Why Whales are not understood by Creationists (Testable)

(George Brooks) #12


Thank you for the links! I’ll be most interested in reading how someone can determine whether 20 million years or 30 million years would be required for dramatic changes in phenotype.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #13

Reminds me of how Meyer argues in Darwin’s Doubt that there’s not enough time for the Cambrian Explosion. I’m not sure but he seems to be arguing that 50 million years is not enough time. A nice summary can be found here:

And then just recently we have this nice paper on the rise of alage some 650 million years ago where the abstract reads, perhaps extending this transition of the Cambrian back even further (would 100 million years be enough time for evolution to do its thing?):

The ‘Rise of Algae’ created food webs with more efficient nutrient and energy transfers, driving ecosystems towards larger and increasingly complex organisms.

(Curtis Henderson) #14

Hello Vincent,

A great pleasure to “see” you here, thanks for popping in! I don’t currently have the time to listen to both episodes, but plan to check those out soon. I’m curious though, do you consider the Intelligent Design model at odds with the Evolutionary Creation model regarding whale evolution? Proponents of both positions would almost invariably agree that there is an Intelligent Designer that could have done anything He wanted to do. Dr. Sternberg’s argument could be made against the position of an atheistic evolution model, but I’m not certain it is a viable argument against an evolutionary creation model.

(George Brooks) #15


I had a very pleasant time listening to Dr. Richard Sternberg on the topic of “Whale Evolution and Living Waters”. In fact, it was so pleasant, I have to ask you straight out if you accept what Dr. Sternberg presented (in 2015) as fact ?

The reason I ask for this clarification is because this interview and presentation wasn’t like any “anti-Darwinian” presentation I’d ever heard before. Perhaps others have though.

I think it would be well worth @BradKramer’s time to listen to the audio as well. I think Dr. Sternberg has put together one of the most compelling presentations for God-assisted Evolution I have yet heard !!!

So, Vince, if you’ve accepted his presentation as - - shall we say? - - gospel, then by all means, I think it’s great to have you on board the BioLogos team!

But perhaps by now you are protesting: “Hey, wait wait … that’s not what that audio says … it says God helped speed up Whale evolution!” To which I would say, “Yes? But haven’t you read BioLogos literature where we say God was involved in human evolution and probably the evolution of all life on Earth?”

I will certainly agree that the interview was conceived as a tool for convincing Atheists that God was involved in Evolution. The problem, however, is Young Earth Creationists haven’t heard this tape in large numbers! They’d be storming the radio station if they did!

Why do I say this?

This scientist, Dr. Sternberg told the youthful interviewer that it took 10 million years for “walking whales” to become true whales. Do you understand that sentence? 10 million years … to get from “not a real whale” to “now it’s a real whale”! That means there was a time when there weren’t any whales at all ! And if we were to press the scientist giving the interview, and asked if he thought the “walking whales” were in the oceans at the same time as the giant marine reptiles, I am quite confident he would say: “of course not”!

@Marty, you should listen to this audio tape! It’s the first scientist who accepts the evolutionary history for what it is … but adds, it probably had God’s help! Now that is pretty good promotional material for BioLogos!

I can’t imagine why the YEC organizations are paying money for something like that. Because it is playing complete havoc with the usual position. Even the newly developing YEC position of hyper-speciation after the animals were let out of the Ark is nothing compared to this!

This scientist comes right out and basically says, the Earth has to be more than 10 million years old, that the whales came after the dinosaurs, and that God helped the whales Evolved.

Vince, I sure hope you agree with all that.

Now, can you find any YEC’s who’ve been converted to the BioLogos program because of this audio interview?!?!


If God had to step in to make the Basilosaurids, why on earth did he leave the ridiculously tiny and useless hind legs on them? (Yes, I’ve seen the fossils.) Actually some modern whales still have vestigial hind limbs encased in their bodies.

My favorite essays on whale evolution were written by the late Stephen Jay Gould. They’re a bit out-of-date by now, but very well-written. The history of whale evolution and discovery of the fossil evidence is a perfect example of how historically the gaps have been closing.

Hooking Leviathan by Its Past

(George Brooks) #17


While there is still plenty of ambiguity to wrestle with in the “God Guides Evolution” model … listening to the presenter of the whale evolution, one of the sound effects you can hear is the YEC model … crashing to the floor … agasinst windows… and right into the heads of people who are not ready to imagine taking 10 million years to create whales!

What was before the whales? Millions of years of mammalian development to the point where mammals are re-entering the oceans. And what happens before mammals emerging as the most novel life on Earth?: the smashing arrival of the Dinosaur Killing Asteroid !!!

If all I.D. proponents were this whale scientist, there would be no YECs left.

(Vincent Torley) #18

Hi George,

Thank you for your reply. I accept common descent, and I think many people in the ID movement also do.

I was under the impression that members of Biologos believe that God used natural means to bring species into being. Perhaps I’m mistaken. Dr. Sternberg seems to be implying that known natural processes would not be adequate to account for the relatively sudden appearance of the Basilosaurids. As the last stage in whale evolution, they presumably sprang on the scene in considerably less than 10 million years. Actually I think Dr. Sternberg is a Pythagorean, who believes that laws of form are built into the warp and woof of the cosmos. I was just wondering if you found his argument convincing.

Anyway, I’m glad you appreciated his talk, and I’m happy to say I generally endorse Biologos’ view of origins.

Best wishes,


(George Brooks) #19


I am happy to let you know that you have been greatly misinformed.

If you look at the BioLogos mission statements… just search “What we believe…”

There are probably a number of supporters who prefer not to imagine God as “poofing” specific mutations into existence… but as far as I have seen, BioLogos has always held a healthy interest in the miraculous too.


I have heard one of Dr. Sternberg’s talks on whales. He claimed that mammals can only move their tails back and forth, and that whales had to develop the horizontal swimming motion from scratch. But the truth is, mammals generally can move their tails up and down. If you watch a dog running, you’ll see how the whole spine can flex, the same motion that whales use to swim. So I haven’t listened to his other talks.

Also, Eddie, (posting under a different name), used to preach the wonders of whales’ internal testicles to us day and night. But internal testicles are a common birth defect in mammals, including people. In the fetus they are internal and are supposed to descend after birth. In evolution they also start internally. So internal testicles are no biggie. Anyway, that was very tiring to read.

btw, I love whales and have seen real ones in Alaska. And I saw an AMAZING whale exhibition in NYC. It was a traveling exhibition from Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which has a world-class collection of whales. There were many articulated skeletons and skulls, including those of archocetes. How cool is that?

(George Brooks) #21


I should say that sweeping proclamations, about how long it would take to make a specific kind of whale, are not exactly the easiest things to prove.

You assign the good Prof. to the Pythagorean camp. But the point of his presentation is that evolution of whales needs more than natural laws, yes?

(George Brooks) #22

From a BioLogos article:

“At BioLogos, we present the Evolutionary Creationism (EC) viewpoint on origins. Like all Christians, we fully affirm that God is the creator of all life—including human beings in his image. We fully affirm that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. We also accept the science of evolution as the best description for how God brought about the diversity of life on earth.”

"But while we accept the scientific evidence for evolution, BioLogos emphatically rejects Evolutionism, the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discussion. Evolutionism is a kind of scientism, which holds that all of reality can in principle be explained by science. In contrast, BioLogos believes that science is limited to explaining the natural world, and that supernatural events like miracles are part of reality too."

(Stephen Matheson) #23

Does anyone know where these data and analyses are published? I could not find anything on Google Scholar or PubMed or bioRxiv, but maybe I missed it.


Which data and analyses are you referring to, Steve?

(Stephen Matheson) #25

Oh sorry, the ones that Sternberg’s claim are based on. Apparently he argued that “the timespan of whale evolution is too short.” Rates of evolution are estimated using specific quantitative approaches that are themselves the focus of ongoing research. A responsible professional scientist would not make a claim like that one without having actually done some analysis.

But maybe someone else did the work, and Sternberg was discussing it. Or maybe Sternberg didn’t really make that claim, and instead was just asking a question.


Well, Vincent Torley would probably know, since he posted the links to the Dr. Sternberg’s talks. @vjtorley Do you know?

(Stephen Matheson) #27

I just listened to the first podcast. It contains no analysis, and consists solely of gee-whizzing about an interesting evolutionary transition. (The gee-whizzing is completely understandable.) Sternberg makes no claim other than “not enough time” and all of the remaining content is a recitation of the physiology and anatomy of basilosaurids. It is a textbook example of “the argument from personal incredulity.” If anyone has done any actual scientific analysis of the evolutionary trajectory and its time frame, it was omitted from the interview.

Maybe the argument is advanced in part 2?


You could try it.

(Stephen Matheson) #29

The argument is made in part 2. It involves no analysis at all. Instead it raises standard ID talking points (claims of need for coordinated mutations, most centrally) without any specific genetic data from cetaceans or anywhere else.

The podcasts advance no analysis and therefore no actual new claim beyond “I don’t see how this could have happened.” There is no clear argument to engage or refute regarding whale evolution.

In the real world of evolutionary genetics, there are vigorous efforts to address questions like the one Sternberg raises. There are plenty of unanswered questions.


I think the real purpose of those links is to sell the “Living Waters” DVD.

(Vincent Torley) #31

Hi George,

You might want to have a look at this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0csd3M4bc0Q

It’s an 11-minute video in which Dr. Sternberg and Paul Nelson explain their position very clearly. What they’re arguing is that whale evolution required several different co-ordinated mutations. For example, whales have internal testicles, but these require a cooling system to be in place,or whales won’t be able to reproduce successfully. However, the cooling system only makes sense if there are internal testicles already in place. So the two had to appear at the same time. And there are many other things that needed to be co-ordinated as well. Sternberg and Nelson then cite Durrett and Schmidt’s 2008 paper, “Waiting for two mutations: with applications to regulatory sequence evolution and the limits of Darwinian evolution” (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18791261 ) which basically says (according to Sternberg & Nelson) that if you need two co-ordinated mutations to occur, then you’ll have to wait for over 100 million years for them to occur together. Since whales evolved over 10 million years at most, whale evolution refutes the hypothesis that whales appeared by an unguided, incremental, Darwinian process. That’s the kind of evolution they’re taking aim at.

It seems to me that their argument would collapse if there turned out to be a single gene regulating both the development of cooling systems and internal testes. I’m not sure, but the INSL3 gene might be one such candidate. What do you think?

Re INSL3, please see here: