Evidence for Macroevolution:
and the crocoduck substitute
A year ago, Christian evangelists Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron faced off in a national televised debate, against Brian and Kelly of the Rational Response Squad, over the question, "Does God exist?".
It was an epic battle royale: embarrassing activist ideologues vs. embarrassing activist ideologues.
Comfort and Cameron wanted to make the point that God exists as evidenced by the design of life. Darwinism provides an alternative explanation for the design, so the God team needed to strike it down. Ray Comfort, in the second half, said:
"Now there is something called microevoluton. This is very different. Microevoluton is adaptation within a species. Look at dogs. You've got the tiny Chihuahua and the Great Dane. They're very different, but they're both dogs. Or horses; you've got zebras and donkeys, you've got the dwarf pony and the draft horse. They're very different, but they're horses! Horses produce horses, and dogs produce dogs. Adaptation within a species is totally different than man evolving from an entirely different species. Science has never found a genuine transitional form that is one kind of animal crossing over into another kind either living or in the fossil record. And there's supposed to be billions of them. Now what I am about to show you does not exist. These were actually created by a graphic artist. But I want you to keep your eye out for this, because this is what evolutionists have been searching for for hundreds of years. Alright, and, if you find one of these, you could become rich and famous. So here's some transitional forms. This is called the crocoduck."
Cameron then showed a picture of the "crocoduck."
After some abusive mutterings and laughs from the atheists, Kirk Cameron went on to show a picture of a "bull-frog" (half bull and half frog) and a "sheep-dog" (half sheep and half dog).
He didn't know it, but the discovery of any one of those three specimens would be more likely to send the theory of evolution into disarray. Why?
The explanation lies in the phylogenetic tree. Presently-living animals--like crocodiles, ducks, cattle, frogs, sheep, and dogs--all exist at the tips of the branches of our family tree, and they did not survive from long into the past. Crocodiles did not evolve from ducks, ducks did not evolve from crocodiles, and nobody is proposing that they did. Crocodiles and ducks both have known evolutionary lineages. To find a "crocoduck" would contradict both theories of lineage, and it would actually be a huge problem for the theory of evolution.
Imagine a tree with two branches--at the trunk, these two branches diverge, until they get to the two ends, when they join up again, forming a loop. We don't ever see trees like that. Once the branches split, they stay split. If they join up at both ends in a circle, that would be a dilemma for biologists, much like if we ever found a "crocoduck" or a "sheep-dog" or a "bull-frog." We would be more likely to explain it with genetic engineering than natural evolution, if anything.
When asked to think of a cross between a duck and another species, a child may come up with a platypus. After all, a platypus is a lactating mammal that lays eggs, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beak and webbed feet bear at least a superficial resemblance to a duck. So what did Kirk Cameron think of the platypus?
"Now there is a mammal with hair and a bill like a duck. Well, yeah! It's a strange one, and that's exactly how God made it! And there's plenty of strange animals like that. Nature is observable proof that every animal brings forth after its own kind. No one has ever seen a horse produce a non-horse, or a bird produce anything but another bird."
So, if we ever find a real crocoduck, biologists would be thrown into confusion, but Kirk Cameron would have no trouble explaining it--just another strange animal that God made. And then Ray Comfort would take a victorious huff on his cigar as evolutionists scramble for an answer.
Archaeopteryx--the crocoduck substitute.
To his credit, Kirk Cameron did mention the Archaeopteryx in the debate.
"Even the famous fossil Archaeopteryx--said to be a reptile transitioning into a bird--if you do the research you'll find out it has been shown to be fully bird--a pirching bird, it has feathers."
Well, I did do the research. Cameron seems to think that one or two features that identify it as a bird is enough to settle the debate on whether the Archaeopteryx is a reptile, a bird, or something in between. Using a similar argument, I suppose you can also call the Elephant Man fully elephant. Ray Comfort said on his website IntelligentDesignVersusEvolution.com,
A transitional form (or missing link) is an example of one species "evolving" into another species. Excited scientists thought they had found one when they discovered "Archaeopteryx." The fossil led to the theory that the dinosaurs did not become extinct, but rather all turned into birds. The Field Museum in Chicago displayed what was believed to be an archaeopteryx fossil on October 4-19, 1997. It was hailed as "Archaeopteryx: The Bird That Rocked the World." However, Dr. Alan Feduccia (evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina), said, "Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœpaleo-babbleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is going to change that." [Science, February 5, 1993].
Whenever a scientist is quoted in order to support a position the scientist probably does not agree with, it helps to look up what that scientist actually thinks in whole on the matter. Discover Magazine interviewed Dr. Alan Feduccia in February, 2003.
Q. Creationists have used the bird-dinosaur dispute to cast doubt on evolution entirely. How do you feel about that?
A. Creationists are going to distort whatever arguments come up, and they've put me in company with luminaries like Stephen Jay Gould, so it doesn't bother me a bit. Archaeopteryx is half reptile and half bird any way you cut the deck, and so it is a Rosetta stone for evolution, whether it is related to dinosaurs or not. These creationists are confusing an argument about minor details of evolution with the indisputable fact of evolution: Animals and plants have been changing. The corn in Mexico, originally the size of the head of a wheat plant, has no resemblance to modern-day corn. If that's not evolution in action, I do not know what is.
Feduccia called the Archaeopteryx, "half reptile and half bird any way you cut the deck" and "a Rosetta Stone for evolution." Allow me to explain why.
It is not enough to focus on only the avian features of the bird like Comfort and Cameron do. If it is truly a transition between reptiles and birds, then both sets of features must be considered. I'll tell you about the most obvious features (TalkOrigins.org has a complete list).
Reptilian features of the Archaeopteryx
- TEETH -- no modern bird has a toothed beak.
- THREE CLAWS ON EACH WING -- no modern bird has clawed wings with the exception of the hoatzin (two claws on each wing).
- LONG BONY TAIL -- modern birds have short tailbones.
- UNFUSED TRUNK VERTEBRA -- all trunk vertebra in modern birds are fused.
- NECK CONNECTS TO BACK OF SKULL -- modern bird necks connect at bottom of skull.
- FEATHERS -- a distinction of birds in the modern day, though plenty of feathered dinosaur fossils have been found.
- OPPOSABLE BIG TOE -- three toes go forward and one goes backward for perching on branches. In reptiles, all toes point forward.
Compare the Archaeopteryx fossils to bird and dinosaur skeletons to see where they differ and match:
Normal bird skeleton
Follow Cameron's suggestion and do your own research. The inescapable conclusion seems to be that Feduccia is right: this bird is indeed a Rosetta Stone of the theory of evolution. Or, if you prefer, what we have here is a crocoduck substitute.