Saturday, February 17, 2007

`the strange skeletal support of the lobe-finned fishes looks as if it had been evolved ... to support a crawling vertebrate' (Broom)

Continuing with this part #2 (see previous part #1) of my series on a book, "The Coming of Man: Was It Accident or Design?" (1933) by South African medical doctor, paleontologist and paleoanthropologist Robert Broom (1866-1951).

[Above: Comparison of the skeletons of a crossopterygian lobe-finned fish and an early amphibian, M.J. Farabee, Estrella Mountain Community College, Arizona]

Here again is my last quote of Broom in part #1, that "the evolution of man up from the fishes ... looks like a succession of very fortunate accidents" such that "it can hardly be wondered at if doubts arise as to their being accidents at all" (my emphasis):

"WE have traced the evolution of man up from the fishes, and have seen that it has been a very slow, steady progress, with never any going back and with rarely any specialisation till we come to the last stage, when man gets his large brain. The history has been a most remarkable one. It looks like a succession of very fortunate accidents; but as the apparent accidents have always given rise to higher and higher types of organisation, it can hardly be wondered at if doubts arise as to their being accidents at all." (Broom, R., "The Coming of Man: Was it Accident or Design?," H.F. & G. Witherby: London, 1933, p.212).

Broom then continued with the first stage of that "evolution" (so-called) "of man up from the fishes," that of the lobe-finned fishes (class Sarcopterygii or Crossopterygii), which from a basic Osteichthyes (bony fish) body plan, "At a very early stage fishes developed anterior and posterior lateral fins", i.e. not one but two pairs of fins, which contained the beginnings of the arm and leg bones,

[Above: The tetrapod limb, Understanding Evolution, Berkeley University]

that " later on four limbs would be required to support a land vertebrate":

"At a very early stage fishes developed anterior and posterior lateral fins. We can see how they probably arose, but there does not seem to have been any very great necessity at all for a pair of lateral fins. The most pelagic of all marine vertebrates, the whales, once had four limbs but have now only the anterior pair of flippers. Even many fishes have lost their pelvic fins, and many others have the pelvic fins shifted forward into the pectoral region. Perhaps four lateral fins were evolved, because later on four limbs would be required to support a land vertebrate. Then the strange skeletal support of the lobe-finned fishes looks as if it had been evolved, not specially to benefit the fishes, but because it would presently be required to support a crawling vertebrate." (Broom, Ibid, pp.212-213).

As Broom noted above, "the strange skeletal support of the lobe-finned fishes looks as if it had been evolved not specially to benefit the fishes, but because it would presently be required to support a crawling vertebrate" (my emphasis)!

In which case this "modification in a species ... for the good of another species" would "annihilate" Darwin's theory, were it not for his dishonest "exclusively," which he would have known turned his proposed test of his theory into a non-test because how could any critic prove that a "modification" was "exclusively for the good of another species"? (my emphasis):

"Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in a species exclusively for the good of another species; though throughout nature one species incessantly takes advantage of and profits by, the structures of others. But natural selection can and does often produce structures for the direct injury of other animals, as we see in the fang of the adder, and in the ovipositor of the ichneumon, by which its eggs are deposited in the living bodies of other insects. If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection. " (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," Sixth Edition, 1872, Senate: London, Facsimile Edition, 1994, p.162)

Because as Broom pointed out, "The lobe-fin is about the poorest fin that has ever been evolved ... But had it not been for the skeleton of the lobe-fin it would in all probability have been impossible for a crawling or walking limb ever to have been developed" (my emphasis):

"The lobe-fin is about the poorest fin that has ever been evolved. It was too poor for marine fishes, and seems to have been only evolved in some fresh-water types. But had it not been for the skeleton of the lobe-fin it would in all probability have been impossible for a crawling or walking limb ever to have been developed. A few of the higher fishes have taken to crawling at times, such as the gurnards, and the climbing perches, and the Indian siluroid fish Clarias, which, when the rivers dry up, crawls for long distances over the dried mud in search of water-holes, but none of these fishes has ever succeeded in evolving limbs. And the crawling limb was evolved in a type of fish that had a better brain, a higher evolved heart than the other fishes, and most probably it had lungs. The coincidences seem far too remarkable to have been due to accident." (Broom, Ibid, p.213).

And, as Broom further points out, "the crawling limb was evolved in a type of fish that had a better brain, a higher evolved heart than the other fishes, and most probably it had lungs. The coincidences seem far too remarkable to have been due to accident" (my emphasis).

So if by "evolution" is meant "the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process'" (my emphasis):

"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)

and if there were "miraculous additions at any one stage of descent" then it "was not evolution at all":

"Darwin ... wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish...I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin, C.R., Letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the whole point of this book. For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, pp.248-249. Emphasis original)

but rather "divine creation", i.e. "God ... influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history)" (my emphasis):

"At first sight there is an important distinction to be made between what might be called 'instantaneous creation' and 'guided evolution'. Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. ... many theologians ... smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day-to-day events that add up to evolutionary change. ... In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins, 1986, pp.316-317)

then who says God does not have a sense of humour?!

In fact the Bible says that God "laughs" at the combined efforts of the "rulers" of this world, to rebel against Him and "against his Anointed One" [Heb. "Messiah" (or "Christ" in the ancient Greek Old Testament)!] (my emphasis):

Psalm 2:1-12. 1Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. 3"Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." 4The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6"I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." 7I will proclaim the decree of the LORD : He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." 10Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The laugh is on the evolutionists because what they are studying and calling "evolution," is in fact (and always has been), "not evolution at all" but rather "divine creation"!!

To be continued in part #3.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).


Exodus 7:7-13. 7Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh. Aaron's Staff Becomes a Snake 8The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9"When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' then say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,' and it will become a snake." 10So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. 13Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.

2 comments:

Unguided said...

Stephen,

Two points:

1. You quote Broome:
"The coincidences seem far too remarkable to have been due to accident" (my emphasis).

How is this any more credible than someone stating that they do not seem far to remarkable? That to them it seems perfectly unremarkable (even if they have no other evidence)? Isn't it just pure opinion?

2. You also quote Broome
"As Broom noted above, "the strange skeletal support of the lobe-finned fishes looks as if it had been evolved not specially to benefit the fishes, but because it would presently be required to support a crawling vertebrate" (my emphasis)!

There are various theories as to how lobes benefit fish. These include assiting to move through vegetation, helping move through very shallow water and even to assist with accessing the surface for breathing.

To me these seem far more reasonable explanations as to why fish lobes evolved than something pre-determing that fish had to have them to later evolve into land based animals.

If as Broome suggests the ultimate goal was man, then why didn't fish get pre-destined to walk out of the water on two legs and we could have saved a whole lot of time and achieved a much better design? Or for whales, seals and walrus, why did they have to grow four legs only to lose them again? Why not just stick with the perfectly useful tail they had.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Unguided

>Two points:
>
> 1. You quote Broome:
"The coincidences seem far too remarkable to have been due to accident" (my emphasis).
>
> How is this any more credible than someone stating that they do not seem far to remarkable? That to them it seems perfectly unremarkable (even if they have no other evidence)? Isn't it just pure opinion?

No. First, I have not finished presenting all of Broom's evidence, which I will do so in further posts)in this series.

Second, as I quoted Broom (paraphrased), only *one* line of fish only developed additional, front and back limbs within fins, that were of no particular use to the fish themselves (they in fact all went extinct) but the four limbs were in fact of use millions of years down the track to *all* land vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds).

Moreover, as Broom pointed out, that line of fish which had "the crawling limb" was *also* the "type of fish that had a better brain, a higher evolved heart than the other fishes, and most probably it had lungs" and he therefore concluded that, "The coincidences seem far too remarkable to have been due to accident." (Broom, R., "The Coming of Man: Was it Accident or Design?," H.F. & G. Witherby: London, 1933, p.213).

An agnostic, the late Gordon Rattray Taylor, when considering a part of the fish to man transition, the construction of the mammalian inner ear, echoes Broom (even though there is no evidence that Taylor had ever read Broom's argument) that, "existing structures have been profoundly modified and even shifted to another position in a progressive series of changes which certainly *look more like the refinement of a plan than the result of a series of happy accidents*" (my emphasis):

"With all this, of course, went improvements in the brain, most notably the power to compare the times at which signals from one source reach each ear, thus providing a method of estimating the direction in which the source lies. Thus, in the course of evolution, there were six major developments, two of which occurred in the fishes, two in the amphibia and two in mammals. ... In contrast with the case of the eye, where undifferentiated cells were specialised into the required forms, here existing structures have been profoundly modified and even shifted to another position in a progressive series of changes which certainly look more like the refinement of a plan than the result of a series of happy accidents. But the insoluble problem is how and why did a balance organ become an organ of hearing? ... After describing the last part of this process, the adaptation of the bones linking the jaw to the skull into a chain of ossicles linking the eardrum to the inner ear, Ernst Mayr sweepingly remarks: 'Not all the steps in this process are yet entirely apparent, but I think little doubt is left as to the principle involved.' If by 'principle' one means merely progressive remodelling, the statement is a truism. But if 'principle' means that chance selection brought about these elaborate changes, then there must be very great doubt indeed. … Mayr does not seem to appreciate the elementary point that demonstrating the occurrence of a sequence of events does not explain why they happened. But what kind of mutations could bring about the major changes I have described? Could cause a tube to roll up into a helix? Could cause other tubes to form semi-circular canals accurately set at right angles to each other. Could grade sensory hairs according to length? Could cause the convenient deposit of a crystal in the one place it will register gravity? Even more amazingly, some fishes do not trouble to secrete a crystal but incorporate a bit of sand or stone. What kind of mutation could achieve this - when and only when a natural crystal is not formed? The purpose is fulfilled, the means are unimportant. It just doesn't make sense." (Taylor G.R., "The Great Evolution Mystery," Abacus: London, 1983, pp.105-106)

The bottom line is that, as Behe points out, "in the presence of manifest design, the onus of proof is on the one who denies the plain evidence of his eyes":

"A crucial, often-overlooked point is that the overwhelming appearance of design strongly affects the burden of proof: in the presence of manifest design, the onus of proof is on the one who denies the plain evidence of his eyes. For example, a person who conjectured that the statues on Easter Island or the images on Mount Rushmore were actually the result of unintelligent forces would bear the substantial burden of proof the claim demanded. In those examples, the positive evidence for design would be there for all to see in the purposeful arrangement of parts to produce the images. Any putative evidence for the claim that the images were actually the result of unintelligent processes (perhaps erosion shaped by some vague, hypothesized chaotic forces; would have to clearly show that the postulated unintelligent process could indeed do the job. In the absence of such a clear demonstration, any person would be rationally justified to prefer the design explanation." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box," [1996], Free Press: New York NY, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2006, pp.265-266)

> 2. You also quote Broome
"As Broom noted above, "the strange skeletal support of the lobe-finned fishes looks as if it had been evolved not specially to benefit the fishes, but because it would presently be required to support a crawling vertebrate" (my emphasis)!
>
> There are various theories as to how lobes benefit fish. These include assiting to move through vegetation, helping move through very shallow water and even to assist with accessing the surface for breathing.

All fully naturalistic "theories" because design is not even *allowed* to be considered!

But the evidence is that the tetrapod limb arose *underwater* [See my post http://tinyurl.com/2ua9ps], i.e. "The first vertebrate that walked onto land didn't crawl on fish fins, it had evolved *well-turned legs millions of years beforehand*":

"Clack who works at the University of Cambridge's Museum of Zoology, discovered the bulk of _Acanthostega_'s skeleton in 1987 and has been carefully reconstructing it ever since with fellow paleontologist Michael Coates. They are just finishing up their monographs on the creature, and some of the conclusions they've drawn from its body are surprising other paleontologists. For a long time it was assumed that our limbs and feet, which work so well for walking on land, evolved for that exact purpose. But _Acanthostega_ has convinced Clack and Coates otherwise; tetrapod anatomy evolved while our ancestors lived exclusively underwater and it evolved for life underwater. The first vertebrate that walked onto land didn't crawl on fish fins, it had evolved well-turned legs millions of years beforehand." (Zimmer, C., "Coming Onto the Land," _Discover_, Vol. 16, June 1995, pp.118-127, p.120. http://tinyurl.com/ywsn4g)

and "would have spent most of its time in the water" with "a fish-like gill apparatus" such that "While it had lungs, it may not have been obliged to use them":

"Given all these obstacles, how on earth did anything emerge from the water to roam dry land? Until quite recently, the evolution of land animals was seen as a matter of necessity. In an increasingly arid world, so the thinking went, fish were forced to haul themselves out of pools that were drying up and go in search of new ponds. In the process of coping with drought, these resourceful creatures evolved the limbs, lungs and senses that made a permanent move to land possible. ... But in 1987, Ahlberg and Jenny Clack of the University of Cambridge discovered some remarkably complete fossils on the barren shores of Greenland. _Acanthostega_ is around the same age as Ichthyostega and is also a very primitive tetrapod, forcing the palaeontologists to rethink. Years of painstaking laboratory analysis have revealed that _Acanthostega_ looked similar to the panderichthyids, except that it had limbs with digits instead of lobe-fins. The big surprise, however, is that this creature would have spent most of its time in the water. `We didn't expect to find _Acanthostega_ having such a fish-like gill apparatus,' says Coates, who described the material with Clack. `While it had lungs, it may not have been obliged to use them. The gill skeleton is an important part of our interpretation of _Acanthostega_ as primarily, and primitively, aquatic,' he adds." (McLeod, M., "One small step for fish, one giant leap for us," _New Scientist_, Vol 167, No. 2252, 19 August 2000, p.28)

But even if it had some use, it was a *sledgehammer to crack a nut* for the `blind watchmaker' to evolve *limbs* complete with the bones, e.g. humerus, ulna, radius, and carpals, that would `coincidentally' be needed millions of years down the track by land vertebrates. As I quoted Broom (my emphasis), "Afew of the higher fishes have taken to crawling at times, such as the gurnards, and the climbing perches, and the Indian siluroid fish Clarias, which, when the rivers dry up, crawls for long distances over the dried mud in search of water-holes, *but none of these fishes has ever succeeded in evolving limbs*." (Broom, Ibid, p.213).

> To me these seem far more reasonable explanations as to why fish lobes evolved than something pre-determing that fish had to have them to later evolve into land based animals.

That is hardly surprising, given that your pseudonym is "Unguided"!

> If as Broome suggests the ultimate goal was man, then why didn't fish get pre-destined to walk out of the water on two legs and we could have saved a whole lot of time and achieved a much better design? Or for whales, seals and walrus, why did they have to grow four legs only to lose them again? Why not just stick with the perfectly useful tail they had.

Your first question presumes that you know that the Designer wanted to: 1) "save… a whole lot of time"; and 2) "achieve… a much better design". The point is that if in fact the Designer's "ultimate goal was man" then His design included giving critics the freedom (and partially, though inadequate, grounds) to criticise His design. As Pascal noted:

"There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them and make them inexcusable." (Pascal, B., "Pensées," 578, [1660], W.F. Trotter, Trans. http://tinyurl.com/create.php)

As for your second question above, it actually partly answers your first question, i.e. the design was intended to be *flexible*, such that some mammals could "grow four legs only to lose them again"!

Indeed, this is the answer to the late Stephen Jay Gould's fallacious question: "Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones …?":

"The second argument-that the imperfection of nature reveals evolution- strikes many people as ironic, for they feel that evolution should be most elegantly displayed in the nearly perfect adaptation expressed by some organisms- the camber of a gull's wing, or butterflies that cannot be seen in ground litter because they mimic leaves so precisely. But perfection could be imposed by a wise creator or evolved by natural selection. Perfection covers the tracks of past history. And past history-the evidence of descent- is the mark of evolution. Evolution lies exposed in the imperfections that record history of descent. Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor? An engineer, starting from scratch, could design better limbs in each case." (Gould, S.J., "Evolution as Fact and Theory," in "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes," [1983], Penguin: London, Reprinted, 1986, p.258).

No doubt a human engineer (albeit using the mind that the Designer gave him!) "could design better limbs in *each* case" (my emphasis). But could (or would) a human engineer, *starting from a fish body plan*, design "better" limbs that would be so *flexible* that by variations on its theme, it could be used by *all* land vertebrates: amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals (including secondarily aquatic ones) for the next *~400 million years*?

Stephen E. Jones