July 5, 2017 | Jerry Bergman

The Myth of Evolution from Water to Land and Back to Water

by Dr Jerry Bergman

The latest issue of the popular science magazine, Discover,[i]  contains an article titled “Everything Worth Knowing About Evolution.” The article begins by claiming that over 350 million years ago our fish ancestors traded aquatic for terrestrial life, implying that this conclusion is science when it actually is problematic speculation. The article includes four illustrations that were drawn to portray the theory of evolution from sea to land. The problem is, the illustrations look like four separate modern day creatures and show little evidence of gradual evolution from the first drawing to the last one. One could take four living animals, which it looks like the artist did, and produce a very similar set of pictures.

Photos of humpback whale with calf courtesy Illustra Media / Dave Anderson

The confidence of the headline is shattered when one reads the article. For example, the author admits that “The tetrapods’ move to land has long been one of the great evolutionary puzzles” and then added “Researchers have yet to find the species that can link early fishapods with fully terrestrial tetrapods.” This theory of evolution from water to land is proposed only because, since life is presumed to have first evolved in the water, and life now abundantly exists on land, in spite of the lack of evidence, life must have evolved from water to land.

The tetrapods’ move to land has long been one of the great evolutionary puzzles.

The only presumed physical evidence of evolution from water to land is fossil bones, not visceral organs, which means that we have only a small percent of the putative physical evidence. Furthermore, the fossil evidence that we have is rarely a complete skeleton. Most often it consists of bone fragments that have to be assembled, which itself is a daunting task. It is true that organs and organ systems can be inferred from bones, but this process is very problematic. As a result, conflicting interpretations exist among scholars.

The alleged sequence is largely artistic license. Illustration courtesy Illustra Media.

After marine life evolved to become terrestrial, evolutionists postulate that terrestrial animals evolved to again become marine life, such as the cetaceans including whales. Again, the theory is postulated only because the alternatives, such as aquatic fish evolving into whales, is even more problematic. The problem of terrestrial mammals re-evolving into marine life is enormously problematic. Although Professor Pyenson,[ii] Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian, wrote, the “evolution of cetaceans is one of the best examples of macroevolution documented from the fossil record,” when we analyze the changes required in the anatomy and physiology, clear problems are obvious.

One obvious example is that the body size changes required to evolve from a small terrestrial mammal to a whale are enormous—from a 50-pound dog-sized animal to a 300,000-pound sea animal, or 6,000 times larger, and from an animal a few feet long to a 100-foot-long animal. The tongue of a blue whale alone weighs as much as an elephant. Changes required to evolve from a land to a sea animal require not only size modifications, but major design changes in every body organ and structure.

Illustration courtesy Illustra Media.

For example, the heart size increase requires evolving a heart from the size of a human fist to one close to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The heart valves would have to evolve from those smaller than the size of a dime to the size of an automobile tire rim. A human heart beats about 70 times a minute, a whale heart only nine times a minute, but the force of each beat is many times stronger in a whale than that in humans. This requires major design changes in the entire circulatory system. The fact is, “How and why baleen [and other whales] evolved is one of the greatest mysteries of marine mammal evolution, with even Charles Darwin himself speculating upon its beginnings in his On the Origin of Species.”[iii]


[i] Gemma Tarlach. When we left the Water. Discover Magazine. July-August, 2017, pp. 44-47.

[ii] Nicholas Pyenson. 2017. The Ecological Rise of Whales Chronicled by the Fossil Record. Current Biology. 27(11):R558-R564.

[iii] Felix Georg Marx, David Hocking, And Travis Park. 2016. The evolution of the baleen in whales. https://phys.org/news/2016-11-evolution-baleen-whales.html. November.

Dr Jerry Bergman, professor, author and speaker, is a frequent contributor to Creation-Evolution Headlines. See his Author Profile for his previous articles.

We recommend his book Vestigial Organs Are Fully Functional, wherein he and Dr George Howe investigated the body organs that Darwinians claim (or used to claim) are useless vestiges of past evolution.

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