Help, what are the falsehoods in this evolution takedown?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks Christy, I understand. I did notice Ryan’s post, and it will be interesting to see what he has to say. However, I do personally believe that forum posts are most effective if they actually stand on their own in the points that they make, and that external links should only serve as references to ancillary material for people who want to dig deeper, or who want to fact-check the claims that they are making for themselves. Most people don’t click on any external links at all when they’re reading forum posts, and when you’re presented with a long list of them, it can be hard to know where to start!

Just putting my web usability hat on here…


Without spoiling the forthcoming article, I’ll just say this for now: the video’s claim that it “is common practice in evolutionary analysis to ignore where species actually show up in the fossil record and place them wherever makes Darwinian sense” is completely false and a gross misrepresentation of the careful work that paleontologists do to ensure that the specimens we study are known in their proper stratigraphic contexts.

The video’s portrayal of the dates ascribed to the layer of the La Meseta Formation in Antarctica where the whale mandible was found is extremely misleading. In fact, I searched through all of the studies I could get my hands on that the video cites (in the bar graph with ranges of dates), and I often had trouble lining up the dates in the papers with the ranges indicated on the bar graph for that paper. In other cases, the video showed a range of dates for the entirety of the geologic formation, while ignoring that the proposed dates for the specific layers in question were estimated to be much younger. The video also rails against the Buono et al. paper specifically, but fails to recognize that all of the authors who originally described the fossil and proposed the older age…are also co-authors on the Buono et al. paper, which estimates a younger age estimate based on more recent studies and evidence.

Well, that’s all I’ve got time for right now. I hope it helps. I’ll try to check in again later, but with all the prep I have to do for the fall semester, I won’t have too much time to spare in the coming weeks. :slight_smile:


Thanks Ryan. That helps a lot. Even short posts such as this that get straight to the point and address erroneous claims specifically are much more helpful than generalisations that do nothing more than question people’s motivations, character and expertise.

Looking forward to reading your article.


For a different take, readers should consult this open access (primary literature) article, published near the start of the cladistics revolution, when the stratigraphic position of fossils in relation to phylogenetic inference became a central issue:

From the article (p. 43; emphasis added):

“A further problem attendant to the identification of actual fossil taxa with hypothetical morphotypes is the frequent discovery that a morphologically “primitive” taxon may occur quite high in the stratigraphic range of a group for which it is supposed to be ancestral. This problem has vexed most paleontologists at one time or another, particularly in relation to groups with a poor fossil record. The usual procedure is to deemphasize the anomolous stratigraphic position and continue to regard the seemingly primitive taxon as truly primitive, an approach we regard as generally valid. Even when a taxon is discovered that is both primitive and low in the stratigraphic range of its referred higher taxon, it is almost invariably derived (specialized) in some feature(s). It follows, therefore, that biostratigraphy is rarely relevant to the problem of working out relationships because it may add a distorting bias, and that identification of an actual fossil taxon with an ancestral morphotype is unnecessary for the delimitation of relationships.”

I have what is probably a naive question but mightn’t the occurrence of a ‘living fossil’ result when an older form evolves into a more successful common modern form while some small portion of the older form carries on in some backwater? I’m thinking of something like the Coelacanth. In the same way couldn’t the occassional fossil of a creature which has been found more often in older layers of the earth occasional occur in a younger layer?

Yes, many of the pioneers in cladistic analysis felt that stratigraphic data were not important in reconstructing phylogenetic relationships. I can understand this rationale in a sense, due to the fact that the stratigraphic range of a particular fossil taxon is always an underestimate of its actual duration, as well as the possibility that an ancestral taxon that gave rise to other species may persist in time long after its descendant species have split off (this is exactly what @MarkD suggests in his reply about the coelacanth).

However, there are also many paleontologists who seek to incorporate stratigraphic data in their phylogenetic analyses. Two of my four Ph.D. committee members were leaders in this camp: Philip Gingerich, who promoted stratophenetics early on (phenetics was an alternative approach to cladistics), and Daniel Fisher, who has published much more recently on stratocladistics. In our program, we were schooled in both cladistics and stratocladistics and heard many stories about the debate between the two schools of thought.

Regardless, the video’s portrayal that folks simply “ignore where species actually show up in the fossil record” is a gross misrepresentation. No paleontologist I know would be so reckless; rather, they painstakingly reconstruct the stratigraphy to try and understand the environmental and chronological context of the new fossil, especially as it compares to other specimens in nearby and more distant locations. Many of us also prefer to show the stratigraphic ranges of the fossil taxa in any phylogenetic diagrams we publish, so that the reader can see the known durations of the taxa in question relative to one another.


It seems that Darwin already addressed this issue:


I haven’t yet watched the videos, but do they address the embryological evidence? (present-day whales develop hindlimb buds early in development, and then a second developmental program overrides this and they regress). Back in the day the DI (Luskin) would always avoid this little tidbit.


Great point. And occasionally they find whales with atavistic hind limbs protruding from the body.
There are also whales with vestigial hind legs encased in the body. You can watch this dissection video of a whale (that died of natural causes) and see for yourself!

Eddie used to proudly proclaim that the whale’s internal testicles demonstrated intelligent design. But in mammals it’s common to have testicles that fail to descend. It’s called cryptorchidism. If you watch veterinary shows you will sometimes see horses or dogs with this condition. So it was relatively easy for evolution to “forget” to drop them.

My oldest beagle, Timmy, had cryptorchidism. The shelter thought he had been neutered. And then an ultrasound for something else showed that he had been hiding his family jewels for years! Well, they were surgically removed about a year ago. (I don’t know if he’s mad at me or not.)

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Did he likewise proclaim that external testicles demonstrated dumb design?


Maybe he thought God periodically dropped new whales in the ocean.

Splendid! Please explain why whales can have vestigial leg bones encased within their bodies. (Did you see the dissection video?)

:smile: :laughing: :sweat_smile:

I’d want to get the latest model.


This deserves repeating. I would welcome @jbabraham88’s input here, but Discovery’s Ray Bohlin would affirm common descent when involved with deciding the science curriculum for the state of Texas, but he would turn around and present arguments against evolution and for special creation at an “Apologetics Conference” at Watermark megachurch in Dallas. The DI consistently speaks out of both sides of its mouth.


Here’s my take.

I saw the whale evolution video from Discovery Institute.
You should read Johnathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution book, which is an attempt to “take down” most of what textbooks say are evidences for evolution,
Wells is a commando for the Unification Church, which apparently gave him the mission to take down Darwin. He is one of the most important speakers on the Discovery lineup.
He attacks the textbooks, including the family tree of life I believe.
A famous tactic of antievolutionists going back to Harry Rimmer in the 1940s is to say the fossils can be shuffled around into many trees, and so scientists are confusing people.

I think Discovery was once open to common descent in the 1990s according to Behe in the Black Box book.

But now if you read Theistic Evolution the book put out with a lot of Discovery support and the help of theologians like Wayne Grudem, they get harsh with EC people.

There is one Discovery video on YouTube questioning Francis Collins too.

See I think Discovery thinks BioLogos and the American Scientific Affiliation are caving into the New Atheists.

By the way, I don’t think the apologists at Watermark church in Dallas really know what the Discovery Institute is. I attend their meetings with nonbelievers. They are good people.

They put evolution as far away from the center of the salvation message.


Not essential to agree about.

Discovery people you must understand are culture war commandoes.

Philip Johnson used the Wedge idea…we are gonna wipe out naturalism like a football team in a wedge formation!

Lawrence Krauss my former physics professor at Yale and now a New Atheist at ASU spoke with Stephen Meyer and Denis Lamoureux at Univ of Toronto. Denis and I talked about this debate.
Krauss really fries Meyer calling Discovery dishonest etc etc

But don’t underestimate Discovery’s pull with Campus Crusade through Walter Bradley and Dallas Theological Seminary or Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the largest in the world.

A small Institute with a large bullhorn among mostly white evangelical churches.

Ray Bohlin is with Discovery and Probe Ministries here in Plano close to Dallas. He is I believe on a textbook commission or something that approves books for Texas public schools in Austin.

These ID guys are so, so well networked.

I hope BioLogos can raise the EC profile here in Dallas, the world center of creationism perhaps with millions of dollars of support money available, a Discovery office here, and ICR with its museum.


I could be a bit more generous about what you’re seeing. I for one am open to all manner and possible variations of common descent, all while remaining very suspicious and critical of the one particular, naturalistic narrative of common descent that is presented as a foregone conclusion that stands untouchable beyond all debate.

(In other words, for someone like me, who is open to considering varying models and hypotheses about common descent, I simply do not see in this video a critique on “common descent” in any and all forms, I rather see a critique on one particular model of common descent)

I find these kind of statements disingenuous. It pretends like there are all these other models of common descent on the table, when there aren’t.

It’s the kind of rhetorical move that reminds me of the Christian patriarchy groups that get all huffy when you say they don’t support equality for women. “Oh, yes, of course we do,” they claim. Just not the “feminist” model of equality that thinks women should have equal education opportunities, equal employment opportunities, equal voice in making decisions in church and family, equal say in who they marry and when and how many children they have. It’s just that model of equality they are against. Never mind that their model of equality where fathers arrange marriages, women aren’t taught math or science in their homeschool, the only career open to them is midwifery, and they are “subject” to men in all areas of church and home (but are “totally equal in worth before God”) is not “equality” in anyone else’s estimation.


Any model of common descent by any mechanism will show progression in whatever fossil record is unearthed. The video disputes the chronologically ordered fossil record, standard Darwinian dates for the fossils, and the rather obvious expectation that transitional fossils will display intermediate characteristics. But that fossil record would be consistent with “common descent” in any and all forms, including divine tinkering with DNA, straight up miracles along the way, whatever. Common descent by any definition invokes lineage of birth, and as the old expression goes, you cannot be a little bit pregnant, there is no shade of grey.


I don’t even see a take down of evolution, just a pummeling of an innocent straw man.