I came across Dr. Carl Werner earlier this year. I did not have time to deal with his particular claims, so I just stated them and moved on. In that post and in the follow up post, I dealt a lot with the distinction of being “like” something does not make you that something. For example, the fossil record has many dog-like predators, but most of them are not dogs. Hyenas may be like a dog, but they are not dogs. I remember learning about simile in Junior High, but it is a problem that I keep running into dealing with biblical creationists. Again being like something does not make you the same as that something.
Given my reading of parts of Werner’s, Evolution: The Grand Experiment this inability to understand simile is not a glitch, but a feature. (I found this book, when a biblical creationist referenced it as his “biology textbook from college”.) In chapter 4, he says,
They now theorize that whales evolved from an animal similar to a hyena [Pachyaena
] or a cat [Sinonyx
] or a hippopotamus through a complicated sequence of chance mutations in a series of animals over 10 million years.
First before we move on, I read this kind of argument a lot. ”Scientists say this animal and other scientists say that animal, so which one is it?” However one must consider the level of disagreement. If the disagreement is within the same order or sub-order there is really little disagreement. It is like arguing over which county in the same state an event occurred. For example, we may not know exactly where Pocahontas lived, but we know that it was not in California or even in North Carolina. Still, you read things like this from Dr. John D. Morris, which implies greater disagreement.
One such evolutionary claim that has been around since the days of Darwin asserts that whales (which are mammals, not fish or reptiles) descended from some four-footed land mammal. Darwin thought that it was a bear-like animal that evolved into whales, but today evolutionists disagree. Some speculate that hoofed animals (like cattle) or wolf-like carnivores were the ancestors of whales. Others insist that DNA evidence indicates that the ancestors were hippopotamus-like. More recently, evolutionists claimed deer-like, raccoon-size animals had evolved into whales.
Morris knows that even-toed ungulates encompass many things from hippos to goats, deer, and yes cows. It also includes now extinct carnivores like Entelodont, Pakicetus and Andrewsarchus. All three had hooves. Darwin placed whales in Carnivora, but they have been in Artiodactyla since the discovery of Pakicetus inachus. The argument is over where in Artiodactyla they fit. The connection to hippos, a webbed hoofed, even-toed ungulate is not a major surprise. Morris’ representation suggests things are “either or” when in fact they are all true. Whales descended from hoofed animals, somewhat like cattle, somewhat like wolves, somewhat like deer. Some were the size of raccoons. P. inachus was about three feet at the shoulder. DNA notes that whales closest non-extinct land relative is the hippo. It is hard to convey, because pigs are the closest thing today to an even-toed carnivorous ungulate.
Sinonyx and Pachyaena are being used to try to connect the ungulate orders Artiodactyla to the Mesonychids. Essentially they are trying to connect North Carolina to Virginia, but we are still talking about the South East. Unlike the Mesonychids, hippos are already in the same order as whales, Artiodactyla, so there is less of a leap. Bear in mind as you continue reading that Werner is a biologist
so he understands everything that I just wrote, but he will misrepresent it anyway. In the next sentence, he completely drops the word “similar”.
Scientists who oppose evolution think the idea of a cat or a hippopotamus or a hyena becoming a whale by a series of chance mutations is even more preposterous than Darwin’s idea that a bear could become a whale through natural selection and acquired characteristics.
The contrast is strange. No one other than Werner’s strawman is arguing that whales evolved by a series of chance mutations instead of by natural selection and acquired characteristics. Werner knows and understands that acquired characteristics come from chance mutations that are selected by natural selection.
Further by dropping the word “similar”, he leaves his reader with the impression that whales are alleged to have evolved from a member of the order Carnivora, like Darwin proposed. He continues to intentionally confuse his reader by referring to Pachyaena as “a hyena”. In order to not confuse the reader, he only needs to refer to Pachyaena as Pachyaena instead of “a hyena”. He never even once mentions that they have hooves.
Werner then gives a list of random mutations that would have to happen turn Pachyaena into a whale. Remember Werner knows that natural selection works through selecting acquired characteristics, but he is making a strawman. His calculation begins on page 51, but is irrelevant because this ridiculous mechanism is not how evolution works. However most of the mutations that he mentions can be found in the whale fossil record or one can at least find an analog that creationists accept.
In chapter 5, he talks about wrong phylogeny based on homologous traits. His first example is red pandas (Family Ailuridae) and panda bears (Family Ursidae) which both possess the Panda’s thumb (a wrist bone modified into a thumb). However genetics established that Panda bears are true bears and red pandas are more closely related to raccoons (Family Procyonidae).
Werner seems to imply that they are not “closely related”. True, they no longer occupy the same family, but they continue to occupy the same order
, Carnivora, same sub-order Caniformia
, and the same infra-order Arctoidea
. Using our state analogy, they were wrong about he city, but had the right county.
Werner’s next example is also from the infra-order Arctoidea.
] and sea lions [Otariidae
] are very similar in appearance. Both have front flippers and finned feet. They are so similar it is difficult to tell them apart. Because of their similarities, it was logical for scientists to believe they shared a common ancestor with similar features, namely front flippers and finned feet. Now proponents of evolution believe seals descended from a skunk or otter, and sea lions evolved from a dog or bear, meaning they do not share a common ancestor after all.
There is some disagreement
over what super family in Arctoidea that Pinnipeds are most closely related. Some hold a duel origin hypothesis with seals being more closely related to the super family Musteloidea
and sea lions are more closely related to the super family Ursoidea
. However some hold to a singular origin for both from either Musteloidea or Ursoidea. The jury is still out, but Werner knows the argument is not over whether or not they share a common ancestor. The argument is over how they are related. Werner knows, “they do not share a common ancestor after all” is a blatant misrepresentation of the argument.