Is This Fish Evolving into a Land Animal in the Lab?
Evolutionists are reading a grand story into observations of flopping fish in a lab tank.
A little African fish called a bichir (Polypterus senegalus) can breathe air, flop forward on land, and hold itself up a little bit on its fins. Is it evolving into a land animal? From reading the popular media, one might think so:
- Walking fish reveal how our ancestors evolved onto land (Astrobiology Magazine)
- Unusual Fish that ‘Walks’ Holds Clues to Animal Evolution (Charles Choi in Live Science)
- Fish reared on land replay the transition to four legs (Andy Coghlan in New Scientist)
- Walking fish reveal how our ancestors evolved onto land (Science Daily)
If not evolving into a land animal now, at least it’s showing evolutionists how the process might have happened in the past. Is that a valid inference?
The claim is based on some lab experiments at McGill University. Hans Larsson and team reared some bichirs to live on land for a year, providing them with shallow water and misters to keep their moist scales from drying out. A video clip shows what happened. Compared to the control group living in water,
The fish showed significant anatomical and behavioural changes. The terrestrialized fish walked more effectively by placing their fins closer to their bodies, lifted their heads higher, and kept their fins from slipping as much as fish that were raised in water….
“Because many of the anatomical changes mirror the fossil record, we can hypothesize that the behavioural changes we see also reflect what may have occurred when fossil fish first walked with their fins on land”, says Hans Larsson, Canada Research Chair in Macroevolution at McGill and an Associate Professor at the Redpath Museum.
None of the articles pointed out that this sounds Lamarckian (inheritance of acquired characteristics). From what is mentioned, the researchers did not find if these behaviors were encoded in genes transmitted to the offspring. If they weren’t, the death of these lab specimens would spell good-bye for the “behavioural changes” observed. Nevertheless, NASA’s website found a way to fit it to Darwinism:
Larsson adds, “This is the first example we know of that demonstrates developmental plasticity may have facilitated a large-scale evolutionary transition, by first accessing new anatomies and behaviours that could later be genetically fixed by natural selection.”
Larsson implies that he knows Lamarckism won’t work. The behaviors, he points out, must be “genetically fixed by natural selection” to fit with current evolutionary ideas. How does that happen? By “developmental plasticity” is his answer. What is that? Larsson’s grad student explains:
“Stressful environmental conditions can often reveal otherwise cryptic anatomical and behavioural variation, a form of developmental plasticity”, says Emily Standen, a former McGill post-doctoral student who led the project, now at the University of Ottawa. “We wanted to use this mechanism to see what new anatomies and behaviours we could trigger in these fish and see if they match what we know of the fossil record.”
There are a couple of obvious problems with this explanation that none of the articles pointed out. One is that the bichirs are still fish with fins, in spite of hundreds of millions of years for them to have evolved into land animals. Another is that the “developmental plasticity” of living fish cannot reveal anything about ancient species before land animals evolved (in their scenario). A third problem is that the McGill team didn’t ask if this species is on the lineage evolutionists believe led to tetrapods, e.g., related to Tiktaalik (1/14/14). Furthermore, the article did not relate bichirs to other fish species, like mudskippers, that can also flop around on their fins in air for a time. Finally, many other fish species undergo stressful environmental conditions without evolving these behaviors. If this were a law of nature, why is it happening to living bichirs in 2014, and nowhere else?
A similar story appeared almost simultaneously on Science Daily about mosquitofish. Evolutionists at Northern Arizona University watched them roll and flip, as if these behaviors have “evolutionary implications” about the “transition from life in the water to life on the land.” The same criticisms apply to this theory. Why, instead, did they not reason that this “highly coordinated behavior” was designed to “effectively move the animal back into its home environment” instead of motivate it to walk on land?
Evolutionists can be so silly. All this absurd storytelling would come to a screeching halt if journalists acted like real journalists and peppered them with hard questions. It’s not difficult; just insist on logical consistency and ask a few simple questions based on the observations mentioned two paragraphs above. Larsson and Standen would shut up real fast! They would turn their heads to hide their blushing. Their little myth here isn’t even Darwinian, but since it fits the grand scenario of progressive evolution, it gets a free pass. This example shows once again that the critics of evolutionary storytelling are the ones who really respect science.
Exercise: Formulate some reporter’s questions you would ask the evolutionists based on the “obvious problems” mentioned above and any others that come to mind.