Creationist Boilerplate

I was reading the entry The Ignorant Credulity of Creationists on Dispatches from the Culture Wars, where Ed Brayton quotes the following from a creationist response to Tiktaalic roseae, and then comments:

. . . or those who are more of a six-day creationist stripe, the finding poses no threat either. Discovery Institute scientists have observed that Tiktaalik roseae is not an intermediate, but rather, “Is one of a set of lobe-finned fishes that include very curious mosaics–these fishes have advanced fully formed characteristics of several different groups. They are not intermediates in the sense that have half-fish/half-tetrapod characteristics. Rather, they have a combination of tetrapod-like features and fish-like features. Paleontologists refer to such organisms as mosaics rather than intermediates” It is simply not evident that this find is even an evolutionary link. I guess the “missing link” is still missing. (From The Latest Fossil Find: Fact or Fiction — HN)

Here McDowell credulously repeats this idiotic argument from the ID without giving it a thought. Any thinking person would recognize that the DI’s statement above is simply gibberish. What on earth do they think an intermediate form would look like if you found one? It would have a combination of features from the ancestral group and a combination of features from the descendant group, and it would be found in rocks that date to the time such a transition was believed to have taken place. When those things are present, as they are here, the distinction between a “mosaic” and an “intermediate” is totally meaningless.

Now while I might tend to use slightly gentler forms of expression, the point is pretty clear. In order to be viewed as an intermediate form, this creature must have some characters from the forms it is intermediate between, yet in this paragraph, Sean McDowell claims that this mix of characteristics doesn’t make it transitional. This is some pretty remarkable reasoning. When I read that comment, the terms and “logic” sounded so familiar that I just had to look up some material about Archaeopteryx. I immediately found the following quote from Answers in Genesis. Does any of the logic look familiar?

In summary, it may be said that Archaeopteryx is truly unique, and appears to exhibit a mosaic of characters, sharing some in common with the class Aves and some with the class Reptilia. It seems to have been suited to a lifestyle of short flights and agile crawling in trees, and those features which make it unquestionably a bird for classification purposes are uniquely and completely present and perfect. The feathers are not halfway transition from scales to feathers, an assumed transformation of the most astounding complexity. If for no other reason, this would disqualify it as a transitional form. . . . (http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v1/i1/archaeopteryx.asp, note that the omitted portion discusses bats and the platypus as examples of a “mosaic of characters.”)

What’s really remarkable here is the demand that a transitional form show specifically the halfway point between scales and feathers. It is not enough that there is a mix of characters in the creature, we want to catch one specific character in transition. Now I’m not saying that would be an impossibility, but it is definitely not a requirement in order for a form to be transitional.

But let’s not stop there. ICR also has a comment on Archaeopteryx, and lo and behold, they don’t agree with Answers in Genesis.

It has been asserted that Archaeopteryx shares 21 specialized characters with coelurosaurian dinosaurs.4 Research on various anatomical features of Archaeopteryx in the last ten years or so, however, has shown, in every case, that the characteristic in question is bird-like, not reptile-like. . . . (As a Transitional Form Archaeopteryx Won’t Fly (Impact #195))

So what would it take to convince a creationist that a form is transitional? They really don’t say. If being found in rocks of the right age, based on a prediction that such a form should be found, and falling into a good sequence of transitional forms is not good enough, what is?

The response to Tiktaalik has amply demonstrated the simple fact that creationists are not interested in doing science; they are simply spinning the work that others do in any way possible to make it appear not to damage their case.

I’d be interested to hear two things from creationists. First, I’d like “scientific” creationism to specify just what it would be that they would accept as a transitional form, as a disproof of the special creation of each species. Second, just how many species were there simultaneously in the antediluvian world?

I don’t think I’m going to get anything resembling answers to those questions, because I think that creationists know precisely what they will do; they will reproduce the spin that they have used with each new discovery. That is because they have a prior commitment to a particular interpretation of scripture. I suggest they just admit it and quit trying to claim they are doing science.

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  1. The paleontologist who discovered Tiktaalic Roseae was on The Colbert Report (Comedy Central) this week with a cast of the actual critter. Catch a rerun for Steven Colbert’s incisive spoof of the ID take on it.

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