Pharyngula

AiG on Tiktaalik

The Discovery Institute flailed about hopelessly trying to deny the value of Tiktaalik (which, as commenters pointed out, is kind of weird in itself—I thought ID didn’t deny the facts of evolution, just the mechanisms), but what about those forthright creationists at Answers in Genesis? They also fall all over themselves to argue the bad, bad evidence away. Read the Lancelet’s rebuttal to see Menton wrung out like dishrag.

The interesting thing about all this is that the Menton and Looy are simply pointing out that Tiktaalik has attributes of a fish, but doing nothing to dispute the observed similarities with tetrapods. Has it ever dawned on them that an animal somewhere between fishes and tetrapods might actually have some attributes of a fish? What makes me wonder is why AiG didn’t post a picture of the specimen. There are, by now, tons of pictures on media websites all over the place. A Google image search for “tiktaalik” turns out four pages of results. Here’s why: they’re scared, deathly scared. The implications of Tiktaalik are so bloody obvious that they have a lot of work to do in order to deal with this one.

Give ‘em time. They’ll figure out yet another dishonest line of patter to babble out while keeping their eyes clamped tightly shut.

Comments

  1. #1 Central Texan
    April 7, 2006

    I would suppose the IDers be be overjoyed with the discovery of any “missing link”. Pretty much by definition, when you take two points, there is one space between them. Add a point in the middle and now there are TWO “missing” links. Repeat as long as you like. The number of gaps continues to grow. Joy. Dare I say, rapture?

    For the sarcasm impaired, it is.

  2. #2 pet
    April 7, 2006

    Anybody notice the amusing similarity between the standard car-bumper Darwin fish and tiktaalik? Even the pop-culture banner of evolution has more predictive capacity than ID, which is sort of epic/boss, imo.

  3. #3 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    The discovery of the fossil “Tiktaalik” has been one of the most-widely picked up pro-evolution media stories since the (in)famous 1996 claim–eventually shown to be false–that life had been found in a meteorite from Mars.

    What? The Martian meteorite claims were pro-evolution? What did that have to do with evolution? And if I recall correctly, the data were not shown to be false, merely inconclusive.

  4. #4 P J Evans
    April 7, 2006

    Pretty much by definition, when you take two points, there is one space between them. Add a point in the middle and now there are TWO “missing” links. Repeat as long as you like.

    Yes, and each gap is smaller: limit->(no gaps). But they haven’t taken calculus classes either.

  5. #5 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    By the way, for America’s so-called “newspaper of record” to argue against a particular viewpoint like creation / intelligent design without publishing a comment from a leading creationist or ID organization makes this Times article completely unbalanced.

    Well goody for the NYTimes. They apparently let the requirement for phony balance slip once in a while.

    Those folks over at The Lancelet could use a good spellchecker.

  6. #6 Patrick
    April 7, 2006

    “…or America’s so-called “newspaper of record” to argue against a particular viewpoint like creation / intelligent design without publishing a comment from a leading creationist or ID organization makes this Times article completely unbalanced.”

    Since when was ignoring irrelevent information about a story ‘unbalanced?’

  7. #7 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    Just think, if that ****** fish had just had one more pair of fins, we could have legs, arms and wings.
    .
    Trapped in the tetrapod body plan.

  8. #8 george cauldron
    April 7, 2006

    You can tell from the opening like of AIG’s article it’s gonna be good:

    “Throughout the day today (Thursday) and late yesterday, the secular press worldwide has been buzzing”

    That wicked secular press!

    Pardon me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t ‘secular press’ be, like, 99% of the press, worldwide?

  9. #9 thwaite
    April 7, 2006

    if that ****** fish had just had one more pair of fins, we could have legs, arms and wings.

    Like angels… which must have evolved from insects?

  10. #10 craig
    April 7, 2006

    “Since when was ignoring irrelevent information about a story ‘unbalanced?’”

    Whenever the papers quote a coroner’s report giving a cause of death, they should also find a religious rebuttal witness to claim that it was actually just “God’s Will.”

  11. #11 Lurker
    April 7, 2006

    The implications of Tiktaalik are so bloody obvious that they have a lot of work to do in order to deal with this one.

    I’d say it’s the implications according to how they interpret the facts. Obviously their interpretation of the facts is different than yours.

    The fossil is what it is (facts) and to say the implications are bloody obvious (interpretation) is like saying a particular Rorschach inkblot looks like a Pegasus (it’s obvious!).

    Naturalistic evolutionary inference = design inference = subjectivity.

  12. #12 Steve Sutton
    April 7, 2006

    I’ve even heard them claim that it was just a mudskipper. They just never give up.

  13. #13 Ottnott
    April 7, 2006

    Tiktaalik presents a HUGE problem for the Darwinistas. Clearly, it is a former tetrapod in the process of microevolving into a fish. The Darwinistas can’t offer a single piece of evidence to explain how the tetrapod that became tiktaalik came into being.

    Do I really have to use the /sarcasm tag?

  14. #14 petomai
    April 7, 2006

    Thwaite: your angels-from-insects theory is unfounded, impossible, blasphemous, wrong.
    Everyone knows that insects have six legs, and six is the number of The Devil. Your theory is therefore false by contradiction (furthermore, brought to its inevitable conclusion, your argument essentially states that any gathering of three angels (as a funtion of Divine Limb Count and State-Dependent Magical-Memeticism Constructs) would necessarily manifest the emergent property of free-radical Antichrists…therefore infinite angels (in multiples of three(3)) means infinite anticrhists (in quantities of one(1))! WTF!?!?! Everyone knows that there is only one of These!!!)
    You must be crazy.

  15. #15 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    Do I really have to use the /sarcasm tag?

    Yes; Forrest Mims might be reading this and not realize that you were joking.

  16. #16 wamba
    April 7, 2006

    Thwaite: your angels-from-insects theory is unfounded, impossible, blasphemous, wrong.
    Everyone knows that insects have six legs, and six is the number of The Devil.

    Blass-femur! You have not read the good book, you sinner. Leviticus 11:21-23 is very clear about insects having four legs.

  17. #17 petomai
    April 7, 2006

    wamba:
    How dare you! Listen– my whole life is Leviticus: The four legs in Lev. 11:21-23 refer ONLY to “creeping things” which “goeth upon all four” or “leap withal upon the earth”…NOT that flyeth above the firmament. To make matters worse, you are missing a key scientific/exegesisticalistic point…the ancient Hebrew character for “4″ can also be read, under the right circumstances, as “6″. Therefore, with a bit of education and sober thought, the four-goers and leap-withalers can be logically concluded to have 4 PHYSICAL legs and two SPIRITUAL legs (which means legs that appear real but are, in fact, totally without phsyical substance), providing even further proof to the Literal Truth of Genesis.
    So get it together.

    (shit…much as i’d like to keep a straight face, in writing this I’m suddenly and eerily reminded of how scott mclellan sounded this morning, babbling about the difference between “declassified” and “released to the public”…)

  18. #18 petomai
    April 7, 2006

    also…nice one on blass-femur ;)

  19. #19 Jeff Jorgensen
    April 7, 2006

    I’m confused.

    Tiktaalik, doesn’t seem to be more or more fishy or less tetrapody that other fossils that have been found yet the media, both main stream and new, seem to be trumpeting this single find as the last nail in the coffin of creationism.

    It’s a nice piece in the puzzle, I mean a really, really nice find, but there are plenty of other intermediate fossils out there that illustrate evolutionary change just as well.

    Is it the predictive nature of the study that discovered Tiktaalik or just the massive amount of press that ID/creationism has been getting of late that is driving hoopla around this? Is this really that significant or just chalking one up for the reality based community?

  20. #20 BlueIndependent
    April 7, 2006

    They don’t sound so humble themselves. They basically make a bunch of open claims at the end that evolution is “stopped in its tracks” because of some outside consideration that they don’t qualify.

    These people seem to enjoy their own little, paradoxical ignorance. They want more creationist scientists to study evolutionary science, but it’s for entirely the wrong purpose. And my guess is, many of these creationist “scientists”, once they’ve studied and realized the true magnitude of biology and the evidence behind it, would jump off the AiG ship. Unless they are just that Delay-sized egotistical so as to deny what is obvious to their own person.

    They want to understand the science to tear it down. That doesn’t sound like a winning strategy, because the basis of such effort is to prove proven results false. How dumb is that?

  21. #21 Procyon
    April 7, 2006

    I forget, how do creationists reconcile their omnipotent god having put such evidence into the natural world for mankind to find, even though it flies in the face of the true Word of said omnipotent god? I once knew a man who was a pathological lier who would fly into a rage when his obvious lies and inconsistencies were pointed out to him. He was a scary guy.

  22. #22 Martin Brazeau
    April 7, 2006

    Aye! Thanks, it’s nice to see such a wonderful plug for my blog. Referring to my post as wringing out Menton like a dishrag warms my heart, I’ve hated Menton since I was in high school, and this was a fantastic opportunity to vent!

    I’ll be sure to correct my typos etc. tomorrow afternoon. Please, all, enjoy my thorough fisking of AiG!

    Good night!

    Martin

  23. #23 Bored Huge Krill
    April 7, 2006

    By the way, for America’s so-called “newspaper of record” to argue against a particular viewpoint like creation / intelligent design…

    (emphasis mine)

    AAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH.

    What else is there to say here?

  24. #24 Bored Huge Krill
    April 7, 2006

    For the moment, we can confidently state that evolutionists have no examples of mutations or evolutionary processes that can lead to an increase in genetic information in a creature that would, for example, develop the appendage of a land animal from the fin of a fish (as would be required by molecules-to-man evolution). Evolution is stopped in its tracks at this point.

    Ok, I just have to respond to this one…

    This is simply false. There are many examples of information increasing through mutations.

    More generally, this whole information theory argument raised by creationists and IDiots (Dembski being a prime example) really irritates the hell out of me. It’s just flat wrong. I’ve brought this up before, but I really just can’t stay quiet on this one…

    Information is generated by any stochastic process. In fact, the seminal paper on information theory (“A Mathematical Theory of Communication”, Claude E Shannon, Bell System Technical Journal, Vol. 27, pp. 379-423, 623-656, July, October, 1948) in which the concept of information theory is introduced, spends quite a bit of time assessing the rate at which information is generated by a stochastic process.

    Interestingly, the notion of entropy (H) in the context of information is related to thermodynamic entropy. I’ve seen it stated many times that the two are entirely unrelated, and Shannon chose the term “entropy” because it was suggested to him that nobody really understood what entropy was anyway. I have to conclude that this story is almost certainly apocryphal. If you read Shannon’s paper (Google for it – it’s awfully good) you’ll see that he actually notes:

    The form of H will be recognized as that of entropy as defined in certain formulations of statistical mechanics…

    and he references a book on statistical mechanics, and notes that “H” as he defines it is related to the “H” in Boltzmann’s H-theorem. It turns out, in fact, that the information encoded in the state of a system, measured by Shannon’s entropy measure, is linearly related to the measure of entropy according to statistical thermodynamics.

    Here’s the interesting thing: Shannon’s entropy is a measure of information. In other words, the 2LT implies this:

    In a closed system, the total amount of information can never decrease

    This might seem counterintuitive at first, but it does actually make complete sense, once you get a handle on what information really is.

    Knowing this, every time I see the originally referenced canard brought up by creationists/IDiots, I just roll my eyes in dispair – especially when it’s courtesy of William Dembski, who really ought to know better.

  25. #25 Benzene
    April 7, 2006

    But, don’t most true insects have two pairs of wings? You know, from Hymenoptera to the halteres of Drosophila and all points in between.

  26. #26 plucky punk
    April 7, 2006

    Yes, but are there Tiktaalik P?YGMIES + DWARVES?

    (Really, I just wanted to get a chance to say it.)

  27. #27 Caledonian
    April 7, 2006

    The word ‘antichrist’ does not come from the prefix anti- meaning “opposite or reversed”, but the prefix anti- meaning “in place of”.

    There isn’t just one Antichrist. Anything that takes the place of Christ’s position in Christian Theory is an Antichrist. Something for all you non-Christians to keep in mind — Christians are supposed to believe that you’re worshipping the Antichrist, one way or another.

  28. #28 thwaite
    April 8, 2006

    From the AIG response (per Bored Huge Krill – & what kind of name is that?):
    evolutionists have no examples of mutations or evolutionary processes that can lead to an increase in genetic information

    Yeah this stuck in my craw also. “Increase in genetic information” is an old code-phrase. Dawkins critiqued it some years ago as bad Information theory and bad biology:
    http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Articles/1998-12-04infochallange.shtml
    “The Information Challenge”.

    The AIG quote mentions both mutations and ‘evolutionary processes’. Processes like natural selection, which is where information is added to a population – information about what genes sucessfully propagate in that environment. So the population accrues information, which is perpetuated by its (surviviing) genomes. This population thinking a la Mayr is incomprehensible if you’re focused on “the” genome as a static Essentialist code-book, as ID-er’s and most non-biologists are.

  29. #29 bad Jim
    April 8, 2006

    Benzene’s right, I think, insects typically have two pairs of wings as well as six legs and antennae. Typical vertebrate bias to suppose that we’d need to sacrifice a pair of limbs to get wings.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I can hardly look at a bird without thinking “tyrannosaur”, except for hummingbirds, which still seem like really big and surprisingly vocal bees.

  30. #30 LC
    April 8, 2006

    A creationist is putting together a museum to show the public how wrong the idea of evolution is. One of his exhibits will be poor little Cy the kitten.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060405/ap_on_fe_st/cat_corpse_2;_ylt=AlaNTNLG6PaEgcs8lskYYjpsaMYA;_ylu=X3oDMTA5bGVna3NhBHNlYwNzc3JlbA–

    Museum website is http://www.lostworldmuseum.com/
    “Do positive mutations exist? The mutations I have seen, like Cy, are either neutral or negative.”

    Just what the world needs, another anti-science museum.

  31. #31 Fernando Magyar
    April 8, 2006

    “I’ve gotten to the point where I can hardly look at a bird without thinking “tyrannosaur”

    I was eating lunch in the park down here in sunny southern Florida the other day. I left my half eaten chicken sandwich on the picnic table unattended for a few moments. When I came back a flock of Grackles was tearing into it and they weren’t interested in the bread or the lettuce and tomatoes, they went for the chicken only. My one thought upon witnessing the scene was, “I sure am kinda glad I’m bigger than they are…”

  32. #32 Keith Douglas
    April 8, 2006

    LC: That URL does crazy stuff to the blog’s appearance. May I suggest tinyurl? :)

  33. #33 craig
    April 8, 2006

    I’ve gotten to the point where I can hardly look at a bird without thinking “tyrannosaur”

    I now hear bird songs as strange lizard screeches (yes, I know that’s not correct, dinos were not lizards, etc…)
    They just sound somehow more primitive to me now… though part of that has to do with having moved to Florida… there are some strange sounding birds down here.

  34. #34 yagwara
    April 8, 2006

    Off-topic: Good math has a satisfying smackdown of Berlinski posted.

  35. #35 idlemind
    April 8, 2006

    LC:

    In posting Yahoo! News URLs, you can generally delete everything after and including the semicolon. Thus http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060405/ap_on_fe_st/cat_corpse_2 would have worked just fine.

  36. #36 Bored Huge Krill
    April 8, 2006

    per Bored Huge Krill – & what kind of name is that?

    since you ask, it’s an anagram. It’s not supposed to have any deep meaning or anything…

  37. #37 Phillipok
    April 8, 2006

    The evolutionary relationships of common descent constitute a historical causal order in which new types first appear by modification of previously existing types. The theory faciliates predictions. Gaps are good, not bad — they are an important type of prediction.

    The researchers that found Tiktaalik did so because they could predict where to look. If they had found fossils of dinosours or humans in Devonian rocks, that would have knocked down the whole evolutionary theory.

    Now if, as Scherer maintains, “basic type biology” predicts that there are “no molecular evolutionary mechanisms bridging the gaps between basic types”, then there is nothing that connects basic types in a unified history. There is no theoretical reason why one basic type should first appear when it does. You can have Tiktaalik first appearing after dinosaurs, and dinosaurs first appearing after humans. And of course there are no gaps. So there is little for ID to predict.

    That is a great theoretical weakness of ID relative to evolutionary theory, imho.

  38. #38 rajH
    April 10, 2006

    Pretty much by definition, when you take two points, there is one space between them. Add a point in the middle and now there are TWO “missing” links. Repeat as long as you like.

    Yes, and each gap is smaller: limit->(no gaps). But they haven’t taken calculus classes either.

    Nope: if you take an interval and put one point betwen the two endpoints, then two new points in the two resulting gaps, and so on (each time subdividing each gap with a single point), then the set of points, even in the limit, can be injectively mapped into the rational numbers. In particular, it is a subset of zero measure, and the complement (i.e. the gaps) has measure equal to the length of the original interval itself.

  39. #39 ma3rk
    April 26, 2006

    Good old Claude Shannon. Whenever I start thinking I might be kind of smart, I just remember Claude, and shrink back into my hole. Very humbling.

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