Nature abhors a vacuum. And apparently, so do evolutionists. When shown scientific evidence that disproves portions of their beloved theory, they simply change directions and prune the “evolutionary tree of life,” reworking the alleged common ancestors in the process. Never mind if the new “replacement” is correct, or even has any validity to it—as long as there is a suitable alternative. Take, for instance, the coelacanth. For years, this lobed-finned fish was touted as the creature that took us out of the water onto the land. It was allegedly the ancestor of modern tertrapods. Prior to 1938, the coelacanth was known only from fossils, which afforded scientists a great deal of speculation when they tried to extrapolate a physiology from the record of the rocks. Certain structures, such as fins, were determined to be the forerunners of amphibians’ legs. With joy abounding, evolutionists designated this as the single animal that allowed fish to crawl out of the muck and mire in order to live on dry land.
Textbooks were quick to point out this “missing link” as a transitional animal between water-dwelling and land-dwelling creatures. For instance, one book explained: “The coelacanth is the only surviving member of the ancient group of fishes from which modern four-footed land animals are thought to have evolved” (Maton, et al., 1997, p. 105). Another biology textbook contains a beautiful picture of this amazing creature, with the following caption:
The living coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae. Discovered in the western Indian Ocean in 1938, this coelacanth represents a group of fishes that had been thought to be extinct for about 70 million years. Scientists who studied living individuals in their natural habitat at depths of 100 to 200 meters observed them drifting in the current and hunting other fishes at night. Some individuals are nearly 3 meters long; they have a slender, fat-filled swim bladder. Although Latimeria is a very strange animal, its features mark it as a member of the evolutionary line that gave rise to the terrestrial tetrapods (Raven and Johnson, 1989, p. 857).
It seemed a good fit at the time. The funny-looking fish with lobed front fins appeared to be the perfect candidate for the evolutionists’ transitional creature. Yet, the actual facts of the matter have shown this to be completely wrong.
In December 1938, a living coelacanth was caught off the coast of Africa. Soon thereafter, the joy previously expressed by evolutionists turned to consternation, once it was determined that the soft anatomy of the coelacanth was nothing like that of an amphibian. A 1999 book review in Nature provided the following commentary regarding the anatomy of coelacanths: “…it shares very few advanced characteristics with the tetrapods, and this puts it somewhere near the base of the sarcopterygian [vertebrates in which the fin/limbs portion of the skeleton articulates to the girdles by means of a single bone—BH] tree. In a sense, the coelacanth tells us more about the primitive condition of all bony fishes than about the origin of tetrapods” (Janvier, p. 856). Subsequent discoveries of this special fish soon made it quite apparent that these fish did not live in shallow areas “ready to crawl out onto land.” As Peter Forey observed, “Comoran coelacanths live at about 180 meters, below the 18° C isotherm, and inhabit submarine caves formed through recent volcanic activity” (1998, 395:319). These animals, which allegedly were supposed to have crawled out on land, are actually deep-water fish.
But, as I mentioned earlier, evolutionists abhor a vacuum. Their beloved transitional creature was proved to be wrong. So what did evolutionists do? Did they own up to the mistake, and tell the thousands of biology students that their textbooks were wrong? Did they try to “set the record straight?” Or, did they call in the “spin doctors”—reassuring the public that they have a response to the data that are in obvious conflict with their theory? Science is supposed to be “self-correcting,” which would seem to suggest that these “mistakes” would be corrected (and admitted). Instead, in the case of the coelacanth, this once-prized “transitional” creature has simply been replaced. Move over coelacanth—hello lungfish.
In the April 6, 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Henner Brinkman and his colleagues reported that they had definitively determined that the lungfish is the closest living relative of land vertebrates. They begin their report by admitting: “The colonization of land by tetrapod ancestors is one of the major questions in the evolution of vertebrates” (101:4900). They went on to observe: “Since its discovery, many comparative morphologists and paleontologists considered the coelacanth to be the closest living relative of the land vertebrates” (p. 4900).
The researchers compared DNA sequences of nuclear-encoded recombination activating genes (Rag1 and Rag2) from three major lungfish groups, as well as the Indonesian coelacanth. In summarizing their results, they concluded: “The phylogenetic analyses of two RAGproteins presented here were based on the biggest nuclear sequence data set collected so far on the tetrapod origin question. These data strongly support the hypothesis that the lungfishes and not the coelacanth are the closest relatives of the land vertebrates. This result emphasizes the importance of study of all aspects of the biology and genomics of extinct and extant lungfish; our closest ‘fish’ relatives” (p. 4904, emp. added).
So now, textbooks will begin featuring the lungfish as the animal that pulled us out of the water and onto the land. Forget the fact that there is not one shred of scientific proof that this actually occurred. And forget the fact that twenty years from now we may have to exchange the lungfish for some other creature. The important thing to remember is that evolutionists have everything under control, and they have an answer for everything. This recent revelation mirrors what occurred regarding horse evolution. For decades, horses were one of the evolutionary pillars, as textbooks showed the alleged stages (e.g., Eohippus to Equus). After that information was proven false, these images were simply replaced with camels. At some point, the plasticity of the evolutionary theory should be called into question by right-thinking people. And at some point, evolutionists should admit they “got it wrong.” But not today. For now, they have a replacement waiting in the wings.
Brinkmann, Henner, Byrappa Venkatesh, Sydney Brenner, and Axel Meyer (2004), “Nuclear Protein-Coding Genes Support Lungfish and not the Coelacanth as the Closest Living Relatives of Land Vertebrates,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 101:4900-4905, April 6.
Forey, Peter (1998), “A Home Away from Home for Coelacanths,” Nature, 395:319-320, September 24.
Janvier, Philippe (1999), “Coleacanth a’ la Marseillaise,” Nature, 401:854-856, October 28.
Maton, Anthea, Jean Hopkins, Susan Johnson, David LaHart, Maryanna Quon Warner, and Jill D. Wright (1997), Exploring Life Science (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall), second edition.
Raven, Peter H. and George B. Johnson (1989), Biology (St. Louis, MO: Times Mirror/Mosby College Publishing), second edition.