Casey Luskin embarrasses himself again

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Once again, the Discovery Institute stumbles all over itself to crow victory over evolution, led by the inspiring figure of that squeaking incompetent, Casey Luskin. This time, what has them declaring the bankruptcy of evolution is the discovery of tetrapod trackways in Poland dating back 395 million years. I know, it's peculiar; every time a scientist finds something new and exciting about our evolutionary history, the bozos at the DI rush in to announce that it means the demise of Darwinism. Luskin has become the Baghdad Bob of creationism.

The grounds for this announcement is the bizarre idea that somehow, older footprints invalidate the status of Tiktaalik as a transitional form, making all the excitement about that fossil erroneous. As we've come to expect, though, all it really tells us is that Casey Luskin didn't comprehend the original announcement about Tiktaalik, and still doesn't understand what was discovered in Poland.

The grounds for this announcement is the bizarre idea that somehow, older footprints invalidate the status of Tiktaalik as a transitional form, making all the excitement about that fossil erroneous. As we've come to expect, though, all it really tells us is that Casey Luskin didn't comprehend the original announcement about Tiktaalik, and still doesn't understand what was discovered in Poland.

The fossil tetrapod footprints indicate Tiktaalik came over 10 million years after the existence of the first known true tetrapod. Tiktaalik, of course, is not a tetrapod but a fish, and these footprints make it very difficult to presently argue that Tiktaalik is a transitional link between fish and tetrapods. It's not a "snapshot of fish evolving into land animals," because if this transition ever took place it seems to have occurred millions of years before Tiktaalik.

Errm, no. Shubin and Daeschler are smart guys who understand what fossils tell us, and they never, ever argued that Tiktaalik's status as a transitional form depended on slotting it in precisely in a specific chronological time period as a 'link' between two stages in the evolution of a lineage. A fossil is representative of a range of individuals that existed over a window of time; a window that might be quite wide. They would never express the kind of simplistic, naive view of the relationship of a fossil that the DI clowns seem to have. For instance, here's a picture of the relationship between various fossils, as published in Nature when Tiktaalik was announced.

tiktaalik_phylo.jpg
The lineage leading to modern tetrapods includes several fossil animals that form a morphological bridge between fishes and tetrapods. Five of the most completely known are the osteolepiform Eusthenopteron; the transitional forms Panderichthys and Tiktaalik; and the primitive tetrapods Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. The vertebral column of Panderichthys is poorly known and not shown. The skull roofs (left) show the loss of the gill cover (blue), reduction in size of the postparietal bones (green) and gradual reshaping of the skull. The transitional zone (red) bounded by Panderichthys and Tiktaalik can now be characterized in detail. These drawings are not to scale, but all animals are between 75 cm and 1.5 m in length. They are all Middle–Late Devonian in age, ranging from 385 million years (Panderichthys) to 365 million years (Acanthostega, Ichthyostega). The Devonian–Carboniferous boundary is dated to 359 million years ago.

Notice what you don't see? They didn't publish this as a direct, linear relationship that could be disrupted by a minor anachronism. It does not look like this:

Ichthyostega

Acanthostega

Tiktaalik

Panderichthys

Eusthenopteron

These are all cousins branching off the main stem that led to modern tetrapods. Tiktaalik was almost certainly not our direct ancestor, but a distant cousin that was representative of a transitional state in the branching cloud of species that emerged out of the Devonian. And the authors of these papers knew that all along, weren't shy about stating it, and if they made an error about anything, it would be in assuming that a gang of self-styled scholars who claim to be presenting a serious rebuttal to evolutionary ideas would actually already understand a basic concept in paleontology.

You would think Luskin would have also read the Niedzwiedzki paper that describes this new trackway, which rather clearly describes the implications of the discovery. It does not declare Tiktaalik to be uninteresting, irrelevant to understanding the transition between fish and tetrapods, or that Tiktaalik is no longer a transitional form. It clearly is.

No, here's the new picture of tetrapod evolution that Niedzwiedzki and others have drawn. At the top is a diagram of the relationships as understood before the discovery, at the bottom is the new order.

clad1.jpegclad2.jpeg
Phylogenetic implications of tracks. a, Phylogeny of selected elpistostegids and stem tetrapods fitted to Devonian stratigraphy. The grey bar indicates replacement of elpistostegids by tetrapods in body fossil record. b, Effect of adding the Zachełmie tracks to the phylogeny: the ghost ranges of tetrapods and elpistostegids are greatly extended and the 'changeover' is revealed to be an artefact. Pan, Panderichthys; Tik, Tiktaalik; Elp, Elpistostege; Liv, Livoniana; Elg, Elginerpeton; Ven, Ventastega; Met, Metaxygnathus; Aca, Acanthostega; Ich, Ichthyostega; Tul, Tulerpeton. ANSP 21350 is an unnamed humerus described in ref 17. The bars are approximate measures of the uncertainty of dating. These are not statistical error bars but an attempt to reflect ongoing debate.

Look closely.

Hey, the branches are the same! The relationships are unchanged! What has changed is that the branches of the tree go back deeper in time, and rather than a sharp changeover, there was a more prolonged period of history in which, clearly, fish, fishapods, and tetrapods coexisted, which isn't surprising at all. Tetrapod evolution was spread out over a longer period of time than was previously thought, but this is simply a quantitative shift, not a qualitative change in our understanding of the relationships of these animals. It also says that there is the potential for many more fossils out there over a bigger spread of time than was expected, which is something we can look forward to in future research. Not research from the Discovery Institute, of course. Research from real scientists.

Now also, please look at the b phylogeny above, and tell me where the evidence for Intelligent Design creationism in this new figure lies. Perhaps you can see how a cladogram illustrating the evolutionary relationships between a number of fossils challenges our understanding of evolutionary history, because I don't see it. If anything, it affirms the evolution, not the Sudden Appearance by Divine Fiat, of tetrapods.

For extra credit, explain where in diagram b of the Niedzwiedzki paper it shows that Tiktaalik has been "blown out of the water," as Luskin puts it. Should they have scribbled in a frowny face or a skull and dagger next to the Tiktaalik bar, or perhaps have drawn a big red "X" over it? Because I can guarantee you that Niedzwiedzki and coauthors still consider Tiktaalik a transitional form that is part of the story of tetrapod evolution. All they've done is put it on the end of a longer branch. Nothing has changed; Tiktaalik is still a revealing fossil that shows how certain vertebrates switched from fins to limbs.

Finally, just for fun, maybe you can try to explain how the "Big Tent" of Intelligent Design creationism is going to explain how the Young Earth creationists in their camp — you know, the ones that think the planet is less than ten thousand years old — are going to find it heartening that a fossil discovery has pushed one stage in tetrapod evolution back farther by another 20 million years. That's 2 x 103 times greater than the entire span of time they allow for the existence of the universe, all spent in shaping a fin into a foot. There ought to be some feeble expression of cognitive dissonance out of that crowd, but I suspect they won't even notice; as Luskin shows, they aren't particularly deep thinkers.


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.

Niedzwiedzki G, Szrek P, Narkiewicz K, Narkiewicz M, Ahlberg PE (2010) Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland. Nature 463(7277): 43-48.

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

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I think this comment on “Casey Luskin embarrasses himself again” on The Panda’s Thumb blog perfectly summarises the entire tetrapod-tracks-20-million-years-before-Tiktaalik-disproves-evolution argument that the Discovery Institute has... Read More

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Casey Luskin says something that should embarrass himself when talking about evolution. In other news: it was cold last night at the North Pole, water is wet, and Casey Luskin is incapable of embarrassment when talking about evolution no matter how stupid and ignorant what he says is.

Don’t forget, Casey’s target audience does not include rational, thinking adults. His target audience are the pulsating masses of pasty-faced, god-bothering fundies who need to be fed something occasionally to keep their minds numb. Casey is very good at that.

Being a fool and a liar merely add to his cache’ among the credulous.

waldteufel said:

Don’t forget, Casey’s target audience does not include rational, thinking adults…

Actually, to be fair, some of his target audience are rational, thinking adults: it’s just that such people have been trained and conditioned to be hyper-credulous towards anti-science “skeptics,” and fellow party-members, and trained and conditioned to be irrationally overly skeptical of scientists and powerful Democrats.

When I first read the trackway story, my Inner Creationist immediately came up with the “But it upsets the timetable and disproves evolution!” schtick. These people are so fucking predictable.

Stanton -

Actually, to be fair, some of his target audience are rational, thinking adults:

it’s just that such people have been trained and conditioned to be hyper-credulous towards anti-science “skeptics,” and fellow party-members, and trained and conditioned to be irrationally overly skeptical of scientists and powerful Democrats.

While I do strongly agree with you that some members of the Fox News/Sarah Palin/Discovery Institute/Liberty University/etc ideological cluster sometimes engage in short term rational thought, I have broken your quote in two.

I have done this to illustrate that it borders on a self-contradiction.

How trained to be irrational on a wide variety of issues do they need to be, before the generalized term “rational thinking adults” is no longer applicable?

Incidentally, as others have noticed -

1) Fossil discoveries give us the minimum age of a lineage, so new discoveries that extend the age of a lineage in a reasonable way are always possible.

2) Anytime the above happens, creationists will claim that evolution has been “disproved”.

3) Indeed, any time any new discovery expands, clarifies, and marginally modifies science, creationists will always be prone to claim that it “disproves” science.

Their rigid authoritarian minds apparently cannot tolerate the idea of a growing, developing body of knowledge.

Major evolutionary transitions that improve reproductive success ofter reoccur. The transition of mammals from terrestrial to aquatic: whales, manatee/dugong, seal, sea lions (eared seals), walrus, otter, beaver, muskrat, polar bear, etc. Flight has arisen in insects, reptiles (pterosaurs), birds (dinosaurs), mammals, with gliding also in modern mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Yesterday I was going through my files of ID/creationist materials I have accumulated over the years since the 1970s. These include the works of Morris, Gish, Parker, and the whole gang at ICR.

I also have newspaper clippings from various newspapers in which long articles by creationists were printed.

It is useful sometimes to look back over the record of ID/creationist hysteria to see the patterns in their propaganda.

Nothing in Luskin’s hysterical hype has changed from the past. Every time a new discovery was announced by the science community, the ID/creationist crowd trotted out the same gleeful pronouncement that Darwinism has failed again.

The current set of tactics in politics about health care, about global warming, and about terrorism are coming from the current Right Wing dominated Republican Party. These religious fanatics all drink the same Cool-Aid, and they have taken over a major political party to advance their agenda.

Obviously there are interests with large amounts of money that have discovered this cesspool of ignorance and are vigorously stirring it. And the news media love it. This is really not funny.

If you would like a basic primer on creationist arguments, get a copy of Criswell’s “Did Man Just Happen”, published in the mid-1950’s. It is still quite current!

Mike, it couldn’t have happened if the Anything For A Buck Party hadn’t heard Ka-CHING! every time they pandered to the radical right.

Answers in Genesis has made exactly the same argument:

But the discovery presents a major problem for the evolutionary status of Tiktaalik and similar fossils, which supposedly date back to around 370 to, at most, 380 million years ago. If Tiktaalik represents the earliest adaptation of sea life for land walking, then how was Niedźwiedzki’s finding—which he calls “an animal with four limbs, unique for true tetrapods”—walking across Poland almost ten million years earlier?

Case has a position as a docent waiting for him in Petersburg when the Disco ‘Tute folds.

Mike Elzinga said: The current set of tactics in politics.…coming from the current Right Wing… taken over a major political party to advance their agenda…interests with large amounts of money..

viscerally agree, however the same is said in retort about evolution, dems, climate change… that it is a self-interested, $ driven conspiracy to guide things away from something good.

which begs to me wonder, is it pathological projection wrapped in Dunning-Kruger effect? or is there some type of logical (i should say, dependable) thought pattern that traces their train of thought and allows me to understand why they simply refuse to accept evidence?

I can’t help chiming in that dear Casey is a classic Tortucan (see the Ill Wind in Tortuca thread) so we don’t need to attribute over lying to his mental kit. Some years ago when he was just finishing his “geological” studies in college I asked him if he knew of the term Lagerstatten and he didn’t, in much the same way Stephen Meyer couldn’t get a grip on the implications of fossil preservation forensics when he was still purveying his wares at Whitworth College here in Spokane.

That Luskin falls into the same arguments as AiG is hardly surprising. There is only one way of thinking badly so the identity of the two trains comes with the territory. The inability of ID to distinguish itself methodologically from YEC is both cognitive and political: both approach the data with an apologetic style fueled by power MHBS modules, while the reluctance to apply their own Wedge splitting to their own side means no Discovery Institute denison will ever be caught dead showing in what respect their reasoning differs from them by criticizing them and consequently giving aid and comfort to evolution by dumping on them.

In venturing so stridently in areas where he has insufficient expertise to tread, Luskin is a good candidate for the Kent Hovind of ID award.

The sort of thing that we are seeing more of out of the Discovery Institute is more along the lines of standard creationism, which is to say, naysaying based on the outright misrepresentation of scientific results as “disproofs” of evolution. Ultimately, much of what is presented falls under the heading of “out-of-context” quoting or cherrypicking of results.

If the DI keeps this up, the sheer volume of standard creationist material will overwhelm any of the stuff that their allegedly more scientific participants (Behe/Dembski/Wells) put out.

RBH said:

Answers in Genesis has made exactly the same argument:

But the discovery presents a major problem for the evolutionary status of Tiktaalik and similar fossils, which supposedly date back to around 370 to, at most, 380 million years ago. If Tiktaalik represents the earliest adaptation of sea life for land walking, then how was Niedźwiedzki’s finding—which he calls “an animal with four limbs, unique for true tetrapods”—walking across Poland almost ten million years earlier?

Case has a position as a docent waiting for him in Petersburg when the Disco ‘Tute folds.

How can an argument from Answers in Genesis even contain the phrase “then how was Niedźwiedzki’s finding…walking across Poland almost ten million years earlier?” when they assert that there was no ten million years earlier?

stevaroni said:

How can an argument from Answers in Genesis even contain the phrase “then how was Niedźwiedzki’s finding…walking across Poland almost ten million years earlier?” when they assert that there was no ten million years earlier?

If they take it for granted in the course of making the argument “Evolutionism is internally inconsistent!” See? Those evolutionists can’t even get their own dates right.

PZ Myers wrote:

For instance, here’s a picture of the relationship between various fossils, as published in Nature when Tiktaalik was announced.

[ladderlike phylogeny illustration snipped]

[its caption] The lineage leading to modern tetrapods includes several fossil animals that form a morphological bridge between fishes and tetrapods. …

Notice what you don’t see? They didn’t publish this as a direct, linear relationship that could be disrupted by a minor anachronism.

The figure is from the Nature News and Views article that accompanied the original Tiktaalik paper. It was by Per Ahlberg and Jennifer Clack, major researchers in that field. The tree shows branching of each fossil from a lineage, but it has a ladderlike form that is easy for the reader to misunderstand as a Great Chain of Being.

Biologists ought to work harder to avoid feeding this misconception. Ladderlike trees are all too common in the literature. They are an artifact of our interest in one of the species. If I were (say) utterly fascinated by the Rhesus Macacque and drew a phylogeny of primates, but for each lineage splitting off the one that leads to the Rhesus Macacque I included only one descendant, then for apes I might have only one ape, and for New World monkeys only one monkey. The result would be ladderlike and appear to be a triumphal march to the Rhesus Macacque, with apes merely a stage along the way.

harold said:

Stanton -

Actually, to be fair, some of his target audience are rational, thinking adults:

it’s just that such people have been trained and conditioned to be hyper-credulous towards anti-science “skeptics,” and fellow party-members, and trained and conditioned to be irrationally overly skeptical of scientists and powerful Democrats.

While I do strongly agree with you that some members of the Fox News/Sarah Palin/Discovery Institute/Liberty University/etc ideological cluster sometimes engage in short term rational thought, I have broken your quote in two.

I have done this to illustrate that it borders on a self-contradiction.

How trained to be irrational on a wide variety of issues do they need to be, before the generalized term “rational thinking adults” is no longer applicable?

Incidentally, as others have noticed -

1) Fossil discoveries give us the minimum age of a lineage, so new discoveries that extend the age of a lineage in a reasonable way are always possible.

2) Anytime the above happens, creationists will claim that evolution has been “disproved”.

3) Indeed, any time any new discovery expands, clarifies, and marginally modifies science, creationists will always be prone to claim that it “disproves” science.

Their rigid authoritarian minds apparently cannot tolerate the idea of a growing, developing body of knowledge.

That is because their only source of information is a stagnant, decaying, rigid body of ignorance. The two don’t mix well.

So basically the “great minds” of creationism have come up with the argument:

If tetrapods evolved from Tiktaalik, why are there still tiktaaliks around [10 million years later]?

It seems to me I have heard this before somewhere.…

PZ Myers Wrote:

Now also, please look at the b phylogeny above, and tell me where the evidence for Intelligent Design creationism in this new figure lies.…

Finally, just for fun, maybe you can try to explain how the “Big Tent” of Intelligent Design creationism is going to explain how the Young Earth creationists in their camp — you know, the ones that think the planet is less than ten thousand years old — are going to find it heartening that a fossil discovery has pushed one stage in tetrapod evolution back farther by another 20 million years.

C’mon, you know exactly how they’ll spin it. If you take the figures out of context (and that’s what they do with everything) it looks like the “trees” keep getting closer to an “evolutionary lawn” (courtesy of Charlie Wagner). At this rate, in a few years “Darwinists” will have to concede that all the “branching” occurred in one big “explosion” “a long time ago.”

As for the YECs, I see 2 diverse groups of YEC that buys the DI’s concession to mainstream chronology. One is the hopeless literalist who will just pray that the DI “takes the next step and sees the light.” The other is simply math-challenged, and doesn’t even process the numbers.

The important thing is that they will spin different stories depending on which groups they think are more likely to read and understand their spin. Most rank-and-file creationists will simply not follow the technical stuff, so the won’t see how they misinterpreted/misrepresented it. They’ll just seek out a few soothing anti-“Darwinism” sound bites, then run to AiG or Dr. Dino to tell them what they really want to hear.

harold said:

How trained to be irrational on a wide variety of issues do they need to be, before the generalized term “rational thinking adults” is no longer applicable?

I know I sound contradictory, but, I say that because I’ve encountered such people. I’ve met and spoken with otherwise normal, intelligent people who, upon hearing evolution (or any other hated strain of science), turn into ranting godbots. I’ve also met people who are simply overly skeptical of actual science and scientists, and that the Discovery Institute’s schmaltzy lie about being oppressed strikes a sympathetic chord with them.

Stanton said:

I’ve met and spoken with otherwise normal, intelligent people who, upon hearing evolution (or any other hated strain of science), turn into ranting godbots.

That trips a memory, for me. An unauthorised portrait of Adolf Hitler, made by Klaus Richter in 1941, was painted from a rapid sketch the artist made of Hitler’s face at the moment when he heard the word “Jew”. It shows a face gone rigid and staring. The artist described the expression as “demonic and defensive”. It occurs to me, looking at it (it is the frontispiece of “Adolf Hitler: The Psychopathic God” by Robert G L Waite) that Stanton is describing the same reaction. Something about the word or the concept has disengaged the intellect and tripped - what? - an automatic mental response on a level below the conscious mind.

The only cause that I can imagine for this is overwhelming psychological need. That would be true for Hitler, I think. But for millions of modern Americans, and others?

Dave Luckett said:

The only cause that I can imagine for this is overwhelming psychological need. That would be true for Hitler, I think. But for millions of modern Americans, and others?

I don’t know yet: I’m not yet in a position to interview millions of modern American creationists and those sympathetic to Creationism to find out.

Stanton said:

harold said:

How trained to be irrational on a wide variety of issues do they need to be, before the generalized term “rational thinking adults” is no longer applicable?

I know I sound contradictory, but, I say that because I’ve encountered such people. I’ve met and spoken with otherwise normal, intelligent people who, upon hearing evolution (or any other hated strain of science), turn into ranting godbots. I’ve also met people who are simply overly skeptical of actual science and scientists, and that the Discovery Institute’s schmaltzy lie about being oppressed strikes a sympathetic chord with them.

There seems to be something about strongly held beliefs that short out what Carl Sagan referred to as our Baloney Detection Kits. Case in point, my mom has a few friends who are devout Mormons. About 90% of the time, they’re highly intelligent, rational people who work as lawyers, doctors, and bankers. But bring up the story of how Mormonism was formed (for those who haven’t heard it, Jedediah Smith found two golden tablets Jesus hid in the Eastern United States that were written in 17th century English, copied them down to create the Book of Mormon, then managed to lose both tablets before anyone else saw them). Now, most people here probably have our Baloney Detection Kits ringing at about the same level that they do when we get an email that begins with “I have reseived yor name from list of rispectid Amrican Busyness Men,” but to a Mormon, the response is “Yes, isn’t the story amazing?”

Leszek said:

So basically the “great minds” of creationism have come up with the argument:

If tetrapods evolved from Tiktaalik, why are there still tiktaaliks around [10 million years later]?

It seems to me I have heard this before somewhere.…

Haha, exactly, exactly right. You win comment of the week, in my personal book.

Dave Luckett said:

Stanton said:

I’ve met and spoken with otherwise normal, intelligent people who, upon hearing evolution (or any other hated strain of science), turn into ranting godbots.

That trips a memory, for me. An unauthorised portrait of Adolf Hitler, made by Klaus Richter in 1941, was painted from a rapid sketch the artist made of Hitler’s face at the moment when he heard the word “Jew”. It shows a face gone rigid and staring. The artist described the expression as “demonic and defensive”. It occurs to me, looking at it (it is the frontispiece of “Adolf Hitler: The Psychopathic God” by Robert G L Waite) that Stanton is describing the same reaction. Something about the word or the concept has disengaged the intellect and tripped - what? - an automatic mental response on a level below the conscious mind.

The only cause that I can imagine for this is overwhelming psychological need. That would be true for Hitler, I think. But for millions of modern Americans, and others?

I think this is exactly what happens, Dave. I can’t show statistical proof, but my personal experiences of Christian evangelical indoctrination seems to conform to the idea that all of the belief system is predicated on fulfilling a psychological need. Evangelical faith especially is based upon “experience” not evidence, and much thought and effort goes into creating situations in which the inductee will experience euphoric emotions and associate them with the specific religious group in question.

After enough “getting high on Jesus” moments, the inductee is hooked, just like any addict, and will defend every element of the faith for fear of being deprived of the next fix.

Dave Luckett -

at the moment when he heard the word “Jew”. It shows a face gone rigid and staring

As I have mentioned in recent threads, I think that an underlying concern with the social ranking of demographic groups is a major factor that drives Americans to the science denial/authoritarian/war-promoting/right wing economics ideology cluster, which is currently referred to, somewhat inaccurately, as “conservative”.

One interesting thing is that in the United States, in any general forum that is not exclusively the domain of one political group, simple neutral statement of a fact about evolution, climate data, US demographics with regard to such things as income and incarceration, contraception, Biblical scholarship, opinion among serious economists, or a wide variety of other issues, will predictably provoke rage reactions.

I’m not talking about opinions. I’m talking about statement of fact.

I’ve actually noticed that since my college years, although in the past I was merely amused and puzzled by it.

A large number of Americans obey a rigid ideology that literally requires denial of facts.

So the neutral statement of a fact is instantly presumed to be equivalent to the advocacy of a social/political opinion.

For example, in the context of evolution, imagine if you posted “Tiktaalik shows certain anatomic features which are intermediate between features seen in fish and features seen in modern tetrapods” on a creationist site. That’s literally a neutral statement of fact, but one can easily imagine the reaction.

harold said:

For example, in the context of evolution, imagine if you posted “Tiktaalik shows certain anatomic features which are intermediate between features seen in fish and features seen in modern tetrapods” on a creationist site. That’s literally a neutral statement of fact, but one can easily imagine the reaction.

You mean something along the lines of this?

“ZOMG!!!111 Evil evilutionists admit they were lying all along about ev1lution!!!

RBH said:

Answers in Genesis has made exactly the same argument:

And yet they list the following argument that should never be used:

If we evolved from apes, apes shouldn’t exist today. (In an evolutionary worldview, mankind did not evolve from apes but from an apelike ancestor, from which both humans and apes of today supposedly evolved.)

And yet it is the exact same argument that you quoted them as using for tetrapod evolution. They have also used the same argument in the context of feathered-dinosaurs:

Complicating matters even further is the fact that true birds have been found among the Liaoning province fossils in the same layers as their presumed dinosaur ancestors. The obvious bird fossil Confuciusornis sanctus, for example, has long slender tail feathers resembling those of a modern scissor-tail flycatcher. Two taxa (Caudipteryx and Protarchaeopteryx) that were thought to be dinosaurs with true feathers are now generally conceded to be flightless birds.11

But who says the creationism needs to be consistent?

Casey Luskin can’t be ashamed by anything.

That would require a sense of shame.

Whether that implicates the “moral superiority” espoused by advocates of Inscrutable Design is left as an exercise for the student.

Robert Byers writes: “The platypus is just a boring creature that at some point adapted a few details that it needed to survive.”

“Boring” is in the eye of the beholder. The platypus’ electrical probe of a bill would excite any electrical engineer. Oh, and watch your teleology. If an animal “needs something to survive,” it doesn’t just go out and “adapt” something. It’s weak explanations like this that make creationists reject evolution. (Well, there’s also that Bible thingee, but that’s another issue.)

Pay no attention to Byers. It only gratifies him.

Robert wrote:

“Mammals are not mammals because of biological heritage but because of these creatures need these feathers then were used to define them. If you need it you got it. Dinosaurs were not reptiles after all but just creatures who needed a few attributes that we associate with creatures we call reptiles. Reptiles are just creatures that need like attributes but are not related because they have these attributes. Genesis only talks about kinds and not these great tribes of mammals, reptiles etc.”

Sadly, you are mistaken once again. Look Robert, there is something called genetics, you know. It has been used to determine phylogenetic relationships. The results agree with all of the fossil, developmental and morphological evidence. Get a clue man, you are truly pathetic.

Or perhaps you would like to explain to us why the nested hierarchy of genetic similarity exists if god just poofed everything? Perhaps you would like to explain the molecular clock, the shared SINE insertions, the mitochondrial gene order data, etc. Thought not. Piss of and stay pissed ignorant troll.

Robert Byers said:

afarensis, FCD said:

harold said:

afarensis, FCD -

Thank you. In summary -

A platypus is not a “mosaic” in the way creationists use the term, largely because nothing is. In particular, it is not a mosaic of mammalian and “duck” traits.

I would think that the typical platypus is not a genetic mosaic, either, although some of them may be, as genetic mosaics occur naturally, as well as being synthesized by scientists.

A platypus species is a perfectly good example of “mosaic evolution”, although no more so than many other things, including humans.

All organisms are transitional, but the English term “transitional” is usually used in biology/paleontology to refer to specific examples, often fossils, that are highly informative with regard to early evolution of major lineages. The German Wikipedia article entitled “Mosaikform”, which was linked above, showed clear illustrations of famous “transitional” fossils/organisms (Tiktaalik, Archaeopterix, and so on). The platypus was not included. The German term “Mosaikform” appears to be virtually synonymous with the English term “transitional form/fossil”. Inclusion in this category is, admittedly, at least partly a subjective decision.

A platypus is the example creationists most frequently bring up to illustrate the chimera concept. It has a mixture of both mammalian (fur, warmblooded, etc) and reptilian (lays eggs)traits. Now we would say that this demonstrates the concept of mosaic evolution and argue that the distribution of traits can teach us something interesting about the evolutionary history of montoremes. For the creationists these traits mean nothing other than that the platypus is a weird creature.

Let’s use Tiktaalik as an example. While we might argue that the anatomy of it’s limbs makes it a good candidate for a transitional fossil, the creationist disagrees because those limbs are functioning wholes - God just played mix and match with their anatomy. For the creationist organisms are aggregations of irreducibly complex traits that reveal nothing of evolutionary history and as long as it is functional it is not transitional.

I think I’m within the thread here. You say creationists say the platypus is a mosaic between mammal and reptile. Well this creationist says the platypus shows rather the error of classification systems in saying there are mammals and reptile tribes. So the platypus is wrongly used by anyone as proof or against proof of evolution. The platypus should rather be seen as the revelation of a different equation. That any creature can have any attribute in nature if it needs it. Mammals are not mammals because of biological heritage but because of these creatures need these feathers then were used to define them. If you need it you got it. Dinosaurs were not reptiles after all but just creatures who needed a few attributes that we associate with creatures we call reptiles. Reptiles are just creatures that need like attributes but are not related because they have these attributes. Genesis only talks about kinds and not these great tribes of mammals, reptiles etc.

The platypus is just a boring creature that at some point adapted a few details that it needed to survive. Laying eggs or being furry is not a defining point of its identity and relationship to other creatures or not. I see all these classification systems as not true and a blinder on understanding the natural world. I do also see marsupials as slightly altered placentals. I submit that its a dead end for anyone to see creatures and make conclusions about heritage from present ideas on relationships even with living creatures.

That does not explain all those animals that went extinct. They needed something to continue existing as well, they didn’t get it however. One naturally wonders why some animals get what they need and some don’t. You also haven’t provided any compelling reason why we should ignore the phylogentic signal in an animals morphology and genes. Something more than assertion is required to overturn several hundred years worth of research on taxonomy and phylogeny.

But not every creature can have any attribute if it needs it. Radial symmetry is just in the echinoderms and the jellies. Fish and whales and bats and birds and lizards all share the same bone arrangement in the wrist and hands–the bones are fused together or shrunken down or greatly extended or what have you, but they’re all there.

Everything is basically a cephalocaudally arranged creature with bilateral symmetry. If it doesn’t have a tight membrane over its body or a shell, it’s covered with scales or… fancier scales, like hair or feathers. Nothing has legs on its back, nothing has two mouths, land things don’t have tentacles. I can only think of one recent creature with an extra eye.

(Everything *else,* excuse me. Things already mentioned as having radial symmetry don’t have bilateral symmetry on top of that, unless someone brought a Slinky to life while I wasn’t looking.)

sharky said:

…land things don’t have tentacles.

I think this gentleman would beg to differ

I can only think of one recent creature with an extra eye.

The tuatara (and some other reptiles) are often quoted as having a “third eye.” The so-called “eye” of these creatures is actually an enlarged pineal gland, so enlarged that the skull has an extra hole/foramen for it.

Ha! Yeah, I thought of the star-nosed mole and decided they were too limited in use to apply to my point. They’re not entire limbs–they’re sensory organs. Everything else just uses whiskers.

*shrug* If the tuatara’s spot isn’t light-sensing, the tuatara falls perfectly into the “it has a head and a tail and everything’s the same on both sides” bucket.

Which is a big bucket, and not what you’d expect if everything could instantly produce whatever it needed.

Well, the term “tentacle” is often used by biologists to refer to any fleshy appendage. In vertebrates (that have them), “tentacles” are almost always sensory organs.

That, and while pineal glands are not eyes, and can not form images like an eye, that doesn’t mean they’re not light-sensitive. The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin in response to light levels: in the case of the tuatara, its extra foramen is essentially a sunroof for its pineal gland.

Whoops! My mistake–I was framing my point mostly in terms of limbs and their basic predictability. If I read about scientists finding a new creature, I don’t picture them fishing out, say, a four-winged mammal or a fish with eighteen feet, or a bird with a beak and a mouth under that.

Most of the oddities we get are things that other animals do in other niches. Tunneling birds? Yep. Walking fish? Yep. Venemous mammals? Ollllld news. We can trace the categories they fall into (nothing so vague as kinds or appearance-based as baramins,) but we don’t see the sort of delightful randomness we’d get if things just up and evolved depending on what they needed.

Thanks for the tuatara breakdown–I’d heard it was a light-sensitive spot, but not anything in more detail.

Isn’t the elephant’s trunk a tentacle of sorts?

Jim Thomerson said:

If you would like a basic primer on creationist arguments, get a copy of Criswell’s “Did Man Just Happen”, published in the mid-1950’s. It is still quite current!

I agree it is still quite accurate and it’s a good read too

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on January 9, 2010 6:47 AM.

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