Loc: Leicester, England
Bex let's start with your "Whale of a Tale" article. I don't know why the 1994 bit is still there because it was invalidated when the pelvis of the ambulocetus fossil was actually found. Interestingly, there is a 2002 addendum that says that none of the material found has been subjected to peer review. This is incorrect. The discoveries were mentioned in scientific literature in 1998, photos were available on Thewissen's website in 1999, and the paper was published in Nature (a peer-reviewed journal) in 2001.
As for Batten's claims that ambulocetus was purely a land animal and not a whale, he's wrong there too. He clearly hasn't looked at the actual evidence. The nature of ambulocetus as a transitional form, and the features that make it both a whale and one that lived in water most of the time, are discussed here http://smithlifescience.com/WhaleEvolution.htm
In the same area that Pakicetus was found, but in sediments about 120 meters higher, Thewissen and colleagues (1994) discovered Ambulocetus natans, "the walking whale that swims", in 1992. Dating from the early to middle Eocene, about 50 million years ago, Ambulocetus is a truly amazing fossil. It was clearly a cetacean, but it also had functional legs and a skeleton that still allowed some degree of walking on land. The conclusion that Ambulocetus could walk by using the hind limbs is supported by its having a large, stout femur. However, because the femur did not have the requisite large attachment points for walking muscles, it could not have been a very efficient walker. Probably it could walk only in the way that modern sea lions can walk - by rotating the hind feet forward and waddling along the ground with the assistance of their forefeet and spinal flexion. When walking, its huge front feet must have pointed laterally to a fair degree since, if they had pointed forward, they would have interfered with each other.
The forelimbs were also intermediate in both structure and function. The ulna and the radius were strong and capable of carrying the weight of the animal on land. The strong elbow was strong but it was inclined rearward, making possible rearward thrusts of the forearm for swimming. However, the wrists, unlike those of modern whales, were flexible.
It is obvious from the anatomy of the spinal column that Ambulocetus must have swum with its spine swaying up and down, propelled by its back feet, oriented to the rear. As with other aquatic mammals using this method of swimming, the back feet were quite large. Unusually, the toes of the back feet terminated in hooves, thus advertising the ungulate ancestry of the animal. The only tail vertebra found is long, making it likely that the tail was also long. The cervical vertebrae were relatively long, compared to those of modern whales; Ambulocetus must have had a flexible neck.
Ambulocetus's skull was quite cetacean (Novacek 1994). It had a long muzzle, teeth that were very similar to later archaeocetes, a reduced zygomatic arch, and a tympanic bulla (which supports the eardrum) that was poorly attached to the skull. Although Ambulocetus apparently lacked a blowhole, the other skull features qualify Ambulocetus as a cetacean. The post-cranial features are clearly in transitional adaptation to the aquatic environment. Thus Ambulocetus is best described as an amphibious, sea-lion-sized fish-eater that was not yet totally disconnected from the land life of its ancestors. Length 3 meters/ 10 feet.
Just a quick note on this passage you give about humans and beasts (judiciously ignoring the author's strange fascination with having sex with them). Believing that humans are separate from animals and that animals are lesser than us, is one way of looking at things but it isn't the only way. I believe that all life is unified, unique, and deserving of respect. More of a Native American philosophy than a fundamentalist Biblical one I guess you could say. I don't have any moral or philosophical trouble in thinking that humans evolved from other forms, and I have never been known to call any other creature a "brute" or a "beast." By saying humans evolved from an apelike ancestor, we are not saying humans ARE apes. We are something new and unique. Again, no evidence here for creation or against evolution.
Right, my computer has crashed twice while I’ve been talking about these quote-mined quotes. If I ever see another one I’m going to thrash it within an inch of its life LOL.
Bex, just a few posts back I told you about these. I gave you a link that gives them in abundance and explains how they have been taken out of context. I showed you here myself, using a quotation given from one of the scientists investigating the ambulocetus evidence. And yet you post a whole slew of them here. Have you investigated a single one yourself?
Keep in mind that scientists who accept evolution as fact (99.9% of them) do not walk around “tripping themselves up” by saying it’s nonsense. If they are criticising, it’s going to be an aspect of the way evolutionary theory works, not the whole theory itself. If they say there is a lack of evidence, they mean just that. They might be hoping someone goes out and finds it, which is often the case – note that these “lack of evidence” quotes are usually decades old (Darwin’s, over 150 years). And again, a lack of evidence e.g. in the fossil record of a species does not mean that the entire theory of evolution has been dealt a fatal blow.
Many of the quotes here do not have dates, which is telling. Some do not give their authors. I will choose a few to deal with. In fact I have these just about memorised because it’s the third flipping time I’ve typed this.
Quote: Corner has also gained some notoriety among creationist circles in recent years for a frequently circulated quotation: "...but I still think that to the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favor of special creation." However, this (incomplete) sentence has been taken out of context, and in context (emphasis added below) it is clear that he was by no means arguing in any way for special creation, or against evolution:
Here is the full quote:
The theory of evolution is not merely the theory of the origin of species, but the only explanation of the fact that organisms can be classified into this hierarchy of natural affinity. Much evidence can be adduced in favour of the theory of evolution - from biology, bio-geography and palaeontology, but I still think that, to the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favour of special creation. If, however, another explanation could be found for this hierarchy of classification, it would be the knell of the theory of evolution. Can you imagine how an orchid, a duckweed, and a palm have come from the same ancestry, and have we any evidence for this assumption? The evolutionist must be prepared with an answer, but I think that most would break down before an inquisition. Textbooks hoodwink. A series of more and more complicated plants is introduced - the alga, the fungus, the bryophyte, and so on, and examples are added eclectically in support of one or another theory - and that is held to be a presentation of evolution. If the world of plants consisted only of these few textbook types of standard botany, the idea of evolution might never have dawned, and the backgrounds of these textbooks are the temperate countries which, at best, are poor places to study world vegetation. The point, of course, is that there are thousands and thousands of living plants, predominantly tropical, which have never entered general botany, yet they are the bricks with which the taxonomist has built his temple of evolution, and where else have we to worship?" (E.J.H. Corner 1961, from 'Evolution', p. 97, in "Contemporary Botanical Thought", Anna M. Macleod and L. S. Cobley (editors), Oliver and Boyd, for the Botanical Society of Edinburgh)
Corner is saying that evolution is the best model we have that fits the evidence – and much of that evidence is still being discovered, in the form of new species. Keep in mind that this quote is from 1961. New living species and new fossils are being discovered all the time, and genetics is also giving us a wealth of information.
Another quote from your source:
Quote: "The origin of birds is largely a matter of deduction. There is no fossil evidence of the stages through which the remarkable change from reptile to bird was achieved" - W.E. Swinton
I was able to find the date for this quote. It is 1960. Swinton was writing 16 years before Ostrom's (1976) seminal work on the relationships between Archaeopteryx and theropod dinosaurs. His comments are no longer representative of current thinking on the origin of birds, nor the ancestry of Archaeopteryx.
And the much-maligned Stephen J. Gould. I told you he was a favourite target of creationist quote-mining, much to his annoyance. Did you scan down your list and notice that there he is, in this one? Bearing in mind that I told you he’s complained about being quoted out of context, did you make any attempt to check out the context of this quote?
He and Niles Eldredge are known for a theory called punctuated equilibrium. It is one model for one way evolution might work and it has been much-debated. Creationists like to think that its existence alone necessitates that there are major problems with evolution and that evolutionists themselves say there are no transitional fossils. Here is what Gould had to say about this in 1981, in an article titled “Evolution as Fact and Theory”:
Quote: [T]ransitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common -- and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. [He then discusses two examples: therapsid intermediaries between reptiles and mammals, and the half-dozen human species - found as of 1981 - that appear in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more modern features.]
Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am -- for I have become a major target of these practices.
I count myself among the evolutionists who argue for a jerky, or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change. In 1972 my colleague Niles Eldredge and I developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium. We argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record -- geologically "sudden" origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis) -- reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record. In most theories, small isolated populations are the source of new species, and the process of speciation takes thousands or tens of thousands of years. This amount of time, so long when measured against our lives, is a geological microsecond . . .
Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists -- whether through design or stupidity, I do not know -- as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.
Gould, in this article and many more over the next twenty years, consistently and extensively explained his position and the evidence for evolution, including transitional forms found in the fossil record. The constant abuse of the body of Gould's life's work in the face of this is not merely dishonest, it is despicable.
Finally, you (or your source) said:
Quote: there is an explanation which fits the facts perfectly - the biblical account of special creation!
Then please tell me how it explains the answers to the questions I summarised a few posts back.
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