May 5, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Coelacanth: Survival of the Dullest

A new fossil species of coelacanth was discovered in Canada.  Scientists think from its tail fin shape that it was a fast swimmer–perhaps a hunter.  Sadly, it was a “spectacular failure” in evolution.  The luck of the evolutionary draw went to today’s slow-moving, docile species.

PhysOrg states that the new fossil “rewrites the history of ancient fish.”  The discoverers named it Rebellatrix, calling it a “rebel” that “does everything a coelacanth should not do.”  Modern coelacanths have broad tails and are fairly docile, but the discoverers think that the forked tail in Rebellatrix indicates it was a fast swimmer with a muscular tail fin.  National Geographic pointed out what this means to evolutionary theory:

In general, the discovery “shows how plastic and flexible evolution can be,” said John Long, a coelacanth expert at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California.

It really shakes things up “that coelacanths can suddenly deviate what they’ve been doing for 200 million years and occupy a lifestyle that’s radically different from other coelacanths.”

Still, the fossil record shows that the slow-moving version of the coelacanth ultimately won out, while the speedy Rebellatrix was replaced by sharks and other cruising predators, study leader Wendruff said.

“I like to say Rebellatrix was a spectacular failure.

National Geographic also reminded readers about the historic importance of the coelacanth as a living fossil:  “The coelacanth (pronounced SEE-la-kanth) is a type of primitive, slow-moving fish that was thought extinct until its rediscovery in 1938,” the article said.  “The modern fish is sometimes called a living fossil, because it apparently existed largely unchanged for 320 million years.”  The new find shows that only one species remains from a past diversity – survival of the dullest.

Too bad for all the social Darwinists in the 1930s who glorified strength, speed, warfare and might as the evolutionary law of nature.  If you’re a modern evolutionist, maybe you should take a cue from the surviving coelacanths and pursue slothfulness (one of the seven deadly sins).

Better yet, ditch Darwinism as a falsified Victorian myth.  Surviving “largely unchanged for 320 million years” should be a colossal embarrassment.  So is imagining these creatures going extinct millions of years ago then finding them doing just fine off the coast of India.  Remember, too, that the coelacanth had long been touted as a missing link, its bony fins suggesting it was a transitional form between fish with fins and feet.  Now that coelacanths still have those bony fins but don’t use them for anything resembling walking, that notion has been soundly debunked.  It’s a survivor; why call it “primitive”?

Is something weird about this story?  Not if you have a good imagination and ponder “how plastic and flexible evolution can be.”

Exercise: Try to find another law of nature that is plastic and flexible.  Skinner’s Constant,* perhaps?

*Skinner’s Constant: That value which, when added to, subtracted from, multiplied or divided by the answer you got, gives you the answer you should have gotten.


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  • Donald Holliday says:

    QUOTE: – “Too bad for all the social Darwinists in the 1930s who glorified strength, speed, warfare and might as the evolutionary law of nature.”

    Actually there are a number of things being revealed where Darwin’s ideologically driven gut-felt Survival of the Fittest is a sham. Take the example of the Prof. Suzanne Simard from the University of British Columbia who talks about Mother trees and the interworking relationships of all plants working together and not trying to outcompete or destroy one another.

    Here what I consider the best quote in this clip. I’ll bet she was slammed on that as a heretic.

    QUOTE: – “These plants are really not individuals in the sense that Darwin thought they were individuals competing for survival of the fittest, in fact they’re interacting with each other trying to help each other survive.”

    It doesn’t get any better than this

    Thanks for your article.

  • rockyway says:

    It would seem that some people haven’t learned their lesson. Has our author forgotten that scientists once thought Coelacanth was long extinct? What happens if we now find a so called Rebellatrix alive and well?

    Is it ‘evolution’ that’s plastic and flexible, or is it data in the hands of theory? Perhaps it’s man’s ability to bend the evidence to his own liking that is plastic and flexible. Theory tends to be a mold into which data are poured. The idea of ‘hard data’ impervious to varied interpretation is largely a myth.

    If the Rebellatrix (terrible name) had been found ‘earlier’ [predating 320 million years] in the rocks, they would have said it evolved into the Coelacanth.
    – We see again how there’s no way to know what the ‘fittest’ really means; that it’s a term without an objective meaning. How many times have we heard stories telling us that the fittest animal was the fastest?

    It’s not empirical to call the coelacanth primitive; as ‘primitiveness’ is not something one can observe. This is simply not a scientific statement.

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