Of Pandas and Reification

In the world today there are only two species of Pandas: the Giant and Red Pandas. Famously the two are actually rather distantly related, in that the Giant Panda is a variety bear, while the Red is more closely related to weasels. In his article Did Panda Bears Once Live in Europe? Brian Thomas discusses – a term I use loosely – the discovery of a new Panda fossil from Spain (of the bear variety, that is).(paper/cited news article)

Thomas begins:

Panda bears are restricted to remote mountains in China and have similar-sized bodies today. But fossils show that in years past some were mini-pandas, while others were giants. Plus, they lived in places far-flung from China. A new find described a mini-panda fossil fragment from Spain, reviving questions about the origin, migration, and demise of panda bears through history.

Migration? From the young Earth creationist perspective it would seem rather odd, yes, that Pandas would end up over in Spain. But it’s worth noting that we already knew of Pandas from France – Agriarctos* depereti, while this find has been assigned Agriarctos beatrix after Beatriz Azanza, and the only surviving Giant Panda is Ailuropoda melanoleuca – so the ‘questions’ in that regard are nothing knew. But this is the oldest fossil of the subfamily Ailuropodinae, which includes all Pandas of the bear variety, at approximately 11.6 million years old. Note also that fossils of the genus Ailuropoda, unlike their Agriarctos relatives, seem to only be found in Asia.

Researchers from Spain’s National Museum of Natural Sciences and the University of Valencia described in the journal Estudios Geologicos two fossil teeth of a panda-like bear that was smaller than today’s smallest bears. It was part of a fossil assemblage of “an extraordinary concentration of micro-mammals” that were mixed with fossils of “large mammals [that] were also abundant.” By comparing minute features of the teeth to those of similar-looking fossil teeth from France, the authors made a case for naming it as a new species.

There you go. It’s interesting that here we have a small but ‘concentrated’ collection of fossils, one which cannot (due to age) be explained by the Flood – worth remembering next time it is claimed that a collection of say, dinosaurs is claimed to have been formed by said catastrophe.

The study authors also speculated that a formerly more tropical Spanish climate favored the small pandas during the Ice Age. Today, the area where the fossils were found has a dry climate. Perhaps the change to drier conditions lessened available habitat and food such that the ancient Spanish mini-pandas could no longer survive. And it didn’t help their survival that at least some of them were swept away, buried in mud, and fossilized during an Ice Age catastrophe.

I cannot find this speculation. The physorg article does say:

The reasons for its extinction have yet to be determined but “the most probable cause is likely to be the opening up of the forests giving way to more open, drier spaces and the appearance of similar yet larger and more competitive species,” says Abella.

But ‘ice age’ does not appear in this article nor in the paper. The citation given for his claim is not actually relevant, being to Tracking Those Incredible Hypercanes from the May Acts & Facts.

Pandas dying from decreased habitat and from catastrophic events makes sense and is exactly what is currently happening in the dwindling Chinese panda population.

This line is given an interesting citation – to an “ICR News” (now I really don’t know what they’re calling them, if they’ve moved back to that now) article from 2009: Should We Let the Pandas Die Off? It contains this interesting concluding sentence:

If nothing else, his statements make one thing quite clear—trying to wed conservation ethics with Darwinian science is a senseless endeavor.

Whether that is true or not, “Darwinian science” is vital for the actual practise of conservation: remember that in future.

But tropical climates do not deserve credit for favoring certain creatures.

The study authors said in a Physorg science news release, “the extinct bear would have escaped from other larger carnivores by climbing up trees.”4 If so, then perhaps it would also have found its food from higher tree branches, thus filling that niche while living alongside its larger landlocked cousins.

The environment could not literally have selected the small bear size, because environments are unthinking. Instead, the mini-pandas most likely pioneered a formerly lush Spain, and their diminutive statures filled a specific ecological niche. If so, then the Designer of their innate abilities to generate trait variations deserves the true credit.

Thomas gives as a citation for his ‘nature does not deserve the credit’ idea to an article by Jason Lisle on the AiG website: Logical Fallacies: The Fallacy of Reification. The flaw with this idea that “nature can’t select,” however, is that “Natural Selection” is goddamn metaphorical. For a more in-depth takedown of that article see Illogical Answers in Genesis (Reification).

That’s really the gist of the article. Thomas triumphantly concludes:

Last, the Scriptures teach that this world and all its animals are cursed and bound to decay. This explains the scientific notion that surviving pandas probably no longer have the robust genetic repertoire to generate giant or miniature pandas. Overall, the panda evidence fits the Bible.

It does not.


*Thomas’ citation for the paper under discussion misspells this genus name as “Agriactos“, which makes finding the original unnecessarily difficult.

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2 thoughts on “Of Pandas and Reification

  1. To quoth Aliens “Did IQs drop sharply whilst I was away.”

    Seriously, Brian disappears for a month whilst Acts & Facts is going on and comes back with this which has to be one of the stupider things I’ve read from him. First there’s the bizarre misunderstanding of natural selection that involves denying it because environments are unthinking. However he then promptly says it does happen since these pandas fared well because they inhabit an ecological niche. Then there’s this invented ice age, hodge podge citations and the implication that these bears lived at the same time as mammoths.

    It’s proper headdesk stuff, particularly the broken chronology and invented ice age.

  2. In that last paragraph Thomas says “the Scriptures teach”. Apologists of all kinds use this kind of language all the time. “The Bible clearly says,” they insist. I tried to call Lisle on this prime example of reification. After all paper and ink do not speak let alone teach. The answer was, predictably, that this particular mode of speech is easily recognised shorthand for “the one who wrote the Bible clearly teaches” and not a logical fallacy at all.
    So they allow their book to “speak” but evidence is not allowed to do likewise.

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