Thanks for your question, which I am copying to my blog CreationEvolutionDesign, minus your personal identifying information, and with other changes (including splitting it into two parts because of its length).
----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 1:10 PM
Subject: Re: Richard Dawkins on the Al Franken Show
>What do you make of the "missing link" just discovered about the fish gills that evolved into human ears?
I was about to respond to this as part of my next science news excerpts post, so I will transfer the article to here. My comments are bold and in square brackets.
Evolution of Ear Is Noted in Fossil: Transitional Stage of Organ May Have Helped Ancient Fish Breathe, Washington Post, David Brown, January 19, 2006 ... Question: What do you do with half an ear? Answer: You breathe through it. That's the conclusion reached by a pair of researchers who say they have found a fossil "snapshot" of the ear partway through its evolution to its current form. [See also Livescience. As a creationist who accepts common ancestry, I would have no problem if this was true, but as the article itself says, there is some doubt that it is true.]
The structure that became the sound-conducting middle ear of land animals began as a tube that permitted ancient shallow-water fish to take an occasional breath of air out of the top of their heads -- at least according to Martin D. Brazeau and Per E. Ahlberg of Uppsala University, in Sweden. [Ahlberg is a highly respected Devonian tetrapod paleontologist, so while I take seriously any claim he makes about their fossils, I do not regard him as infallible. My motto is, "Test everything. Hold on to the good" ( 1 Thess 5:21).]
Their conclusion is controversial, as it amounts to a radical reinterpretation of how the ear developed in land-based animals. If it withstands scientific scrutiny, the fossil will be a rare example of an organ glimpsed partway along its evolutionary path, at a point when its function was very different from that of its final form. [This is a significant point. If Darwinian evolution (the version of evolution taught in schools and universities) was true, then it should not be "rare" to find an "example of an organ glimpsed partway along its evolutionary path." Such nascent organs (i.e. "in the course of being developed") should be common, but in fact they are "rare" (if not "non-existent"):
"BIOLOGISTS adduce as strong evidence in support of the evolution doctrine the existence in organisms of structures which they usually describe as rudimentary. If these were in reality rudimentary, that is to say, in a nascent condition, in the course of being developed, their presence would indeed afford strong support to the theory. Unfortunately for the doctrine, not one of these structures is rudimentary. Some of them are vestigial, that is to say, organs in a state of degeneration. If the evolution doctrine was merely that many types have degenerated since they were created or originated, then the presence of vestigial organs would afford strong support to it. What the doctrine demands is not vestigial, but nascent organs, and the latter appear to be non-existent. Such a state of affairs seems to strike at the root of the evolution doctrine. Better evidence of the assertion that for the last fifty years biological textbooks bring to light only that which is favourable to evolution and pass over unnoticed all that is unfavourable could scarcely be adduced than the fact that these volumes contain many references to vestigial organs, but none to nascent organs." (Dewar D., "Difficulties of the Evolution Theory," Edward Arnold & Co: London, 1931, p.24) ]
Opponents of evolution say such "intermediate forms" should rarely, if ever, exist. [It is in fact the case that "intermediate forms" ... rarely, if ever, exist" in the fossil record, as none other than Stephen Jay Gould admitted was "the trade secret of paleontology":
"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils." (Gould S.J., "The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change," in "The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1990, reprint, pp.150-151)]
They contend that many anatomical structures are too complicated to have evolved step by step. [It depends on what one means by "step." If one means "step by" tiny "step," i.e. by "slight, successive ... steps" as Darwin pointed out that natural selection could only operate by:
"As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modifications; it can act only by short and slow steps. Hence the canon of "Natura non facit saltum," [nature does not make leaps] which every fresh addition to our knowledge tends to confirm, is on this theory intelligible." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," , Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.447)
then the fact is that there is little evidence for, and much against, that "anatomical structures ... evolved step by step." For example, geneticists Orr and Coyne concluded that "there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak":
"We conclude-unexpectedly-that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak, and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation." (Orr H.A., & Coyne J.A., "The Genetics of Adaptation: A Reassessment," The American Naturalist, Vol. 140, No. 5, November 1992, p.726)]
Instead, they had to have been created in their final form. [This is a fallacy of false alternative. Creation can be either immediate (i.e. "instantaneous ... without the intervention of any second causes") or mediate (from "out of preexisting material")" and this in fact "has ever been the doctrine of the Church":
"But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i.e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the Mosaic account of the creation. ... It thus appears that forming out of preexisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. ... There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes." (Hodge C., "Systematic Theology," , James Clark & Co: London, Vol. I, 1960, reprint, pp.556-557).]
"This is another nail in the coffin of the creationist view, in my opinion," said Mark W. Westneat, an associate curator of zoology at the Field Museum of natural history in Chicago.[It is interesting how evolutionists pronounce routinely on "the creationist view" yet they claim it is: 1) "not scientific" (so why do they, as scientists, pontificate on something that they claim is not even their field?) and 2) "not falsifiable" (so why do they claim they have falsified it?). But while even a single genuine transitional intermediate fossil would indeed be a "nail in the coffin of the" separate "creationist view," it is not at all a "nail in the coffin of the" mediate "creationist view" that I hold, and therefore it is not a "nail in the coffin of the creationist view." But this again confirms George Hunter's thesis that evolution is at bottom theological, i.e. "evolution is considered to be a fact because Darwinists believe they have disproven the alternative: divine creation":
"How then can evolution be a fact if even the positive evidence does not support it very well? The answer is that evolution is considered to be a fact because Darwinists believe they have disproven the alternative: divine creation." (Hunter C.G., "Darwin's Proof: The Triumph of Religion Over Science," Brazos Press: Grand Rapids MI, 2003, p.10)
But in fact, all they have disproven is one version of creation, separate (i.e immediate) creation. And the overall pattern of the fossil record of a "sequence of species which led directly from the unspecialized terrestrial ancestral form [and] gave rise to no [or few] collateral branches" is more consistent with my mediate creation theory than with undirected natural processes (i.e. naturalistic evolutionary) theory:
"Darwin's insistence that gradual evolution by natural selection would require inconceivable numbers of transitional forms may have been something of an exaggeration but it is hard to escape concluding that in some cases he may not have been so far from the mark. Take the case of the gap between modern whales and land mammals. All known aquatic or semi-aquatic mammals such as seals, sea cows (sirenians) or otters are specialized representatives of distinct orders and none can possibly be ancestral to the present-day whales. To bridge the gap we are forced therefore to postulate a large number of entirely extinct hypothetical species starting from a small, relatively unspecialized land mammal like a shrew and leading successfully through an otter-like stage, seal-like stage, sirenian-like stage and finally to a putative organism which could serve as the ancestor of the modern whales. Even from the hypothetical whale ancestor stage we need to postulate many hypothetical primitive whales to bridge the not inconsiderable gaps which separate the modern filter feeders (the baleen whales) and the toothed whales. Moreover, it is impossible to accept that such a hypothetical sequence of species which led directly from the unspecialized terrestrial ancestral form gave rise to no collateral branches. Such an assumption would be purely ad hoc, and would also be tantamount to postulating an external unknown directive influence in evolution which would be quite foreign to the spirit of Darwinian theory and defeat its major purpose of attempting to provide a natural explanation for evolution. Rather, we must suppose the existence of innumerable collateral branches leading to many unknown types. This was clearly Darwin's view and it implies that the total number of species which must have existed between the discontinuities must have been much greater than the number of species on the shortest direct evolutionary pathway. In the diagram opposite, which shows a hypothetical lineage leading from a land mammal to a whale, while there are ten hypothetical species on the direct path, there are an additional fifty-three hypothetical species on collateral branches. Considering how trivial the differences in morphology usually are between well-defined species today, such as rat-mouse, fox-dog, and taking into account all the modifications necessary to convert a land mammal into a whale - forelimb modifications, the evolution of tail flukes, the streamlining, reduction of hindlimbs, modifications of skull to bring nostrils to the top of head, modification of trachea, modifications of behaviour patterns, specialized nipples so that the young could feed underwater (a complete list would be enormous) one is inclined to think in terms of possibly hundreds, even thousands, of transitional species on the most direct path between a hypothetical land ancestor and the common ancestor of modern whales." (Denton M.J., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," Burnett Books: London, 1985, pp.172,174).
This was noticed by a reviewer of Eldredge's book, "The Pattern of Evolution" that what paleobiologists found in the fossil record was not "the slow, smooth and progressive changes Lyell and Darwin had expected" but "rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years" which was in fact "patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation":
"Palaeobiologists flocked to these scientific visions of a world in a constant state of flux and admixture. But instead of finding the slow, smooth and progressive changes Lyell and Darwin had expected, they saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years-patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation." (Pagel M., "Happy accidents?" Review of "The Pattern of Evolution," by Niles Eldredge, W.H. Freeman, 1999. Nature, Vol 397, 25 February 1999, p.665)]
"It is a great fill-in-the-gap story that shows a nice transition stage at an important point in evolution." Brazeau and Ahlberg examined the fossilized skull of Panderichthys , a fish about four feet long that lived in the Upper Devonian period about 380 million years ago. It was an intermediate creature between earlier lobe-finned fishes and true "tetrapods," or four-limbed animals. [I hold "the creationist view" and I have long accepted that that "Panderichthys ... was an intermediate creature between earlier lobe-finned fishes and ... tetrapods." But Panderichthys is more consistent with my mediate creation theory than undirected evolution in that: 1) it was developing its "endochondral bones of the fin [that] are closely comparable to those of terrestrial vertebrates", namely "humerus ... ulna and radius in the forelimb, and the femur, tibia and fibula in the hind limb" internally and under water "within a functionally continuous fin structure"; 2) the "bones that are homologous with ...the wrist ...and ankle ... of land vertebrates" "could not have functioned in the manner of these joints in terrestrial vertebrates because they are extensively overlapped by the radius and the tibia" and 3) "There is no trace of endochondral skeletal elements comparable with the distal carpals or digits of terrestrial vertebrates" which "appear de novo in the Upper Devonian tetrapods" (my emphasis):
"Neither the fossil record nor study of development in modern genera yet provides a complete picture of how the paired limbs in tetrapods evolved ... The closest comparison between the paired fins of obligatorily aquatic fish and animals that were at least facultatively terrestrial is provided by the osteolepiform sarcopterygians Eusthenopteron and Panderichthys and the stem tetrapods Acanthostega and Ichthyostega. ... Superficially, the paired fins of the fish appear typical of strictly aquatic vertebrates. They are small relative to the body; they narrow at the base that articulated with the pectoral and pelvic girdles, but broaden distally to form an effective surface for locomotion or directional control in the water. ... In contrast, the internal, endochondral bones of the fin are closely comparable to those of terrestrial vertebrates. There is a single proximal humerus and more distal ulna and radius in the forelimb, and the femur, tibia and fibula in the hind limb. They are succeeded distally by bones that are homologous with proximal elements of the wrist (intermedium, ulnare, and centralia) and ankle (fibulare, intermedium, and possibly distal tarsals) of land vertebrates, but they could not have functioned in the manner of these joints in terrestrial vertebrates because they are extensively overlapped by the radius and the tibia. The entire endochondral skeleton is within a functionally continuous fin structure, as seen from its scaly covering. There is no trace of endochondral skeletal elements comparable with the distal carpals or digits of terrestrial vertebrates. ... In contrast with the clear homology of the more proximal limb bones in osteolepiform fish and early tetrapods, no obvious homologues of the digits is evident in any sarcopterygian. These bones appear de novo in the Upper Devonian tetrapods. How can this be explained?" (Carroll R.L., "Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1997, pp.230-232)
This is inconsistent with Darwinian `blind watchmaker' evolution and consistent with long-range strategic planning by an Intelligent Designer (who I assume to be the Christian God).]
[Continued in part #2]