Giants Are Hard to Evolve
Extreme convergence leaves evolutionary paleontologists
scrambling for just-so stories to fool the public.
A swimmer as big as a sperm whale— but it was a reptile! How does Darwinism do that? One cannot just say that every part of a creature grew at the same rate. Parts have to fit together to work. Let’s look at news about giant ichthyosaurs [“fish-lizards”] and see how they deal with the question of the origins of gigantism.
Earth’s first-known giant was as big as a sperm whale (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County). This article just assumes evolution, even to the point of admitting that some ichthyosaurs (which were reptiles) looked like whales (which are mammals). Giants of the Triassic evolved not only in the sea, it claims, but also on the land.
While dinosaurs ruled the land, ichthyosaurs and other aquatic reptiles (that were emphatically not dinosaurs) ruled the waves, reaching similarly gargantuan sizes and species diversity. Evolving fins and hydrodynamic body-shapes seen in both fish and whales, ichthyosaurs swam the ancient oceans for nearly the entirety of the Age of Dinosaurs.
Do the scientists at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, where some giant ichthyosaur fossils are on display, know what they evolved from? No; “Ichthyosaurs derive from an as yet unknown group of land-living reptiles and were air-breathing themselves,” says a paleobiologist at the museum, who was lead author of a paper about the largest-ever ichthyosaur found in Nevada, a state which is now mostly desert. The new skull is two meters long. The giant has been named Cymbospondylus youngorum; it is “the largest animal yet discovered from that time period, on land or in the sea.”
Ichthyosaurs have also been found in western Kansas, a land-locked state in the USA. The giant whale-like (but reptile) swimmers are thought to have slithered into the ocean from land and excelled at life in a permanent aquatic habitat. As Richard Sternberg and other design advocates have explained, that’s not a simple thing to do by mutation and selection. In whales, Sternberg explains, about 50,000 morphological adaptations would have been required to live full-time in water (Evolution News 21 Dec 2021; see also Illustra film Living Waters). Similar challenges face any evolutionary story of a land-to-water transition or a water-to-land transition. And yet unrelated giants “evolved” simultaneously underwater (ichthyosaurs), on land (sauropods), and in the air (pterosaurs).
Most of the article talks about the diversity of fossils in the Nevada site and speculation about what these creatures ate. Cracking one-liners like, “You can say this is the first big splash for tetrapods in the oceans” is not informative.
Early giant reveals faster evolution of large body size in ichthyosaurs than in cetaceans (Sander et al., Science 24 Dec 2021, Vol 374, Issue 6575, DOI: 10.1126/science.abf5787). This is the paper mentioned in the above press release. It mentions evolution a whopping 195 times! But never do the authors say how they evolved to be so big – only that they did. They focus on how in the evolutionary timeline ichthyosaurs evolved gigantism faster than whales did, but that is beside the point. How? One doesn’t just grow every part at the same rate, because all the organs and systems have to keep working together. Watch them dodge this point by assuming evolution took care of all the details:
As tail-propelled pelagic tetrapods, ichthyosaurs and cetaceans not only evolved convergent body shapes, lifestyles, physiologies, and feeding strategies as an adaptation to their habitat, but both lineages also evolved after the near-complete collapse of marine ecosystems. However, emerging evidence suggests different trajectories of body-size evolution in the two groups. Mysticetes [whales] shifted from gradual evolution of body size to rapid evolution of exceptionally large body sizes late in the history of the clade, concomitant with the extinction of small species. This pattern is presumed to have been facilitated by abundant resources and coastal upwelling. By contrast, the morphological disparity, the estimated evolutionary rates of discrete characters, and the evolution of skull size of ichthyosaurs all reached an early peak in the Triassic.
This is equivalent to saying Stuff Happened late in whales, but Stuff Happened fast in ichthyosaurs. Calling this an “early burst” of evolution explains nothing; it is merely a restatement of the authors’ assumptions about evolution.
Perhaps the authors can point to an evolutionary sequence of transitional forms. No; the first ichthyosaur was fully aquatic; it was just smaller. So where is the evolution?
Prehistoric ichthyosaurs evolved rapidly to be as big as whales (New Scientist). Here is New Scientist’s take on the fossil from Nevada. Riley Black’s 23 December report puts the e-word evolved right in the headline. He rubs it in with the subtitle, “A newly discovered fossil shows that within just 3 million years of their first appearance on Earth, ichthyosaurs had evolved into 17-metre-long giants.” Perceptive readers look for evidence they evolved, and only see statements that assume it, like this:
- It was discovered in roughly 246 million-year-old rocks, so it is only about 3 million years younger than the first ichthyosaurs, which evolved from land-based ancestors. This indicates that ichthyosaurs ballooned in size astonishingly quickly once they took to the seas.
- While many whale species have reached giant sizes in today’s seas, their evolutionary route was long. The earliest whales evolved about 56 million years ago and it took another 50 million years for some species to become enormous. C. youngorum shows that ichthyosaurs did the same in a fraction of the time, which underscores different evolutionary pathways for these superficially similar animals.
- The glut of seafood allowed large ichthyosaurs to evolve and sustain themselves. Based on models of energy flow through the ancient food web, Schmitz notes that another giant-size ichthyosaur species could have survived in the same environment. Whales didn’t get the benefit of such a surfeit, and so took a much longer path to becoming leviathans.
So it wasn’t time, according to this notion; ichthyosaurs evolved to be giants quickly, but whales evolved to be giants slowly. It must have been food! Ichthyosaurs found a glut of seafood! If that’s the trick, then people can become giants on a seafood diet. Strange; those who eat more seafood, like Japanese and Inuits, are not necessarily the biggest people.
Ichthyosaur: Huge fossilised ‘sea dragon’ found in Rutland reservoir (BBC News). An even larger ichthyosaur skull was uncovered in Britain, reports Jonah Fisher for the BBC News on January 10th. The fossil was found last February 30 miles inland from the coast in Rutland. A photo shows a man lying down by the fossil, dwarfed by the skull. This article says nothing about evolution. Perhaps that’s because there’s nothing to say.
The evolutionary story is ridiculous. If a glut of seafood “allows” creatures to evolve gigantism, why are so many sea creatures small? There are giant squid and tiny squid. There are whale sharks and tiny sharks. There are big fish and little fish. There are sperm whales and small dolphins in the toothed whale family. All of these creatures live in the same habitat today. Are the Darwinists essentially saying that food allows animals to evolve big except when it doesn’t? What a handy form of scientific explanation! One can use it to explain anything, even opposite things, and sound like an expert.
Let’s do a thought experiment. I “allow” you to evolve to be a giant. You have my permission. Here, I will give you all the seafood you want. Now go forth, eat and become a giant man or woman. What will happen? You will probably just get fat and have a heart attack. For a human to become a giant, a lot more has to happen than a glut of available food. The organs have to match; some must get bigger, but some (like the ossicles in the ear) must stay the same. The levels of hormones cannot just be increased with height. Bones have to grow in proportion to the needs of the rest of the body. Remember that volume grows by the cube but area by the square. Bones have to be thicker in a larger creature; simply making everything bigger by a factor of two will cause major breakdowns in organs and systems. Furthermore, the right growth rates for each system must be programmed to occur from birth at the right times. A baby’s limbs at birth will be small in proportion to the trunk, but proportionally larger in adulthood. The femur must lengthen without ripping the muscles apart or breaking the nerves. Everything has to fit together throughout the growth of the organism.
Let’s extend our thought experiment. I “allow” you to become an obligate marine creature. Dive in at the beach and evolve to be a giant swimming organism. You will need new kinds of lungs, new blood, a new diet, new eyes, new skin, new senses (echolocation would be helpful), new ways of reproduction, new ways of breathing (a blowhole would be helpful), and much more. It would probably help if your legs merged into a tail, and your arms became flippers. If you are male, you will need a new cooling system for the testicles (see this discussed in Illustra’s film Living Waters). If you are female, you will need a way to give birth in water to an air-breathing young, which will have to also learn to suckle without drowning. You will need new instincts, new behaviors, and new ecological relationships. You will need a completely overhauled body that looks nothing like what you evolved from.
One more thing: all these 50,000+ changes have to occur by chance over millions of years.
If you are finding this scenario a bit implausible, consider some sobering facts.
- This is what all the academic scientists around the world (at least, those allowed to publish) believe not only can happen, but did happen.
- If you disagree, you will be shunned, expelled, shamed, punished and called nasty names.
- If you go along to get along, you will get Pulitzer prizes, prominent speeches at TED conferences, publishers seeking your wisdom, and all the respect, love and rewards Big Science and Big Media can offer.
- Governments will give you money to go out and observe wonders of creation and give all the credit to Charles Darwin. This will enrich the prestige of the nation by showing its commitment to “science.”
Welcome to our modern world.