Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
First Published 23 June 2006
The young earth creation science magazine Creation ran an article in their March 2005 issue which tells about the discovery of more complete remains of pakicetus.1
When the original fossil find of Pakicetus was discovered, only portions of the skull were found. Based on similarities with cetaceans, the discoverers described it as a step in whale evolution. The picture included on the Answers in Genesis article is an accurate depiction of the original claims for this specimen.
Recently, more complete fossil remains were found for Pakicetus, clearly indicating that it is a land-dwelling animal. The young earth authors, Alexander Williams and Jonathan Sarfati, use this new fossil evidence to show how secular evolutionists leap to conclusions based on sketchy information, which later turns out to be false. In making this accusation, they are indeed correct. However, that is not the end of the story.
Despite the changes in thought concerning Pakicetus, there have been other discoveries over the intervening years, which clearly show intermediate steps in whale evolution. The first is pakicetids, around 52 million years ago. Next, ambulocetids and remingtonocetids, then protocetids, then basilosaurids, then dorudontids...all backed up by fossil evidence. Unfortunately, this and other Answers in Genesis articles do not discuss these other intermediate specimens, although I'm sure that will change, as these are clear threats to the young earth model.
What Does This Mean?
What is one to think about these discoveries, and about evolutionists making claims based on limited information? Like any science, paleontologists use the information that is currently available to them. Since the original discovery only involved a skull, with apparent cetacean features, the original scientists made an educated guess about the rest of the animal. Scientists studying the claims of this first find clearly could see that these claims were educated guesses. Answers in Genesis is partially correct, however, in that when this material is presented to the public, the public is lead to believe the scientists, even though the evidence is slim. The public has the same information the scientists have, but they view it as accurate, whereas other scientists examining the same evidence realize that it is conjecture. I agree with AiG, that the public needs to examine the information to see how accurate it is.
How does this claim affect old earth creationism? Not at all. For progressive creationists, who believe each species is a unique creation, all of these intermediate species, including Pakicetus, and be thought of as individual creations, without evolving into the next in the series. For theistic evolutionists, you have a nice progression of fossils showing developmental stages for whale evolution.
For young earth creationists, due to their interpretations and refusal to accept transitional fossils, this evidence for whale evolution will be ignored. Although transitional fossils may exist, they will want to see the transitional fossils that are between these transitional fossils. No amount of evidence will convince them.
In a final box at the end, the authors claim that Pakicetus ears are also irreconcilable with whale ears. The authors claim that "there were no examples of slow and gradual shrinking of the canals." When one considers this claim, one must consider the sample size. The number of specimens that represent whale evolution is small. It is hard to make a comparison based on this limited data.
Although this apparently is a problem, a single fossil discovery could solve this. Theistic evolutionists can think of it this way...the change in ears may have been a late development in the evolution of cetaceans, and may have occurred between the dorudontids and the modern whale. Therefore, until intermediate fossils are discovered, this issue will remain unsolved. Despite this problem, this is not a "show stopper" for whale evolution.
1 Creation Magazine, Volume 27, Issue 2. Published on the web at www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v27/i2/whale.asp
For More Reading
Cetaceans - Another online article
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