I mined the rich vein of ignorance and inanity that is Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation, and only got as far as one page before I was stunned into silence. He made a claim about cat evolution that even my evil cat found repugnant.
You know the Felidae are a fairly recent clade, appearing in the late Miocene, right?
Script below the field if you’d rather not watch video.
I’ve been away for a while, visiting family, so I’ve been neglecting the channel. I’m back now, though, and thought I’d throw something together on this rainy July day. On the day I got back, I got word that Adnan Oktar, also known as Harun Yahya, had been arrested in Turkey, so I thought I’d say a bit about that.
Oktar’s main claim to fame is as an infamous Islamic old earth creationist. His “work” is remarkably derivative, just warmed over American creationism, with nothing notable to say about it, other than two unique features.
One is that Oktar is a weird old horndog who kept a harem of “kittens” — his word for them — young women who were heavily made up in a Western style, and reportedly shaped with plastic surgery to conform to Oktar’s standards of beauty. They were featured on Oktar’s A9 television channel, having discussions that disparage evolution and praise Islam, which are creepy to watch. The women are strangely detached as they recite lines, or Oktar has them dance for him.
The second notable thing is that he somehow had huge amounts of money, and used it to sponsor conferences. His organization once invited me to one, and I was tempted — a free vacation in Istanbul, one of the great cities of the world that has long been on my bucket list? Yes, please. But no, I turned them down because a) they’d just use me as a prop to enhance the credibility of nonsense, and b) Turkish blasphemy laws. I’d probably say something that would get me thrown into a Turkish prison.
One of the things he used his money for was this, his masterpiece, the Atlas of Creation. Look at this monster: it weighs over 6kg, it’s an oversized hardbound book, printed on glossy, heavy stock with every page a full color set of images. I have no idea what this cost, but it’s no Jack Chick tract, and he sent it for free to thousands of scientists all across the US and Europe.
It’s incredibly impractical. Try taking this behemoth to the beach to read — it’s unwieldy and awkward. No one wants to read it, it’s difficult to wrestle with if you do want to, and once you open it you discover that it’s monotonous garbage. Seriously. Pages 44 to 572 — over 500 pages, or almost 2/3 of the book — consist entirely of a photo of a fossil, with a photo of a contemporary species, claiming that this is proof that evolution hadn’t occurred. Over and over. It’s incredibly boring. So you’re not going to find many detailed refutations of the claims in this book, because no one could slog through this dreary mess. I couldn’t, that’s for sure. It’s a joke book that sits on my shelf as a novelty.
I thought I might dive into this book for this video, but unfortunately, it gave me a terminal case of malaise. Sorry, gang. It’s just too repetitive and too stupid. I had to abort my scrutiny of the book unless I wanted to die of ennui. It desperately needed belly-dancing kittens or something because there’s just no point to reading it, it is soooo baaad.
I’ll give you one example. It’s dishonest and ignorant and exactly why you can’t trust anything in it.
“This 80 million year old leopard skull proves that leopards have always existed as leopards”, it says.
Wait a moment, you should be thinking, a Cretaceous leopard? Seriously? Then I remembered this 2013 paper about a new fossil found on the Tibetan plateau that had vertebrate taxonomists in a tizzy because it pushed the evolution of big cats farther back than they expected. This is Panthera blythae, a small beast resembling the snow leopard in many ways. It’s 4 1/2 million years old. That’s old for a cat fossil — it was announced as the oldest big cat fossil found. An 80 million year old leopard would be astonishing.
Furthermore, we can look at the overall phylogeny of cats and see that these groups arose 10-20 million years ago. There are no 80 million year old cats. What we find at the beginning of the paleocene are miacoids, a paraphyletic mess of a group that includes species that would evolve into the diverse forms of modern carnivores. No cats. No dogs. Those all come much later.
It’s not until the oligocene that we see an early radiation of the feliforms…but that includes groups like the civets (viverridae), the genet (nindiniidae), and the mongoose (herpestidae), as well as the true cats. These are animals that seem to be united by egregious cuteness. Well, except for the hyanidae. (Yeah, hyenas are feliforms).
The cats themselves experience a radiation in the late Miocene — that is, about 10 million years ago. They have radically changed form since 65 million years ago, and even within the last 10 million years have diverged as much as our house cat is different from a panther.
That tells you all you need to know about Adnan Oktar. He doesn’t do the most basic research into a subject and then he confidently uses his ignorance to tell you that evolution is defunct. And he does it in the most foolish way possible.
“No leopard, for instance, thought to itself “I can run very fast, so why don’t I alter my skeletal structure and become an athlete?”, promptly changed its anatomy, and won an Olympic medal!”
Yeah, right. That’s the quality of the thought we get from creationists.
Johnson WE, Eizirik E, Pecon-Slattery J, Murphy WJ, Antunes A, Teeling E, O’Brien SJ. (2006) The late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: a genetic assessment. Science 311(5757):73-7.
Tseng ZJ, Wang X, Slater GJ, Takeuchi GT, Li Q, Liu J, Xie G. (2013) Himalayan fossils of the oldest known pantherine establish ancient origin of big cats. Proc Biol Sci. 281(1774):20132686. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2686.