Cycads

You may have heard of a paper in Science from October called Recent Synchronous Radiation of a Living Fossil. (full pdf) For example, it was attacked on evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyn’s blog Why Evolution is True as “missing the point.” What he’s talking about is how they claim to shed some light over living fossils – he claims that their study “doesn’t … have much bearing on the question.”

But that’s all academic when it comes to Brian Thomas’ DpSU, ‘Dinosaur Plant’ Evolution Stories Conflict. He begins:

Cycads, also called “sago palms,” are cone-bearing plants with long leathery shoots that often adorn dinosaur dioramas. Though there are about 11 living cycad genera, which further divide into about 300 species, many more once existed but are now known only from fossils.

Random Cycad fossilHe gives a footnote to that:

This pattern of greatly reduced species diversity over time is common to most living things, yet it is the opposite of evolutionary dogma, which asserts that all of today’s living varieties emerged from a single kind.

Which is wrong. What he’s effectively doing is bundling up everything that has ever existed but no-longer does and putting it on the other side of the scale to what does right now. It goes without saying that you would see the dead outweigh the living (by several orders of magnitude, in this case) – he may as well have said in Population Growth that, because dead people still outnumber the living the population is not growing.

Additionally, even if it were true that we currently have a particularly low level of diversity (which, until we arrived on the scene, was the opposite of the truth) that still would not exactly be “the opposite of evolutionary dogma” – extinctions happen. On the other hand, I would say that it presents a problem (yet another problem) to the “creationist dogma” of baraminology.

To recap, the creationists require there to have been only a rather small number of species in existence at the time of the Great Flood at which point Noah had to put representatives of all living animals on the ark, which – despite being rather big in terms of other wooden boats in history – would still have been far too small to even include the modern diversity of species. So, creationists tend to have it that what went on there was only a representative of each “kind,” or baramin, which then later radiated out into the species we see today, plus numerous others which are extinct. These then, after the ark, radiated out into what we see today, plus the many other species that are now extinct. As this radiation is due to the Fall and would effect all organisms plants are also included in this mix, despite not being included on the Ark.

It would take all day to write down a representative sample of all the problems with this, but there is an added one that this study contributes. What was found was that Cycads enjoyed a heyday in the Jurassic (ok works so far – this is your post-flood radiation) but then declined (still works). But all the modern species are a result of a much more recent radiation…which doesn’t really work. But back to the DpSU:

The oldest rock layers that contain cycads are supposedly about 250 million years old. However, in a study published in Science, a group of scientists compared the similarities between cycad DNA sequences and did not find the many DNA differences that should have resulted from a quarter-billion years’ worth of mutations and evolution.

We…can’t exactly say that from the study. And how many DNA differences would that be?

Even after applying evolutionary assumptions to make their molecular clock work, most likely including a very slow mutation rate, the researchers’ results showed that almost all of today’s cycads “only began diversifying 10 million years ago,” the study’s lead author, Nathalie Nagalingum, told LiveScience.

Let’s just assume, without evidence, that they included a slow mutation rate. Or that one was even relevant to the study. And what would a mutation rate have to do with anything?

So, did cycads emerge suddenly 250 million years ago, according to the evolutionary age assignment given to their first appearance as fossils, or did they suddenly diversify only 10 million years ago, according to the evolutionary age assignment given to their DNA differences? Is either story even close?

Both, sorta – there’s no reason why that couldn’t be the case. This is the source of the alleged ‘confliction’ in the title, I would say.

Surely this vast age discrepancy cannot be the fault of fossils or DNA, because they were the same in both studies. Instead, the assumption of vast age produces the confusion.

I’m not confused…

However, the creation model’s young age explains these data with no conflicts. Rocks with dinosaur fossils also contain many fossils of animals and plants—including cycads and Wollemi pines—that are essentially the same as their living counterparts. They look so similar to living creatures because they were only deposited thousands of years ago after being swept up in one of a number of catastrophic watery surges associated with the year of Noah’s Flood.

But they are different, at very least to the point of not being able to reproduce with each other. I mean, sure, they look kinda similar on the outside, but that really proves nothing.

According to Scripture, which provides eyewitness accounts that go back to the very beginning, there is no such thing as a dinosaur age—at least, not one without people, cycads, birds, marsupials, and other “modern” creatures.

The citation for that is the DpSU covered in This is the Best You Can Come Up With? – he thinks that there shouldn’t be Toads, Birds (it wasn’t even a bird) and crocodyliforms in Mesozoic rocks, for some unknown reason.

The molecular clock-based 10-million-year-old cycad divergence described in Science may actually reflect the rapid diversification into many species of those few genera of cycads that survived the Flood and pioneered the post-Flood world only four thousand or so years ago.

As I said, that doesn’t match very well with what they found.

Cycads are living reminders that dinosaurs and modern plants and creatures recently shared living space. And the recent cycad dating mismatch is a reminder that evolutionary dates are all based on broken clocks.

This “mismatch” is entirely of his own concoction – this DpSU is truly a last ditch attempt on his part.

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3 thoughts on “Cycads

    • I’m not arguing with Coyn, no, if that’s what you mean. I don’t know nearly enough on the subject.
      But you don’t need to know much to dispute Mr Thomas…

  1. Pingback: Mistakes Were Made – But Not By Us « Eye on the ICR

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