‘Missing link’ claim for fossils debunked by creationist group

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Not missing a beat, a leading creation science organization responded quickly to the latest well-publicized “missing link” claim by evolutionary researchers.

This time, The New York Times, USA Today and other media outlets trumpeted the discovery of fossils near the North Pole said to belong to a 375-million-year-old fish. The finding by a team of researchers, led by Neil H. Shurbin of the University of Chicago, initially was reported in Nature magazine April 6.

In a preliminary response -- titled “Gone fishin’ for a missing link?” on its website -- Answers in Genesis called attention to the “cautionary words being used about this creature.”

“… [W]hen you read other tentative wording (e.g., the use of the word ‘may’ in the headline ‘Fossil may link fish, land animal’), then the find is not as firm as evolutionists would lead you to believe,” Answers in Genesis noted.

The fish, known as “Tiktaalik,” “is a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land,” as described by The New York Times. The Times also described the fossils as being “widely seen by scientists as a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who hold a literal biblical view on the origins and development of life.”

Shurbin and his fellow researchers claim that Tiktaalik’s fins contain evidence of evolving limbs, digits, elbows and shoulders.

David Menton, an Answers in Genesis lecturer who served as a biomedical research technician at the Mayo Clinic, helped craft the creationist rebuttal.

“[Tiktaalik] is not an amphibian or a reptile,” said Menton, who holds a Ph.D. in cell biology from Brown University. “It belongs to a group of fish called lobe-fin fish.”

The lobe-fin fish have bones similar to other vertebrates. Tiktaalik, Menton said, is not unique in having these bones because other lobe-fish, such as “coelacanth” fish, also have them. Evolutionists say the lobe-fin fish became extinct millions of years ago.

Coelacanth, in particular, supposedly vanished 135 million years ago before its hyped 1938 discovery in waters near Madagascar, Menton noted.

“It was known in the fossil record a long time before we found a living one,” Menton said. “They are a fish; they do not walk on the land; they use these fins to swim with.” A 1955 Scientific American article exposing its consistent lineage embarrassed evolutionists, he said, because “it didn’t evolve; it didn’t change; it looked like the one found in the fossil record.”

None of the lobe-fin fish, including Tiktaalik, have bones attaching their fins to the axial skeleton, Menton said.

“This means that these limbs would not be weight bearing,” he said. “I don’t believe the fish walked because the fins that are attached to these bones are delicate.”

On a side note, Menton said creationists actually believe in more variability in species than evolutionists.

“The coelacanth appears not to have changed in over a hundred millions years,” despite evolutionary time calculations, he said.

Putting ill-advised announcements in perspective, Answers in Genesis cited another mass-media misfire in recent history: “The discovery of the fossil ‘Tiktaalik’ has been one of the most-widely picked up pro-evolution media stories since the (in)famous 1996 claim -– eventually shown to be false –- that life had been found in a meteorite from Mars.”

Founded in 1994 by Australian Ken Ham, a former high school science teacher, Answers in Genesis educates churches around the world through lectures, radio programs, publications, and its website (www.AnswersinGenesis.org) on the scientific evidence for an earth that is thousands of years old, as opposed to the millions or billions claimed by evolutionists.


Doug Waters is a writer in Bowling Green, Ky.