May 26, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Skull Duggery in Whale Evolution

—or Skull Dodgery: Evolutionists dodge a heady issue,
thinking a skull will evolve a brain complete with new skills

 

If you build it, they will come: but only by choice and design. Evolutionists have a weird conception of nature. They think that the environment fills itself with art and engineering. Simply providing an opportunity for Darwinism to act ensures it will act. No intelligence allowed: give natural selection a homestead, and it will build a city. Watch them think this way about whale skulls.

The tempo of cetacean cranial evolution (Coombs et al., Current Biology, 9 May 2022, open access).

If you set cups of different sizes in front of you, will they fill up miraculously with root beer floats? If you sprinkle Scrabble pieces on a table, will they arrange themselves into words that interlock? If you put music paper in front of a piano, will it write a piano concerto without the mind of a composer? That’s what these evolutionists believe, apparently, as they see skulls of different whales inventing new lifestyle habits, including echolocation and deep diving. The skull calls forth the mystical power of Darwin the magician. Carlo Meloro in a summary of this paper in Current Biology says,

Cetaceans (comprising whales, dolphins and porpoises) adapted towards a fully aquatic lifestyle. These adaptations are especially evident in their skulls. Based on a rich sample of fossil and extant cetacean skulls, a new study identifies links between shape changes and ecological specialisation through deep time.

It sounds absurdly unscientific, but “deep time” is the closet into which Darwinians can hide all their miracles. The authors say,

The evolution of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) represents one of the most extreme adaptive transitions known, from terrestrial mammals to a highly specialized aquatic radiation that includes the largest animals alive today. Many anatomical shifts in this transition involve the feeding, respiratory, and sensory structures of the cranium, which we quantified with a high-density, three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis of 201 living and extinct cetacean species spanning the entirety of their ∼50-million-year evolutionary history. Our analyses demonstrate that cetacean suborders occupy distinct areas of cranial morphospace, with extinct, transitional taxa bridging the gap between archaeocetes (stem whales) and modern mysticetes (baleen whales) and odontocetes (toothed whales).

Cranial morphospace: the shape and size of a cranium in a whale skull, they are saying, provides ample opportunities for Darwin to work his magic. With new morphospace come adaptations for feeding, breathing and sensing underwater. If the dog-like terrestrial mammal ancestor would just grow its skull bigger, all these things could happen.

A thousand adaptations—maybe ten thousand, or more, says Dr Richard Sternberg—would have been required to turn a terrestrial mammal into an obligate marine creature like a whale. How many chance mutations did that take? And how did they occur in sync to make any of a whale’s intricate adaptations work? Illustration courtesy Illustra Media.

The authors hedge their bets somewhat, suggesting that perhaps the contents evolved first and then the skull adapted to fit it. “Diet and echolocation have the strongest influence on cranial morphology, with habitat, size, dentition, and feeding method also significant factors impacting shape, disparity, and the pace of cetacean cranial evolution.” This doesn’t help, though. It just turns the magic wand around. Instead of “Skull, bring forth a brain,” it says, “Brain, bring forth a skull.” Both are miracles nonetheless.

Could Darwinians Defend This in Debate?

The e-word “evolution” and its cognates (evolve, evolved) occur over 150 times in this paper. And yet there is no mention of mutations, and only one passing reference to selection, as in “large body size appears to have been selected for in squid-feeding taxa….” So this is not a paper arguing for Darwinism or defending it. It’s a paper assuming evolution and expecting readers to just accept it as a given.

One should not grant them this assumption. In the Illustra documentary Living Waters, Dr Richard Sternberg analyzes the ability of chance mutations to build a whale. He estimates it would take 1,000 beneficial mutations at least—maybe 10,000, or more—to achieve the goal of moving from land animal to a creature that has to live its entire existence in the water. Then he calculates the time it would take to expect just two coordinated mutations to become fixed in the population. The answer is more time than evolutionists think was required for the entirety of whale evolution. Would a Darwinist debater be able to answer that? Do you think Dr Sternberg, former editor of a Smithsonian biology journal, would accept an answer like “Stuff Happens”?

Transitional Forms

Some evolutionists think that the “whale series” is the best example of a great transformation documented by fossils. They can arrange fossils (many of them scanty) into a connect-the-dots picture that seems to support the notion that each group evolved from others that they deem “primitive.” Their scheme would include toothed whales (odontocetes) and baleen whales (mysticetes), and all the dolphins, killer whales and related creatures of all sizes from pygmy dolphins to right whales, the largest animals on earth. Then, displaying other air-breathing mammals that live part of the time on land and part of the time in water, like seals and otters, they can tell a story of evolution that might sound plausible in generalities.

The Orwellian method of evolutionary indoctrination sometimes needs some fine-tuning.

The Darwinists who wrote this paper examined a lot of whale skulls, then applied their worldview assumptions about the magical power of evolution to weave a story:

We hypothesize that (1) fossils demonstrate rapid transitions into novel morphospace, (2) echolocation and feeding strategies are primary drivers of cranial morphology, and (3) fast rates of evolution are associated with key innovations in these traits.

Here, they have returned to the “skull first, adaptation later” scenario. Whales created “novel morphospace” (the homesteading land) and then the settlers (the adaptations) came. But then the yo-yo returns for “adaptation first, skull later” in hypothesis #2, “echolocation and feeding strategies are primary drivers of cranial morphology.” The whale says, “I just invented echolocation, and I learned to like fish, so I need a skull to match.” Which is it? Both. One miracle drives the other miracle, and they are commutative, so they both drive each other. Then, to sprinkle this story with a heavy seasoning of Darwin Flubber, hypothesis #3 kicks in to tweak the speed of evolution: “fast rates of evolution are associated with key innovations” like echolocation and the ability to lunge-feed and scoop up vast quantities of krill. Remember that association is not causation? This is miracle-turtles all the way down.

In the Living Waters film, one can see all those innovations at work. Illustra produced one of the most detailed animations ever made of all the parts involved in echolocation, showing them in different angles for clarity. These include the muscular pharynx, the specialized ear canals that receive the echoes, the blowhole that breathes in air, the “sonic lips” that produce the clicks for echoes and the melon in the skull that focuses the sound beam into the water. All of these parts would have had to be present and working to be a “driver of cranial morphology” on the one hand. But on the other hand, providing “morphospace” for these interacting organs is never going to make them magically appear. If chance builds it, innovations are under no obligation to come.

In addition to the numerous other organs that participate in echolocation, the teeth of odontocetes (toothed whales) aids in echolocation by focusing the sound like an antenna. (From Living Waters, by Illustra Media).

How do the evolutionists get around this? They draw dot-to-dot pictures on paper. They use the word “transition” 13 times in the paper, but most of the time the word just assumes evolution: e.g., “Some of the most extreme anatomical changes in this transition occurred in the skull, allowing whales to feed, breathe, and navigate in their new aquatic environments.” You can allow a wolf-like terrestrial to do all these things in the water. You can say to your pet wolf, “Here boy, go dive underwater. You have my permission to feed, breathe, and navigate down there.” The wolf will drown. The hundreds or thousands of beneficial mutations needed to “innovate” these adaptations are not going to happen on their own. They would never come together in the whole history of thousands of universes.

The authors base their arguments on a series of dots on a chart and on software that forces the fossils represented by the dots into an evolutionary scenario. The description sounds impressive, but it’s only an exercise in forcing data into a prior belief, as illustrated by the following excerpt. (This is boring so don’t feel obligated to understand it all. Just watch for the tweaking of evolutionary rates involved.)

We further compared evolutionary rates among clades (archaeocetes, mysticetes, and odontocetes) and ecological categories (diet, dentition, feeding type, echolocation, and habitat) using the pPC scores that represented the whole cranium. For each analysis, we first used stochastic character mapping implemented in the ‘make.simmap’ function in ‘phytools’ with an ‘ARD’ model to sample 100 possible evolutionary histories for each ecological variable’s states and transitions between each suborder. We summarized these sampled character state histories for each variable using a custom function (paintAllTree…). We then applied the state-specific Brownian Motion (BMM) model in the ‘mvgls’ function in mvMORPH v.1.1.428 with the option ‘error = TRUE’ to mitigate sources of evolutionary rates inflation, including departures from Brownian Motion caused by measurement error and any intra-specific variation (see e.g., Bardua et al.94).

They were not following the evidence where it leads. They were tweaking it to get the evolutionary story they had in mind before they started. That is not science.

This is the result of censorship in Big Science and Big Media. The Darwin Party, which controls both, ignores non-Darwinian arguments or blocks them from view. If these Darwinists had to defend this story on stage in a public debate with knowledgeable Darwin skeptics with PhDs like Richard Sternberg, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, David Berlinski, Doug Axe or many others they would be shamed before the eyes of the audience. They would either get flabbergasted or angry, storming off the stage and muttering, “I’m not going to put up with talking to idiots who don’t understand evolution!” That’s the kind of response we routinely get from Twitter atheists when we hold them accountable for explaining how random mutations created their brains.

The only way Darwinism survives is by censorship. Evolutionists refuse to examine ID or creation arguments or cite their work in the references. They pretend it doesn’t exist. Journal editors prevent any mention of non-Darwinian material. This goes on in public school classrooms K-12 through grad school, and also in libraries, bookstores, almost all science journals, and almost all secular science news sites.

If we ever exposed Darwin’s House of Cards in public to the slightest breeze of logic, it would collapse instantly.

How about some credible science to de-hypnotize us from the spell of Darwinian hocus pocus? Here is an excerpt from Living Waters by Illustra Media, titled “A Whale of a Story.”

This and other excellent films can be found on The John 10:10 Project website.

To order Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth, see the Go2RPI website. The film includes great presentations about other wonders in the ocean, like sea turtles, salmon and dolphins. It’s part of the Design of Life Collection which also includes two other terrific documentaries: Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies, and Flight: The Genius of Birds. These are welcome alternatives to the evolutionary dogma saturating the secular nature films.

 

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