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The Latest Fossil Find

The Latest Fossil Find-Truth or Fiction?

Sean McDowell


This past week scientists hailed the find of a new "missing link" as support for Darwin's theory of biological evolution.  John Wilford writes in the New York Times, "Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land" ("Fossil Called Missing Link from Sea to Land Animals," April 6, 2006).  The fish has been named Tiktaalik roseae, which means, "large shallow water fish."

Some scientists are claiming that the skeletons have attributes of a giant fish and also anatomical traits of a transitional creature in stage of becoming a land animal.  Thus, the find is alleged to be a predecessor to amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals and even human beings.  Scientists in the journal Nature are claiming that this find undercuts the claim that the fossil record is incomplete.

John Wilford of The New York Times claims that "the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory"

Yet despite these grandiose claims, there is much more to the story.  For those in favor of the theory of Intelligent Design (ID), even if this was a genuine missing link, it would pose no significant challenge.  ID does not question the reality of evolution, but the mechanism by which evolution occurred.  William Dembski observed,

"Intelligent design does not so much challenge whether evolution occurred but how it occurred.  In particular, it questions whether purposeless material processes-as opposed to intelligence-can create biological complexity and diversity" ("Updated: Latest Fossil Find 'No Threat' To Theory of Intelligent Design"

For those who are more of a six-day creationist stripe, the finding poses no threat either.  Discovery Institute scientists have observed that Tiktaalik roseae is not an intermediate, but rather, "Is one of a set of lobe-finned fishes that include very curious mosaics-these fishes have advanced fully formed characteristics of several different groups. They are not intermediates in the sense that have half-fish/half-tetrapod characteristics. Rather, they have a combination of tetrapod-like features and fish-like features. Paleontologists refer to such organisms as mosaics rather than intermediates" It is simply not evident that this find is even an evolutionary link.  I guess the "missing link" is still missing.