To: Marty Leipzig 940131 03:%:00 Subject: Whale With Legs MARTY LEIPZIG to ROB FARGHER, 01
From: Scott Faust
To: Marty Leipzig 94-01-31 03:%:00
Subject: Whale With Legs
MARTY LEIPZIG to ROB FARGHER, 01-14-94, re: "There's no Law Against Ev"
> As such, have you seen the latest from Phil Gingerich? He's
> found, in the Eocene Siwaliks of Pakistan, a well preserved
> critter which he has dubbed "_Ambulocetus_". It is a perfect
> intermediate between Early Eocene terrestrial mesonychids and
> protocetids. [...]
> From the early descriptions of the beast, it appears to be an
> _Archeopteryx_-ian intermediate; with an equal share of
> terrestrial and marine adaptations.
> Can't wait for the creationists to have to chew on this one.
Hehehe. Problem is that they've backed themselves into a corner,
for so long having ridiculed the notion that pelvic elements of
modern whales are vestiges of a four limbed -- and ultimately
terrestrial -- state.
I don't know how Duane Gish could possibly top the performance he
gave back when that basilosaurus with complete (if diminutive) rear
limbs was discovered in Egypt. The find seemingly threw him into
such a state of shock (stupidity?) that he stood up at an
international creationism convention and announced that _B. isis_
probably wasn't a mammal at all, but a reptile!!!
Indeed, in a debate style atmosphere, one can make a pretty good
case for the existence of transitional forms by focusing just on
the shucks 'n jives of the very folks who claim they don't exist.
The above, for example, isn't the first case where Gish has had
trouble distinguishing mammals and reptiles. In an echo debate
awhile back were I cited the abundant evidence for the
reptile-mammal transition, with emphasis on the evolution of the
mammalian ear ossicles, I got quoted back Gish's famous claim that
all reptiles, living or fossil, have at least four bones in the
lower jaw and one ear ossicle, whereas all mammals, living or
fossil, have a single lower jaw bone (the dentary) and three
ossicles, and that there are no intermediates.
I knew this was hooey, but had to pull down my copy of _Evolution:
Challenge of the Fossil Record_ to see how Gish "maneuvered" his way
around the evidence. I discovered that (among other tendentious
perambulations) he consistently referred to the primitive mammal
_Morganucodon_, which does retain a number of the reptilian bones
in the lower jaw (although they're loosely attached and much
reduced), as a reptile. He provides the reader no indication that
his usage is nonstandard (excepting a quotation which refers to
_M._ as a mammal), and all of Gish's references that I was able to
check in my own library classified _M._ as a mammal.
Gish even attempts to deny _Morganucodon_ a dentary/squamosal
joint. Does Gish consider the well developed condyle and glenoid
exhibited by this form a superfluous ornamentation developed by the
creator for his amusement? But then such speculation assumes that
he might have consulted an actual fossil or cast, rather than
simply scanning the literature for suitable sound bites.
Then there are the cases where creationists assiduously deny that a
given form is transitional between categories A and B, but can't
agree among themselves (or sometimes, it would seem, even -with-
themselves) as to which of the two categories it unambiguously
The classic case of such backhanded attestations to transitional
status is _Archaeopteryx_, with Gish insisting that it is "100%
bird," whereas a few other creationists have latched onto Fred
Hoyle's claim that its simply a dinosaur fossil with hoaxed feather
_Homo erectus_ seems to present particular problems for
creationists. Most followers of the crevo debate know that Duane
Gish of the ICR has claimed that _erectus_ is an ape, whereas ICR
president Henry Morris has declared the form to be human.
Admittedly Gish was directing his attention to Asian specimens,
whereas Morris was concerned with African specimens, but this does
no good as the gross morphology is the same. But then I recently
came across a similar example of indecisiveness about the status of
_H. erectus_, in this case involving sequential editions of the
same book with the same authors!
Ronnie Hastings and I gave a presentation for our local skeptics
group on the creationist textbook _Of Pandas and People_, by
Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon. I gave a simple account of the
book's various errors and misrepresentations, along with a more
detailed critique of the chapter on biochemical homologies (which
_Pandas_ cribbed from Michael Denton's _Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis_). I only acquired the second edition of the book in time
to quickly confirm that my criticisms applied equally to it.
Ronnie, however, had gone through the second edition more
thoroughly, and based his presentation on a review of the
differences between it and the previous version.
One of the more interesting differences concerned _H. erectus_.
The first edition strongly (though not unequivocally) favored the
view that _H. erectus_ was human. It suggests that:
"Perhaps _Homo erectus_ and _Homo sapiens_ are really a single
species, and, like Neanderthal man, _Homo erectus_ should be
reclassified under _Homo sapiens. It is never wise to be
dogmatic about our interpretations; it is especially so here,
since the data allow so many interpretations." (p. 112)
"_H. erectus_ and _H. sapiens_ are so similar that it is
possible to consider them as one human species as shown."
The second edition, however, claims, in direct contradiction to the
first, that "[_H. erectus_] had significant anatomical differences
from modern man that have prevented its classification as _H.
sapiens_." (p. 110)
The real clincher, however, comes in the conclusion... In this
case it is baldly stated, without considering the possibility of
alternative "design proponent" interpretations (apparently ignoring
both the conclusions of the first edition as well as its caution
about "dogmatic ... interpretations"), that:
"Design adherents, however, regard _H. erectus_, as well as the
other hominids discussed in this section, as little more than
apes, and point instead to the abrupt appearance of the culture
and patterns of behavior which distinguish man from the apes."
* SLMR 2.1a * Evolutionists have longer phylogenies.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank