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About origins, creation, and evolution

Discoveries during 2011

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  • 2011-JUN-27: Asteroid makes near miss of Earth: Asteroid "2011 MD" was discovered on JUN-22 by LINEAR -- a pair of robotic telescopes in New Mexico that scan for near-earth asteroids. Its closest approach to Earth was on JUN-27 when it was only 12,000 km (7,500 miles) away. That is about 3% of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. It was estimated to be 9 meters (30 feet) wide. This is a fairly common occurrence; an asteroid like this one comes this close to Earth about every 6 years. In comparison, the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago was about 112 miles wide. According to the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post:

    "Scientists consider asteroids as potentially hazardous only if their size is larger than 490 feet in width. A 900 foot asteroid is expected to pass within 18,000 miles of earth in 2029. Fear not, because the odds of it actually hitting the Earth are greater than 250,000 to 1." 1

    I think that they really meant to write that "... the odds of it actually hitting the Earth are less than 1 in 250,000."

  • 2011-JUL-05: Political candidates who accept climate change gain support: A study of voters in Florida, Maine and Massachusetts shows that candidates who endorse the existence of climate change driven by human activity gain votes among Democrats and Independents. They have no net gain or loss among Republican candidates. The study was conducted during a telephone survey by Jon A. Krosnick, Bo MacInnis, and Ana Villar, and is titled, "The Impact of Candidates’ Statements about Climate Change on Electoral Success in 2010: Experimental Evidences." 2

  • 2011-AUG-22: The Earth's oldest fossil's discovered: A research team from the University of Western Australia and Oxford University have found the oldest fossils so far discovered on the planet. They were found at Strelley Pool, a remote section of Western Australia. Professor Brasier of the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford said:

    "At last we have good solid evidence for life over 3.4 billion years ago. It confirms there were bacteria at this time, living without oxygen. ... We can be very sure about the age as the rocks were formed between two volcanic successions that narrow the possible age down to a few tens of millions of years. That's very accurate indeed when the rocks are 3.4 billion years old."

    The fossils date from a time when the Earth was very different from today's conditions. There was almost no oxygen in the atmosphere. There was a great deal of volcanic activity. The heat was confined by heavily clouded skys. There were much higher water currents in the oceans; the tides were huge, and the ocean temperatures were on the order of 40 to 50 degrees C (104 to 122 degrees F). 3

  • 2011-AUG-22: Evolutionary changes that endure take about a million years: Research by a team of researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Oslo in Norway and the University of Pretoria in South Africa looked at sustained evolutionary changes in species. Studies of fossils indicate that those evolutionary changes that occur over a 10 to 100 year interval often neither remain in place nor spread throughout the species. For major changes to endure, it took about one million years. Josef Uyeda, a zoologist at Oregon State University said:

    "Rapid evolution is clearly a reality over fairly short time periods, sometimes just a few generations. But those rapid changes do not always persist and may be confined to small populations. For reasons that are not completely clear, the data show the long-term dynamics of evolution to be quite slow. ... What's interesting is not that we have so much biological diversity and evolutionary change, but that we have so little. It's a paradox as to why evolution should be so slow. ... We believe that for changes to persist, the underlying force that caused them has to also persist and be widespread. ... This isn't just some chance genetic mutation that takes over. Evolutionary adaptations are caused by some force of natural selection such as environmental change, predation or anthropogenic disturbance, and these forces have to continue and become widespread for the change to persist and accumulate. That's slower and more rare than one might think." 4

  • 2011-SEP-09: Major new transitional fossil found in South Africa. Science Daily reports:
    "Australopithecus is a genus of hominins now extinct. Ape-like in structure, yet walking bipedally similar to modern humans, they are believed to have played a significant role in human evolution, and it is generally held among anthropologists that a form of Australopithecus eventually evolved into Homo [Sapiens]."

A team of scientists from African, American, Australian, and European universities examined fossils in a cave about 30 miles (60 km) northwest of Johannesburg, They identified the fossils of a group of individuaLs, perhaps related, who were one form of Australopithecus. One was an adult woman, another was a boy about 11 or 12 years-of-age. At least two others were found as well. The fossils have characteristics that are both human-like and ape-like that are intermediate between Australopithecus and present-day humans. The team named the species Australopithecus sediba.

The discovery extends the predecessors of modern humans back further in time to almost 2 million years ago.

Team member Darryl de Ruiter explains:

"The key message is that these remains appear to be a transitional form of Australopithecus, intermediate between earlier australopiths and later Homo, the genus to which present-day humans belong. We examined the remains and found several distinct individuals -- possibly representing a family group. They all seemed to have died suddenly in the same event about 1.9 million years ago, but the remains are in surprisingly good shape. ..."

"The skulls are small, which is what you might expect, but their morphology shows it housed a brain shaped much like a human's. The pelvis and foot are also similar in that regard. The foot, for example, shows an ankle that looks like human-like, but the heel is shaped more like that of an ape. But again, all of the remains appear to represent an evolutionary intermediary between Australopithecus and humans."

"The skulls are particularly interesting because they show how the brain reorganized and changed in shape over time. We suspect that something happened around two million years ago with Australopithecus. It went from an australopith way of making a living to a more human-like way of making a living. Whatever event that caused these particular individuals to die happened quickly, and their bones appeared to have calcified almost immediately. The skeletons were all found very close to each other, with some basically lying on top of another."

"It's a great find, because it provides strong confirmation for Darwin's theories about evolution."

If these findings are shown to be valid, then it may be that every human on Earth today is ultimately of South African ancestry. 5

The article on the Science Daily web site contains five links to other articles with additional information on Australopithecus sediba. 5

As expected, creationists dismiss the above conclusions. Marvin Lubenow wrote article "The problem with Australopithecus sediba" stating:

"If biblical creationism is true, then Au. sediba is just one of the many variant apes created by God. If evolution is true, then there is a problem. An editor of Science explains: 'Our genus Homo is thought to have evolved a little more than 2 million years ago from the earlier hominid Australopithecus. But there are few fossils that provide detailed information on this transition.' ... The most parsimonious explanation regarding Australopithecus sediba is that it and Australopithecus africanus are both extinct varieties of the original Genesis ape kind." 6

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The Capital Weather Gang, "Asteroid to barely miss contact with Earth," Washington Post, 2011-JUN-27, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. "The Impact of Candidates' Statements About Climate Change On Electoral Success, Science Daily, 2011-JUL-05, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/
  3. "Oldest Fossils On Earth Discovered," Science Daily, 2011-AUG-22, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/
  4. "Not So Fast: Lasting Evolutionary Change Takes About One Million Years, Researchers Find," Science Daily, 2011-AUG-22, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/
  5. "Fossil Discovery Supports Evolutionary Link Between Australopiths and Homo," Science Daily, 2011-SEP-08, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/
  6. Marvin Lubenow, "The Problem with Australopithecus sediba," Answers in Genesis, 2010=AUG-11, at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-SEP-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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