The poor babies in Seattle are in a state of denial.
These fish are not intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find. Tiktaalik roseae is one of a set of lobe-finned fishes that include very curious mosaics–these fishes have advanced characteristics of several different groups. They are not intermediates in the sense that they are half-fish/half-tetrapod. Rather, they have some tetrapod-like features. The anatomical characters of Tiktaalik and similar taxa were “coded” and analyzed by a computer program. Because of the presence of some advanced characters, the analysis placed Tiktaalik next to a group of tetrapod-like fishes. What is clear is that forms like Tiktaalik are a melange of primitive and more developed features.
(I’ve been nagging my freshman students lately about how to write out Latin binomials, telling them that they are supposed to be italicized…it irritates me to see the DI screwing that up, but I’ll leave it exactly as they wrote it. I am amused, though, that one of my co-instructors in the course, when explaining the rules of taxonomic nomenclature, told the students that a good reason to follow them is that they’d look like idiots to scientists when they don’t.)
But that kind of mosaicism is what you’d expect, and what we should see in a transitional form! Every element of the organism shouldn’t be changing in a slow and steady lockstep, but instead should shift haltingly, with sometimes most of the selection on the feeding structures, for instance, and maybe some other time on locomotor morphology. Sometimes major shifts in the environment might oppose some kind of concordance, and plasticity means a change in one structure might impose related changes in associated structures, but it’s silly to assume everything morphs uniformly from one generation to the next.
According to DI Fellows a number of these fishes—Ichthyostega, Elpistostege, Panderichthys—have been hailed in the past as the “missing link.” Maybe one is a missing link; maybe none are.
This is plain dishonest: the “missing link?” There’s only supposed to be one? I don’t know of any scientist who has made such a claim. For one, they tend to eschew the term “missing link,” which is a kind of silly, empty phrase anyway. It’s not as if finding Tiktaalik means the scientists think they’re all done; they’ll be out looking for forms between Panderichthys and Tiktaalik, and between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega.
What remains unexplained is the dearth of so-called “missing” links.
Stop right there.
That sentence really deserves to win some sort of prize for stupidity. Try parsing it out.
We’re supposed to explain the scarcity of missing fossils? Most dead things don’t fossilize. Isn’t that part easy?
I think, though, that what he means is that we’re supposed to explain why we don’t have many transitional forms, although his awkward wording interferes with seeing that. At least, that’s what I get from his next sentence.
The Darwinian process, if it indeed produced all of the animal forms around us, should have produced untold millions of transitional forms.
Yes. And they all are. No species is static, but is constantly shifting over time. When fossils are dug up, it’s very rare for the scientist to say, “I have no idea what this is or what its antecedents were.” Instead, they compare it to other forms and say, “This organism belongs in this lineage and is related to this other group.” No transitional forms? Almost all of them are.
There’s a problem with the Darwinist position that runs even deeper than this, however: If Darwinian evolution is an undisputed fact, as its chief defenders routinely claim, why is this fossil find being billed as such an crucial piece of evidence?
There he goes again, making stuff up.
It is another important piece of evidence, a fossil that tells us more details about the history of the tetrapod lineage. It is not crucial in the sense that if we didn’t find Tiktaalik, we’d all give up and become Baptists and creationists. We are enthusiastic because this is what science is all about: discovering new pieces of the puzzle, putting together ever more complete and comprehensive stories that lead to new ideas.
Evolution is a fact, but it’s also a framework to guide our exploration of the world. A corollary of Crowther’s claim is the assumption that if we thought we had an “undisputed fact,” we’d stop searching. That may be true of the frauds he calls Discovery Institute “scientists,” but it’s not true of genuine scientists.
All the Whos down in Whoville are singing. The Grinch was smart enough to realize that that must mean his assumptions about what they thought was important were all wrong…but Robert Crowther just isn’t that clever.