Thursday, April 06, 2006

We're Talking About a Fish with Feet

Cheers to Neil Shubin of The University of Chicago for making creationists shit in their hands. As if Archaeopteryx--the feathered dinosaur--wasn't convincing enough, Shubin's team discovered a 375 million year old fossil fish/tetrapod transitional creature. For those of us who are not biology nerds, a tetrapod is a four legged animal like a reptile, amphibian, or mammal.
The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

In the fishes' forward fins, the scientists found evidence of limbs in the making. There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders. The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile's, a neck, ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.

So, as a creationist, how do you fit a fish with primitive fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders into your understanding of the world? Isn't it an awfully interesting coincidence? I guess God just put it there to test our faith, right? Or it was Satan trying to tempt our will away from God?

One creationist site on the Web (emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs /evid1.htm) declares that "there are no transitional forms," adding: "For example, not a single fossil with part fins, part feet has been found. And this is true between every major plant and animal kind."

Dr. Novacek responded: "We've got Archaeopteryx, an early whale that lived on land, and now this animal showing the transition from fish to tetrapod. What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?"

Duane T. Gish, a retired official of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, said, "This alleged transitional fish will have to be evaluated carefully." But he added that he still found evolution "questionable because paleontologists have yet to discover any transitional fossils between complex invertebrates and fish, and this destroys the whole evolutionary story."

Creationists always point to a dearth of transitional forms as evidence against evolution. Well, we've had Archaeopteryx for over a century,and now we have a fish/tetrapod. I'm sorry, but when a fossil so beautifully demonstrates evolution in front of our very eyes, how can a person not be convinced? We're talking about a fish with feet. When creationists have to deny the simplest, most logical explanation for a natural phenomenon, and follow a convoluted rationale in order to fit reality into their worldview, scientists are flabbergasted--and why shouldn't they be? Like I said, we're talking about a fish with feet.

As a side note, I almost went to grad school for organismal biology & anatomy at U of Chicago; it's a tremendous place. I can hardly imagine the energy in the halls right now.

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