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AiG and Whale Evolution
John Stear

Angela Meyer wrote a critique of the TERAMEDIA'S 'World of Whales' exhibition at the Auckland Museum, New Zealand which was held from June to September in 1996 and the critique (The World of Whales) was published in CREATION ex nihilo, Volume 19, Number 1, Dec. 96-Feb. 97.  She is credited by AiG as being a 'Creationist Plant Physiologist'. Whether her expertise in this field qualifies her to try to debunk the mounting evidence presented by scientists in the fields of paleontology, morphology, molecular biology, etc., is a moot point.  But Angela Meyer demonstrates her scientific ignorance when she dismisses the evidence with the statement, 'Well, I don't believe it!' 

Following is the text of Angela Meyer's 'critique'.  I have omitted the markers for the 'References'.

The interspersed comments are by Michael Suttkus.

CREATION ex nihilo Volume 19 Number 1 Dec.96-Feb.97

The name of the magazine obviously refers to their arguments, which are created from nothing.

The World of Whales
by Angela Meyer

TERAMEDIA'S 'World of Whales' exhibition was at the Auckland Museum, New Zealand, June to September, 1996. Typical of many other evolutionary exhibits on the same subject, the display featured animated life-size models (by Dinamation) of whales and dolphins, along with a lot of biological information and interactive computer software on whales.

'Typical of many whale displays, this had whales in it.' is what the statement translates to. 
What exactly should it contain?  Is it surprising that a display on whales contains, well, whales?  What is the point here?

The display also contained two creatures which are claimed to be ancestors of the whales.

And this document contains nonsense which, it is claimed, refutes it.

The Andrewsarchus is said to be a relative of the actual ancestor. Andrewsarchus is a terrifying wolf-like creature, with a large head and fierce teeth. All these details from one skull! Yes, the display is unashamedly honest about the fact that all that is known about Andrewsarchus comes from one 90-centimetre (3-foot) skull!

Skulls are the most important part of the animal.   You can learn more from a skull than you can from anything else.  From the skull you can determine what an animal ate, how it ate it, it's metabolism, how smart it was, etc., etc.  Ask any actual paleontologist (unlike Angela, the "plant physiologist" writing the creationist article) if you don't believe me.  Given a choice, they would always prefer to have the skull over any other single part of the animal.

Angela implies that there's something to be ashamed about here, but the only thing shameful is her ignorance of basic paleontology and zoology.

The question on the information board was: How would this creature have had to change from a land-dwelling animal to become a sea-dwelling animal like the whale? As the information board points out, this creature would have to lose its shaggy hair, its backbone flexibility and its waggly little tail; its nostrils would have had to move from the end of the snout to the top of the head, the long front legs would have had to change into flippers, the back legs would have had to disappear, and the external ears would have had to become internal for the shape to become streamlined.

How are any of these impossible shifts?  There's nothing but an implied 'argument from personal incredulity' here in the creationist camp, but then, that's what most of their arguments boil down to.

And that's not all! Not only would the structure of the creature have had to change, as if that were not enough, but what about all the other changes that would allow a mammal to live under water? What about the breathing, skin, and hearing changes? What about the birth of babies under water, and feeding babies?

What about them?  Are any of them really any more difficult than anything we've actually observed?

BREATHING

Some whales can hold their breath for 1 hours under water.

And others can't.  This is a classic creationist tactic.  First, find the most extraordinary example of a particular feature in a particular group.  Then, totally ignore all organisms in the group that have that feature to a lesser extent.  Then, note how far that feature is away from it's ancestors and declare it too far to travel, ignoring the fact that we can see numerous less developed examples along the way.

They do it over and over again, never paying any attention to the facts they don't like.

So, it can hold it's breath for one and a half hours.  So?  What's the big deal from it evolving from an ancestor that could hold it's breath for an hour and fifteen minutes, and that from one that could only hold it an hour, and so on back to an ancestor being not the least bit better than you at holding it's breath.  Is there something inherently impossible about slowly increasing the amount of time a species is capable of holding it's breath?

Some can dive to depths of one kilometre without damage to their tissues.

Again, so?  Others can't dive that deep.  Look at manatees.  They can't dive very deep at all, but their close relatives the dugong can dive somewhat deep.  Again, slow changes, one step at a time.  What is the problem?  There is no unbridgeable gap here, no matter how hard Angela struggles to disbelieve it.

When an animal or a person dives, the increased pressure causes more nitrogen from the air to dissolve into the body's fluids and tissues. As they return to the surface, bubbles of nitrogen may re-form in the tissues and blood, causing what is known as the 'bends'. Dolphins and whales have a different air exchange system which allows them to avoid the bends. Their lungs are also supplied with very fine capillaries which allow the dissolved nitrogen to return rapidly from the blood to the lungs without causing bubbles. Another amazing difference between whales and land mammals is that when they are at the surface they can exchange 90 per cent of the lungs' stale air with fresh air in less than a second. Compare this with humans, who can only exchange 30 per cent in one breath!

Now, compare it with shallow diving creatures like otters.  Then deeper divers like sea otters.  Then move up to seals and whatnot.   Note the step by step increasing in the development of those features.  Where is the huge, unbridgeable gap?  It's in the imagination of creationists.

ECHOLOCATION

Whales and dolphins make clicking and whistling sounds which give information about their surroundings by the returning echoes. To do this, they need special structures for making and focusing the sounds,

Need?  No, it's useful, but they don't need it.   Many animals with primitive echolocation lack such structures, but Angela won't mention any of those.

plus they need special oil-filled sinuses in the lower jaw which pass the echo to the inner ear.

Nope!  Still don't need them.  Echolocation works fine in shrews, which have none of these features.

The timing of the echo gives the animal the distance, and the difference between the echoes received by the different sides of the head allows the animal to tell the direction.

Baby whales are born tail first (unlike most other mammals) into the water -- probably so that they do not drown during birth, and then swim up to the surface to take their first gasp of air. There was a lovely video clip of this on the computer displays. The milk is pumped into the baby -- rather than the baby having to suck it from the mother. Blue whales grow to 19 tonnes, at 11 months, before they are weaned from their diet of 450 litres (100 gallons) of milk per day. That's a lot of milk! And the milk is very different in composition from the milk of land mammals. It has twice as much protein, half as much sugar, and eight to ten times as much fat as cow's milk.

Will we see any actual arguments in this paper?

Certainly, a lot of changes would have to occur for a land mammal to live in the sea.

Certainly, we can see a lot of those changes in progress by looking at animals in the process of making that adaptation today.

On the computers at the exhibition children were asked, 'Which creature is the ancestor of the whale?' They were given several choices, including a penguin, a sea-living dinosaur, and Andrewsarchus. When you click on to Andrewsarchus the computer told you, 'Believe it or not, the whale evolved from Andrewsarchus.' Well, I don't believe it!

And flat earthers don't believe the world is a sphere either.  Argument from personal incredulity is unscientific, no matter how you slice it.

INBETWEEN FOSSILS?

What about the alleged in-between fossils that have been found? Do these prove that the whale has slowly become the whale we see today?

Prove?  There is no 'prove' in science, only evidence and theories that explain it.  When you have a theory that explains the evidence without contradicting other evidence, do let us know, okay?

One of these was pictured in the exhibition -- the Basilosaurus. This was shown as an animal with a long snaky body, with flippers and smallish flukes on the tail. Its nostrils were halfway along the snout, as if they were midway between being at the end (like Andrewsarchus) and the top (like the whales). It had very tiny hindlimbs, which are claimed to have evolved (devolved?)

'Devolved' is a creationist canard.   Evolution is evolution.

from hind-legs like those of Andrewsarchus -- and its backbone was flexible. What the display did not tell us was that although hundreds of skeletons of Basilosaurus have been found, and hundreds of whale skeletons, nothing which would qualify as intermediate between these two has been found.

Again, so what?  We didn't have any Andrewsarchus a few years ago, and creationists were telling us we'd never find anything like it.  Now, we have that, and they've moved the goalposts again!

'Ah ha!' says the creationist.  'You can't fill in the gap between A and Z'  Then we find M.  No problem, the creationist simply says, 'Ah ha, well you can't fill in the gap between A and M.  Or M and Z!'  So we find E and S later, and the creationist simply point to the new gaps.

It's an old trick.  Creationism keeps telling us we won't find transitions, and when we find them, they simply declare we won't find any more.  They've been wrong 100% of the time in the past, it doesn't take much brain power to extend a 100% failure rate into the future.

Also, Basilosaurus was fully aquatic -- not a part-land, part-sea dweller.

So?  Ambulocetus was, if I recall correctly.   Angela is aware of Ambulocetus, and thus knows that there is no gap as she suggests here.  The only reason one would make this claim is to attempt to present some gap where there is none.  It's a sad spectacle.

Nor did it tell us that the tiny hind appendages are believed to have been useful 'grasping organs' during mating -- they were not useless evolutionary leftovers!

Why is this a problem?  I doubt it explained anything in detail.  No, quick, find a gap and pretend it brings the whole thing into disrepute!  Quick creationists, sling that mud and pretend it's a brick!

Other fossils have been claimed as whale ancestors since the exhibition was put together. A key one, and one of the most complete, is Ambulocetus ("walking whale"), announced in 1993. Major conclusions were made about its mode of walking, and about its tail structure, and yet the important fibula bones, pelvis, and tail bones were not found.

So?  Care to address the logic that led to those conclusions?  No, just ignore that.  Pretend it doesn't exist.   Quick, point out a gap and pretend it's more important than the fossils we do have which creationism cannot explain.

Only one tail vertebra was found, and it was five metres away from the rest of the skeleton. But because the researchers assumed the skeleton was of a 'whale', they assumed a long tail for Ambulocetus. Even more disturbing is the fact that fossils of Ambulocetus were found in strata at or above the stratigraphic levels where whale fossils were found.

Even less disturbing, actually.  Platypus still live today, right?  Groups don't magically become extinct just because they have descendants.

Our conclusion on going through that exhibition was that those wonderful creatures, the whales, are perfectly suited to their environment, beautifully designed that way by a perfect Creator.

With vestigial hind legs.

We were over-awed and amazed at His works

And yet you lie about His mechanism.

as we looked at the copies made by humans, but we were sad and disgusted that at the end of the exhibition God's handiwork was attributed to impossible evolutionary changes,

What impossible changes?  You haven't presented anything that seems impossible.

which we were told were proven facts, 'Believe [sic] it or not'.

To the extent to which anything can be proven, they are.   At the very least, common descent doesn't contradict any known evidence, something creationism cannot say.

How many people will have seen such displays and will be impressed by the certainty and clarity of the definite statements made by 'science'?

Hopefully, quite a few people more open to evidence than creationists.

Go and see such evolutionary exhibitions by all means, but give the Creator God the glory!

So, no arguments at all from Angela, just denial, argument from incredulity and a pretence that gaps are more important than the evidence that we do have. 

On to part 2.

EFFICIENT SWIMMER

The whale is an efficient swimmer, its huge tail flukes beating up and down quite slowly and displacing a large volume of water.

The modern whale, yes.  Ambulocetus, no.

The largest muscles in its body run along the whale's back so when contracting they move the tail up strongly, providing the main forward thrust, with the down stroke being a more relaxed recovery stroke. The beautiful sight of tail flukes is a memorable event for anyone taking a whale-watching tour.

And, gosh, it couldn't possibly have evolved from a less well designed ancestor because of... um.... something.  Well, because creationists say so, so there!

ECHOING DESIGN

Most echo-locating dolphins and small whales possess a fatty protrusion on the forehead. This 'melon' is actually a sophisticated structure designed to focus sound waves (originally emitted by the animal) to form a clear sound 'picture'. This sound lens depends on the fact that different lipids (fatty compounds) bend the ultrasonic sound waves travelling through them in different ways. The different lipids have to be arranged in the right shape and sequence in order to sharply focus the returning sound from echoes. Each separate lipid is unique and different from normal blubber lipids, and is made by a complicated chemical process, requiring a number of different enzymes.

For such an organ to have evolved, random mutations must have formed exactly the right enzymes to make the right lipids,

Which are quite a bit like pre-existing lipids.

and other mutations must have caused the lipids to be deposited in the right place and shape. A gradual step-by-step evolution of the organ is not feasible, because until the lipids were fully formed and at least partly in the right place and shape,

Why?

they would have been no use.  Therefore natural selection would not have favoured incomplete intermediate forms.

Argument by assertion, no evidence.  And quite wrong.  We see lots of animals that echolocate without that kind of equipment.  Perhaps Angela should look up how actual scientists describe the evolution of that organ.... Nope, wouldn't want to do that.  Might learn something and stop being a creationist.

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