The Oldest Vertebrate Ancestor?

Fairy tale: frog plus a kiss equals a prince

Evolutionary “Science”: worm plus millions of years equals a prince

 

The evolution propaganda machine seems to be working overtime these days. One gets the distinct feeling that the creation/ I.D. movements are making an impact. With scores of creation science museums popping up, creation publications flooding the market and a growing number of scientists who find Darwinism dissatisfying intellectually,1 Darwinists themselves are forced to defend their position with renewed fervour. Though their arguments have the advantage of being propagated by the liberal media which dominates the world of news reporting, they are nonetheless as weak as a bruised reed. The ultimate exemplification of this fact is a recent news story about the discovery (re-discovery?)2 of a leech-like fossil named Pikaia that was discovered in the Burgess Shale Beds.

Research scientists tell us that the fossil is 505 million years old and that the tiny creature – about the size of a human thumb – is the oldest fossil relative of creatures with backbones. What is the evidence for this astounding claim? The creature is said to have an incipient backbone of course. The idea that common anatomy could possibly point to a common designer is not even entertained by the scientists and reporters interested in this fossil. They are committed to the evolution story and any fossil – even this tiny leech-like creature – is interpreted as a “missing link” and then publicly touted as more evidence that evolution is a fact. Never does it dawn on these people that the whole enterprise is circular. That is, these folks are already convinced that evolution is true, which is the very reason why they identify any fossil as a “missing link.” It is poor logic to turn around then and claim that because we have all these fossil “missing links” evolution must therefore be true!

An honest person wanting to know the truth needs to get good at separating bona fide facts from the interpretation of these facts. Yes, a leech-like fossil was discovered. This is a fact. But to say it is 505 million years old is to simply give us an interpretation of this fact. Likewise, to place this creature on a branch in some evolutionary family tree is just to fit it into a popular story. There are good reasons to think this fossil is far less than 505 million years old.3 Likewise, there are good reasons to think that this creature existed unrelated to other vertebrates.4

Nevertheless, for the purpose of propagating the dominant religion and its creation myth, the evolution story, popularisers feed us a steady diet of overstatements which are beginning to sound more than a little silly. Consider these recent quotes that appeared in news stories concerning this fossil:

” ‘The discovery of myomeres [blocks of skeletal muscle tissue that are characteristic of chordates] is the smoking gun that we have long been seeking,’ [Professor Simon Conway] Morris said in a news release. ‘Next time we put the family photograph on the mantelpiece, there in the background will be Pikaia.’”5

” ‘I look at myself in the mirror, and I can recognize the elongated body with all these muscle bands, and it’s an animal that was certainly very agile,’ said Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum. ‘Pikaia is something that people can take close to heart, because we are connected.’ Maybe. But it’s hard to examine a fossilized leech-like worm and make the connection between something that squirmed in the ocean a half-billion years ago and modern humans. Good thing then scientists like Caron are able to make the connection for you… Caron says it couldn’t be more different for the little worm with the primitive spine, which is the ancient ancestor of any creature reading this — and many of the animals around them. ‘It’s very humbling to know that swans, snakes, bears, zebras and, incredibly, humans all share a deep history with this tiny creature no longer than my thumb,’ said Caron.” 6

By the time I get this commentary online many fine creation science ministries such as AiG, CMI and ICR will have long done likewise.  I am sure they will have offered a much better scientific critique than I ever could, so I recommend folks go and consult their excellent websites for more on this fossil.7 Nevertheless, I would like to add just one scientific observation before I draw this article to a close.

Pikaia is said to be our ancestor because of an anatomical similarity between us, that is, a backbone. Presumably descendents of this animal became fish, amphibians, reptiles, and then finally mammals. Notice however that fish from which we are supposedly descended have eyes that are very different from our own. Somehow evolution has managed to create totally different kinds of eyes in land dwelling creatures than in fish.  Consider now the octopus. This creature doesn’t have a bone in its body and therefore is not presumably a descendent of Pikaia. Nevertheless the octopus has an eye structured very like our own. This situation is not at all predicted by the evolution story but makes sense on the Christian view of things. On this view, animal kinds all share the same designer and so we would be expected to see common anatomical structures among them. Of course evolutionists for the most part refuse to even entertain the idea and have come up with various rescuing devices.  In this case, it is simply asserted that the eye structures of humans and octopi have evolved independently of each other.8 Such a miracle would sound pretty ridiculous of not for the fact that this “just so” story has been given the scientific-sounding name “convergent evolution.”

The point I wish to make here is simply that folks should be very cautious about the media’s spectacular claims of proof for evolution. In this case Pikaia is paraded as our evolutionary ancestor because of a certain anatomical similarity. The octopus, on the other hand, also has an anatomical structure similar to ourselves but we are told this is not indicative of common ancestry. So if anatomical similarities do not always imply evolutionary relationship, how can such grand claims about Pikaia possibly be maintained? More fundamentally, how can we know when an anatomical similarity does imply close evolutionary relationship? It is becoming clear that evolutionary connections between vastly different species are being claimed – in this case between a leech-like creature and human beings (!) – whenever the need to reinforce the evolutionary paradigm presents itself and the tale can be spun with enough big words to sound authoritative.

Anyone exercising an ounce of methodological scepticism, not to mention simple common sense, would have a hard time swallowing the whole “Pikaia-to-man” story. How ironic that the atheistic evolutionist community often argues against biblical history by asserting that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, all the while accepting the preposterous and unsupported claims of evolution.

By John Feakes

Notes and References

  1. Few realise that faith in God as the creator of an orderly and understandable universe is what led to the establishment of all the major branches of science. Only with these assumptions can the whole scientific endeavour be legitimized in the first place! It should therefore be no surprise that of the greatest scientists of the last 200 years, the vast majority were creationists. See sources at ref. 7 for lists of contemporary PhD level scientists who reject the Darwinian account of origins.
  2. This fossil was originally discovered in 1911. A re-examination in 1979 found the apparent incipient spinal cord. See http://burgess-shale.rom.on.ca/en/fossil-gallery/view-species.php?id=101
  3. Uniformitarian assumptions led many in the 19th and 20th centuries to inflate the age of the earth many orders older than the Bible declares. Ironically, the very same uniformitarian assumptions applied to most worldwide physical processes leads us to conclude that the earth is far less than the billions of years called for by the evolution story. For instance, at the present rate of continental erosion the continents should erode to sea level in a mere 14 million years. In other words, the continents should have eroded away five times since the dinosaurs were here. This problem presents itself in spades for the supposedly 505 million-year-old layer of rock in which Pikaia was found! The frequent claim that “tectonic activity” has worked to push the continents up, thereby offsetting the effect of erosion, does nothing to solve the problem. Not only are adequate energy, forces, and mechanisms never presented, but such a scenario still doesn’t explain why we still have so much ancient fossil bearing rock. The old-earth evolutionary story just doesn’t make sense. For more on this see John D. Morris, “The Young Earth: Revised and Expanded”, New Leaf Publishing, 2007
  4. No less authority than the Lord Jesus Himself declared that the book of Genesis was a reliable historical document. This precludes any appropriate endorsement of the evolution story by the Christian. Of course many would contest the reliability of the New Testament and therefore the legitimacy of Christ’s supposed endorsement. This is a historic issue addressed elsewhere on this site. From a purely scientific standpoint, the kind of genetic information-building process that must have occurred to change worms into people has gone completely unnoticed after a century of intense research. Undirected mutations and natural selection alone seem inadequate to do the job. See resources at ref. 7 for more, or the biological sciences section in Dr. Walter Brown’s online book “In the Beginning” at creationscience.com. One may also consult Michael Behe’s excellent treatment of this topic based upon laboratory research his book “The Edge of Evolution”, 2007.
  5. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/03/05/science-.html
  6. http://www.torontosun.com/2012/03/05/worm-is-our-long-lost-relative-say-researchers
  7. Answers in Genesis (answersingenesis.org); Creation Ministries International (creation.com); Institute for Creation Research (icr.org).
  8. Atsushi Ogura, Kazuho Ikeo and Takashi Gojobori, “Comparative Analysis of Gene Expression for Convergent Evolution of Camera Eye Between Octopus and Human.” Center for Information Biology and DNA Data Bank of Japan, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, 411-8540, Japan Article and publication are at http://www.genome.org/cgi/doi/10.1101/gr.2268104.

 

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