The kooks at Answers in Genesis never disappoint—they always come through with their own daffy interpretations of things. It didn’t take them long to scrape up a few excuses for Najash rionegrina, the newly discovered fossil snake with legs.
They have a couple of incoherent and in some cases mutually contradictory arguments against Najash as evidence for evolution.
One argument is that there are competing hypotheses for the origin of snakes within the evolutionary community: some think they had aquatic ancestors, others that they were burrowers. This is a non sequitur. We don’t pretend to know everything, there are many issues on which scientists disagree, but all agree on one thing: the proper way to resolve differences of opinion is by the evaluation of the evidence, and this is one more piece of evidence. That scientists don’t have a full explanation for the evolution of a specific lineage does not in any way imply that they think the caterwauling dingleberries at AiG have a valid opinion.
AiG also suggests that Najash might have used its limbs for clasping during mating, rather than walking, as if this somehow fails to support evolution. That’s exactly what scientists say, ascribing the evolution of some innovations to exaptation, where features have multiple functions and can change roles.
Another argument AiG makes is that this is an example of degeneration, and therefore fits perfectly within a creationist “model”. At the same time, though, they insist that “Those who claim that snakes are just legless descendants of other reptiles really don’t understand their uniqueness,” and go on to mention special adaptations of their backbones. Guess what? Najash has anatomical features unique to snakes, in addition to having legs. Its spine and skull lack some features unique to more derived snakes, but possesses others that unambiguously define it as a snake. It has specialization that represent both the gain and loss of characters, and that fits perfectly with evolutionary expectations, and not at all with creationist dogma.
Oh, and then there’s the argument from chronology. Hang on to your hats and take a whirl through the creationist wonderland.
AiG is cautious about comparing this fossil snake to the serpent in Genesis 3:14. First, we really don’t know much about the serpent’s anatomy anyway. Yet we can offer a reasonable guess that it apparently was once able to crawl or walk; after the serpent was cursed, it was pronounced that “on thy belly shalt thou go,” suggesting that it previously moved using appendages. Also, this fossil probably resulted during Noah’s Flood, an event that took place about 1,500 years after the serpent was cursed to crawl on its belly.
In other words, it can’t be biblical because the perambulatin’ snake in Genesis lived 6000 years ago, and this fossil is only 4500 years old. Never mind that the fossil is from the Upper Cretaceous, and is actually about 70 million years old—actual real world data can’t fit into a thick and pea-sized cranium that is barely capable of accommodating a chronology invented by bored, antique goat-herders.
You know, Answers in Genesis is a much bigger and much more popular outfit than the Discovery Institute ever was, and I suspect that the DI is going to be waning in influence over the next few years. I have mixed feelings about the prospect of having to switch primary targets, from the evasive sleaze of the dishonest DI, to the outright crackpot lunacy of these babbling wackos at AiG.