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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fish do pushups! Film at eleven!

I think all the hoopla (which has now died down) about Tiktaalik was fun. Macro-evolutionists were hopping all over themselves about having found the missing link...until they realized that "Tik" was no more likely to have been able to walk than the coelacanth. "Tik" has bones in its fin lobes that are not attached to the main skeletal structure. No supportee-no walkee.

I got a kick out of this article and so I will share. Go to Doug TenNapel for the full effect.

"...wait a minute, you're telling me that scientists have been preaching Godless evolution all this time without a legit fish-to-tetrapod missing link?! Well what were you using all this time on the fossil tree, science fiction? Luckily, no gap is so great between species that can make some scientists lose their faith in a dogmatic fundamentalist allegience to Materialist Darwinism.

Here's the newly discovered fish, recategorized by science as a substantial missing link and organsmically reported by TheNewYorkTimes (HT:HH). It gets so much coverage you'd think it was a new photo release from Abu Gharib.

Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375 million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought "missing link" in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land.

Long-sought missing link. Long sought. You're seeking missing links because you don't have any. Why are you pushing a scientific theory into public schools when this is your first missing link that connects fish to us? If you want better evidence, I'd go for Dolly Parton because she's starting to look like a trout (speaking of, don't go see The Hills Have Eyes)

A model of the 375 million-year-old fish, which exhibits changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals.

Sorry buddy, but you aren't allowed to use the term "anticipate" when referring to blind evolutionary principles. Anticipation is what happens when you have an Intelligent Agent. I know I'm going to Darwin-hell for speaking such blasphemy but I'm only repeating what the Times already printed. Please tell Pope Dawkins not to fire me from my college.

In addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils are widely seen by scientists as a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who hold a literal biblical view on the origins and development of life.

1. You're admitting that major transitions in evolution were previously unconfirmed-but-taught-in-public-schools.
2. When you say "religious creationists" don't you mean, "psycho-fundamentalist, snake-handling-creationists"? Or are you calling those of us who support Intelligent Design some kind of religious creationists?
3. I wasn't even aware that religious creationists were in the race so it seems weird that you're wasting time rebutting them. If ID isn't science, why go so far out of your way to throw down a challenge? I mean, you're not announcing a challenge to flat-Earthers, but that's because you know flat-Earthers aren't in the race. You just accidentally strengthened our position. You should go back to ignoring ID like you did ten years ago.

But on closer examination, scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but exhibiting changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — a predecessor thus of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

A fish has a wrist so now he's my grandfather. That's some serious anticipation. I mean, here's a WALKING FISH with LUNGS! Is this going to evolve into a human too?

The scientists described evidence in the forward fins of limbs in the making. There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders. The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile's, a neck, ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.


Here's why this whole fish-thing is gay. You can't know that the fins are limbs in the making or if the fins are fully functional and perfectly complete as is. It's also really suspect that an entire arm system would be evolving at the same time. Does a fish fin that has 10% progress in the digits, wrists, elbows and shoulders really have an advantage over his peers to help him get his genes into the next generation? If I have 10% of a shark tail growing out of my butt have I gained a swimming advantage? How about 1% of a shark fin? I'm sorry but this kind of Darwinism is just self-evidently dumb.

Plus if any "scientist" would bother reading Hugh Ross they would see that most of us in Intelligent Design actually strongly believe that some form of evolution occurred. So again, I don't agree with the Times that this is some death nail in our position. How exactly do these researchers know by looking at the Candadian fish's bones that it doesn't have the ability the information in its DNA to already be able to change from fins to a proto-wrist? They just presuppose Philosophical Naturalism and file all data accordingly.

The discovering scientists called the fossils the most compelling examples yet of an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition.


Wait, it's on the cusp or it's transforming? Make up your mind, this is supposed to be science.

In two reports in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, the science team led by Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago wrote, "The origin of limbs probably involved the elaboration and proliferation of features already present in the fins of fish such as Tiktaalik."

Probably. How probably?

Dr. Shubin, an evolutionary biologist, let himself go in an interview. "It's a really amazing remarkable intermediate fossil — it's like, holy cow," he enthused.


You'd think the guy was getting nervous at the lack of evidence they could press into use for their preferred conclusion. But nah, these guys are scientists. Or, as BIll Murray said in Ghostbusters, "Back off buddy. I'm a scientist."

But Tiktaalik is so clearly an intermediate "link between fishes and land vertebrates,"

Clearly an intermediate? What happened to probably?

they said, that it "might in time become as much an evolutionary icon as the proto-bird Archaeopteryx," which bridged the gap between reptiles, probably dinosaurs, and today's birds.

Probably dinosaurs?...or clearly? Clearly probably?

"Based on what we already know...


KNOW?! Probably clearly know.

...we have a very strong reason to think tetrapods evolved from lineages of fishes. This may be a critical phase in that transition that we haven't had before. A good fossil cuts through a lot of scientific argument."

Your faith in Darwinism cuts through a lot of scientific argument.

While Dr. Shubin's team played down the fossil's significance in the raging debate over Darwinian theory, which is opposed mainly by some conservative Christians in the United States

You mean, "conservative, fundamentalist, Bush-supporting, snake-handlin' Christians who used the Crusades and the Inquisition to take over the world and-

other scientists were not so reticent. They said this should undercut the creationists' argument that there is no evidence in the fossil record of one kind of creature becoming another kind.

Wait, before this Canadian fish weren't the "Creationists" correct? If there were so many fossils proving your theory why is this Canadian fish such big news?

Dr. Novacek responded in an interview: "We've got Archaeopteryx, an early whale that lived on land and now this animal showing the transition from fish to tetrapod. What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?"

You don't need more from the fossil record to believe in evolution and you didn't need this Canadian fish...nor did you need the whale and Archaeopteryx transitional forms. It's not about evidence with Darwinists and it never was.

It was not until July 2004, Dr. Shubin said, that "we hit the jackpot." They found several of the fishes in a quarry, their skeletons largely intact and in three dimensions. The large skull had the sharp teeth of a predator. It was attached to a neck, which allowed the fish the unfishlike ability to swivel its head.

"Some people think there are two cervical vertebrae [making a fish neck], other people think they don’t have any." - Frietson Galis, biologist at the Institute of Biology of Leiden University in The Netherlands.

Embedded in the pectoral fins were bones that compare to the upper arm, forearm and primitive parts of the hand of land-living animals.


Wow! A fish with digits, wrist and shoulders just like us. You'd think we might have a similar Architect. No! The fish-wrist can only mean one thing! There is no God! Yayyyyy!"

6 comments:

Jeffahn said...

Doug TenNapel may have helped create Earthworm Jim, but he clearly knows nothing about science.

Firstly, why is he attacking a news report? Why is he not attacking the actual scientific papers:

Ahlberg PE, Clack JA (2006) A firm step from water to land. Nature 440:747-749.

Daeschler EB, Shubin NH, Jenkins FA (2006) A Devonian tetrapod-like fish and the evolution of the tetrapod body plan. Nature 440:757-763.

Shubin NH, Daeschler EB, Jenkins FA (2006) The pectoral fin of Tiktaalik roseae and the origin of the tetrapod limb. Nature 440:764-771.

???

Secondly -well he links to Hugh Ross- I don't know if it's an attampt at comedy or not, but I'm sure his fellows at the DI would be mighty impressed with that.

Sheez.

Really weak.

Dwdxqyr!

creeper said...

What an amazingly ill-informed rant. I could fisk it in detail in the same style as TenNapel did, but that would assuredly be no less tiresome than his oh-so-entertaining "clearly/probably" gotchas etc.

He's acting as if this is the first transitional fossil ever found, or even the first piece of supporting evidence for the theory of evolution, or even a crucial one without which the theory of evolution would be in question.

"1. You're admitting that major transitions in evolution were previously unconfirmed-but-taught-in-public-schools."

Tiktaalik once again confirms the phylogenetic tree and common descent. Common descent is taught in public schools because there already is abundant evidence for it, as TenNapel, who apparently is an IDer, may possibly agree.

"2. When you say "religious creationists" don't you mean, "psycho-fundamentalist, snake-handling-creationists"? Or are you calling those of us who support Intelligent Design some kind of religious creationists?"

I don't know about the person who said this, but there are creationists who like to group IDers, YECs etc. under the label creationists. Not sure were the label "religious creationist" comes from or how it is supposed to differ from "creationist". Seems to me just about all creationists are religious creationists.

"3. I wasn't even aware that religious creationists were in the race so it seems weird that you're wasting time rebutting them. If ID isn't science, why go so far out of your way to throw down a challenge? I mean, you're not announcing a challenge to flat-Earthers, but that's because you know flat-Earthers aren't in the race. You just accidentally strengthened our position. You should go back to ignoring ID like you did ten years ago."

Good point. Some scientists think that ID (and certainly YEC) should be ignored. Other scientists think that ID and creationism are able to make inroads in public opinion because the scientific approach to studying evolution is not sufficiently promoted to the lay public. I don't think there is any harm in pointing out that current finds correspond to the predictions of the theory of evolution, but not those of YEC.

I don't know why a YEC would want to draw additional attention to Tiktaalik, since it further confirms common descent and falsifies YEC. An IDer could at least then debate the mechanism behind common descent, but a YEC can only be embarrassed by scientists predicting that a transitional fossil B that according to the theory of evolution should be found between fossils A and C, and can be found in strata Y, and then finding it. According to YEC, this should be impossible.

Anonymous said...

"Firstly, why is he attacking a news report? Why is he not attacking the actual scientific papers:"

Indeed. There was an example of that here with the fuss over Falcarius, but that at least involved some legitimate questions about the popularization of science (which I feel were answered adequately, although some may differ). That's not really the case here. In fact, you'll notice that when the Times article quotes scientists who are being all solemnly cautious and reserved - science being, in certain ways, a very conservative enterprise - he uses it as an occasion for mockery.

Why attack a news report? Perhaps he was unwilling or unable to read the actual papers - in which case there were the numerous blog posts that quickly appeared, often by actual scientists, discussing Tiktaalik in reference to both the Times and the scientific literature.

Certainly the focus on the account given by a daily newspaper with a general readership fits with ID creationism's (and the DI's) preoccupation with PR over substance. Regardless, the result is that TenNapel (and our host) fails to understand the actual claims scientists are making for Tiktaalik, the justification for making these claims, the way they fit within other lines of evidence, and etc. Radar and TenNapel refer to "the missing link," "your first missing link that connects fish to us," and so on. That's not actually the case; rather, Tiktaalik appears to drop in between other transitional fossils as part of the fish-tetrapod transition. Additionally, the fossil record is only one line of evidence linking fish to tetrapods. Others include similarities between our bodies, certain modern fish (both as distant descendents and analogues), genetic evidence, etc. It's a fascinating detetective story in which clues from all sorts of places are brought together, often through painstaking research. Don't think missing link - think missing puzzle piece.

Ok, to be fair, there are some points hidden in there about the Times' coverage and their framing of the story as part of the evolution-creationist 'debate'. Indeed, many pro-science advocates made similar points, along the lines of: look guys, this is a cool find, but it's not that special - it's really just what we expected to find. But the Times is a newspaper and it knows something that a lot of scientists and science fans don't get - most people don't really care. At the very least, they don't care about details and such, however exciting they may seem to the sciencey folk. They want narratives, human stories, conflict - not lots of verbiage just on a weird-lookin' fishapod. And the Times delivers, using the hot current events 'science and creationism, dukin' it out' frame. That's how it goes.

"You can't know that the fins are limbs in the making or if the fins are fully functional and perfectly complete as is."

Here he's missing the entire point: they're both.

". Does a fish fin that has 10% progress in the digits, wrists, elbows and shoulders really have an advantage over his peers to help him get his genes into the next generation?"

The problem with "10% progress" - as he points out with the imperefect use of "anticipate" - is that this is a matter of hindsight. We can see that Tiktaalik is part of the evolution of tetrapods, but for Tiky, that's in the future, and she's more 'concerned' with using some of her unusual traits to prosper in her environment. (Although frankly, 10% of shark tail growing out of my butt probably would help my swimming. A jellyfish growing out of my butt would probably help my swimming - it's so bad, nothing could make it worse! But imagining sticking bits of other animals together is a parody of evolution, on a par with 'why don't we see dogs give birth to cats?!' On the other hand, we could be serious - how about finger and toe webbing - which does show up sometimes?

"Plus if any "scientist" would bother . . . they would see that most of us in Intelligent Design actually strongly believe that some form of evolution occurred."

Ok, so why is Doug spending so much energy beating on poor Tiktaalik, scientists, evolution, and evolution ed.? After all, in theory ID is perfectly consistent with, say, aliens seeding the early earth with self-replicators as part of a science fair experiment. Why the frantic mockery?

"Here's why this whole fish-thing is gay."
Here's why you are a middle school boy?

"Wait, before this Canadian fish weren't the "Creationists" correct? If there were so many fossils proving your theory why is this Canadian fish such big news?"

See above. And it's a neat find, a nice confirmation, tells us all kind of stuff, no question. For some reason some folks imagined that this - a classic transitional fossil - would make creationists stop and think, since they're always demanding transitional fossils, etc. These silly folks imagined that these were real requests, that the creationist game is being played by rules of evidence and all. Everybody with any familiarity with creationism just waited for the press releases/ web pages / blog posts explaining why it had to be wrong wrong wrong.

And we were right. : (

"What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?"

Oh, silly Dr. Novacek! It's not about you or your evidence, honey! There's nothing you can do, because the creationists just don't care about you that way.

"Or are you calling those of us who support Intelligent Design some kind of religious creationists?"

"Wow! A fish with digits, wrist and shoulders just like us. You'd think we might have a similar Architect. No! The fish-wrist can only mean one thing! There is no God! Yayyyyy!"

Religious?! NO! What on earth would make me think such a thing?! Now, I know that (Republican, conservative) Judge Jones down in Dover had some crazy idea about how "[a] significant aspect of the IDM is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity," but come on now!

And again we come to the crux of the matter, the alpha and the omega of the creationism crusade - the obsession with the idea that evolution = no God.

Of course, Tiktaalik is completely silent about God. I won't say that there aren't a couple hardcore fundamentalist atheists going "Yay, more proof there is no God," but that's just so besides the point! What Tiktaalik tells us is one part of how one branch of fishes ended up coming out of the water, and eventually becoming everything from poodles to people. If you're religious, as some scientists are, that's a part of the story of God's (etc.) creation. If you're not, it's a part of the story of life on this amazing planet. Tiktaalik wasn't discovered to 'disprove God' any more than heliocentrism was.

I wish I could explain it to you. I'm sorry that I can't, not well enough, not ever, I'm afraid, well enough.

: (

Got to give TenNapel credit for not forgetting the rhetorical inversions, where scientists are the dogmatic fundamentalists trying to push completely unsupported hypotheses into public school classes.


"Philosophical Naturalism"

To the best of my knowledge this tactic comes from ID founder (and HIV denier) Philip Johnson. It's incorrect, of course. Philosophical or ontological or metaphysical naturalism is the claim that nature is all there is (although there have been philosophers who have claimed room for God within nature in this view). Methodological naturalism involves, as the name implies, methods - generally, working as if nature was all there is. This is what happens when, to refer to an earlier thread, Radar would build a bridge using physics and engineering, rather than prayer and revelation. It's how we often work in many aspects of practical everyday life. Science is really just a very formal and pumped-up version of one part of human existence - the part the involves finding out which berries were edible, or which hunting strategies worked better, etc. (which exists alongside another part involving dealing with there not being enough food, or if that berry your brother ate was poisonous, or the inherent uncertainty of whether things will work out, or why berry and bison and people are here, and how they relate to each other, and etc.)

To quote Pennock, "We have now seen that naturalism . .. [is[ rather a methodological rule that states a valid way for investigation to proceed . . . But is the methodological rule itself dogmatic? To say [this] . . . is to say that it is opinion put forward as true or valid on the grounds of authority rather than reason." [Does science do this?] . . . Certainly not. There is a simple and sound rationale for the principle based upon the requirements of scientific evidence.
Empirical testing relies fundamentally upon the lawful regularities of nature which science have been able to discover . . . For example, telescopic observations implicitly depend upon the laws governing optical phenomena. If we could not rely upon these laws - if, for example, even under the same conditions, telescopes occasionally magnified properly and at other times [improperly] . . . dependent, say, on the whims of some supernatural entity, we could not trust telescopic observations as evidence. The same problem would apply to any kind of observational data . . . without the constraint of lawful regularity, inductive evidential inference cannot get off the ground. Controlled, repeatable experimentation . . . would not be possible without the methodological assumption that supernatural entities do not intervene to negate lawful natural regularities.*

Of course, science is based upon a philosophical system, but not one that is extravagant speculation. Science operates by empirical principles of observational testing; hypotheses must be confirmed or disconfirmed by reference to empirical data. One supports a hypothesis by showing that consequences obtain that would follow if what is hypothesized were to be so in fact. [Reference to earlier discussion of how "Darwin spent most of The Origin of Species applying this procedure."] Supernatural theories, on the other hand, can give no guidance about what follows or does not follow from their supernatural components. For instance, nothing definite can be said about those processes that would connect a given effect with the will of a supernatural agent - God might simply say the word and zap anything into or out of existence. Furthermore, in any situation, any pattern (or lack of pattern) of data is compatible with the general hypothesis of the existence of a supernatural agent unconstrained by natural law. [Discussion of how ID creationism is even worse in this regard than creation science, which at least holds forth some testible claims from a supernatural core, while IDC carefully avoids make any such claims.]" (emphasis added) (Robert T. Pennock, Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism, pp. 194-6.

To be fair, TenNapel's hypothesis that the multiple lines of evidence - including fossil evidence such as Tiktaalik is evidence of similar design by a similar Architect isn't necessarily supernatural, since in theory the Architect might be an individual or race of highly advanced genetically engineerin' aliens (whether any IDC advocate actually is so open-minded is an open question at best). However, such a view is not well supported by the evidence - we don't see, as far as we can guess, what we'd expect to see in that case. The same goes for the hypothesis that Tiktaalik came genetically prepacked (presumably by those GE aliens, or who knows what?) - it's not supported by evidence. Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, led to one small, specific hypothesis - there was something then that looked something like this (and we'd probably have a chance of finding it here (region of worldbased on age of exposed rock) in places that indicate this (areas identifiable as a the kind of fossil environment where such a creature would presumably live).

And it was.

* You see why we don't tend to do so well in public debates (and why creationism loses almost every time it leaves the auditorium for the courtroom)

Anonymous said...

"He's acting as if this is the first transitional fossil ever found, or even the first piece of supporting evidence for the theory of evolution, or even a crucial one without which the theory of evolution would be in question. "

He may believe this is the case. I don't want anyone going, oh, you convinced me, evolution is true because 99.8% (or whatever) of scientists in relevent fields say it is - that's dogmatic (although this is important in terms of school issues, and is a decent rule of thumb). I would want people looking into the various arguments and evidence for evolution, to the best of their time/ability/desire. If they come to the conclusion that it's not adequate for our best (scientific) guess so far, fair enough - maybe they're even onto something. But when you have people going after various straw-Darwins, failing to correctly represent what they're criticizing even at the level one might expect from a flippant blog post,* it indicates either some degree of bad faith, or lack of knowledge.

* Even without knowing that for our close relatives a big grin is a threat display, it's obvious that humor can be an~ aggressive act, despite claims of 'but it's only joking /can't they take a joke /etc (think of non-reciprocical teasing among children). To my metaphorical ear TenNapel sounds the kind of funny that is screamingly hostile (if he was a chimp, I imagine he would be peeling his lips back and exposing his canines), possibly because he sees Tiktaalik as a threat to his belief system. But that's just a feeling; I could be completely wrong.

And in case it wasn't obvious, that long, rambly 10:01 comment was mine,

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

""Tik" has bones in its fin lobes that are not attached to the main skeletal structure. No supportee-no walkee. "

Nobody thinks Tiky was going to win any races (except compared to all the other fish), or go trotting about all over land. As far as I understand it, they may have pushed themselves up above or out of the water, ie, pulling themself up onto shore for a bit, perhaps either to escape predation or be predation.

More importantly, as Martin of The Lancelet mentions (when he isn't noting that both the AIG and the DI seem to be responding primarily to the Times article - pointing out that "Unfortunately, the media's response to the discovery is not quite the same as the palaeontological community's interpretation of it" and "This has the clear implication that the authors are more interested in the public's perception of the matter and have no scientific interest in the actual fossil material itself. As if that needed to be said. It is another manifistation of that odd species of thought that is creationist solipsism" ):

"Presumably this is about how the shoulder girdle lacks a direct structural connection to the vertebral column. In fishes, the front fins attach to the shoulder girdle which is embedded in the tissues and muscles of the body. Well, guess what? It's exactly the same way in almost all primitive tetrapods, including Ichthyostega andAcanthostega, the taxa widely held to be the next plesions up fromTiktaalik. In fact, this is general for most tetrapods, where a bony structural link to the ribs or vertebral column is the exception, not the rule."

Just in case the guy apparently writing his Ph.D. dissertation on the evolution of lobe-finned fish doesn't know his tetrapod anatomy (the perils of overspecialization! : )), I tried to confirm this via the internet. So far everything I can find talks about the shoulder (or pectoral) girdle as being detached from the head in tetrapods, nothing about connections to the axial skeleton (which is, on the other hand, the case with the pelvic girdle in tetrapods vs. fishies - annoyingly, we don;t have one for Tiktaalik, I think - but it will be interesting to see how it's built if we find it.)

-Dan S.

A Hermit said...

The creationists will always have the "no missing lnk" canard to play with. Every time a so called "transitional species" like Tiktaalik is found they will point out that ist't a fish or a land animal, so there are links missing on either side of it, as it were. "Where's the link between the fish and Tiktaalik?" They will cry. "between Tlktaalek and salamders?"

They don't understand that all species are transitional in some degree. Unless they are shown every fossil of every individual of every species that ever existed they will refuse to acknowledge the obvious.