Gone fishin' for a missing link? (A preliminary response)

Author(s):  by AiG scientist/anatomist Dr. David Menton and Mark Looy, CCO, AiG–USA

David Menton is an anatomist who has taught human anatomy. This doesn't make him much of an expert in the anatomy of Devonian fish.
Mark Looy is "VP Ministry Relations" for AiG (who pay him well for his PR work)

Throughout the day today (Thursday) and late yesterday, the secular press worldwide has been buzzing (and in the case of the New York Times and its front-page story, gloating … as the paper is slamming creationists over this) about a report in the journal Nature1 that a fossil had been found in the Arctic that supposedly proves that land animals evolved from fish.
A bit over the top, perhaps, but basically true. Journalists do not seem to understand that science does not offer proof.
The discovery of the fossil “Tiktaalik” has been one of the most-widely picked up pro-evolution media stories since the (in)famous 1996 claim—eventually shown to be false—that life had been found in a meteorite from Mars. Some paleontologists are even claiming that Tiktaalik has the potential to become another Archaeopteryx for any evolutionist wanting to cite an ironclad example of a transitional form.2
It's worth pointing out also the analysis of the evidence from this metorite was carried out by the scientific community, and that no creationist played any part whatsoever in the scientific investigation. Furthermore, and contrary to the claims of the author, the hypothesis that certain structures in the meteorite are evidence of living organisms has not been falsified. It's a matter on which the jury is still out.
The reports say that the skeletons (supposedly 375 million years old and up to nine feet long) have fish characteristics such as fins and a gill,
A gill? Fish generally possess two sets of gills.
but also characteristics that, according to the Times, “anticipate the emergence of land animals—and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs … .” 3
So the authors are relying on reports in the popular press rather than reading the papers in Nature. Not what one would expect of supposed scientists, is it?
downright unprofessional
The word “anticipate” is one of the cautionary words being used about this creature, and when you read other tentative wording (e.g., the use of the word “may” in the headline “Fossil may link fish, land animal” 4), then the find is not as firm as evolutionists would lead you to believe.
Yes, scientists are cautious in making claims. However, the words "anticipate" and "may" come from the newspaper article, not the authors of the paper in Nature,
Here are the anti-creation excerpts from the NY Times page one article (as it appeared on their website3 on the evening of April 5—since then there have been a few modificatons to the article, one of which is mentioned below) about this new fossil. The paper has clearly gone out of its way to allege that creationists might now be running scared because of this discovery
Hmm...the rather rapid response represented by this article rather confirms the supposition that creationists are "running scared".
1. “ … 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.”
Perhaps that is the way the journalists are reporting it, but in science the concept of biblical origins was falsified by an overwhelming weight of evidence two centuries ago. It's not an issue with which science concerns itself.
2. “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, 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.
Dr Shubin's team made no comment whatsoever in their papers about "Darwinian theory". It's hardly relevant to the scientific debate.
3. “One creationist site on the Web [a site other than AiG’s] declares that ‘there are no transitional forms,’ adding: ‘For example, not a single fossil with part fins part feet has been found. And this is true between every major plant and animal kind.’”
4. [Quoting an evolutionist] “What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?”
Quite so.
By the way, for America’s so-called “newspaper of record” to argue against a particular viewpoint like creation / intelligent design without publishing a comment from a leading creationist or ID organization makes this Times article completely unbalanced. [Editors’ note: as of the evening of April 5 there was not a creationist quote, but it has been brought to our attention that a quote from Dr. Duane Gish of ICR has been added to the web article (along with a few other modifications); the quote by Dr. Gish is also in the April 6 print version.]
So I guess that this assertion of bias will now be withdrawn
No creationist to our knowledge has yet done a careful analysis on this fossil
Nor is it likely that a creationist will do so. No creationist to my knowledge has the technical expertise to analyze a specimen of this kind.
Until one of our scientists or an adjunct AiG researcher has conducted a careful study, we will not issue a conclusive statement.
A nice little cop-out clause this, isn't it?
For the moment, here are some of our thoughts.
There is the coelacanth fish,
Coelacanths are not a single fish, but members of a family of fish called lobe-finned fishes
found in the same geological system (Devonian it is called) as this Tiktaalik discovery, that also has lobe fins
The fins of Tiktaalik are very different from those of coelacanths. They are 'lobe fins' in the sense that they are fleshy at the base and have bones extending up the fin, but their anatomy is rather different. In particular, the front fins of Tiktaalik are built on a humerus, radius and ulna, just as do the forelimbs of tetrapods..
These lobe fins were once thought to enable the coelacanth to walk on the ocean floor (in fact it was, like “Tiklaalik,” once considered by evolutionists to be a type of transitional form). Later, it was determined that the coelacanth fins were used for better maneuvering through the water, and not for walking.
Yes, this is what is called a failed hypothesis in science.
The new creature uncovered in the Arctic might be something similar.
It is similar - it is after all classified as a fairly close relative. However, there are significant anatomical differences, especially in the structure of the fins.
Also, there are other creatures (e.g., the Panderichthys) that are thought to be fish and yet appear to be similar in lobe and fin structure to Tiktaalik
The structure of the fins of Panderichthys is quite different to that of Tiktaalik. One of the papers in Nature illustrates this.
In addition, the bones for Panderichthys, Tiktaalik and the coelacanth are imbedded in the muscle, and are not attached to the axial skeleton, which you would find in a reptile or amphibian (and which would be necessary for weight-bearing appendages).
This had me laughing out loud! It amazes me that an anatomist could put his name to such a stupid and ignorant statement. No tetrapod has a shoulder girdle attached to the axial skeleton by anything other than soft tissue!
If you don't believe me, try shrugging your shoulders.
Now try shrugging your hips.
Grossly ignorant
As we often state on this website, keep in mind that evolutionists and creationists have the same facts (e.g., fossils), but interpret the facts uncovered today differently in regard to the past.
This assertion is frequently repeated by creationists, but is demonstrably false. Creationists ignore any evidence which falsifies their convictions.
Because evolutionists want to discover transitional forms, when they find a very old fish with leg-bone-like bones in its fins, they want to interpret this as evidence that it is some sort of transitional creature.
This is an unsupported assertion which denigrates the professionalism of all palaeontologists. It is also simply false.
However, other fish seem to have the same sort of structure as stated above, and these bones are not constructed as one would expect for weight-bearing legs. It may be just another example of the wonderful design of our Creator God.
The important fact about this find is that the structure of the forelimbs is not the same as that of other fish.
All they have actually found is a fish that is another example of a lobe-finned fish (one of which still lives today—the coelacanth)
Tiktaalik is a "lobe finned fish" in the sense that it is classified as a sarcopterygian, but it is in a different subclass from the coelacanths.
that has bones similar in position to those seen in the arm and wrist of land-walking creatures—except these structures support fins with rays in them, not digits like fingers and toes
Quite so. That is why anatomists consider it to be an intermediate between fish with fins and tetrapods with limbs.
(and as has been stated, they are NOT connected to the axial skeleton).
True, but completely irrelevant and exposing a gross ignorance of basic vertebrate anatomy.
Grossly ignorant
We will, however, continue to use words like “might” and “appear” until AiG can gain better access to the researchers’ findings and also study fossil fish that are similar to Tiktaalik.
Can't AiG afford a subscription to Nature? For any organisation claiming to be involved with scientific research, that seems ridiculous. It's a very poor excuse.
It is vital that we gather as much data as we can.
Quite so.
At some time, we might discover (as was the case when closer examination revealed there really was no evidence of life on that Mars meteorite) that this fossil discovery has an alternative/better interpretation of the evidence.
Quite so. That is the nature of science. But such discoveries will not come from the creationist camp, as they are not involved in the practice of science.
For the moment, we can confidently state that evolutionists have no examples of mutations or evolutionary processes that can lead to an increase in genetic information in a creature that would, for example, develop the appendage of a land animal from the fin of a fish (as would be required by molecules-to-man evolution).
This statement is quite simply a falsehood. There are many examples of genetic mutations which control the development of limbs, and which can model the formation of vertebrate limbs from the fins of fishes.
Evolution is stopped in its tracks at this point.
Nonsense. Even if there were no direct evidence for the genetic controls which lead to the formation of limbs from fins, the other evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that it is pretty well irrelevant.
This website has consistently demonstrated that fossil creatures are essentially the same (stasis),
This website has done nothing of the sort. It has made assertions, but completely failed to address the evidence which shows that they are wrong.
or have degenerated (lost information, the opposite of what evolution requires).
Completely and utterly untrue, and furthermore demonstrating an ignorance of evolutionary theory.
This is predicted in the creation model (animals reproducing “after their kind”; Genesis 1:24–25).
The "creation model" predicts nothing. Reproduction "after kinds" is a meaningless concept, as there is no biologically meaningful definition of kinds.
Also, creationists have shown that the evidence found in the fossil record is highly consistent with catastrophism (i.e., a worldwide flood such as the Flood of Noah in the book of Genesis).
Creationists have shown nothing of the sort. They are incapable of addressing the evidence which shows quite categorically that a worldwide flood did not occur, a fact which has been known to science for over two centuries.
Please visit this site periodically for possible updates on this newest of evolutionary claims.
Yes, please do. It should be good for a laugh.
References and notes
1. Here is the link to Nature’s abstract about this find: Here .Return to text.
It's interesting that the authors of this article have only read this single abstract, not the full articles in the journal.
2. Archaeopteryx is a fossil bird, but because it had some reptile-like features, it has often been showcased as exhibit A when an evolutionist wants to rebut a creationist who says that transitional forms are non-existent in the fossil record. Read our article about the Archaeopteryx bird, Archaeopteryx (unlike Archaeoraptor) is NOT a hoax—it is a true bird, not a “missing link”
This is simple denial.
Feathers are extremely complex structures and so are reptilian scales, and both are very different from each other. No creature has been found in the fossil record that shows something intermediate between a scale and a feather, which molecules-to-man evolution would require.
Dinosaurs showing just such structures have been found
By the way, not all evolutionists consider Archaeopteryx to be transitional . Return to text.
Those palaeontologists who do not consider birds to have descended from dinosaurs argue that they are descended from earlier reptiles. They accept Archaeopteryx as transitional. It's just that they don't accept it's dinosaurian features as significant. Feduccia (who is one of those palaeontologists) once said: "Creationists are going to distort whatever arguments come up.... Archaeopteryx is half reptile and half bird any way you cut the deck, and so it is a Rosetta stone for evolution, whether it is related to dinosaurs or not. These creationists are confusing an argument about minor details of evolution with the indisputable fact of evolution." This provides no solace to creationists.
3. The New York Times article can be found at: Fossil Called Missing Link From Sea to Land Animals. Return to text.
4. In AiG–USA’s hometown newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 6, 2006, p. A4. Return to text.