Friday Falsehoods #3

1. It’s all talk, Tiktaalik can’t walk, Warren Nunn, Creation Ministries International, 30 January

But in 2010, a discovery in Poland shook the claims about Tiktaalik’s place in the evolutionary timeframe. It was of tetrapod footprints dated (using evolutionary assumptions) at 397 million years, 18 million years older than Tiktaalik. Dr Tas Walker wrote:

“If four-legged animals existed 18 million years earlier, then Tiktaalik can’t be the transitional fossil it has been claimed to be”.

This should have been the end for the Tiktaalik story but no-one—apart from creationists—seemed to see a problem, or, at least, admit to it.

The reason for that, they might just find, is that there isn’t in fact a problem. Pre-existing footprints may mean that Tiktaalik does not slot neatly into some kind of “missing link” position, as part of the linear chain that creationists seems to think evolution produces, but not that it is irrelevant and ignorable. Nobody ever claimed (or at least should have) that it was our direct ancestor, after all.

Deeper reading: I’d been planning on leaving Tiktaalik alone until the ICR got to it, but I thought I’d mention this argument (which has been quite common in creationist articles on the subject and will no doubt be repeated). Many refutations were published when the issue first evolved – see here for one of them.

1. Legends of the Flood, (Unknown), Answers in Genesis, 30 January

Today, over 270 cultures retain distant memories of that “life-changing event.” The details have been lost, but most of the legends share common themes: Man became corrupt; the Flood was worldwide; eight people survived; representatives of all land animals were saved; a dove was released to seek dry land; the survivors came down from a mountain to re-populate the whole world, and so on.

Critics claim the Bible’s account borrows from earlier myths. But it’s the other way around. We know the Bible is the only true account, and thus the reason the Flood stories use names similar to the Bible’s is because they are borrowing from God’s Word. That’s why Noah-like names such as Nu-u, Nu-Wah, Noh, Nos, and Nuh are preserved in so many of the Flood legends.

It’s true that there are many stories of floods throughout the cultures of the world, but there have also been many floods. The argument that they all owe their origins to the version preserved in the modern Christian bible is premised, as you can see, on already “knowing” that story is true.

Deeper reading: The argument presented by Answers in Genesis above is not going to convince anyone that the story of Noah’s Ark is true, but that’s not its purpose. Instead, it’s part of an ad for their planned Ark Encounter project. We’ve also seen it from the ICR, however, but that time it was part of their series of That’s a Fact videos for the faithful.

3. Most of Venus’ History Is Missing?, Brian Thomas, Institute for Creation Research, 31 January

Jettisoning the secular concept of billions of years would reconcile these mysteries. If there is no evidence for that enormous amount of missing time on Venus, maybe it never actually happened. And its craters may well be linked to a recent, solar system-wide event.

The evidence for “billions of years” on Venus – on top of the 100s of millions since the last time the planet underwent a total overhaul of its surface, for which there is abundance of evidence – is that it happened on other planets. We’re not going to posit that Venus was created billions of years after the other planets, nor would we ignore all the evidence on other planets to accommodate the absence of evidence on Venus as Thomas wants us to. That wouldn’t make any sense.

Deeper reading: You can read the full paper that Thomas is talking about – its quite short and interesting – at this link.

That wasn’t exactly in-depth, but that’s your job now!

25 thoughts on “Friday Falsehoods #3

  1. Note also that many people are coming to doubt that those Polish footprints were really of tetrapods. There’s all other kinds of evidence that fish can make trackways that look somewhat like that. Without an actual “body” we have no good evidence that there were tetrapods significantly earlier than Tiktaalik (not, as you noted, that it matters)

  2. The Tiktalik thing reminds me a bit of the fuss of Australopithecus sediba. That because it co-existed with later species it can provide no information on evolution.

  3. On issue #3. A “recent solar-system wide event”? Seriously?? Any such event, involving even a fraction of the large impacts that occurred on the moon or other cratered bodies in our solar system, would have wiped out humans (and other macroscopic life) many times over. In short, you’d have to compress all impacts, including the one that wiped out the dinosaurs and tends of thousands of others, into a few thousand years or less. I have had an article on my Paluxy page for many years at, detailing this problem, and no YEC has offered any plausible solution. In a very recent Answers Research Journal article (Jan 2014) on the topic Danny Faulkner mentions that craters have recently become an active topic among YECs, and he devotes almost 20 pages to discussing craters on other planets and moons–suggesting that that most were made during a “day 4” event (4th day of Creation). This alone has serious difficulties (mainly, lack of time for all of the observed features). Even more seriously, he offers no scientific explanation whatsoever for how the earth could have escaped such a solar-system wide cataclysm, or how life could have survived here if it did not. All he could do, just as ICR did on the RATE project, is appeal to unspecified, extra-Biblical “miracles.” With that approach, why bother addressing any scientific problem? Ironically, YECs keep claiming they have the better model.

    • It sounded almost like he was supposing that God made a whole bunch of spherical balls with some asteroids floating immediately above them that would suddenly crash downwards. It’s a very “just so” explanation, with no overarching principles.

  4. On issue 2… this is just another example of YEC dishonesty. Even if the Polish find were valid, and there is some question on that, suggesting that it would destroy any place Tiktaalik could have in tetrapod evolution is as illogical as claiming you can’t be your grandparents ancestor if your grandparents or uncles are still alive. YEC authors knows this, yet they evidently counts on many of their readers not knowing it. They never fully deal with the overall patterns of the fossil record which demolish their view. None ever really answer, for example, why we don’t find thousands of large modern animals fossilized at the same horizon as Tiktaalik? Why does every period of geologic time have its own suites of fossils, which are different from those before and after? Their appeals to ecological zonation, differential escape abilities, and hydro sorting fall flat when examined in any detail, and in many cases, make the matter worse. In the case of flowering plants, for example, we’d have to imagine that most outran thousands of animals to end up only in Cretaceous and later strata. In short, they have no answers to the major patterns of the fossil record, or radiometric dates, or many other lines of evidence. So they have to fall back on smoke and mirrors on minutia like this. Pathetic.

    • Yeah, apparently he had in mind something like that. Or perhaps he envisions what Henry Morris proposed in his 1972 book _The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth_, which was that craters might represent the scars from a cosmic war between angels and Satan or his demons. It was not clear whether he meant craters were made from the actual bodies of the angels and demons, or the objects they were heaving at each other. Of course it’s all moot, since they could have easily proposed that the craters were created by fiat, along with the planets. Most people would see that as absurd, and imply that God is a deceiver, but no more so than the idea that God created starlight from distant stars en route to earth, even with explosions and other events embedded in them that never took place.

  5. On topic #1, The core of the YEC argument is “We know the Bible is the only true account, and thus the reason the Flood stories use names similar to the Bible’s is because they are borrowing from God’s Word”. This is classic case of the fallacy of circular reasoning and assuming one’s conclusion. Any competing Flood account from any other religious tradition could similarly declare “We know our account is true,” so the Biblical one must have followed it. In fact, there are other explanations for the pervasive nature of flood legends (as one more regional Floods could account for them), as has been explored in many articles and web sites. And whatever their source, they do not validate YECism, since the fossil and geologic evidence thoroughly refute the idea of a recent global Flood. Even the Bible says that the earth was made “of old.”

  6. “In 2006, Dr Jonathan Sarfati considered the evidence and pointed out that Tiktaalik’s fin was not connected to the main skeleton, ”

    Neither is Mr Nunn’s, or Dr Sarfati’s: indeed the front limb of all tetrapods only has a direct connection to the “main skeleton”, the vertebral column, in some derived pterosaurs.

    Articles like this are great to give to my undergrads to rip apart.

    • Sarfati is quoting from David Menton, who I regret to say has a degree from my own university. In biochemistry, which he thinks makes him qualified to make pronouncements on comparative anatomy.

    • PS. A great way of making students remember that, while their legs are directly connected to the vertebral column, but their arms are not, is to tell them that “you can shrug your shoulders, but you can’t shrug your hips”.

  7. In response to Ashley’s question… when one has little substance and evidence to muster, all you have left is bluster.

  8. Debating the extent to which Tiktaalik could walk misses the main point. Here we have a creature with a number of features intermediate between typical fish and later amphibians, appearing at the appropriate horizon in the geologic column. It’s what you’d expect if evolution happened. It not what you’d expect in the YEC model. Indeed, in that view, why do we not find any modern amphibians or modern bony fish, even bottom-dwelling species, in the earliest parts of the fossil record? Why are the early fish in the Cambrian and Ordovician periods jawless forms, followed by armored forms and cartilaginous fish, and only later bony fish? Likewise, why do we not find any large modern mammals with dinosaurs, or with any of the thousands of other Mesozoic and Paleozoic animals species, even tho many had overlapping geographic ranges and ecologies? The obvious answer is that they didn’t live at the same time. YECs, wake up and smell the coffee already.

  9. Glen
    When I contacted CMI I was assuming, apparently wrongly, that the scientists strongly believed the creature could walk (like a mudskipper).
    I note that you say YECs have a ‘model’ 🙂
    Well NOT one for a modern scientific era – unless Ken Ham can pull a (real) rabbit out of a hat next Tuesday anyway …
    My latest comment here relates to what AiG are now saying about THAT (I do not think I am reading too much into the article in concluding that AiG are informing their website visitors that Bill Nye will ‘lose’ the forthcoming debate unless he accepts the creation ‘model’ of Ken Ham – which of course is based on ‘reliable eye-witness testimony from God’):

  10. Ashey, I agree that YECs have nothing approaching a plausible scientific model, and should probably put the term in quotation marks when referring to YEC views.

  11. I meant that _I_ should put “models” in quote marks when discussing creationist models, because they are more like fanciful stories than valid scientific models.

  12. OK, I’ll give it a go.

    “Shubin et al. found a 20-cm-long skull sticking out of a cliff. ”

    This is wrong for a start. Tiktaalik was found on relatively flat ground. And it wasn’t just one skull, it was an assemblage of the front part of around half a dozen animals.

    “‘[T]here are functional challenges to Darwinian interpretations. For instance, in fish the head, shoulder girdle, and circulatory systems constitute a single mechanical unit.”

    Well, the head and the shoulder girdle are indeed — at least in bony fishes. How can the circulatory system be involved in this? Made up nonsense.

    “The shoulder girdle is firmly connected to the vertebral column and is an anchor for the muscles involved in lateral undulation of the body, mouth opening, heart contractions, and timing of the blood circulation through the gills”

    The only animals in which the shoulder girdle is connected to the vertebral column are some derived pterosaurs. The muscles that cause undulation of the body are not attached to the shoulder girdle, but to the ribs. Mouth opening, yes. Heart and blood circulation, again complete nonsense. The heart muscles, and the smooth muscle in the aorta, are no more attached to the shoulder girdle in fish than they are in ourselves.

    “However, in amphibians the head is not connected to the shoulder girdle, in order to allow effective terrestrial feeding and locomotion. Evolutionists must suppose that the head became incrementally detached from the shoulder girdle,”

    One of the features that makes Tiktaalik a transitional form is that it is the only bony fish that has lost the connection between the endochondral shoulder girdle (i.e., scapula and coracoid) and the dermal bones of the head. Some dermal bones remain attached to the shoulder girdle, as they do in us (i.e., the clavicle).

    “Indeed, Tiktaalik’s fin was not connected to the main skeleton, so could not have supported its weight on land.”

    No tetrapod has their forelimb attached to the vertebral column. Is your arm connected to your backbone???

    “However, when a living coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) was discovered in 1938, the fins turned out not to be used for walking but for deft manœuvering when swimming. ”

    If the fin is of intermediate morphology between fish fin and tetrapod limb (Tiktaalik is the only lobe-finned fish to have some wrist bones) its function is irrelevant. It’s only the anatomy that counts.

    “The series of corresponding limbs (Fig. 2, right) does not appear to show the clear progression.”

    This is because this is a phylogeny, based on other features besides the fins, not an ancestor-descendent sequence.

    “But appeal to homoplasy is really explaining away evidence that doesn’t fit the paradigm, and indeed such explaining away is ubiquitous.”

    Homoplasy has been determined here by looking at the entire picture. The derived features that make up this phylogeny are mainly those of the skull. There was an adaptive radiation of these types of fishes in the Devonian, and an explosion of “experimentation” with fin morphology. This argument is akin to saying that humans can’t be more closely related to horses than to lizards, as the phylogeny would require a “progression” from five fingers, to one finger, back to five fingers”. (Note which one finger the horse is pointing here at Jonathan.)

    “Another major problem is that evolutionists appeal to the common pentadactyl 5-digit pattern as evidence for their common ancestry from a 5-digited creature. Yet the nearest creatures they have to a common ancestor did not have five digits! Acanthostega had eight, while Ichthyostega had seven. ”

    So, the number of digits was reduced, as seen convergently in many lineages today. Of course convergent evolution happens — that’s why we need decent scientists and phylogenetic methodologies to sort out the signal from the noise.

    “The caption admits, ‘These drawings are not to scale, but all animals are between 75 cm and 1.5 m in length.’ If size were taken into account, would there be such a clear progression? ”

    Wow — some animals are twice the length of the others. Quite apart from the fact that size is not considered to be a necessary progressive feature in evolution, this amount of variation can be seen within a single population of any species of vertebrate.

    “Compare a far more extreme example, the supposed land-mammal–to–whale sequence. This was also illustrated as equally sized, but Basilosaurus was 10 times longer than Ambulocetus.”

    Most illustrations have a scale bar. This is like saying that pictures of the solar system are wrong because Jupiter is way too small.

    “We should remember the Pakicetus fiasco: when a few bones were known, evolutionists drew it like a half-way land-water form. But when more bones were found, it was realized that it was a fast-running land mammal. ”

    Pakicetus’ skeleton shows it to be semi-aquatic, just more on the terrestrial side than originally thought. Hardly a “fiasco”

    “E.g. the entire fish-to-tetrapod transition is supposed to have occurred in 20 Ma, but other salamanders, according to Shubin himself, have remained unchanged for far longer : ”

    Only creationists insist that, for evolution to be true, it has to happen at exactly the same rate in all lineages.

    “Even more importantly, the order is not right! Compare Fig. 4 (right): Panderichthys is dated earlier than its supposed predecessor, Eusthenopteron. And all are earlier than the undoubted fish, the coelacanth. ”

    Again, phylogenies show the order of character acquisition, not ancestor-descendent relationships. The Devonian fossil record is quite sparse, and many of these fish are only known from a single site. Besides, this is like saying “if humans evolved from apes, then why are there still apes?”

    “This is yet another parallel with alleged bird evolution—undoubted beaked birds like Confuciusornis are 10 Ma older than their alleged feathered dinosaur ‘ancestors’.'”

    Originally an issue with a patchy Jurassic record, but we now have Jurassic feathered dinosaurs.

    “This is correct, but one of the major ‘evidences’ of evolution is how the evolutionary order supposedly matches the fossil sequence.”

    It still does in general. Find us a Devonian mammal or bird and we’ll reconsider.

    “Many of the alleged transitional forms do not have structures in transition from one form to another. Rather, the alleged transitional nature is a combination of fully-formed structures that in themselves are not transitional.”

    Only creationists insist that, for evolution to be true, intermediate forms must have some sort of “part way disfunctional” structures, and that all parts must be changing at the same rate. Why does the mosaic acquisition of characters disprove evolution?

    “For example, Archaeopteryx has fully formed flight feathers, an avian lung and an avian braincase (which is why the ‘hoax’ claim is indefensible), but had allegedly reptile features like a tail and teeth.”

    So do you, Jonathan, so do you.

    “Also, who was the predecessor of whom in the case of Acanthostega and Ichthyostega? It depends on which characteristic one looks at: e.g. Ichthyostega’s skull seems more fish-like than Acanthostega’s, but its shoulder and hips are more robust and land-animal–like.”

    That’s why scientists evaluate all the characters — and in fact Ichthyostega’s skull is *not* more fishlike than Ancanthostega. More Made up S—.

    “The majority of the hundred-odd traits examined did not progress consistently.’ —”

    Because evolution is not about progression, but adaptive radiation.

    “When analyzed in detail, the evidence is consistent not with evolution, but with a particular form of intelligent design.”

    Which implies that the designer was particularly inept and kept bungling things, scratching the first model, and trying again and again.


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