Evolution v. Intelligent Design Watch: Thomas Nagel Nails It

In his new collection of essays (just released by Oxford University Press), Thomas Nagel’s essay on Intelligent Design is included. In that essay, Nagel makes a striking and ironic observation about ID’s relation to science. Since ID is the inverse of evolutionary theory, to be scientific it simply needs to function as a critique of evolutionary theory’s central claim. Nothing more. Here’s how Nagel puts it (and very clearly, I might add):

[Evolutionary theory’s] defining element is the claim that all this happened [that is, the origin of species] as the result of the appearance of random and purposeless mutations in the genetic material followed by natural selection due to the resulting heritable variations in reproductive fitness. It displaces design by proposing an alternative … It is therefore puzzling that the denial of this inference, i.e., the claim that the evidence offered for the theory does not support the kind of explanation it proposes, and that the purposive alternative has not been displaced, should be dismissed as not science. The contention seems to be that, although science can demonstrate the falsehood of the design hypothesis, no evidence against that demonstration can be regarded as scientific support for the hypothesis. Only the falsehood, and not the truth, of ID can count as a scientific claim.

Wow. That’s a really interesting observation, isn’t it? If evolutionary theory means to account for the origin of species as having only the appearance of design, then gaps and weaknesses pointed to in the science surrounding the hypothesis itself constitute a scientific critique, right?


About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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31 Responses to Evolution v. Intelligent Design Watch: Thomas Nagel Nails It

  1. Pingback: To What Shall I Liken Intelligent Design? « Prometheus Unbound

  2. ogatoprecambriano says:

    Not really.
    What is clear is that Nagel don’t understand what Evolution is, and have a poor understanding of how science works.
    By now Theory of Evolution is not an “inference”.
    Santi please, follow Shamelessly Atheist advice and get a good book on Evolution: ‘Why evolution is true’, The greatest show on Earth’, ‘Our inner fish’, and stop to embarass yourself.

  3. santitafarella says:


    I’ve already read two out of the three books that you’ve mentioned.

    I believe the Earth is old and that plants and animals share a common ancestor. I’m just keeping an open mind about the possibility that maybe all that we see around us (the universe, the laws of physics, our free will) cannot be fully accounted for via time, chance, and natural selection. Maybe, just maybe, there’s some telos at work too.


    • TomH says:


      “…cannot be fully accounted for via time, chance, and natural selection.” You need more faith in Darwin. 😉

      Regarding “evolution”–it’s a vague word due to equivocation. “Science” and “species” are also vague, but for a different reason. Their meanings have been derived from history and have been used in an eclectic manner, which has resulted in a wide divergence of properties attached to those words.

      Regarding a young earth cosmology, have you looked at Russell Humphreys’ recent stuff? I think that he has worked out mechanisms to produce radiometrically “old” minerals in a very short time (based on hyper-gravitational physics) and for light to reach the earth from long distances within 6,000 years (based on relativity). It’s interesting, but I’m not sure that I buy it.

      There are several other YEC cosmological models out there as well, so it’s an exciting time in the YEC world, with cosmological speculations abounding. lol

    • An Holocaust dennier can also say the same: He/She is just keeping an open mind about the possibility that the Holocaust never happened….

  4. santitafarella says:

    Okay, Tom. I’ll play. But give me just one contemporary young earth creationist book that you think an agnostic like me could read, then put down with some doubts in my mind. I dropped young earth creationism in my teens (after reading Gould’s “Ever Since Darwin” sitting in a Del Taco in Palmdale, California). I have never revisited it seriously since. My copy of Whitcomb and Morris’s “Genesis Flood” is buried in my garage somewhere.

    I will say this about Gish, Morris etc.: when I was a kid they turned me on to reading science. There’s a direct line from those guys to me subscribing to Discover magazine as a kid. It’s one reason I’m a bit glib about all the handwringing about how bad creationism is for science. Once you start asking questions about the universe, and start reasoning about it, even from faulty or ridiculous vantages, it puts you on a path where you end up sitting in Del Taco devouring Stephen Gould books. I’m really not worried about my kids (for example) being exposed to creationism because, so long as they are exposed to serious science as well, I think they’ll draw sensible conclusions about science.

    Also, I think that once you start reading the creationists books you’re already on the path to oblivion—you’re already on your way off the religious path. You don’t read such books unless you are doubting something, and the explanations offered are so bad (at least in my experience of them) that you end up reading serious scientists for the rest of the story. Getting to Gould after Gish was like encountering a Titan after a satyr. It made me appreciate the scientific mind more, not less. Today, I think that the situation is even worse for the young earth creationists because so many big time scientists have weighed in to speak to lay audiences.

    But, as I say, if you’ve got a book to recommend, I’ll check it out at Amazon. Maybe there is a young earther out there who has refined some arguments in such a way that there are some interesting points being made. But I seriously doubt it. Right now I put young earth creationism in the epistemic horse barn with Holocaust denial and UFOs.


    • TomH says:


      I’ll need to know more specifics about your questions before I can recommend a book. I can recommend a paper about common ancestry immediately. See “Is Common Descent an Axiom of Biology?” by Paul Nelson at http://www.arn.org/docs/nelson/pn_darwinianparadigm061593.htm

      I am planning on ordering “Rock Solid Answers,” (RSA) which is a new book on Amazon by a couple of YECs. (I know John Reed personally, as he was the editor in charge of reviewing a paper on demarcation that I submitted to the Creation Research Society Quarterly. Dr. Reed is very aware, philosophically speaking, so I have confidence in his judgment.) I may end up recommending RSA to you. “The Genesis Flood” is a bit dated.

      If you want to browse some articles, you can find some at http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles_chron.htm

      Unfortunately, as many YECs are frank to admit, a lot of articles in CRSQ aren’t very good. However, a lot on the page that I linked are gems. The geology papers especially tend to be very good. The philosophy papers, not so much, except for papers by Reed. Anything in physics looks pretty good, though some are quite speculative. I found the article by Jonathan Henry about an old earth to be especially interesting.

      I think that the reason that some people move from YEC to old earth is because some YECs tend to give the impression that everything is nailed down instead of being more cautious, so people like yourself end up in an epistemic crisis and subsequently reject YEC. I went the other way because of an epistemic crisis and subsequently did a more cautious reevaluation once I realized that I had overreacted.

      I think that a couple of smoking guns that should raise questions about an old earth are 1) the discovery of well-preserved soft tissue in several dino fossils and 2) the discovery of several different kinds of grasses in dino coprolites. The RATE results from ICR are too new and unexamined to be smoking guns, though they demand examination, prima facie. The lack of a careful examination of RATE indicates a dogmatic sociopathology in the geochronological community. In some communities (e.g., genetics and geology), there is more dialogue between the YECs and non-YECs than is the case for geochronology. Some non-YECs go to YEC seminars and say that they are surprised to discover “real science.”

      You raised the question about skepticism leading away from religion. I initially became a deist because I asked a Sunday School teacher how we know that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and he answered, “We just believe it,” which is a fideist response. I returned to Christianity after looking at the Bible for myself from an evidentiary perspective (as opposed to–yuck–fideism). It seems that you equate fideism with religion. I would argue that biblical Christianity is evidentiary, based on an examination of the Bible.

    • And do you think that your experience or reaction on reading creationists is a typical one? So it’s ok to teach creationism/ID as science?
      I think you are missing the point, nobody, or at least i’d never read anybody claiming that creationists should be censored, their books burned or anything like this. The claim is Creationism/ID is not science so should not be teach as science, period.

  5. santitafarella says:


    I agree with you that young earth creationism is bad science, and so shouldn’t be in, say, a high school textbook. But I’m thinking of Blake right now (paraphrasing): “Those who restrain desire are weak enough to let their desire be restrained.”

    In other words, a teenager incurious, not particularly smart, or simply determined to hold to a literalist religious belief come hell or high water, will find young earth creationism sufficient to their purposes because they can use it to bolster their naive fundamentalism. There’s no reasoning with someone in this position. But absolutely no one else will be harmed by young earth creationist books in this manner (in my view).

    I don’t mean to overplay my own experience, but reading Gish’s “Evolution? The Fossils Say No” as a teen simply sent me to Donald Johanson’s book on australopithicus afarensis (“Lucy”). If your curiosity stops at the creationist books, that’s as far as you will ever get in any event, and you deserve the impoverished intellectual dinner plate that you’ve set before yourself.

    Young earth creationism, please remember, is a means of cultural isolation and defense, not of inquiry. And it can only hold the incurious, the unintelligent, or the smart but determined absolutist. It’s not a strong chain of oppression. A curious and intelligent inquiring person not already committed to a prejudice will never be permanently bound by it. In the age of the Internet and Amazon you have to be willfully ignorant to avoid all the scientific material available on these questions.

    I’m not, in this response, trying to be insulting to Tom. I’m sure he’s read widely, but he is, in my view, among the eccentric intelligent determined to believe the literalist understanding of the Bible no matter what (by faith). All reasoning thus conforms to the already pre-set conclusion. But rationalization is not the same as reason. It’s the difference between a prejudice and the deliberation of a jury weighing evidence.

    And ultimately, this is a choice of “being in the world.” Will you approach life with a determined prejudice or as if you were a jury member weighing evidence day by day? That’s a choice made prior to any presentation of data or evidence, and is a philosophical, not a scientific, decision.


  6. santitafarella says:


    I’ll have a look at the websites you suggest above. Thanks for that. The single curiosity in the dating of the Earth that I find interesting is soft tissue in dinosaurs. But one surprise does not a theory collapse. Converging lines of evidence from so many disciplines makes the curiosity something in need of another look—not because we think the Earth is young, but because we have obviously overestimated the completeness of fossilization under some circumstances. You would have to build up many, many curiosities of a similar nature before such a well established idea as an old Earth could be seriously challenged.

    And since you brought up dinosaur elimination, why are there no flowering plants in dinosaur poo?


    • TomH says:

      “Converging lines of evidence from so many disciplines…”

      That’s why I left the link to Henry’s paper. It shows the weakness in the convergence argument. Every time a discipline comes up with a divergence from an accepted date, the other disciplines alter their theories to match the new number. I’m not saying that they are cheating, but I am saying that the entailment isn’t blind. When five or six new numbers are entailed, with each of the previous numbers obviously being discounted, this really, really weakens the strength of the convergence.

      “And since you brought up dinosaur elimination, why are there no flowering plants in dinosaur poo?”

      I guess that you didn’t understand what I meant by coprolites. They are fossilized dino doo. Grasses are flowering plants. Here’s the memo:

      “Silicified plant tissues (phytoliths) preserved in Late Cretaceous coprolites from India show that at least five taxa from extant grass (Poaceae) subclades were present on the Indian subcontinent during the latest Cretaceous. This taxonomic diversity suggests that crown-group Poaceae had diversified and spread in Gondwana before India became geographically isolated. Other phytoliths extracted from the coprolites (from dicotyledons, conifers, and palms) suggest that the suspected dung producers (titanosaur sauropods) fed indiscriminately on a wide range of plants.” http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/310/5751/1177

      This is big news, because the evolution metanarrative used to hold that flowering plants weren’t well differentiated in the Cretaceous. This is yet another example where a creationist prediction was upheld and the evolution metanarrative had to be modified. I think that it’s important to look at which theory has to be modified a great deal, as that may indicate a weakness.

      Creationists, despite your obsolete view of us, are moving beyond dogmatism as regards theories. Obviously, we think that the historical evidence from Genesis is superior to inferential theories, but Genesis hardly fills in all the details. There’s plenty of room for–yuck–speculation. You can probably guess that I argue against speculation with other YECs who support speculation.

  7. santitafarella says:


    The flowering plant thing surprises me, and I’ll have a look at the convergence paper, but before I read it I have to say that the coordinated adjustments among the disciplines would have to be huge in the downward direction (for young Earth creationism to be true). In other words, adjustments would have to bring things down, not just a couple of million years, but all the way down to just 5-10 thousand years ago. To be a young earth creationist you’ve got to posit that contemporary mainstream science—from biology to geology to astronomy—is not just wrong, but spectacularly, breath-takingly, wrong. And you also have to posit that contemporary geology has missed the hugest flood that ever occurred. You’ve also got to posit that continental drift, speciation, genetic clocks—everything!—is wrong, wrong, wrong. Lastly, you have to believe that these errors are being perpetuated in part by professional taboo. In other words, scientists at every major university in the world are motivated, not to know the truth, but to conceal from exposure an error. It just has a very Alice-in-Wonderland quality to me.


  8. santitafarella says:


    I looked at your plant reference link and I notice that it is discussing the late Cretaceous. In other words, only 65 million years ago. If the creationist prediction were true (that flowering plants were in the world from the beginning, and being grazed upon by animals), you would find evidence going back to early Cretaceous (144 million years), Jurassic (200 million years), Triassic (240 million years), Permian (280 million years), Carboniferous (350 million years), and Devonian (400 million years) periods.

    In other words, obviously there was a very long time when no flowering plants and bees were on the earth, exactly as evolutionary theory predicts.


  9. santitafarella says:

    And here’s Wikipedia on flowering plants:

    “The ancestors of flowering plants diverged from gymnosperms around 245–202 million years ago, and the first flowering plants known to exist are from 140 million years ago. They became widespread around 100 million years ago, but replaced conifers as the dominant trees only around 60-70 million years ago.”

    In other words, there was a radiation of flowering plants in India at the time you would expect such a thing. Finding a fossilized rose or bee in the late Silurian (about 415 million years ago, when land plants first appeared) would accord with creationist ideas. Flowers in the late Cretaceous (65 million years ago) do not support creationism.


    • TomH says:


      The Wiki article on flowering plants reflects the recent changes to the evolutionary metanarrative, which is to be expected.

      Some creation geologists (and I) question the very concept of the Geologic Column (GC), so your question about flowering plants appearing in the various periods are meaningless to us. Some creation geologists still accept the GC, but I think that movement is away from acceptance.

      You might want to look at the experimental work of Guy Berthault regarding hydrological sorting. Berthault showed that several geological layers of considerable depth can be laid down simultaneously, which might explain patterns in strata as well as or better than time-based narratives.

      The GC was originally constructed based on Lyellian Uniformitarianism (LU)and has not changed remarkably, despite the rejection of LU that began in the 1970s. This seems _very_ odd. One would expect that the rejection of the basis of the GC would entail a complete reevaluation of the data, but that didn’t happen, which suggests that the evolutionary metanarrative may be sociologically compelling.

      Speciation is a hot topic in creationism due to the necessity for it after the Flood. Species divergence has been uncontroversial for several decades.

      The key thing to understand about the old earth (OE) concept is that it was _needed_ by some metaphysical commitments and therefore it was supported. There are sociologically-compelling and metaphysically-compelling reasons for the acceptance of OE rather than epistemically-compelling reasons, historically speaking.

      Genetic clocks are evidence against the evolutionary metanarrative, not for it. Haldane’s Dilemma is a HUGE problem now that Kimura’s Neutral Theory has been disconfirmed by the discovery of functionality for most kinds of “junk” DNA. You might want to look at the work by Walter ReMine. http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/43/43_2/cost_substitution.htm

      There are a _lot_ of evo-ideologues who don’t understand Haldane’s Dilemma who will say that it’s not a problem, but the chrono-geneticists know otherwise; ReMine discusses the issue on a webpage. You should be able to find a link to it at http://creationwiki.org/Walter_ReMine

      Regarding continental drift–this was originally a creationist idea (“in the days of Peleg the earth was divided”) and wasn’t accepted in geology for a long time.

      “…you also have to posit that contemporary geology has missed the hugest flood that ever occurred…” Or that many geologists have rejected the Noachian Flood a priori for metaphysical reasons. Certainly, the original reasons given for its rejection (based on LU) have themselves been rejected.

      So, geology and cosmology have been spectacularly wrong? Indeed, but not surprising, given the epistemically-impoverished forensic methods that they use and their susceptibility to compromise of theories due to deliberate entailment.

      Both the creation and evolution metanarratives have problems, but the creation metanarrative (CM) has needed fewer changes. The CM is anti-reductive and has been quite successful in its predictions, requiring few changes, while the EM is reductive and has required many changes in order to fit the data.

      Discoveries of new levels of complexity in cell biology in the last decade have spectacularly supported the CM and have resulted in many conversions away from EM for many cell biologists and for at least one well-known former atheist–Antony Flew. The Bible says it well, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

  10. santitafarella says:


    It’s obvious that you are very, very smart, and have given the whole age of the earth issue a great deal of thought. I’m enjoying the exchange. You’re giving me a glimpse into a contemporary counterculture that has built an intellectual edifice around an idea that I have a hard time getting my head around. A young earth and a global flood? Really? As a teen fundamentalist, I read all the creationist books of that time, but the scene has actually changed from the Gish/Morris days, and I’m actually astonished at the contemporary sophistication of the young earth position. Mind you, I think it’s wrong—but I find the fact that so much of an artifice of intellectuality has been built around such a wild idea is a testimony to the human ability to complexify and rationalize. It does seem to me that you are cleverly (even brilliantly) straining out gnats in order to swallow a very huge camel. There’s an “emperor has no clothes” quality to what you’re doing (and I don’t mean that you are in the position of the boy).

    I feel that there is a sense of proportion being lost in your very elaborate intellectuality—an Occam’s razor that you are concealing from yourself. Even early 19th century geologists like Lyell could see that the earth was a lot older than adding up the geneologies in the Hebrew Bible. It’s just an astonishing thing for you to continue to believe in the 21st century.

    I’m actually, however, glad that you’re doing what your doing. You might well notice some things about existence that others miss (because you’re looking at the world from such a curious vantage). We all have interesting life-views from our contingent windows. But again, I think that you are off in your judgment about the age of the earth by a millionfold (the earth is 5 thousand million, not 5 thousand, years old).


  11. santitafarella says:


    Another thought: It occurs to me that young earth creationists are exactly in the same position as UFO enthusiasts. UFO enthusiasts have built elaborate intellectual schemes around a dubious hypothesis that begs the question: Where are they? If a UFO would just land on the White House lawn, UFO enthusiasts would be vindicated.

    Likewise, the young earth creationists, to break through the—“Are you serious?!”—threshold, need something truly astonishing. If you guys, based on your theory, could just find Noah’s ark, or a human buried in the same strata as a dinosaur, you would have your—“See, I told you so”—moment. Short of that, like the UFO enthusiast, your ambiguous data points and eccentric interpretations of the evidence are going to always be out on the margins of the intellectual homestead, struggling to find their way back to the central hearth, in from the cold.


    • TomH says:


      You’re a very smart guy, too, and more open-minded than most supporters of the EM.

      “If you guys, based on your theory, could just find Noah’s ark…”

      Maybe, if the wood fossilized, but how would we know that it was associated with Noah without writing accompanying it? Even then, how would we filter out forgery? I would attack this quite strongly, as would many YECs.

      “…or a human buried in the same strata as a dinosaur…”

      Or maybe a dino egg somehow survived frozen for millions of years, then became unfrozen and hatched during the time of man. See, any theory can be rescued. I think that studies of hydrological sorting and taphonomy will have an impact in the future. We don’t find fossilization occurring today like it did in the past, as far as I know.

      “…your ambiguous data points and eccentric interpretations of the evidence are going to always be out on the margins of the intellectual homestead, struggling to find their way back to the central hearth, in from the cold…”

      Ah, but we have a sizable YEC base in the U.S. and it’s growing again. The museum in Kentucky is having an impact along with all the discoveries in cell biology. The DI is having an impact due to its emphasis on philosophy.

      Basically, the theory-choice situation is that every discipline is aware of serious problems in its area associated with the EM, but they are ignorant about the overall picture, so they mostly think that every other discipline has the answers nailed down. However, some are very aware of the big picture, like Eugene Koonin and Fred Hoyle, and come up with weird alternatives which are discounted by everybody. Those who know the big picture are aware of serious problems. The situation is not selecting out a bunch of gnats and swallowing a camel, like you think. You might read Paul Nelson’s survey of the “big picture,” “Is Common Descent an Axiom of Biology?” at http://www.arn.org/docs/nelson/pn_darwinianparadigm061593.htm

      As for YEC, I am actually agnostic about the length of the first three days. The form of a day in Gen. 1 is fixed in the text as one cycle of a period of darkness (evening) followed by a period of light (morning). The timekeeper (the sun) isn’t created until the fourth day and the text doesn’t specify 24 hour days as the necessary length of a day. Only the form is specified. I don’t see any reason to accept a long time for the first three days, so I consider myself a YEC. I certainly don’t accept the days of Genesis 1 as necessarily non-historical; here I am in good company, as the church has always considered the days of Gen. 1 to be historical. This probably isn’t very interesting to you, but I thought that I should explain my position.

      It seems to me that the EM is in serious distress when one looks at the _broad picture_. Furthermore, it seems that your view of paleontology is impacted by a problem with EM, which means that your view of biblical history must be revised, which impacts your reading of Gen. 1. Therefore, an attack on EM has the effect of strengthening the historical reading of Gen. 1.

      Oh, I should mention that ancient writers of commentaries about Gen. 1 often read it in a figurative sense, but not exclusively so. They also read it in an historical sense as well. Modern exegeticists of Gen. 1 who rely on ancient writers for support for their allegation that Genesis is to be read exclusively figuratively simply don’t know their ancient writers.

    • Yeah Tom

      All you YECs have to do is to find the fossil of a Cat in Pre-cambrian. Are you digging?
      And yes I almost forgot, you didn’t answer me what you young earthers plan to do with Gravity? You know, if the whole Universe is 6000 years old only, and not 14 billion it means that everything in the Universe: stars, galaxies, galaxiy clusters, black holes, quasars, pulsars, dark matter, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, is at least about 2,33 million times CLOSER. Check the videos.

  12. TomH says:


    “All you YECs have to do is to find the fossil of a Cat in Pre-cambrian. Are you digging?”

    How do we recognize Pre-cambrian? Are there any distinguishing features of it that are impervious to mixing? http://www.jstor.org/pss/3514941 There are LOTS of out-of-sequence fossils, so how much evidence does it take to disconfirm your “Geologic Column?”

    Regarding gravity, do you have a link to a text article? Text is much easier to work with–you can cut-and-paste, do searches, etc. Thanks.

    • “How do we recognize Pre-cambrian?”
      First it doesn’t matter, that is not the point and you know it. If there was a global flood and all the fossils we have were due to the massive extintion caused by that flood then we should find fossil cats with fossil dinossaurs and trilobyites. We shouldn’t be able to predict where to dig to find the Tiktaalik, as was done. All fossil record would be a frankin mess. It is not.
      Now i’m the one who ask: where are these LOTS of fossils out-of-sequence? Show me them. The link you give is on a computer simulation that deals with microstratigraphy, no real fossils. So what? Where are the LOTS of out-of-sequence fossils? Where are the whales together with ictiosaurus?
      As for the gravity problem the point is, you believe the Universe is younger by roughly a factor of 2 million, so evereything we see in Universe should be closer by this very same factor, as the Universe is not only young but relatively small, because it’s young. That’s what you YECs believe. Now, as you are a software expert, try this Multi-body Gravity Simulation Program: http://www.mediafire.com/?06ymwmwm5ym it simulates our Solar System. Give it a try puting something big like the Large Magelanic Cloud, with its 10 billion stars, each one with at least 10E29 Kg of mass, not at 168,000 light-years as scientists have measured it (with independent methods), but 2 million time closer as you think it should be, and see what happens. If you won’t to try the program see it in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEW1oQBZu-I

  13. santitafarella says:


    I think that you’re missing Gato’s (and my) larger point. YEC is in the equivelent situation of being down by a touchdown with 20 seconds left in a football game. Little handoffs here and there, nitpicking a yard in this way and that, isn’t going to cut it. You need a big play. Noah’s ark found. A dolphin in what were thought to be exclusively dinosaur dragon seas. A human site where dinosaurs were hunted for meat. Something. Anything.

    Right now, you’ve got some dinosaur soft tissue (which is intriguing, but still too easily accountable within the old paradigm).

    Think “UFOs on the White House lawn” big—and go searching for that.

    Think of the evolutionist who said, I think we’ll find a fish-land transition creature if we go digging at this site—and he actually located the critter (which you and I now know of as Tiktaalik). YEC has to be able to confirm its hypothesis in a similarly dramatic fashion.

    See Tiktaalik here:


  14. TomH says:


    Seriously, you just don’t realize that the scoreboard doesn’t show the correct score. In fact, the EM team is down by several touchdowns and time has expired. They haven’t even made the game close. Did you read the Nelson article?????

    I tried to play the link for Tiktaalik, but it wouldn’t play for me.

    Did you google Tiktaalik and look at counter-arguments, which now are quite compelling? http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/09/the_rise_and_fall_of_tiktaalik.html and http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v2/n1/tiktaalik-fishy-fish

    Did you know that sharks have genes for digits, too? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/070815-shark-gene.html Kind of a problem for the EM, what with not a lot of time to develop them. Otoh, it’s a classic example of vertebrate reuse, from a design perspective. Since I am an expert in reusable software, let me explain why this is so from my perspective. Reusable software modules often include a lot of different components. When an application makes use of reusable software, it often doesn’t use _all_ of the components. Hence, some of the components would appear to be “vestigial.” The same looks to be the case with sharks and their genes for digits. (Perhaps, however, shark speciation was designed to express the digits under unknown environmental conditions. We don’t really know one way or the other.)

    One problem is that disarticulated fossils are subject to interpretive conflation and are often missing significant parts of their anatomy, like Tiktaalik.

    Did you know that the Lucy fossils were severely disarticulated and came from a wide area and several different geologic layers? The Wiki article conveniently fails to address the scattering issue. Conflation, anyone?

    • David says:

      Hi Tom:

      You are incorrect about the Lucy specimen and appear to “reusing” a module of YEC disinformation.

      Pieces of Lucy’s knee joint were found loose in an erosion gully. This find is what lead Johanson and his team to look up stream and up slope to try and find where the knee had eroded from.

      You will notice that the pictures of Lucy’s remains from the Kenyan museum has neither knee present. http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Sciences/LifeScience/PhysicalAnthropology/HumansEvolved/HumanLineage/EarliestHominids/lucy.jpg

      This is because the knee itself was not found in situ and not a part of the collection. The rest of the remain were all found in situ and attempts by YEC to state otherwise is simply fraudulent.



      • TomH says:


        I heard the story about Roy Holt’s question about Lucy’s knee and Johanson’s reply from Tom Willis. You can read it here: http://www.csama.org/csanews/LUCY1.pdf Tom’s a lovable old curmudgeon who’d rather lose an arm than tell a lie.

        RAE gets the story wrong (http://www.rae.org/lucy.html) along with just about everybody else.

        I looked at the on-line 2006 pictures of the Lucy fragments and, sure enough, they are minus the knee. I don’t have older pictures to compare with, though I searched.

        “The rest of the remain were all found in situ and attempts by YEC to state otherwise is simply fraudulent.”

        How would you know if the rest of the remains were found in situ or not? How do you know that the knee wasn’t part of the same individual as the rest of the fragments?

  15. santitafarella says:


    I’ll take a look at your links above, but your confidence that YEC is not just plausible but AHEAD in the game is startling to me. You are really confident about this, and that actually impresses me. It’s making me wonder why.

    But here’s also a bit of reality: to the people that matter (scientists at the major universities) YEC is no more taken seriously than are UFOs in astronomy departments. And I can’t believe that all of this dismissal is just professional clubbiness and social conformity.

    I absorbed Tiktaalik in the conventional sense (I read the NY Times and watched the YouTube videos and read “The Inner Fish” book). That seemed sufficient. It never occurred to me to look at creationist sites for counter-arguments about it. It’s like going to a doctor, getting an opinion, and then going to the health food store and getting a counterargument from a clerk. I’m inclined to believe the person with the most impressive formal training, especially when his colleagues with equivelent training and presigious academic jobs are agreeing with him.


  16. santitafarella says:


    I read the first link you offered—at the Discovery Institute—and I thought the article there was very bad. It implied that Tiktaalik was being replaced by another prospective fossil find, and then retroactively dissed. That is ridiculous. No evolutionary scientist treats lineages in so linear a fashion. Cousins are pieces of the puzzle as well as direct ancestors. The landing upon a direct ancestor is rare because the fossil record is incomplete, but cousins and branching lineages on their way to, say, tetrapods, are informative (just as australopithicus and homo habilis and Neanderthal are all informative—even if they are not direct ancestors to us). That’s not good quality counter-evidence, Tom.


    • TomH says:


      Everything’s a piece of the puzzle, but of which puzzle? The Discovery article didn’t overreach, but corrected the overreaching in the popular press (which includes PBS). A “cousin” doesn’t help the EM case at all. A “cousin” is essentially just a leaf or unconnected branch, when a connecting branch is required.

      Let’s consider an analogy to see why this is so. The evo model posits a single bush or tree, which is necessarily totally continuous. The creo model posits a “copse” of bushes or trees, where there is _some_ discontinuity. The trick is to find evidence of discontinuity or to prove that everything is continuous; a “cousin” doesn’t help with that. The fossil record shows a _lot_ of discontinuity. Of course, there’s an explanation for that, but even a lot of evos (like Gould) are skeptical of the explanation. The story isn’t very tight.

      In order to check out the EM generally, it’s necessary to look at it from a broad perspective, like Gould, Hoyle, Koonin, Denton, and Nelson do. A survey paper (or book) is required for us to be able to evaluate the overall state of affairs of the EM since it involves several disciplines.

      (By the way, the technical AIG article is probably more substantive than the popular-level Discovery article, since it references other technical papers.)

      Sorry you didn’t like the Discovery article. Maybe it was too ideological? That goes with the pop territory. P I look for technical articles by evos first, then technical creo articles, and only pop-level if I can’t find anything else. I should have put the AIG article first and maybe just left the Discovery article out altogether.

  17. “technical creo articles” writen by people like you? Software experts pontificating on Earth’s age? Oh boy…

    • TomH says:

      Gato, what’s your specialty?

      As I am trained in physics, my expertise bears on some aspects of claims about the earth’s age, rusty though it may be.

      As regards pontificating, you should know, since you do it so much.

      The technical creo articles are written by people in field.

      Kind of funny that Coyne comes to a different result about the state of the theory of common ancestry than Gould, Lewontin, Hoyle, Haldane, or Paul Nelson. I looked for Coyne’s book at Barnes and Noble, but no luck. I’ll check the library.

      • Coincidentally I’m trained in physics as well, but unlike you, I don’t think it gives me a free pass to chalenge the scientific consensus on the field.
        As regards pontificating you are the one making claims not only on one single field of knowledge but on many, and against the consensus on all those fields. But…who knows, you should be a genious.
        This whole idea that there are creationist biology, geology, physics(?!), is pure bullshit. It’s a disonest way creationists give themselves a licence to claim whatever you want avoiding real scientific scrutiny.
        Kind of funny that you keep puting together Gould, Lewontin (both of them aren’t creationists), Hoyle (an astronomer who knows nothing on biology or evolution, but wasn’t a creationist either), Haldane (whose hypothetical “dilema” were never been proved), and the young earth creationist Paul Nelson (who promissed to give tomorrow (5 years ago and counting) an explanation of his boggus concept of “ontogenetic depth”) as if they were all in the same group, and have more authority than all biologists together. That is preposterous and highly misleading. A typical creationist tactic BTW.
        Coyne, unlike even Gould who were a paleontologist, is actualy a biologist and an expert in evolution.

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