Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is Ida the Missing Link?

By Don Batten

I don’t think I have ever seen such blatantly over-stated claims on a fossil find, and I have seen a few, including one by a major co-author of this paper: Philip Gingerich’s claims for Pakicetus back in 1983. Gingerich had a couple of scraps of a skull of a mammal from Pakistan and claimed it as the evolutionary precursor of whales. He embellished the story with an artist’s drawing of what Pakicetus (“whale from Pakistan”) looked like, with legs becoming flippers, a tail fluke developing and the imaginary creature diving for fish. Cute. Gingerich claimed it was “perfectly intermediate, a missing link between earlier land mammals and later, full-fledged whales”. With such a strong, confident claim from the fossil expert, who could doubt that evolution was true? Seven years later, other paleontologists published a paper describing the rest of Pakicetus and the now almost complete fossil showed that Gingerich’s imagination had really run away with him and the animal was not the missing link he thought it was. See: Not at all like a whale.

Apparently many paleontologists appreciate this sort of over-the-top, publicity-seeking behaviour in support of evolutionary story-telling, because they recently elected Gingerich the president of the American Paleontological Association.

Gingerich likened finding Ida to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in archaeology (which finally enabled the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics)! His collaborators on this paper are willingly joining in the hyping. In a televised meet-the-press, co-author Dr Jørn Hurum said, “It’s really, really hard to pinpoint exactly who gave rise to humans at that point, but this is as good as it gets, really.” According to ScienceNews, Hurum said, “This is the first link to all humans … truly a fossil that links world heritage.”2 And, “It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”3

Hurum has a reputation in his own right in Scandinavia for frequent appearances on television and radio to promote his views of evolution and paleontology.4 At the press conference with the researchers, a journalist asked about the appropriateness of all the hype over a supposedly scientific discovery and Hurum told The New York Times, “Any pop band is doing the same. We have to start thinking the same way in science.”

Hurum also likened the find to discovering the “lost ark of archaeology”5 while co-author Jens Franzen hailed it as “the eighth wonder of the world.”3 Wow!

The claims

An article in the New York Daily News summarized the claims as follows [numbering added]:3

  1. “… the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.
  2. “… the fossil of the lemur-like creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and fingernails instead of claws.
  3. “… hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright—a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”


  1. To be fair, the paleontologists did not actually say it was a link between humans and apes, but it is understandable that journalists might interpret what they said in this way.6 They were claiming that Ida might shed some light on what might have been the connection between mankind’s supposed evolutionary ancestry, as a primate, and non-primates. Dr Jens Franzen said at the press conference at the celebratory “launch” in New York, “We are not dealing with our grand-grand-grandmother, but perhaps with our grand-grand-grandaunt.” Note that Franzen here admits that the creature is not an ancestor of humans, so Ida is not a link between humans and anything, not even with the hypothetical precursors of primates in general.
  2. Lemurs have opposable thumbs (hallux) and fingernails instead of claws too, but almost no-one has considered them to have anything to do with man’s ancestry. Furthermore, like other primates, but not humans, they have them on their feet, which is good for grabbing onto branches, but makes walking upright rather difficult.
  3. Note the careful wording. The authors imagined some hint of characteristics that might be relevant to walking upright tens of millions of evolutionary years later. I could find nothing in the published paper that substantiated this conjecture.7 And note that this “could finally confirm Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.” This tacitly admits that it has not yet been confirmed, contrary to many other hyped-up fossil finds that have been paraded as “proof” of evolution (the story of human evolution has been a very adaptable, ever-changing story—see Anthropology and apemen Q&A).

What did they find?

The scientific paper8 does not contain any hint of the over-the-top statements (above) that we have been hearing in the media blitz. The paper describes an exceptionally well preserved fossil of a lemur-like creature (95% complete), which is unusual for primate fossils.

The authors of the paper did not find the fossil; Dr Jørn Hurum convinced the University of Oslo to purchase the main part from private collectors (it cost a million dollars!). That means that the taphonomy (the exact location/situation) of the fossil is not known with certainty, although it apparently came from the Messel Pit in Germany, which has been well-studied. When collected in 1983, the collectors split it into two pieces and sold them separately. The lesser half ended up at a private museum in Wyoming, USA, and had been studied by Jens Janzen (a co-author of this current paper) in the early 1990s. He recognized that there had been some doctoring of it to make it look as complete as possible. The researchers brought the two parts together for study. They used X-radiography to distinguish the real fossil from doctored parts.

With such a complete fossil, the detailed description took a large part of the paper. The fossil has a basic body pattern and toe and finger nails like lemurs, but lacks two features that are peculiar to lemurs: a toilet claw on a toe and grooming teeth (a row of fused teeth), both used for grooming, so it is not “just a lemur”.

There is nothing in the paper that substantiates the outlandish statements made to the lay public. The only relevant section includes a table and discussion that claims that the creature has more similarities to the Primate suborder Haplorrhini (which includes tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans) than the other suborder, Strepsirrhini (which includes lemurs, lorises, etc.). However, the authors classified Darwinius as belonging to the Strepsirrhini and said they are not advocating otherwise. Strange. Maybe they said this to get it through the referees, because a proposal to shift the group that includes Darwinius (Infraorder Adapiformes) from one suborder of the primates to the other would certainly have been controversial, as well as very difficult to justify. With the public media fest orchestrated, a delay in the publication of the paper would have been embarrassing. Nevertheless, the claim that Ida is at all relevant to the evolutionary story of human origins depends on the authors establishing what they expressly disavowed in their paper.

Furthermore, there are absolutely no other fossils connecting Darwinius, or its kin, to humans or even to any of the claimed evolutionary ancestors of man. There is a gap of some 40 million evolutionary years!

Drawing: Bogdan Bocianowski. See Ref. 8.

Artist's reconstruction of Darwinius masillae

Reconstruction of what Darwinius masillae could have looked like. Commissioned by the paleontologists, it does not support the media hype about its relevance to human evolution; it is so similar to creatures living today.

Looking at the fossil and the artist’s reconstruction, it strikes me as absolutely unremarkable in appearance. If you saw this creature in the jungle, you would think “lemur” or similar. It should be of concern to evolutionists that something they say is 47 million years old is so similar to modern primates like lemurs.

Evolutionist skeptics of the hype

Interestingly, a number of evolutionists are criticizing the over-hyping of this fossil. Ann Gibbons, in a commentary on ScienceNow9 gave air to some criticism:

“‘It’s an extraordinarily complete, wonderful specimen, but it’s not telling us too much that we didn’t know before,’ says paleoanthropologist Elwyn Simons of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
“‘This is the first link to all humans,’ said Hurum at the press conference.

“Many paleontologists are unconvinced. They point out that Hurum and Gingerich’s analysis compared 30 traits in the new fossil with primitive and higher primates when standard practice is to analyze 200 to 400 traits and to include anthropoids from Egypt and the newer fossils of Eosimias from Asia, both of which were missing from the analysis in the paper. ‘There is no phylogenetic analysis to support the claims, and the data is cherry-picked,’ says paleontologist Richard Kay, also of Duke University. Callum Ross, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois agrees: ‘Their claim that this specimen should be classified as haplorhine is unsupportable in light of modern methods of classification.’”

[Note added: Brian Switek, science writer, in The Times online 26 May criticized the hyping of Ida. Following mention of other hyped discoveries (a mammoth and a marine reptile), he wrote, “Frozen mammoths and giant marine reptiles are fascinating, but they do not strike at the heart of the evolution/creationism culture war in the way that a potential human ancestor does. This is why I wish more care had been taken in promoting Ida. ... Likening Ida to the Holy Grail and the Lost Ark only compounds the problem; creationists will undoubtedly argue that these metaphors reveal that evolution is a religion with its own holy relics.” This shows that the concern from evolutionists over the hyping of Ida does not necessarily stem from concern for truthfulness, but from the realization that this will backfire in the “culture war”, which is really the war against the God of the Bible.]

Preservation in shale?

The fossil is embedded in shale. The Messel shale has yielded many other interesting and very well-preserved fossils. The shale is supposed to have formed in a lake bed created by volcanic activity. This lake bed, “filled with water, which seemingly, one way or another, accumulated gases that poisoned the animals individually, episodically, or periodically [refs]. The result is a diverse fauna of exceptionally preserved insects, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals [refs].”8 [my emphasis]. It stretches the imagination to think what gas could have killed such a wide range of creatures in repeated episodes. ScienceNews reported,

“The scientists believe she was overcome by carbon dioxide gas whilst drinking from the Messel lake: the still waters of the lake were often covered by a low lying blanket of the gas as a result of the volcanic forces that formed the lake and which were still active. Hampered by her broken wrist, Ida slipped into unconsciousness, was washed into the lake, and sunk to the bottom, where the unique conditions preserved her for 47 million years.”2

There is a mixture of fossils of terrestrial and aquatic creatures. Did carbon dioxide gas kill fish as well? It would have to be a prolonged period of carbon dioxide blanketing to de-oxygenate the water for the fish to be killed. And such fish would bloat and float, which is not conducive to being buried and preserved/fossilized.

Also, how could the creatures then get preserved with such detail, with the slow accumulation of sediment in the lake, as per the deep-time evolutionary approach to the geology? Even the soft body outline of Ida is preserved, and remnants of her last meal (fruit and leaves).

Wikipedia commons

A fossil microbat from the Messel oil shale

A fossil from the Messel oil shale of a bat that is very similar to today’s microbats.

This could be yet another example of catastrophic burial associated with Noah’s Flood. Recent studies have shown how fine-grained rocks like shale can form very quickly, contrary to long-standing evolutionary notions. See: Mud experiments overturn long held geological beliefs.


Many other interesting and well-preserved fossils have been found in the Messel bed. Some of the best preserved are clearly recognizable, such as a bat, which is clearly a bat—a microbat that probably had echolocation. Fish found include bowfin, perch, gar and eel. Reptiles include crocodiles, alligators, turtles and a snake. And there are quite a few birds and mammals. Considering the supposed 47 million years of time, the similarity of so many of these creatures to today’s survivors speaks of stasis—creatures reproducing “after their kind”, not evolution.


Sadly, the gullible will be further convinced with all the bravado that evolution explains our origins and they therefore have no need for a Creator. But this is much ado about almost nothing other than a nicely preserved fossil for which they had paid a lot of money. And in the Year of Darwin, evolutionists, and especially atheists, are keen to milk it for what it is worth to push evolution to the public. If this is the best they have, Bible-believing creationists have nothing to fear.

Source: Creation Ministries

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who was Jesus? A Christian-Muslim Debate

Nabeel Qureshi vs. Farhan Qureshi

Held on May 10th, 2009 at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, Chesapeake VA.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Case for Christ: Gnostic Gospels vs Synoptic Gospels

This short clip is from the Case for Christ movie, by Lee Strobel. Lee investigates what curent-day scholarship says in regards to the reliability of the gnostic gospels in comparison to the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is the Bible Full of Contradictions?

By Rev Dr Justin Thacker

For those of us who hold to the full trustworthiness of the Scriptures, one of the most difficult challenges is how to account for the apparent contradictions found in the Bible. So, when we are asked whether Jesus entered Jerusalem on two donkeys (Matthew 21.7) or one (Mark 11.7), and whether Jehoiachin was 8 years old when he became king (2 Chronicles 36.9) or 18 (2 Kings 24.8), we are often left floundering.

On its own, of course, the issue of Jehoiachin's age is of little importance. It is not a central truth of the Christian faith. However, its importance is that it may cause us to doubt the full reliability of the Scriptures. If they are not trustworthy on these small points, then how can we be sure that they are trustworthy at all?

The Bible

When this question is posed at the general level, I usually draw attention to the apparent contradiction in Proverbs 26.4-5. The first half of each of these two verses flatly contradict each other — "Do not answer a fool according to his folly" and "Answer a fool according to his folly" — however, the second half of each verse indicates that they are to be applied in different circumstances or for different reasons. So when the context and purpose of each verse is taken into account, there is no contradiction. This is all the more obvious as the two verses are deliberately placed together to draw out their different applications.

Many of the alleged contradictions in the Bible follow a similar pattern. What on the surface appears as a contradiction disappears once the context and purpose of the verses are taken into account.

A further point worth making is that even if you are faced with an apparent contradiction that at the time you cannot answer, then there are always two things you can say to your challenger: (1) the contradiction does not concern any major point of Christian doctrine; and (2) you will go away, study the particular point in question and then return to your questioner. Of course, it is imperative that you then do this, both to answer your challenger, and to equip yourself better for the future.

Specific problems

In relation to specific contradictions, it is worth noting that they often fall into the same category of problem. I will illustrate two of them - copyist error and misinterpretation - using the examples mentioned earlier.

1. Jehoiachin's age: copyist error. This is the simplest type of alleged error to address. The Bible that you hold in your hands is an English translation of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts. While we do not possess the original manuscripts, we do possess many thousands of copies of those original manuscripts. The process of translation begins when these different manuscripts are brought together, compared, and a definitive Greek or Hebrew version of the Scriptures is assembled.

During this process, it becomes apparent that not all of the ancient manuscripts that we possess agree in their entirety with one another. The ending of the Gospel of Mark is a good example where the manuscripts differ.

It is important to stress that the degree to which these manuscripts agree far outweighs the degree to which they disagree, and none of the discrepancies concern major theological issues. Nevertheless, both the Old and New Testaments have a range of variant readings scattered throughout. One reason for this is that scribes made errors as they copied the manuscripts across the centuries. The contradiction regarding Jehoiachin's age is probably this type of error.

For a number of numerical discrepancies in the Old Testament, it is almost certainly this kind of copyist mistake that is responsible. Should this make us doubt that the Bible is "fully trustworthy"? No - because these kinds of textual variations are usually highlighted in our English translations, and as a result we can appreciate that the differences that exist are merely minor errors that do not impugn the reliability of the text as a whole.

2. Number of donkeys: misinterpreted text. Matthew appears to suggest that Jesus rode two animals (a donkey and its colt) into Jerusalem, while Mark and Luke make reference to just one (the colt). Which is correct? Well, if I go to the cinema with my daughter, and the following day I am asked what I did the previous night, then I am being perfectly truthful if I say either "I went to the cinema" or "My daughter and I went to the cinema". The first statement would only contradict the second if I explicitly stated that I went to the cinema "alone". So when Mark and Luke mention only the colt and not the accompanying donkey, there is no contradiction — merely two different ways of talking about the same event.

Apparent contradictions due to misinterpretation frequently occur because we are separated historically and linguistically from the biblical authors. In any text, we must always ask what the author is trying to convey and what theological point he is seeking to make. In Matthew's account, at least part of his intention was to draw attention to the fulfilment of the prophecy in Zechariah. This does not mean his account contradicts that of Mark and Luke, but it does explain why he has then chosen to narrate the event in the particular way he has.

We don't have space to address every apparent contradiction in the Bible. There are good explanations for many of them, if not all (see 101 Cleared-up Contradictions by Jay Smith and others, which is available online).

However, one stubborn discrepancy should not make us doubt the reliability of God's Word. God has demonstrated His trustworthiness to us in so many ways that our difficulties in answering one specific point should not be allowed to trump the vast weight of evidence that exists elsewhere. We must also remember that the reliability of God's Word is most evident as the Spirit helps us understand and apply that Word. It is not a dry textbook to be probed for inaccuracies, but a blueprint for life.


Friday, May 8, 2009

How do we know the Gospels are not Fabricated?

By Paul Copan

In the book The Da Vinci Code the author Dan Brown poses a question and suggests an answer, in a discussion between the characters of Teabing and Sophie, that could, if it holds true, mean the total collapse and refutation of orthodox Christianity.

'At this gathering,' Teabing said, 'many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon…the administration of the sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus.'
'I don’t follow. His divinity?'
'My dear,' Teabing declared, 'until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.'
'Not the Son of God?'
'Right,' Teabing said. 'Jesus establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.'
‘Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?’
'A relatively close one at that,' Teabing added.

Dan Brown isn’t the only one who takes this view. Thomas Sheehan, Loyola philosophy professor and author of The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God became Christianity, also maintains that, ‘Jesus did not think he was divine, nor did he assert any of the messianic claims that the New Testament attributes to him.’  

So why does the Bible seem to tell a different story? Is the Biblical Jesus, who claims to be God, really an exaggerated and embellished victim of well meaning but corrupt early journalists? Did the church or disciples really change things? This is a good question. Most Christians tend to assume that this didn’t happen. But is this a reasonable view to take? Does it make any sense? And what might a thoughtful person say in response? 

Firstly, the Christian can offer good reasons for taking the Gospels to be historically reliable. This may provide a platform for speaking about the claims and deeds of Christ.

Secondly, the claim that the early Christian communities read back into Jesus’ teachings their own concerns and controversies won’t withstand scrutiny. For a few different reasons:  

  1. Many of the controversial issues in the Epistles aren’t even mentioned in the Gospels (circumcision, speaking in tongues, eating meat offered to idols, etc.). 
  2. Matthew, Mark, and Luke offer a portrait of Jesus within one generation of his death. Note the case of Acts, which was likely written before Paul’s death (A.D. 64), which means that Luke’s gospel was written earlier than this and that Mark, which Luke follows, was written even earlier. 
  3. First-century Palestinian Jews were concerned about accurately preserving tradition, and this concern is reflected in the epistles – for example, themes from the Sermon on the Mount are reflected in James and the tradition of the last supper is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11. 
  4. The gospels do not reflect a fabrication. There is a simplicity to them, making fabrications unlikely. (Note the women as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection despite their lower societal status, or the 'embarrassing' points that would probably be deleted if the Gospel stories or sayings were fabricated – Jesus’ baptism by John, his ignorance of the time of his own return, his not doing miracles in some places). 
  5. Why invent so many miracle stories, when most Jews expected a political deliverer as Messiah, not a wonder-worker? 

Thirdly, the gospels – primarily Mark, Matthew, and Luke – offer a portrait of Jesus within one generation of his death, which tends to ensure the accurate transmission of the Jesus-tradition.

Fourthly, the simple unsophisticated nature of the Gospels attests to their reliability rather than to their being fabrications.

In summary, to say that someone writes with evangelistic or apologetical purpose doesn’t mean that what is written is unreliable. Passion or zeal – as with the Holocaust survivors – need not entail distortion of data. And you can point out places where the Gospels show themselves to be reliable historically and archeologically. This lends credibility to what cannot be directly verified – Jesus’ claims and deeds.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Is there any Hope in Atheism?


Hello Dr. Craig,

I read your article “Does God Exist” and in it you stated this:

“If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence.”

I have to simply disagree with this. I think as an atheist one can certainly live with tremendous hope. I mean if there is no God then there is no ultimate accountability. No fear going before a Just and Holy God to give an account of one’s life. One can live the life of their choosing as a result of this, with no fear of retribution. This is hope to the atheist.

Can you refute this kind of hope?

Thank You,


Dr. William Lane Craig responds:

Well, Bill, yours is certainly a novel defense of the atheist’s hope: hope of escaping the judgement of God! I must concede that the atheist may--indeed, must--hope that he will not fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10.31)!

But that doesn’t really negate what I said. I identified specific senses in which atheism is a philosophy without hope:

2. If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence.

For example, there is no hope for deliverance from evil. Although many people ask how God could create a world involving so much evil, by far most of the suffering in the world is due to man’s own inhumanity to man. The horror of two world wars during the last century effectively destroyed the 19th century’s naive optimism about human progress. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil.

Or again, if there is no God, there is no hope of deliverance from aging, disease, and death. Although it may be hard for you as university students to contemplate, the sober fact is that unless you die young, someday you—you yourself—will be an old man or an old woman, fighting a losing battle with aging, struggling against the inevitable advance of deterioration, disease, perhaps senility. And finally and inevitably you will die. There is no afterlife beyond the grave. Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.

Notice that I’m talking about the shortcomings of our finite existence. I identify two in particular: (i) evil and (ii) aging, disease, and death. It seems to me that atheism is hopeless in these matters. In a famous passage, the atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell lamented,

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; . . . that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.1

Sartre, Camus, and many other atheists have eloquently expressed the despair to which atheism leads. In this sense atheism is hopeless.

Ironically, Christianity, by contrast, not only provides hope of deliverance from evil and from aging, disease, and death, but it also furnishes the hope which you yourself cherish: deliverance from the hands of a just and holy God. This was Martin Luther’s great insight. The same righteousness of God that wrought his condemnation as a sinner outside of Christ, that very same righteousness became the source of salvation for him as one who by faith is united with Christ. For when you trust Christ as your Savior and Lord, God reckons to your account Christ’s righteousness. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8.1).

Thus any hope the atheist might entertain is enjoyed many times over by the Christian, for we enjoy, not merely escape from judgement, but positive salvation. You might say that Christians thereby give up being able to act with impunity, as the atheist can. Granted; but, Bill, I wouldn’t want to act that way! When you come to Christ, God changes your desires so that you want to live a righteous and blameless life. The Bible says that the fruit of God’s Spirit’s filling your life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5. 22). Think about that list of personal virtues. Isn’t that really the kind of person you’d like to be?

One final point: you’ve described the atheist’s hope. How firm is that hope? How well-founded is it? Most atheists I’ve talked to admit that atheism cannot be proven; indeed, many insist on it. But then how do you know atheism is true? The Christian’s hope is firmly founded, not only on the witness of the Holy Spirit, but on the arguments of natural theology and the evidence for Jesus and his resurrection. But the atheist’s hope is by his own admission without strong foundation. So what if your hope is ill-founded? What if you’re wrong?


1 Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, eds., Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961), p. 67.