What does the evidence say to the Discovery Institute?

The subject of today’s post is again about the denial of evidence for evolution by ID proponents. In the June 9th post, entitled: “Are Neo-Darwinists barking up the wrong tree?“, Casey Luskin and Logan Gage describes how some theists, including Stan Guthrie, are now embracing common ancestry. I applaud these people. However, the authors don’t buy it because of a lack of evidence for evolution. He says that we should ask “What does the evidence say?” I have been asking the same question for some time now, but IDers and I do not come up with the same answer.

One of the authors points is that the Cambrian explosion was too fast without any evolutionary precursors for the amount of new phyla seen. However, the Cambrian explosion was not the “geological instant” that it is made out to be. Does 70-80 million years seem like an instant? If you assume a generation to be 3 months, then that gives nearly 300 million generations of animals. Geological instant maybe, but a biological eternity.

Even if you were to accept that the Cambrian explosion was an act of God(Designer), you still have to accept that the creatures in existence back then are no longer around today. Where did all the new animals come from? This little detail seems to be missing from IDers analysis.

scientists have yet to uncover a scrap of evidence to suggest that they functioned as anything but commons fins

I have made this point so many times that I get blue in the face, but lack of evidence is not evidence that it is wrong. I am not too sure what kind of evidence they would want. Not too many pictures taken back then.

Anyway, as far as there not being a scrap of evidence, lets take a look at what the scientists who found the Tiktaalik fossils say about it:

Tiktaalik developed new mechanisms of head movement, respiration and body support that enabled this fish to exploit shallow water and even subaerial habitats. In support of this interpretation, ribs of the type that occur in Tiktaalik augment thoracolumbar rigidity and axial support, functions that are not necessary in an aquatic setting that is deep enough to support the body.

In regards to the fins that they simply dismisses out of hand, the authors point to:

Here we describe the pectoral appendage of a member of the sister group of tetrapods, Tiktaalik roseae, which is morphologically and functionally transitional between a fin and a limb. The expanded array of distal endochondral bones and synovial joints in the fin of Tiktaalik is similar to the distal limb pattern of basal tetrapods. The fin of Tiktaalik was capable of a range of postures, including a limb-like substrate-supported stance in which the shoulder and elbow were flexed and the distal skeleton extended.

I am not to sure how the authors can honestly say that there is not a “scrap of evidence.” Is it an honest mistake? Willful ignorance? Boldface lie?

They then goes on to poke holes in the Tree of Life (TOL) using the same arguments Luskin has used before. Rather than rehashing my criticisms of his analysis, I will just point you here. I do want to point out that Luskin and Gage refer again to a quote from WF Doolittle from June 1999, before the genomic era and the explosion of bioinformatic tools.

Both groups would do well to carefully scrutinize the scientific data and realize that there are good evidential reasons to question universal common ancestry.

Really? I haven’t seem it. All I hear from ID proponents is denial of evidence (read: Tiktaalik) or taking current unknowns as evidence against evolution (TOL).

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