BBC News: “Aquatic Deer and Ancient Whales”

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Several species of chevrotains (mouse deer) hide from predators in the water. Does that prove evolution?

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The small, somewhat deer-like ruminant creatures are known to retreat into the nearest body of water and submerge when a predator is nearby, often swimming to safety. According to some scientists, that behavior suggests that whales evolved from small, deer-like creatures.

The scientists came up with the idea after two encounters with chevrotains in Indonesia. Both times, chevrotains sought refuge in the water, even submerging completely for several minutes at a time. This matches other descriptions of the creature’s behavior given by people familiar with it.

So is this truly evidence that similar creatures evolved into whales? For one thing, the scientists seemed surprised at the chevrotains’ aquatic capabilities. “Seeing it swim underwater was a shock. Many mammals can swim in water. But other than those which are adapted for an aquatic existence, swimming is clumsy. The mouse-deer seemed comfortable, it seemed adapted,” said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, one of the researchers.

Okay, then—so the chevrotain is one such mammal that is “adapted.” It’s as if the hypothesis rests not on anything unique about chevrotains, but rather on the scientists’ change in perception: a creature they assumed was not a good swimmer actually is. Their mental perception of the creature has “evolved” from non-aquatic to aquatic, so likewise they suggest that deer-like mammals evolved to live in the water. Yet the whole time, chevrotains are behaving as locals always knew they had.

Another problem is the comparison of chevrotains to deer. “The behavior is interesting because it is unexpected. Deer are supposed to walk on land and graze not swim underwater,” said Erik Meijaard, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy. But—again—chevrotains aren’t deer, and there’s no reason to assume that they must originally have behaved like deer. Other mammals, from otters to hippos, do well in water (we would say they were designed for a partially or fully aquatic lifestyle); why are chevrotains not considered part of this group?

The answer, if you couldn’t guess, is that it fits into evolutionists’ preconceived hypothesis on whale origins. The authors tie their hypothesis in with a controversial fossil known as Indohyus. The BBC News article claims Indohyus was “a ruminant animal that looked like a small deer, but also had morphological features that showed it could be an ancestor of early whales.” Not only was the interpretation of those features questionable (as we reported in 2007); but as we wrote then:

If hippos, manatees, and cetaceans are all mammals of varying aquatic lifestyles, we would expect them to have certain features in common, since (1) God would have designed them, to varying extents, for their habitats, and (2) adaptation through pre-existing information would promote certain features compatible with watery life.

Thus, while the scientists believe “all early ruminants may also have led a partially aquatic lifestyle” (in the article’s words), we would agree that that is a possibility. But the article continues, “Hippos . . . [show] a behavior that may have been lost over time by other modern species such as sheep and antelope.” In other words, perhaps all ruminants had aquatic capabilities, but many lost those capabilities over time. That loss of capability is the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution would require. But it fits in neatly with the creation model of kinds that have lost genetic information and capabilities over time. God created many creatures, and that included such water-tolerating mammals as chevrotains, hippos, whales, and perhaps Indohyus.

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