Help, what are the falsehoods in this evolution takedown?

Hi, a new 10 min video that attempts to take down evolution, along with a more impressive response to criticism of it:

To my knowledge, this is one of the better arguments against evolution, that has used whales as a case study. I can see they have ‘generalised’ the points made against whale evo to say - “this is what evolution science always does”.

The final point being that - because scientists believe in evolution as a pre-determined position - they continually attempt to make the evidence ‘fit’ the narrative.

The rebuttal video is also very convincing - showing great detail and, to my mind, putting the evidence into an objective setting. The rebuttal of the jawbone dating evidence is very good science I think.


First thought is this. The video is put out by the Discovery Science News Channel, the official Youtube channel of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. The prominent leaders of this organization are supposedly fine with the conventional geological record, dating, common descent and evolution, just not “Darwinism”.

Discovery Institute affirms common descent. Whales obviously did not descend from spiders or birds. They are mammals. They descended from ancestral mammals. So what is DI’s problem? The video is talking dating and the fossil record here, not irreducible complexity.

Discovery Institute affirms evolution. Not in the mainstream sense of course, but with some divine design that progressively nudges the species along as opposed to instantaneous, ex nihilo “poofing”. So we have a fossil record which shows exactly that kind of progression in remarkable detail. Again, what is DI’s problem?

So if a vigorous rebuttal of this video is desired, I would suggest that it come from an organization that supports common descent and evolution. If the Discovery Institute means what they say, ask them.


Here’s a lecture by an actual expert in whale evolution.

@RyanBebej Do you have any other resource recommendations for people who want to learn more about whales being evidence for evolution?


Also, this video that I just posted in another thread looks at whales from four converging lines of evidence to show how scientists conclude their ancestors were land mammals. (I have not watched the DI videos, btw. I think a better plan than trying to refute specific misrepresentations is just to see what scientists actually say and let them make their own positive case.)


The following is a good survey paper of cetacean development.

From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

We’ve got a new article about Whale Evolution from @RyanBebej slated for a couple weeks from now! :slight_smile: Hopefully i can remember to link it here.


I don’t know that they take a stance in that topic… they neither affirm, nor deny, common descent, to my knowledge, and they have folks under their “big tent” on that topic who embrace both sides.

What they are doing in the video is questioning the standard narrative about whale evolution, and demonstrating what they see as its core problems. But they aren’t in this video at least proffering an alternate hypothesis. If they did, that hypothesis might well still include some variation of common descent.

As for @NTassie ‘s original question, my impression years ago was essentially the same as what these videos discuss: someone once offered to me whale evolution as the “best proof” of evolution, not unlike Coyne seems to have done in his book. They sent me a video that showed the progression of the proposed transitional organisms. I almost laughed out loud. Some people I suppose might see “positive proof” of evolution there. I saw different animals separated by untold differences that the animator of that video had to “hand wave” by making one animal “morph”‘into the next. And those were quite the huge transitions, very large scale, each step in the hypothetical chain is a huge evolutionary leap. All glossed over by the fancy morphing animation. I couldn’t help but think at the time, as I do now, that if this is the “best” the theory had to offer, I will remain quite happy in my skepticism.

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Looks like @HRankin beat me to it: I recently wrote an article for BioLogos in response to these videos. It is not a highly technical rebuttal, but I do discuss at length why the second video’s portrayal of the dating of the strata that yielded the basilosaurid jaw in Antarctica is highly misleading. Hopefully the article will be published soon!

As for more resources, here are a few:

  • @Christy shared a link to a slideshow/presentation I gave at a BioLogos meeting a few years back. I gave an expanded version of this talk at Calvin a couple of years later. You can download the audio along with the slides.

  • Mark Uhen, one of the primary experts in early whale evolution, wrote this technical review back in 2010. It’s hard to believe it has already been 10 years since this was published, but this is still a pretty good summary.

  • Uhen collaborated with Felix Marx and Olivier Lambert, who study slightly younger whale fossils, to write Cetacean Paleobiology, a recent textbook that covers all of cetacean evolution. This belongs on the shelf of any whale researcher. It is comprehensive and detailed. I also wrote a review of this book.

  • Hans Thewissen, another of the primary experts in the earliest whale fossils, wrote a pretty accessible book a few years ago called The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in 8 Million Years.

  • I think that this is one of the better websites that has compiled a lot of information about early cetacean evolution.

Hope these resources help those of you who are interested!


It’s a bit more subtle than that. As my excerpt states the fundamental criticism is undirected evolution (dysteleology). So, if common descent does turn out to be wrong, that’s the final nail in dysteleology’s coffin. On the other hand, we cannot affirm the consequent, so if common descent does turn out to be right, that still doesn’t demonstrate dysteleology.

In other words, modern dysteleologucal evolutionary theory has many, many ways in which it can be wrong, only one specific way it can be right. OTOH, there are many ways ID can be right, and only a few it can be wrong.

Hoping to send you edits by the end of the week! It’s been…a little nuts around here. :rofl:

That is a weasel. The standard narrative is that whales descended from terrestrial mammals. DI put out a video antagonistic to that. There is common descent or there is not, there is no little bit common descent. Did whales have an ancestry, or were they created out of the blue? I can give an unequivocal yes sir no sir answer as to what I think, right or wrong; no painful qualifying, no mealy mouthing. DI cannot get its alibi straight.

Then do pray tell us, what variation of common descent would fit with the video?


Hi NTassie,

You can explore the bioinformatics evidence behind the common ancestry of whales, hippos, and walruses from the comfort of your own home. This explanatory guide is designed for AP Biology students:

@Daniel_Fisher ^^



i think i will refrain. My time is limited, and i’ve decided to limit my responses to those times when my thoughts are desired for respectful engagement, rather than enter into conversations where I’m told I am mistaken and wrong before an attempt has even been made to understand my position.

You have inadvertently summed up why modern evolutionary theory (which is not explicitly dysteleological but which incorporates no mechanism for teleology) is a powerful and productive framework for studying biology while ID . . . isn’t.


To put it simply, the scientific method is predictive, precise, and testable while the opposing methodology of rhetoric offers no prediction, precision, or testing, but only an unending number of ways of coming up with excuses to ignore the evidence.

Enjoyed “The Tale of a Whale” video, BTW.


It’s good for selling books, though.

Oh… rhetoric makes the world go round – politics, sales, judicial system, business, religion,… It has far more applications in the messy everyday world of human affairs than the scientific method. Prediction, precision, and testability isn’t everything. Valuable sure. But confining your life to that box isn’t so great.


What I think is important to keep in mind when people claim to “take down” evolution in a You Tube video, is that when you ask people who actually study these things, the response is never “Oh no! My whole life has been dedicated to nonsense and lies! How could I have been so blind?” The response is to patiently try to explain what got over-simplified, misrepresented, or completely ignored. I have never once seen a professional evolutionary biologist devastated by these kind of critiques. So, it should tell you something that the people who find these kind of videos most compelling generally don’t have the background knowledge to assess whether the critiques are actually valid.


Sorry everybody, but I’m going to have to rant here.

Could somebody please address the actual points being made in these videos?

It’s all very well providing links to introductory articles on whale evolution. It’s all very well saying that professional evolutionary biologists are unfazed by YouTube videos such as these. It’s all very well criticising ID for not coming up with testable predictions of its own. It’s all very well making blanket statements that the people who make this kind of video are unreliable. And it’s all very well saying that people who find them compelling generally don’t have the background knowledge to assess the validity of those critiques. But many people reading threads such as this one are looking for help in acquiring the background knowledge to assess the validity of those critiques. They may have specific questions raised in their minds by them that the introductory articles on whale evolution quite possibly don’t answer to their satisfaction. They may not have understood the whale evolution articles properly. They may not have known how to fact-check the respective claims for themselves. If you’re not actually addressing the specific points that are being made by the video, but just hand waving them away as being made by unreliable people, you’re just fighting rhetoric with rhetoric. And if you’re just saying that the people who find these videos convincing are lacking understanding, without helping them to gain that understanding, you’re just portraying evolutionary biology as some kind of mysterious cabalistic knowledge made available only to insiders who have been blindfolded, rolled their left trouser leg up, and had the flat side of a dagger placed against their chest while the Headless Monks chant mysteriously in the background.

For what it’s worth, I watched both videos (despite having initially thought “meh, more videos, twenty-five minutes of my life gone, no thanks.”) My initial thought when watching the first was, “meh, another case of if-we’re-descended-from-monkeys-then-why-are-there-still-monkeys.” But then in the second video he explicitly stated that he wasn’t making an “if we’re descended from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?” argument, but that he was asking a different, apparently valid question: “if these fossils aren’t appearing in chronological order in the fossil record, then why are they being presented as if they were?” He also claimed that Tiktaalik roseae was not the bang-on-target prediction of evolution that it is being made out to be, but that there was an element of tweaking the prediction after the facts were known—a kind of Texas sharp-shooter argument.

You’ll probably tell me that those claims have no merit to them. That’s fine. You’ll probably tell me that I don’t have the necessary background to understand them. That’s fine too—I don’t. My background is in the physical sciences, not the biological sciences, and my understanding of evolution comes mostly through the lens of evolutionary algorithms in software development. Some of you may even be snarky with me here. That’s fine too—I can take it. But please, address those specific claims, explain why they are wrong, and provide evidence. Because anything that doesn’t is just noise.

OK, rant over.


Ryan (the actual paleontologist participating on the thread) just said he wrote a whole article addressing the points in that video and it is forthcoming and will be published on the BioLogos blog soon. So I don’t think anyone is feeling all that motivated to reinvent that wheel in the meantime.

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