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Tiktaalik roseae and Friends (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin
Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.

The Fool referred to by Alexander Pope was the literary critic of his day.  Fear not – I intend no literary criticism. Yet the famous quote reflects something of the trepidation I feel as I rush in to tackle a somewhat controversial issue – evolution, the fossil record, and transitional forms (missing links) – and the way we as Christians approach the data. Here we go. 

One of the issues raised by Darwin’s theory of evolution was the presence – or more accurately the absence – of transitional forms in the fossil record. The fragmentary nature of the fossil record has been a common criticism by those who doubt if evolution explains the development of life. Because such fossils can provide a line of evidence for the validity of the theory and also provide important insight into the mechanism of evolution these forms are both sought and, when found, publicized and criticized.  One of the most interesting finds of recent years is Tiktaalik roseae, reported by Neil Shubin, Ted Daeschler, and Farish A. Jenkins, Jr. in back to back Nature articles in 2006.  Their website gives references and details (here) and the National Science Foundation press release is found here.

I am convinced that as a church how we approach the data and how we handle the controversy is just as important as, if not more important than, the final conclusions we draw. As we look a bit at this discovery and its interpretation I would like to consider two questions.

What do you make of such fossil finds? On what do you base your opinion?

How does our approach affect the attitude our students take to high school and college regarding the conflict or coherence between science and faith?

Before I continue a disclaimer: The fields of evolutionary biology and paleontology both fall outside my areas of personal expertise. I will be happy to correct any errors of fact (or grammar) once verified.

Tiktaalik roseae: The search that resulted in the discovery of Tiktaalik roseae is an excellent example of the way scientists seek to test evolutionary theories. The investigators  proposed to several funding agencies including the National Science Foundation that it would be useful to search for fossils of fresh water aquatic life forms in rock formations dating to the late Devonian era as this is the time and place where transition from lobe-finned fish to tetrapods should be found.  Their peer-reviewed proposals were funded and the search was on.

An appropriate Devonian freshwater deposit was identified in the Canadian arctic above the arctic circle and expeditions were arranged to search this heretofore unexplored site.  In 2000 they found a site with interesting fish and in 2004 they found specimens of  a new fossil  which they named Tiktaalik roseae.  Their first two papers reporting the discovery were submitted in October 2005 and published in 2006.

In the first paper the investigators highlighted a number of transitional features in Tiktaalik. This “fish” is thought to have occupied shallow marshy waters. In support of this interpretation they noted that “ribs of the type that occur in Tiktaalik augment thoracolumbar rigidity and axial support, functions that are not necessary in an aquatic setting that is deep enough to support the body.” (Nature, 440, pp. 757-763)  That is – Tiktaalik had a well developed strong rib cage.  Such a rib cage is necessary when the body is supported by limbs, it is unnecessary in a deep water fish. There are other transitional features identified in the neck, head, and respiratory structures.

In the second paper the authors discussed the limbs and digits of the fossil. Tiktaalik roseae exhibits bones and joints in the fin that are similar
to the limb pattern of  tetrapods. The authors suggest that the origin of
limbs in tetrapods likely developed through “the  elaboration and proliferation of features already present in the fins of fish such as Tiktaalik.” (Nature, 440, pp. 764-771).

Panderichthys: This fossil, also from the Late Devonian era, but somewhat earlier than Tiktaalik (see chart above) has been known for awhile, but most studies were on fragmentary specimens. New technology permitted study of intact specimens incased in rock. In the fall of 2008 a paper was published in Nature (Nature 456, 636-638) reporting the results of these studies. The Swedish group of  Catherine A. Boisvert, Elga Mark-Kurik and Per E. Ahlberg reported that their observations demonstrated that the appendages of Panderichthys are more tetrapod-like than those of Tiktaalik. From the paper:

Here we present a CT scan study of an undisturbed pectoral fin of Panderichthys demonstrating that the plate-like ‘ulnare’ of previous reconstructions is an artefact and that distal radials are in fact present. This distal portion is more tetrapod-like than that found in Tiktaalik and, in combination with new data about fin development in basal actinopterygians, sharks and lungfish, makes a strong case for fingers not being a novelty of tetrapods but derived from pre-existing distal radials present in all sarcopterygian fish. (p. 636)

So what do fossils such as Panderichthys and Tiktaalik suggest about the transition from sea to land and about the evolution of digits? An interesting article was published recently in Science News entitled Step-by-step Evolution Mining the Gaps: Transitional fossils are the hardest to find, but sometimes tell the best stories.

One of the points made in this story (and in the original articles, including Boisvert’s Nature paper) is that it was thought that “Panderichthys and the lobe-finned fish of their era didn’t reveal bony features in the fins. Scientists interpreted this lack as a sign that digits were an evolutionary novelty that only arose later in land-adapted creatures.” However, Tiktaalik, the new CT scans of intact Panderichthys, and a number of other studies now suggest that “all that evolution did was reshape and repattern a structure that was already there…. It didn’t have to build a novel extension of the body from scratch, so the transition from fish to land vertebrate becomes a little less dramatic than we thought it was.“ 

If I interpret these studies correctly the gene (HOX) that leads to the formation of digits was already present in the lob-finned fish – its expression changed in the process of movement from sea to land – and perhaps changed at different times in different ways in different species.  I don’t think that these kinds of timing differences are unusual. It is not significant for the overall hypothesis of evolution from fish to tetrapod that the digits of Panderichthys are better developed than those of Tiktaalik.

Do these studies prove evolution? My intent here is not
to prove evolution, but rather to lay out some small portion of the
evidence. To do so I looked at the primary literature and at some
secondary literature. None of these specimens, Tiktaalik,
Panderichthys, or any of the others alone “prove” evolution and common
descent. When all of the evidence is taken together however, it is
quite
persuasive. I certainly think that the general evolutionary paradigm is
strongly supported by the evidence. Perhaps some other explanation
accounting for all of the evidence is forthcoming – but I
rather doubt it.

These two fossils have become something of a case study in how the data is used by those who wish to cast doubt on the theories of evolution. The results reported by Boisert et al. on Panderichthys received heavy coverage in the general press
and were used 
(see the article here:
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/09/the_rise_and_fall_of_tiktaalik.html) to suggest that the “discrepancy” between Panderichthys and Tiktaalik
was a serious blow to evolutionary theories and to the status of
Tiktaalik as transitional between fish and land-based tetrapods.  The
very title of the ENV article is worth note: The Rise and Fall of
Tiktaalik? Darwinists Admit “Quality” of Evolutionary Icon is “Poor” in
Retroactive Confession of Ignorance.
Among other things the Evolution News and Views article states:

The “quality” of Tiktaalik as a fossil specimen was “poor”? When
did we see Darwinists admit this previously? Never. They wouldn’t dare
make such admissions until they thought they had something better.

Unfortunately this statement is based on neither the original papers nor the actual condition of the fossils. On top of this the evidence from digit development is only one of the transitional feature of Tiktaalik. The new data has refined understanding of the development of digits – but this is the way science normally operates as ideas are tested and refined in the light of new evidence.

Catherine Boisvert was interviewed on a blog here about her reaction to the way her statements and paper were being interpreted.

AFM: The creationist Discovery Institute has pounced on some of the statements in your paper regarding sample
quality as evidence that scientists are trying to backpedal on previous
hypotheses regarding digit development and evolution. Can you clarify
your statements regarding sample quality of Tiktaalik and Panderichthys?

CB:
As you know, the “Discovery” Institute tactic is not to go to the
primary literature in order to understand it but rather to use
quotations from secondary, even tertiary sources, reorganise or use
them out of context opportunistically to their own convenience. In this
case, they used an article where the journalists unfortunately
misunderstood me. Tiktaalik‘s material is in fact exquisite,
it is very well preserved, basically uncrushed and can be prepared out
to be examined in three dimensions. I never said the quality was poor.
I have simply explained that the morphology of the fin of Panderichthys is more tetrapod-like than that of Tiktaalik, which has nothing to do with the quality of the material.

We must be honest with people and with the data – and we must do our homework. It does no good to criticize the evidence for evolution without taking the available data seriously, and dealing with it honestly.  Failure to do so will result in an unnecessary crisis of faith for far too many of our high school and college students, and especially for those who continue their training beyond the college level in the biological and physical sciences. One of the commenters on the post Darwin and the Bible 3 last Tuesday noted:

In my opinion, much of the turmoil was fostered by the small army of
Christian writers (every denomination has them) that write so
confidently regarding the evils of biological evolution (or more
naively “Darwinism”) and yet understand very little about where the
scientific field is today. … Therefore, much of the ‘turmoil’ resulted from what I perceived as
intellectual dishonesty from my Christian brothers or sisters.

I couldn’t put it any better – failure to deal with the data with integrity is disaster. My assessment of the data leads me to take the position that God used evolutionary mechanisms as his means of creation.

Whether you agree with me or not – what approach should we take to understanding and discussing all of the evidence and issues in the debate over evolution and creation? How can we best prepare our youth for the challenges ahead?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.



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eric rosemund

posted June 16, 2009 at 7:30 am


Actually there are so many transitional forms documented, it is now hard to deny.. go to talkorigins.com. There apparently is stasis in species for extended periods.. What pushes a new species is the opening of a new ecological niche.. The books that christian bookstores carry are based on repetitive arguments from ignorance as a rule..already the ID people are saying, “well where’ the intermediate between tiktaalik and other species?”. They are not understanding the modelling evolution does.This particular species was anticipated AHEAD of time at the right date and the right place and so shows that evolution does indeed have predictive power.
Having said all this there actually is room for intelligence properly formatted.REad Simon Conway’s books and go to the design matrix web site for front loaded evolution.
We at church need to get our heads out of the sand. That God would create such an elegant algorithmic approach to life is actually credible evidence of His work by my way of thinking



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Peter

posted June 16, 2009 at 8:19 am


As an undergraduate in Biology, my first class in Comparative Anatomy was taken in the same year as Embryology. The thrill that I felt at seeing the beauty of the development of a new creature in sequence was nothing compared to the wonder of one species developing into another over the millenia. Certainly in graduate school (Physiology & Biophysics) I had no problem pointing this out to students (graduate, nursing, medical or dental) to whom I taught physiology. It was after medical school that I had what might be called a “reverse crisis of faith.” I experienced a conversion to Christ as an intern and part of my reading started to include people who were not convinced about the power of evolutionary theory to explain what we see in creation.
I’ll try my best to make a long story short (not one of my strong points): Evolutionary theory presents no threat to my faith at this point. What I learn from reading Genesis (and Exodus for that matter) has little to do with its historicity. However, I do believe that it is important that research like what is described above is continually carefully scrutinized. It is very convincing to see that evolutionary paradigm predicted many of these results ahead of time. It is still true, though, that the changing of one species to another is not what is being observed here, not has it been observed even in species that have many generations under scrutiny (fruit flies and bacteria). As always, the key to good theology as well as the key to strong science is humility: when the answer is “I don’t know,” then say, “I don’t know.”



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Matthew

posted June 16, 2009 at 9:46 am


“What approach should we take to understanding and discussing all of the evidence and issues in the debate over evolution and creation? How can we best prepare our youth for the challenges ahead?
To answer this question, I’d point to the quality of this post as an example of correct and appropriate ways of discussing the evidence and the issues. First, you made it clear that the evidence you would be reviewing is not something you are trained to analyze in a professional way. I think when we aren’t specialists, we need to say so. I blog on theology topics, but I go so far as to provide a disclaimer on the side of the blog letting everyone know I am a seminary student, and the my conclusions should be treated dubiously.
Second, you engaged with the primary literature. For example, had I just filtered the data from the Nature study on Panderichthys through the Discovery Institute newsbrief, I would have walked away with a completely different conclusion about what the CT scan study of the Panderichthys digits revealed. We should be more diligent about engaging with primary sources when we are discussing biological evolution. Too often, functioning as either Christian educators or parents or even as ministers, our rubric is to filter information (we may not think of it this way) by only sourcing our information from “ministry news sites” which I know are safe. I understand this tendency, I really do. But if in my rubric I only allow my science news to be filtered through sites line ENV from the Discovery Institute (or some other thinktank), then in the end my knowledge about what is actually going on in science will never be derived from what is happening in the primary literature. It will be false knowledge, and when, if ever, I try to engage with someone in the field of evolutionary biology, it will go badly for me.
Third, you thought critically. You noticed the discrepancy between how the ENV article interpreted the Boisvert et al Nature study and what the study itself actually revealed. You even went so far as to track down an article with the study’s author who cleared up the confusion directly. This is an example of good, plain, critical thinking. Once one engages with Boisvert’s results and compares it with the ENV article, we then understand the problem. The Discovery Institute comes off feeling like it has an agenda–and in that moment, here comes the turmoil–because someone, somewhere, is doing something that feels, at best, disingenuous, and at worst, like lying. Even more maddening is the fact that it feels like the guys on “my team” (as a Christian) are the ones lying [NOTE: I realize that no one has ever (to my knowledge) contended that the Discovery Institute is a Christian organization so perhaps I'm being a bit unfair].
Fourth, you pointed out the strength of the whole process. I want to reiterate the elegance of how the Tiktaalik grant proposal was formulated. Fundamentally, the proposal went forward because the evolutionary theory has great predictive power. In this case, the project that was specifically launched to find a predicted intermediate form between a distinctly fish-like organism, Panderichthys, and the distinctly tetrapod-like organisms, Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. Was the proposal correct in its assessment of the likelihood of finding a specimen? Yep. In fact, here we are talking about it…
How can we best prepare our youth for the challenges ahead? In some way, we have to teach them how to do what this post has done. Tear things down, think through them, and arrive, as best possible, at the truth of the matter. All the while, we need to be teaching them that there are “some hills worth dying on” and some that are not worth dying on. Too often we let the gatekeepers of the science and faith conversations create scenarios where it’s an “either-or” choice. The critic says “either see this my way, or you are not a person of faith (classically defined).” Hogwash, we need to steal the conversation back and create new parameters for our kids to operate in with their curiosity. Otherwise, their faith will continue to get decimated all over the college campuses of the world.



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Peter

posted June 16, 2009 at 9:53 am


Matthew, you expressed that very well – I wish that I had said that :-)
Of all people, we should never be afraid of the truth, no matter where we find it.
Thanks.



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 10:20 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
RJS-
Yeah! Very excited to talk about fossils. However . . .
You said:
“These two fossils have become something of a case study in how the data is used by those who wish to cast doubt on the theories of evolution.”
Your post is an interesting case study on how evidence is used selectively to support one’s position. You focus on Tiktaalik. That is fine, but why not focus on the Cambrian fossils? Why not discuss what Tiktaalik tells us in the context of the full fossil record? People tend to focus on the evidence that supports their position and downplay the evidence that does not. I think your post is an example of that. Both sides spin the evidence. Let’s acknowledge that.
The way you characterize Luskin’s article is interesting. You describe it as showing “how the data is used by those who wish to cast doubt on the theories of evolution.” That is extremely loaded. Why isn’t Luskin simply “testing” Darwin’s theory? Isn’t that what science is supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to think critically about theories and test them against the evidence? Using the phrase “casting doubt” is simply pejorative.
I don’t think you are being fair with Luskin and his article. He is mainly talking about public pronouncements about new fossil finds and media spin. There is huge hype, and very little sober thought. The new Ida fossil is yet another example of Luskin’s point. Even the NY Times observed the hype machine:
>>>>”But the event, which will coincide with the publishing of a peer-reviewed article about the find, is the first stop in a coordinated, branded media event, orchestrated by the scientists and the History Channel, including a film detailing the secretive two-year study of the fossil, a book release, an exclusive arrangement with ABC News and an elaborate Web site. ?Any pop band is doing the same thing,? said Jorn H. Hurum, a scientist at the University of Oslo who acquired the fossil and assembled the team of scientists that studied it. ?Any athlete is doing the same thing. We have to start thinking the same way in science.?http://darwinianfundamentalism.blogspot.com/2007/06/abscheulich-atrocious-stephen-jay-gould.html
I agree with Peter (#2). Let’s be honest and humble and admit what we don’t know.



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RJS

posted June 16, 2009 at 10:27 am


pds,
I cannot construct one post that covers all issues simultaneously – and no one would take the time to read it if I tried.
What I can do, what I intend to do, is to construct posts that deal with specific questions one at a time.



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 10:43 am


The link to the NY Times article I quoted is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/media/19fossil.html
I think the Boisvert quote about the Discovery Institute is in some respects false, in other respects very misleading, and is an ad hominem attack pure and simple. Does RJS or Matthew examine if what she says it true? Much of it is demonstrably false.
Fellows of the DI include JP Moreland, William Lane Craig, Michael Behe, John Mark Reynolds, and others. I am very disturbed at how the DI has been vilified on this blog and in the relevant comments. I think people need to be much more careful and charitable than they are being.



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dopderbeck

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:06 am


I think the problem is more fundamental than just people stepping outside their knowledge base. A big part of the problem is the assumption that “worldviews” drive how people interpret evidence to such a degree that the “secular” perspective is almost always going to differ significantly from the “Christian” or “Biblical” perspective. This is of course true to a certain extent. No one comes to any body of evidence with total objectivity, and our faith should predispose us to approach things wearing different glasses.
But “worldview” presuppositionalism has become so overwhelming in conservative evangelical apologetics that there seems to be no possibility of self-critical thought anymore. If you presuppose the de novo creation of the various “kinds” of animals, no pattern can prove evolutionary common descent. If you start instead with a belief that evolutionary common descent is not ruled out by any theological / Biblical presupposition, then the fossil and genetic pattern seems overwhelming and obvious. There doesn’t seem to be any way to mediate this tension, which goes back at least as far as Tertullian.



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Scott Morizot

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:08 am


pds, We know RJS’ areas of professional training and expertise. I don’t recall ever seeing yours. What field are they in?



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RJS

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:15 am


pds,
I was very careful to only take pieces that were demonstrable and used direct quotes in the process. AFM and Boisvert are not terribly sympathetic to DI and used negative phrases to describe DI. I considered editing the comments a bit but decided to simply include the quote.
People are welcome to check all of my sources. I included the title and quote from the ENV article to support my claim for the aim of the article.



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:25 am


Scott (#9),
Why do you ask?



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:35 am


dop (#8)
You said,
“If you start instead with a belief that evolutionary common descent is not ruled out by any theological / Biblical presupposition, then the fossil and genetic pattern seems overwhelming and obvious.”
This is not accurate with respect to Michael Behe, me and many, many others. The ID movement is full of people who are not driven by a rigid reading of Genesis but who are driven by the scientific problems with Darwinian theory. And yet false impressions like what you espouse are rampant. Very unfortunate.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm


pds…I reimd you that you have some unanswered questions from the miracles thread below. You were asked to provide specific details to back up your broad claims and inaccurate quotes and you have yet to do so. After you answer those questions, pehaps someone would be willing to address any problems that you may have with the Cambrian or to address your complaints about Discovery Institute mistreatment.
In an earlier thread, you also demanded an example of transisional fossil above the species level and I offered Tiktaalik as just one example and also explained how it was discovered using a comination of genetics and paleontology. You breezily responded that Tiktaalik was “cool” apparently conceding the merits of my observations.
Tiktaalik has resurfaced here with a very thorough layman’s explanation and a demostration that Tiktaalik is only one example of several transitional fossils in the fish to tetrapod transition series. It is only one small (but very impressive) part of the scientific evidence for evolution. As such, to use the words of Pope John Paul II, “It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.” Truth cannot Contradict Truth (1996) http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm
Tiktaalik is one fine example of the convergence of paeontology, genetics, physics, geology, astronomy and chemistry. All these sciences independently confirm the main principles of evolution.
Unfortunately the misrepresentations of evolution abound on creationist websites. These, as pointed out in the post, are exceedingly harmful to Christians for a number of reasons. The post is an outstanding example of a forthright effort to wrestle with the scientific evidence and the theology. Frankly, it is one of the best evolution articles I’ve ever read from a Christian perspective.
Scott is asking you the question reagrdign yoru expertise because your previous and current posts simply restate misrepresentations of science that are unfortunately often disseminated on creationist websites and display akack of knowledge regardign basic scienctific information. Your dodging of questions by the tactic of asking a question in response to a quesiton is noted. This tactic, often employed by creationists unwilling to deal with actual evidence, is unfortunate.
We could be wrong. You may be an eminent scientist.
Tiktaalik is approximately 375 million years old. By itself, it seems to leave no room for any form of youg earth creationism. Young earth creationism inescapably appears to be a present day version of geocentricism. It cannot withstand scientific or theological analysis. Tiktaalik is also merely one manifestation of the overwhelming scientific evidence that presents very significant challenges for old earch creationism. Common descent is so strongly established that it also cannot seriously be disputed.
Whre does that leave us? I suggest that the link above to the Pope John Paul II speeach. He is correct…truth cannot contradict truth.



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Scott Morizot

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm


pds, You jump on every thread even vaguely related to this topic (sometimes hijacking threads) and post at length taking issue with everyone, many of whom do state their credentials, who has a perspective contrary to you. You speak authoritatively. So on what basis do you do so? Do you have any actual training, expertise, or credentials? Or are you simply parroting what you have decided to accept from people you consider authorities?
I am not personally a trained expert in the fields of genetics, evolutionary biology, etc. but I have a pretty good number of family members and family friends who are. Since I know I am not an expert in these areas, I’m aware that I depend largely on knowledge acquired through authority rather than through direct study or experimentation. I can’t begin to judge where you stand as a knowledge authority unless I have some idea what your training and credentials, your curriculum vitae, are.
Since it seems you plan to continue to post frequently, at length, and with the aura of authority on this topic on this blog, it would be nice to know. If you are unwilling to share at least some indication of your professional credentials, I’ll probably just assume you have none in this area. But I thought I would ask first.



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dopderbeck

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm


pds (#12) — but Mike Behe accepts common descent. I doubt that he’d have any problem at all with recognizing Tiktaalik as a transitional form. And herein lies one of the enormous problems with the ID movement: does ID oppose the general pattern of common descent, or not? If not, why on earth would an ID person need to criticize this “Icon”?
There may be reasons, as Conway-Morris suggests, to argue that common descent couldn’t have happened just as it did “by chance”; and there may be reasons, as Behe suggests, that some irreducibly complex systems couldn’t have arisen from common descent alone; but the general pattern of common descent seems obvious in the record of natural history and can only be rationally denied based on some other a priori.



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MatthewS

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm


Is the following statement fair?
An ENV article states that an interview with Boisvert (who has written about Panderichthys) in Science magazine states that the quality of the specimen of Tiktaalik was poor. The interview does indeed state this but it is not a direct quote from Boisvert, it is a comment by the articles’ author, Andrea Gawrylewski. The ENV article seems to represent this quote as though it were directly from Boisvert and further, is an up-and-coming opinion of the Darwinists (a perjorative term). However, Boisvert states in a separate blog interview that a)this is a misunderstanding of what she said, b)she never said the Tiktaalik specimen was poor but c)in fact it is very well preserved.
There may or may not be a valid question for ENV to pursue of whether current evolutionary theories about Tiktaalik and Panderichthys are consistent with each other. However, it is false to claim that Boisvert in specific or evolutionists in general are now backing away from Tiktaalik in favor Panderichthys and are now belatedly admitting that Tiktaalik was a poor specimen all along.
Sorry to be pedantic, just want to make sure I am getting it right.



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RJS

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm


MatthewS,
Yes, except Andrea Gawlrylewski’s article was in “The Scientist” not “Science”. (The link is here. I am not sure if it is open access or not.)
There are aspects to the ENV article that explore whether current evolutionary theories about Tiktaalik and Panderichthys are consistent with each other, but the overall rhetoric emphasizes the “gotcha” aspect, not the scientific question. My comment about time ordering in the appearance of digits is in part in response to the potential scientific question.



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MatthewS

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm


“The Scientist”, sorry. Thanks.
Many scientists and hockey players: both seem to have a proclivity for difficult names ;-)



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm


Scott (#14)
Despite your personal insults, I will reply briefly. I have never asserted anything here based on personal authority. I have a passionate interest in these issues and think they are very important. I have done extensive reading on the relevant science, especially the fossil record. In my opinion, deciding these issues well is assisted by having some understanding of science, philosophy, philosophy of science, logic, reason, epistemology, history, theology, cosmology and other fields as well. I have formal graduate school level training in many of these areas.
I became very interested in this topic when I began to realize that much of what I learned in high school biology and thereafter was quite misleading. I then also learned that many pronouncements by leading scientists (including Christian scientists) are false or grossly misleading. I have also observed that many scientists are philosophically illiterate or very naive. Therefore, I have no great respect for “credentials” by themselves.
I find your accusation that I have “hijacked” threads insulting. What exactly do you mean by that?
I have enjoyed and learned from my exchanges with RJS and many others here. On posts directly on “intelligent design” by Logan Gage, I am one of the few here to comment positively on the theme of those posts. Did I hijack those too? If RJS shares your conviction that I have hijacked threads, I will take your personal insult more seriously.



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dopderbeck

posted June 16, 2009 at 3:10 pm


For the record, I think the conversations pds has participated in have been quite civil and that he’s show a good knowledge of the issues, even as we have disagreed on some things.



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MatthewS

posted June 16, 2009 at 4:02 pm


I think I see Scott’s frustration and it seems to me that pds does come on kind of strong sometimes. But he is a minority voice and that isn’t easy. I think he makes a positive contribution and helps keep the discussion on its toes. My own thinking on this whole subject is somewhat in flux, though I don’t think I will ever be able to completely accept evolution. I appreciate the discussion, including both Scott M. and pds.



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm


dop (#20)
Thanks. Feeling is mutual. Except that you keep using fancy words I don’t understand. :)
dop (#15)
There is good evidence for some common descent of some kind within phyla and classes. But there is very little evidence for gradual transitions from one unique body plan to other unique body plans. So I think there is a good basis for being skeptical of universal common descent from a single common ancestor.
I would love to ask Behe some specific questions about his views on common descent.



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pds

posted June 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
MatthewS #16,
Your summary is pretty good. But you say:
“However, it is false to claim that Boisvert in specific or evolutionists in general are now backing away from Tiktaalik in favor Panderichthys and are now belatedly admitting that Tiktaalik was a poor specimen all along.”
I just want clarify. If Tiktaalik is not a “poor specimen,” fine. But a science publication described it that way and suggested that there was authority for that. If that is false, blame that publication. You can’t blame Casey Luskin and the DI for commenting on that article.
As I said in my earlier comment, Luskin is aware (as I am) of the history of promoting a fossil as the stunning missing link (with great publicity), and then qualifying the significance later (with little publicity). I could give you a list. So you can’t blame Luskin for thinking he saw a new example of that.
BTW, Darwinists have been using “Darwinist” and “Darwinian” for years in a non-pejorative manner. I find it strange that some now call it “pejorative.” “Evolution” is too vague to be of much use.



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Scott Morizot

posted June 16, 2009 at 5:42 pm


pds, I didn’t say anything insulting to you. The thread I specifically had in mind recently was Darwin and the Bible 3 where the questions posed for discussion of the turmoil (if any) that the modern creation controversy produces, the appropriate approach to the creation controversy focused more on our children than not, and whether ID helps in the middle of this or hurts. While the latter arguably provided a small window, a bit more than halfway through the thread devolved into the same sort of dull and repetitive ID back and forth we seem to see on every post on this topic. I mostly ignore it since I don’t find this question particularly interesting personally. But I did find that thread and those questions compelling and was sorry to see it wander off to the same destination.
As far as asking about your credentials go, I already explained that. I know that I rely on authorities rather than personal knowledge. Now, even if you are a biologist or geneticist, my personal authorities in those subject areas are so closely related to me, I doubt your voice would have sufficient weight to counterbalance theirs. But if you’re just someone who has staked your confidence in different authorities that, for whatever reason, you trust, then I do wonder on what basis you write so authoritatively.
I’m not an expert of just about everything discussed on this blog, including this subject area. But I’m pretty careful to try to make that clear when I write. If I ever fail to do so, it’s an oversight. RJS is much more of an expert in the sciences than I am, but I see that she’s careful to note that this is outside her areas of expertise. It’s my observation that we actually have some who comment here who do work either within this arena or closely connected to it. Most of us do not. That means that we decide by weighing authorities to the best of our ability. If you’re just expressing some personal opinion about those Christian scientists you malign as make false pronouncements or being grossly misleading, (as you helpfully just stated in your comment) then that’s fine. I’ll ignore you the way I ignore other slanderers. If you have any actual expertise, credentials, training, and/or research experience that you feel we should take into account, then by all means share it.



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RJS

posted June 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm


I should note that ENV did update the article today to correct the error of attribution with respect to the quote.



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Mark

posted June 16, 2009 at 8:39 pm


Copernicus and Galileo changed the way the Bible had been interpreted for 1500 years. The Bible didn’t change, but hermeneutics did, because of scientific evidence. Evolution may not be right, but I think it deserves a place at the table in Evangelical discussions of origins, instead of being immediately ruled out by definition.



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MatthewS

posted June 16, 2009 at 9:30 pm


pds, I think the problem is that Luskin didn’t just “comment” on it.
Some form of “admit” is used five times, not counting title.
Some form of “confess” five times, not counting title and a header.
Some mention of “retroactive confessions of ignorance” is used five times.
“Poor” is used six times, all but once a direct reference to the quote that Tiktaalik is a fossil of poor quality.
As you know, propaganda is literature that lacks aesthetic distance. It pushes a cause without considering the alternatives. This looks more like propaganda than sound scientific literature to me. I agree with the common-sense remark that it does not look like the fish has fingers. I think I can see how theistic evolution praises God for presiding over the whole thing but I am not able to go there myself. So I should be somewhat in ENV’s court. But for this ENV article there is a cause, a case that is being pressed, a war being waged. There is a case made and repeated throughout (see, for example, the five mentions in some way of “retroactive confessions of ignorance”).
A casual reader that trusted Luskin would easily assume that there is a noticeable shift among evolutionists away from Tiktaalik. Luskin claims “they are attacking Tiktaalik as a fossil of “poor” quality” and calls Tiktaalik “dethroned.” He gives the impression that a cycle of hype to a retroactive confession of ignorance has occurred among evolutionists at large for Tiktaalik and implies that the same cycle is very possibly underway for Panderichthys. All this based on a line in an interview that was not sourced to the interviewee and which the interviewee (retroactively) soundly denies.
The accusation by Boisvert seems to be borne out in this case: As you know, the “Discovery” Institute tactic is not to go to the primary literature in order to understand it but rather to use quotations from secondary, even tertiary sources, reorganise or use them out of context opportunistically to their own convenience.
Honestly, I haven’t read that much of the DI. You mention John Mark Reynolds and JP Moreland, both of whom I respect. There must be something to it. But this article seems a failure if it was supposed to be scientific literature.
Again, personally, I suspect there is something to Luskin’s claim that evolutionists make bold claims early and corrects later. But make verifiable claims, use primary sources, use derivative sources correctly. Give us some meat, ya know?



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pds

posted June 17, 2009 at 11:14 am


Darwin and the Bible 3? I went back and looked at my comments. They seem to me to be directly on point or responding to comments others made. I don’t see any “hijacking” going on.
http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/06/darwin-and-the-bible-3_comments.html
Please explain what you mean by “hijacking a thread” and how you think I did it. Do you really not see anything insulting in your comment #14??
I find your view of “authority” and “credentials” to be rather curious. Don’t you think ordinary people can read, educate themselves, learn the facts and contemplate what logical conclusions we can draw from the facts? I do. I think that is what this comment section is for. I think every Christian needs to do this. I evaluate comments here not based on “credentials” but on the accurate use of facts and the quality of the arguments presented.



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pds

posted June 17, 2009 at 11:32 am


MatthewS (#27)
You are a tough judge. “Propaganda”? By your standards perhaps your comment is propaganda too.
Have you ever read how Luskin has been vilified by the eminent “scientists” at pandasthumb.org?
Luskin’s piece is a blog post for goodness sake, not a doctoral dissertation.
I have acknowledged that both sides do it. See my comment #5. Will you?
And why does no one here seem concerned by this sort of thing?:
http://darwinianfundamentalism.blogspot.com/2007/06/abscheulich-atrocious-stephen-jay-gould.html



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