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Evolution predicts a continuum of organisms, not discrete kinds (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Evolution predicts a continuum of organisms, not discrete kinds (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CB805:

Since evolution says organisms came from a common ancestor and since they lived in a continuity of environments, we should see a continuum of organisms. There should be a continuous series of animals between cats and dogs, so that one could not tell where cats left off and dogs began.

Source:

  • Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 70-71.

CreationWiki response:

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The claim might be true if there were no such thing as extinction. But since species do become extinct, intermediates that once existed do not exist today. Since extinction is a one-way street, species can only become less connected over time.

While Talk Origins does make a good point here, Morris was using cats and dogs, which are different families, not just species. Morris' point is that the objective evidence for a continuum of organisms should exist but it does not, not even in the fossil record.

This is clear if we look at the fossil record, in which early members of separate groups are much harder to tell apart.

This is not true. While there are fossils that have traits of more than one group as defined by our current classification system, they are not always found in rocks dated by Evolutionists as older than more distinct types. Sometimes they are only found in rocks that are “dated” as the same “age” as or younger than more distinct types

2. Environments (and ecological niches) are not really as continuous as the claim pretends. Dogs bring down their prey through long chases, and cats ambush their prey; dogs are made for long-distance running, and cats are made for short sprints with high acceleration from a standing start. These requirements are quite different, and it is hard to achieve both in a single body. Compromises between the two have disadvantages in competition with specialists for either type, and thus natural selection culls them. Intermediates are competitive only so long as specialists are absent; so when specialists evolve, the intermediates are likely to become extinct.

This is Talk Origins' best argument but it is still flawed.

  1. A more generalized form would have some advantages over a more specialized form in terms of flexibility. During times of change, flexibility in hunting methods would be advantageous.
  2. Being at a disadvantage does not necessarily lead to extinction. It would more likely just keep the numbers of that type lower than they would be without the competition.
  3. A disadvantage in one area does not necessarily mean a disadvantage in others.
3. In part, distinctness is an illusion caused by our choice of which groups to give names to. Groups with unclear boundaries tend not to get separate names, or groups in which intermediate forms exist are chopped in half arbitrarily. (This is especially obvious if fossil forms are considered; e.g., the line between dinosaurs and birds is arbitrary, increasingly so as new fossils are discovered).

Part of the problem is that determinations are being made on the basis of bones alone. This fact, along with the presupposition of Evolution, could have artificially blurred the lines.

Another problem is that many of these fossils have come from China, where a fake fossil industry is known to exist. These fakes have fooled Evolutionists once before with Archaeoraptor, so how certain can one be about other fossils from China?

Finally, Talk Origins is at best talking about traits shared between classes that were once thought to be unique to one class or the other making it harder to distinguish them from fossils alone. However, when the individual types of fossils are considered there are clear “kinds” with boundaries that have no evidence of crossovers. This is what Morris was referring to.

4. There are indeed several cases of continua in nature. In many groups, such as some grasses and leafhoppers, different species are very hard to tell apart. At least ten percent of bird species are similar enough to another species to produce fertile hybrids. The most obvious continua are called ring species, because in the classic case (the herring gull complex) they form a ring around the North Pole. If we start in Western Europe and move west, similar populations, capable of interbreeding, succeed each other geographically. When we have traveled all the way around the world and reach Western Europe again, the final population is different enough that we call it a separate species, and it is incapable of interbreeding with herring gulls, even though they are connected by a continuous chain of interbreeding populations. This is a big problem for creationists. We expect kinds to be easily determined if they were created separately, but there are no such obvious divisions:

Talk Origins is using a straw man because they are confusing species and Created kinds; the two are not identical. Creationists fully recognize that some species do produce fertile hybrids, and this is used to show that the species in question are the same Created kind. All of the above examples are at the species level and not a problem for creationists since a Created kind is seldom represented by only one species.

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