Thursday, April 06, 2006

Uh oh

Regular readers of this blog (Hi Mom. Thanks for the cookies.) will recall that we have opined on the great evolution/magical mystery maker debate on several occasions. Most notably here, here and here. Well, OK, so it isn't so much a debate as one side stamping their feet and yelling, "Listen to us! We don't want to be no monkeys!" but we're feeling particularly magnanimous today, and not so hung over, so we'll go with debate.

Our survey of the arguments put forth by those who favor a more, shall we say, bonkazoid explanation for the development of us homos (and we mean that in the purely scientific sense) have long pointed to the fact that people who call themselves "scientists" (just because they have all those fancy degrees and stuff) have been unable to produce a creature that lived between fins and feet.

Well, until now anyway.

Scientists have caught a fossil fish in the act of adapting toward a life on land, a discovery that sheds new light one of the greatest transformations in the history of animals. The good Doctor Myers explains what all this means. We didn't understand all of it, but we think we could make a neat drinking game out of trying to say Tiktaalik roseae, Panderichthys, and Ichthyostega.

In response to the article, Mr. Giuseppe Sermonti, a staff member at the Discovery Institute and Prayer Parlor, long known for his tightly reasoned and well thought out critiques of evolution, told reporters that paleontologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, one of the fossil discoverers, is an "Ugly faced poopy head with scientist cooties." (We think it's totally righteous that this guy has "Sermon" in his name.)

Dr. William Dembski, is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Science and Not Science at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. (We know what you're thinking, but "Dumbski?" That's too easy, even for us.) When told of the fossil he put his hands over his ears and said, "LALALALALALALA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU."

Experts said the discovery, with its unusually well-preserved and complete skeletons, reveals significant new information about how the water-to-land evolution took place. "It's an important new contribution to (understanding) a very, very important transition in the history of life," said Robert Carroll of McGill University in Montreal.

"No it's not," said the Discovery Institute's Jonathan Witt. When asked to explain the Institute's position he sang "Ain't no monkey, this I know 'cause the Bible tells me so." (Yeah, yeah "Witt-less," but where's the challenge?)

"Here's a creature that has a fin that can do push-ups," Dr. Shubin said. "This is clearly an animal that is able to support itself on the ground," probably both in very shallow water and for brief excursions on dry land. On land, it apparently moved like a seal, he said.

"No it didn't," countered Mr. Sermonti.

Unlike other fish, it could move its head independently of its shoulders like a land animal. The back of its head also had features like those of land-dwellers. It probably had lungs as well as gills, and it had overlapping ribs that could be used to support the body against gravity, Shubin said.

"No way," responded Dr. Dembski.

The creature's jaws and snout were still very fish like, showing that "evolution proceeds slowly; it proceeds in a mosaic pattern with some elements changing while others stay the same," Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia said.

"Nuh uh," replied Mr. Witt.

"Knowing about the transition from fish to land-dweller might help us to unravel why it happened at all. Why did creatures come out of the water and get legs and walk away?" said Jennifer Clack of Cambridge University,

"Well, isn't that obvious?" asked Dr. Dembski. "The clearly created this fossil as a test to see if we would follow the empty dictates of experimental science in an attempt to explain our natural world, or just believe what we're told."

Shubin said the researchers plan to return to the small rocky outcropping that yielded the fossils and recover more material. "We've really only begun to sort of crack that spot," he said.

"We'll be visiting that site too," said Mr. Sermonti. "In the spirit of open discourse and scientific debate we plan to throw water balloons at the them and chant Bible verses."

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