesiosaurs, would be deeply alien, not to say terrifying. But rising from the wetlands and winging across the sky were birds startlingly like today’s. That’s the message from two bird skeletons—spectacularly preserved with feathers and all—reported this week. 


The bird’s well developed adaptations show that most features of modern birds had already evolved. This bird was evidently capable of skillful flight; but it had long legs adapted for wading, much like today’s plovers. This shows that birds had already specialized to some degree, filling new new niches made possible by feathers and flight.

These fossils were found in northeast China by paleontologists Min Wang and Zhonghe Zhou of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology from Beijing. They are at least 5 million years older than the previously oldest-known birds. It is almost certain from the development of this specimen that the lineage is much older still.

Earliest known ancestor of modern birds was found embedded in siltstone

The hummingbird-sized creatures were embedded in siltstone slabs that were probably once a lake bed. Stubby feathers cover their bodies, except for part of the legs.

Archaeornithura meemannae, earliest known ancestor of modern birds
Archaeornithura meemannae, earliest known ancestor of modern birds

“But of all the new specimens, this is one of the most important found over the last decade,” says paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.

Archaeornithura meemannae, earliest known ancestor of modern birds
Archaeornithura meemannae, earliest known ancestor of modern birds

Group of meat-eating dinosaurs spread their feathered wings and took to the skies.

Birds evolved around 150 million years ago when the flying dinosaurs stopped breeding with ground-bound ones, letting them evolve separately to fly better. The Ornithurae branch still survives as modern birds. Since they descended from feathered dinosaurs, birds are the last living descendants of the creatures that once dominated our planet.

Not all dinosaurs spawned surviving bird lineages. Even some dinosaurs that did evolve into animals we’d call birds didn’t make it. The Enantiornithes, for example, early birds with clawed wings and teeth apparently didn’t get the first worm after all. They went extinct along with the ground-bound dinosaurs.

Birds soon evolved huge chest muscles to power their wings. We’ve encouraged them to grow even larger in some species, and often refer to them as “chicken tenders.” Their wings grew many layers of different types of feathers for expert flight.

Before finding this bird, researchers had not known when some of these features had emerged.