Fossil Evidence of Whale Evolution?

Answering Evolutionist Professors in the UK

by Dr. Terry Mortenson on March 25, 2014

The creature Pakicetus was initially regarded as a primitive whale, while further analysis confirms it was a land-dwelling mammal.

As described in my previous article, I went on a speaking tour in the UK last year. Organizers in one city invited hundreds of university professors in the area to attend one of my lectures on “Origin of Species: Was Darwin Right?” and to submit questions or objections. A few university faculty or staff responded to the email invitation. One of those who replied was a man specializing in mass spectrometry, who wrote the following:

You asked for questions from the ‘academic community’ regarding a talk to be given soon by Dr Mortenson, (note he gained his PhD in the history of geology, rather than the more expected subject of actual geology, or indeed paleontology, which is the proper subject to have experience and expertise in the study of fossils). Whilst I’m hardly in a relevant field myself, and I’m not sure that such a community exists in any defined manner, even so the proposed theme makes so little sense that few intelligent questions can be asked:

Why has he got his science so wrong? Has he not read the recent material, or does he not understand it?

1) Whale evolution - There is ample evidence of translational forms. The whale is a perfect example: We see a succession of ever more whale-like fossils in the fossil record, the most primitive, which is closest to the stem mesonychids, are also the oldest, as we move through successively younger rocks, the teeth come more simple and more numerous, the naris fuses and moves ever more posterior, the pelvis reduces, the tail elongates, the joins [sic] between the vertebrate [sic] modify to allow increasing flexion, the hind limbs reduce, the forelimbs become more robust, with shorter proximal parts and enlarged carpals and phalanges, the auditory bulla enlarges and becomes more dense (see: Indohyus, Archaeocetus, Ambulocetus, Pakicetus, Basiliosaurus etc.). Isn't this exactly what evolution predicted and has now demonstrated with both palaeontological evidence and is supported by genetic data and exactly what you have just claimed can't happen and there is no evidence for? There are a lot more examples detailed here - www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

“Arrival of the fittest” is of course a biological question and has little to do with evolution. It is another subject that your speaker is not an expert in, but fortunately a wealth of material also exists online.

2) Mutations lead to variant forms upon which natural selection can work: (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html#CB is a start) to explain how mutations arise and how they work, and how they lead to many variant forms, upon which natural selection can work. I would ask your speaker again why is he misrepresenting basic science.

3) Each conception creates new variations: The simple fact that you are different from your parents and your children different from you, goes to show how variation occurs. Each fusing of sperm and egg creates (creates not conserves) new genetic variations.

4) Vertical variation documented: In fact all the ‘questions’ your speaker might raise are fully rebutted in that website. There are many examples of speciation events and “vertical variation” here - http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html or http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ for example. Don’t forget that major changes take major amounts of time to occur so you’re unlikely to be able to watch one happen in front of you.

Human origin is particularly interesting and covered in detail here www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/.

I will not be attending your talk, and I don’t expect that you will pose such points to the speaker or that he would or could answer them in a meaningful way, but I have included a variety of information that I hope you will consider, and pass onto any members of the audience who might be receptive to it.

Understanding the world around us – even when it is complicated, confusing and counterintuitive - is truly a common goal for all of humanity.

My reply, slightly adapted, was as follows:

Thank you for your reply to the email about my lecture on “Origin of Species: Was Darwin Right?”

You are right that I am a historian of geology, not a geologist. I have never claimed to be the latter and our web site is clear about my academic training. But the person who designed the advertising for my speaking tour of the UK made a mistake. Though not a geologist, I have read a fair amount of secular geological literature (both from the early 19th century and later 20th century), attended lectures by PhD geologists and paleontologists (both creationist and evolutionist), and have been on eight trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with a PhD geologist very well acquainted with the geology and fossils in the canyon.

I appreciate that you admit that you are really not qualified academically to comment on the subject of my lecture. But one does not have to be an expert to critically evaluate the arguments, if one reads both pro and con arguments by competent representatives of the positions being discussed. Furthermore, since both creation and evolution accounts of origins touch on many disciplines of science and since scientific information has become so massive and scientists have necessarily become so specialized, there is a sense in which no one is qualified to evaluate any arguments. Everyone (evolutionist or creationist) has to trust experts outside their own narrow field of expertise.

But let me respond to at least some of your objections since you made an effort to write them up.

Whale Evolution

Certainly there has been diversification within the whale kinds (see what I mean about “kind” in point 2 below). But how do you know that what you have been told about certain fossils is really evidence of the evolution of whales from some land animal? How do you know that the fossils can be arranged in a nice neat record of successively younger rocks? You are not a paleontologist and didn’t dig up the fossils. Given the statement by Raup about horse fossils (in the first part of this article), I certainly will not trust evolutionist claims without careful examination. How do you know those body parts changed in a nice linear evolutionary series? In fact, how do you know that the fossil bones are even correctly identified as the body parts that they are claimed to be? How do you know that the drawings of the creatures accurately represent the fossils and don’t involve a lot of imagination?

I can give you one example from your list that gives me grounds for extreme skepticism about the whole claim of whale evolution: Pakicetus. Dr. Phil Gingerich (whale paleontologist, University of Michigan) named this fossil (which means “whale of Pakistan” because he found the bones in Pakistan and cetus is Latin for “whale”). He said it “is the oldest and most primitive whale yet discovered . . . it is an important transitional form linking Paleocene carnivorous land mammals and later, more advanced marine whales.” In his 1983 article about Pakicetus he had a drawing (below) of a half-land, half-sea creature based on all the fossil evidence he had at the time: parts of the skull (the shaded parts in the skull figure). He had no fossil evidence below the head and yet he could draw the rear end of the creature and the front legs and knew the diet of the creature!1

Pakicetus in water Pakicetus skull

By 2001 almost the whole skeleton (below) had been found, proving that it was 100 percent land animal:2

Pakicetus skeleton

One evolutionist website made the picture below to represent approximately what that skeleton looked like clothed in muscle and skin:3

Pakicetus depiction

Note that although the authors of the technical paper in Nature say that Pakicetus is a land animal and “no more amphibious than a tapir” [a pig-like creature], the title of the article calls it a “terrestrial cetacean,” which translated means “land whale” or “land dolphin” or “land porpoise.” But that is just evolutionary double-talk based on wishful thinking. There are no living “terrestrial cetaceans,” and there is no indisputable fossil evidence presented in the Nature article or any other evolutionist publication that such creatures ever existed in the past.

More evidence (with beautiful photos of fossils from leading museums and quotes from expert paleontologists) showing that the story of whale evolution is a myth, the product of evolutionary imagination, can be seen in Carl Werner, Evolution: The Grand Experiment (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2007), 129–146.

I have no idea what you mean by saying, “‘Arrival of the fittest’ is of course a biological question and has little to do with evolution.” Isn’t evolution a hypothesis about the origin of biological life? Do you mean that the origin of the first living cell is a question that has little to do with evolution? If so, I disagree. It has everything to do with it. If evolutionists can’t explain how the first living, reproducing cell came into existence by time, chance, and the laws of nature working on non-living matter, then the theory of evolution is dead. Natural selection and mutations can only work on living, reproducing organisms.

“Arrival of the fittest” is a phrase I use in my lecture after explaining how natural selection works. Natural selection can explain the survival of the fittest (e.g., how wild dogs with long hair survive in cold climates but those with short hair don’t), but it doesn’t explain how you get dogs in the first place (from non-dogs). But how you get dogs from non-dogs (which is clearly what I mean in the lecture by “the arrival of the fittest”) is totally relevant to the question of evolution. Since you were not at my lecture, you can view a very similar lecture free on our website.

Mutations and Variation? Yes! Microbe-to-Microbiologist Evolution? No!

You comment that mutations lead to variants and that conception creates new variation. But mutations only corrupt, delete, duplicate, or move around existing genetic information in the genome of a kind of creature. Mutations do not create new information so as to change, for example, a reptile into a bird or mammal, no matter how many millions of years you allow.

Mutations only corrupt, delete, duplicate, or move around existing genetic information in the genome of a kind of creature. Mutations do not create new information.

I would urge you to consider the arguments of Lee Spetner (a Jewish expert on mutations), Not by Chance: Shattering the Myth of Modern Evolution (New York: Judaica Press, 1998). and John Sanford (Cornell University research plant geneticist who was an evolutionist for most of his scientific career), Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome (Hamden, MA: Elim Publishing, 2005), both of which show that mutations are in fact fatal to microbe-to-microbiologist evolution. Mutations do indeed produce variation, but only variation within a kind (i.e., at the family level or lower of taxonomic classification)—they cannot change one kind of creature into another kind, even in the rare cases when a mutation is beneficial for survival. See, for example, this article on antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Certainly, conception produces variation. Except for identical twins, every human being conceived is different from every other human being in the shade of skin tone, eye color, hair color, etc.—though they are all included in mankind. Our black Labrador dog was recently mated with another black lab, and she produced seven puppies: two yellow labs, two chocolate labs, and three black labs. Conception produced beautiful variation. But this has nothing to do with evolution. The genetic information in the DNA of the mother lab and father lab contained the genetic information for the three colors (but not for making a blue or red or green lab).

You say that talkorigins.org refutes creationist arguments. But creationists fully accept the fact of speciation, as you can see explained here and here. You say that major changes take major amounts of time. This is again evolutionist wishful thinking. They have no scientific proof of this for the simple fact that evolutionists have not been observing animals change for millions of years. Because of the lack of transitional forms between different kinds of creatures, many evolutionists hold to “punctuated equilibrium” believing (contrary to the Neo-Darwinists) that major evolutionary changes happened rapidly in small populations (thus leaving no fossil evidence of the transition) and then those kinds remain essentially static (with just relatively minor modifications or variations within that kind of creature, usually considered to be at the family taxonomic level).

Your comment about time reflects the flawed reasoning of George Wald (1906–1997), professor of biology at Harvard University for over four decades and winner of a Nobel Prize in biology in 1967. His brilliant mind was misleading him when he wrote,

Time is in fact the hero of the plot. The time with which we have to deal is of the order of two billion years. What we regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is meaningless here. Given so much time, the “impossible” becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles.4

Actually, time is not the hero of the plot, but the villain. Time doesn’t create anything. With the help of the Second Law of Thermodynamics it destroys things. The more time we have, the more mutations destroy genetic information, as Spetner’s and Sanford’s books above persuasively show.

I heartily agree with your last statement that “understanding the world around us – even when it is complicated, confusing and counterintuitive - is truly a common goal for all of humanity.” The Bible makes sense of our world—the beauty and incredible design of living creatures, the stars and galaxies and constellations and solar system, the rock layers and fossils, natural disasters, epidemic disease, mutations, the origin of people groups and languages, the uniqueness, good qualities and evil qualities of every human being, etc. And the scientific and historical evidence overwhelmingly confirms what the Bible says about the origin and history of the creation.

Evolution and millions of years hopelessly fail to explain our world. They don’t explain the origin and diversification of genetic information, the origin of incredible design in living things, and the origin of human language, which is vastly different and superior to any animal communication. They don’t explain the fossil record or the thousands of feet of sedimentary rock layers (some of which extend for tens of thousands of square miles). They don’t explain the orderly design of the solar system. And while evolutionists assume the validity of the laws of nature, their evolutionary ideas cannot explain why those laws are valid. And the evolutionary view provides no basis for purpose and meaning in life or any absolute morality.

The only reason that the majority of people believe in evolution and millions of years is because the schools, universities, museums, TV science programs, media, etc., have brainwashed them. This has been done by showing people imaginative artwork (like Gingerich’s Pakicetus), telling just-so stories, and denying people the opportunity to hear any of the scientific evidence that refutes evolution and millions of years and confirms the truth of the Bible.

I urge you to read the Bible and some of the literature I’ve mentioned here and consider this issue more carefully.

Sincerely,

Terry

Footnotes

  1. See Phil Gingerich, “Evidence for Evolution from the Vertebrate Fossil Record,” Journal of Geological Education 31 (1983): 140–144.
  2. See J.G.M. Thewissen, E.M. Williams, L.J. Roe, and S.T. Hussain, “Skeletons of terrestrial cetaceans and the relationship of whales to artiodactyls,” Nature 413 (20 Sept. 2001): 277–281.
  3. See Carl Buell’s illustration taken from www.neoucom.edu/.
  4. George Wald, “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American 191, no. 2 (August 1954): 48.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.