An Animal Cannot Be On the Way to Evolving Something

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Posted on June 17, 2014 in Darwin and Evolution, Dumb Ideas, Human Body, Intelligent Design, Marine Biology, Philosophy of Science

No animal can plan ahead how it will evolve, so why do some evolutionists talk like they do?

500-million-year-old creature was on the way to evolving jaws,” Sid Perkins titled his short article in Science Magazine, accompanied by an artist’s conception of “one of the world’s oldest known vertebrates”—a Cambrian creature named Metaspriggina from Canada.  The thumb-sized swimming creature possessed “eyes, muscle groups and the support for gills,” the article says; the upward-pointing eyes were “large and prominent.”  Moreover, “A small but sharp-edged circular area in each eye hints that the eyes of these ancient fish included a lens, a relatively modern feature for its era.”

In Live Science, Tia Ghose surmises that this “tiny fish” was possibly “the ancestor of almost all living vertebrates.”  It lived during the “Cambrian Explosion, the ‘big bang’ when almost all complex life appeared.”  These fossils hail from the newly-discovered Marble Canyon site in Kootenay National Park that rivals the famous Burgess Shale site (see 2/11/14 and Royal Ontario Museum post).  The “camera eyes” are “indisputable vertebrate eyes,” one paleontologist said.  (Note: Metaspriggina is unrelated to the earlier Ediacaran creature Spriggina, contrary to earlier beliefs; Metaspriggina is now classified as a chordate.)

Why does Perkins think the animals were “on the way” to developing jaws?

The arrangement of these paired structures foreshadows that seen in fish that evolved much later, and the slightly thicker dimensions of the foremost pair of gill supports may reveal the first steps in the evolution of jaws. Detailed analyses place Metaspriggina near the base of the vertebrate family tree and certainly among the earliest fish, the team suggests.

Big Mouth

Perkins might be excused for his headline, evolutionists could claim, because jaws did appear in later fish.  PhysOrg announced a “jaw-dropping” armored fish (placoderm) from China dated 419 million years old, named Entelognathus, with big toothless jaws and big eyes.  The discoverers likened it to the Australopithecine “Lucy” because of its importance in “forcing us to rethink what we thought we knew about evolution.”  The trouble with this “weird-looking specimen” is that it “rewrites man’s evolutionary history” because it “disproves the long-held theory that modern animals with bony skeletons (osteichthyans) evolved from a shark-like creature with a frame made of cartilage.”  It looks now like the bony fish were the ancestors of the cartilaginous fish.  “This astounding discovery does throw a spanner in the works of some long-held ideas about vertebrate evolution,” a lead author said.  Other co-authors remarked, “It will take time to fully digest the implications of such a remarkable fossil, but it is clear that a major reframing of our understanding of early gnathostome (jawed vertebrate) evolution is now in full swing.”

But then things got worse for evolutionists.  A more modern-looking toothed jawed fish was found even earlier in the record.

By the Silurian (dated by evolutionists about 75 million years later than Metaspriggina), a fully modern-looking fish fossil with teeth and jaws able to crush armor-plated placoderms was also found in China in strata about 16 million years earlier than Entelognathus.  Live Science reported the meter-long animal, named Megamastax (big mouth), challenges beliefs that oxygen levels in the oceans were too low to support large animals:

The new discovery suggests that large vertebrate predators may have emerged earlier in the Devonian period than previously thought.

At the same time, a newer climate model suggests the Silurian period may not have been as oxygen-starved as previous models have shown.

The newly discovered fish, together with fossil finds that show greater diversity in vertebrates at the time, call into question the notion that low oxygen levels during the Silurian limited the body size of early jawed vertebrates.

Proto-Eye

Despite these puzzles, is this not a succession that could justify Perkins’ claim that Metaspriggina was “on the way to evolving jaws”?  Evolutionists also argue that eyes show a sequence from primitive to complex.  This month, the Max Planck Institute pointed to marine worms (polychaetes, a type of annelid) to support Darwin’s notion of “proto-eyes” as precursors of more complex eyes later in evolution.  Bristle worms have little more than light-sensitive spots able to distinguish light and dark.  By mapping the neurons involved, researchers said they could see evolution in action, from its starting point to the advanced vision to come:

For the first time, the developmental biologists from Tübingen describe a complete neuronal network of a simple visual system from the stimulus to the behavioral output. They also further gained deeper insights into the evolution of eyes. The simple eyes, which mediate phototaxis in the early larva, consist of two cells corresponding to Charles Darwin’s idea of the “proto-eye”, the precursor of all existing eyes. The four eyes which appear in the 3 day old larva represent an advanced form of this proto-eye principle. “It is as if we could observe several steps of eye evolution in a single animal”, says Jékely. “We think that the first eyes probably evolved to perform phototaxis – later, eyes evolved that could recognize objects”.

Probably, the first simple eyes in evolution could merely discriminate a bright from a dark field. Such eyes might nonetheless represent the starting point for the evolution of more complex visual systems, as for example the human eyes.

Evolution on the Way?

There are several problems with the notion that simple traits are “on the way to evolving” into more complex traits:

  1. First, and most obviously, is that a series of objects does not necessarily represent an ancestral sequence.  One could arrange vehicles or tools in a series to weave a tale about how one “developed” or “evolved” into the other, when in actuality, the objects were intelligently designed for different purposes.
  2. Another problem is that no single individual animal has any way of knowing (or caring about) what its descendents would become.  Each animal must be adapted to its own environment while it is alive, or it will die.  In the mindless, unguided process of Darwinian evolution, nothing plans ahead.  It is misleading, therefore to say that a jawless fish is “on the way to evolving” jaws, or a worm with simple eyes is on the way to evolving more complex eyes.  Assuming some invisible hand is guiding them to progress into more complex forms is tantamount to a belief in a designing intelligence.
  3. Another problem is the gaps between each item in the series.  There is a huge gap between Metaspriggina and the Silurian fish Megamastax with its crushing jaws and teeth.  So many random mutations would have had to appear in the interim, the improbabilities become astronomical.  This problem is compounded when considering all the other systems that were supposedly “evolving” simultaneously during the gap: muscular systems, skeletal systems, digestive systems and more.
  4. Lastly, there is no time sequence.  Metaspriggina and the bristle worm were contemporaries in the Cambrian Explosion, both arriving essentially instantaneously in geological terms.  The “proto-eyes” of the bristle worm did not have time, therefore, to evolve into the complex camera eyes of Metaspriggina.  This effectively falsifies the claims of the Max Planck evolutionists.  As for jawed fish, the modern-looking jaws of Megamastax is dated by evolutionists to have lived 423 million years ago – far earlier than the placoderm Entelognathus (419 million years) that had been suggested as representative of ancestors of jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes).  “Fossil finds from the region [of the South China Sea] predate jawed vertebrates found anywhere else thus far,” PhysOrg reported, “suggesting the area was the birthplace of such creatures.”  It’s doubtful they stayed in their birthplace, if that indeed were true.  Since contemporary Burgess-Shale animals have been found in Canada and China, it’s likely that large, powerful swimmers like Megamastax did not take long to spread their “innovation” around the world.  Other specimens could well turn up in locales distant from China.

Considering these issues, a series of animals becomes a line-up of brute facts about which nothing more can be said in terms of ancestral relationships.

The Tinker Bell myth of the Darwinists continues.  Tinker Bell tinkers with animal parts blindly, and new complex traits magically emerge out of the void.  Helping her is Popeye (5/31/05), telling her that eyes can pop into existence when you wish upon a star in the magic kingdom (the realm of King Charles).  Don’t think for a minute that Darwinians are secular naturalists.  They personify evolution, while practicing Finagle’s Rule: “Do not believe in miracles.  Rely on them.”

 

 

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