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A whale of a tale
Jonathan Pait
November 11, 2005

I just read Ker Than’s (writer for livescience.com) piece on FoxNews.com entitled, “Behind the Evolution Controversy.”  I passed it by because I tire of the attacks that come to those who dare question this doctrine.  I admit I am not a scientist, but I am one of those Americans who just look at the mumbo-jumbo and say, “Huh?”

Yet, here I go.  Mr. Than made some statements (appearing here in quotation marks) that just got me to thinking.  I have some questions and I really don’t expect any straight answers, but I’ll lay it out there anyway.
“Evolution is well supported by many examples of changes in various species leading to the diversity of life seen today.”

This is a statement with no listed support.  Certainly we can see minor changes within species (consider the many breeds of dogs), but these changes are never enough to produce an entirely new species.  My statement is just plain fact.  There is no proof (unless you take conjectures of evolutionary theorists as fact) to refute it. Plus, these changes are miniscule at best and harmful at worst.

Evolutionists love to bring this up as proof that skeptics of evolution don’t recognize that there are intra-species changes.  The problem is it is a false accusation.  Skeptics of the theory recognize that there can be minor changes (again you can’t ignore the many variations of birds or fish).  However, we still ask for proof of a progression from one species to a new one.

“As a hypothetical example, Darwin used North American black bears, which were known to catch insects by swimming in the water with their mouths open… [and became whales].

Scientists now know that Darwin had the right idea but the wrong animal: Instead of looking at bears, he should have instead been looking at cows and hippopotamuses.”

Okay, I’m still waiting, Mr. Than.  Just exactly how does the existence of a cow and hippo prove Darwin?  Let’s see… did the cow become a hippopotamus or was it the other way around?  Just because they both exist with similar characteristics (and that is a STRETCH) does not mean the came from each other or a similar unknown beast.

“Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.”

Could it be because anyone skeptical of this theory is shut out of the discussion?  Could it be because alternatives are banned from the classrooms?  I would also challenge his definition of “evidence.”  Each of the disciplines mentioned have their own theorists.  Their theories are used as supporting material for evolutionary theory.  Macro-evolutionary evidence is nothing more that theories offered in support of theories.  You get so lost in the chain of theories and hypothesis that you lose track of which is which – not to mention actual factual evidence.

You hear this all the time on the nature channels where they go back into the past and conjecture how things came to be. First, they conjecture about what kind of world was in existence at that time.  (When religious people do that, it is called a “myth”).  A particular species has a certain physical trait that is altered due to this theoretical environment.  The case is made for how this happened based on another species with a similar trait.  You then learn that we have no proof that such species existed.  The theory is built on a theory.

And what is one of the favorite vehicles for change?  Ah, those wonderful mutations.

“The physical and behavioral changes that make natural selection possible happen at the level of DNA and genes. Such changes are called ‘mutations.’”

Yet, Mr. Than points out the major weakness with this claim and then brushes it aside to bring about his theory built on a theory.  He writes, “Most times, mutations are either harmful or neutral, but in rare instances, a mutation might prove beneficial to the organism.” 

It would have been good had he gone a little further to point out two things:  1. exactly what kinds of organisms have been known to mutate in a positive manner?  A dog?  A cat?  Or could it be some small microbe?  2. Once the mutation has taken place, for how long is that mutation sustained through the hereditary process?  For that matter, how long does this new variation survive?   Also, I love that word, “might.”

“Other body parts of early whales also changed. Front legs became flippers. Back legs disappeared. Their bodies became more streamlined and they developed tail flukes to better propel themselves through water.”

Hello?  Here we go again.  A theory built on a theory.  Please, show me these animals in the midst of this incredible transition.  Ah, he does attempt to do so when he writes, “The smoking gun came in 1994, when paleontologists found the fossilized remains of Ambulocetus natans, an animal whose name literally means ‘swimming-walking whale.’ Its forelimbs had fingers and small hooves, but its hind feet were enormous given its size.”

Well, now that sounds pretty convincing.  Except: first of all, how do you know this isn’t just an animal in and of itself?  How do you know it is a transition?  You have fossils like a snap shot in time, but where is the connection from the land animal to the whale?  All you have is an extinct whale-like animal with hooves. 

Second, speaking of those fossils… have you ever seen the fossil of the Ambulocetus?  No, I don’t mean the artist rendering or the “fill in the gaps” tinker toy.  I mean the original fossil.   There isn’t much there.  Especially that one bone structure pretty significant to a walking mammal: the pelvis.  Oh, he walks like a seal?  Okay, so aren’t we kind of back where we started?  Just exactly how would a mutation bring about a complex structure like a pelvis in a seal?

Notice I have not offered a competing theory.  That isn’t the point.  You can be an atheist and see the holes in the reasoning and evidence of evolution.  I know, the responses to this column will be attempts to turn the tables and attack creationists or backers of intelligent design.  However, I won’t go there.  I’m not asking anyone to hold to those theories.  I’m just tired of being told that something is beyond debate just because Dr. Darwood says so.

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"This is a statement with no listed support. Certainly we can see minor changes within species (consider the many breeds of dogs), but these changes are never enough to produce an entirely new species." That's a statement with no support. . . .

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