What Is Klinghoffer Saying?

Things are really degenerating at the Discovery Institute. It’s difficult to believe, but it now appears that it was Casey who was keeping things on track, and it’s all falling apart without him. This just popped up at their creationist blog: The Curious Incident of the Non-Rafting Foxes.

It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. We’ll give you a few excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.

Blink and you might miss this unexpected bit of common sense, embedded in a NY Times article on adorable dwarf foxes native to California’s Channel Islands (Foxes That Endure Despite a Lack of Genetic Diversity). How did they get there? They were evidently ferried thousands of years ago by Native Americans, who seemed to regard them as totem animals.

Not much of a mystery. Primitive people migrate with their animals. The Polynesians traveled to islands across the Pacific and took their chickens with them. Even Klinghoffer seems to agree. He says:

Fine. Because otherwise how else could a fox make the passage? Just imagine: foxes rafting across 12 miles of ocean on their own, never mind 70 miles — perhaps hitching a ride on a tree trunk or other matted vegetation torn from the ground in a violent storm. It’s like something out of a kids’ cartoon. That indeed sounds pretty “unlikely.” Actually, “absurd” is more like it.

Why is Klinghoffer so captivated by this story? Let’s read on:

Now would you believe unaided animals journeying across ocean waters not for 12 or 70 but hundred of miles [sic]? Because the journal Nature tells us monkeys did it.

He’s talking about some new reports of something we saw a week ago at PhysOrg: Paleontologists find first fossil monkey in North America — but how did it get here? PhysOrg says:

Seven tiny teeth tell the story of an ancient monkey that made a 100-mile ocean crossing between North and South America into modern-day Panama – the first fossil evidence for the existence of monkeys in North America.

The find provides the oldest fossil evidence for the interchange of mammals between South and North America and challenges long-held views of South America as an island continent that evolved in isolation before the Isthmus of Panama was formed and animals began crossing between the continents about 3.5 million years ago, said Jonathan Bloch, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. Study findings are detailed online today in the journal Nature.

This is the article in Nature: First North American fossil monkey and early Miocene tropical biotic interchange.

Anyway, there’s some speculation about how the monkeys traveled by water from South America to North America, a distance of 100 miles or more, before the isthmus of Panama was formed. For some reason, Klinghoffer regards this as a virtually unsolvable mystery. He quotes someone who said: “the idea of monkeys rafting around unintentionally on beds of vegetation isn’t as crazy as it sounds.” Then Klinghoffer declares:

No? It’s not allowed to be “crazy” because after all, how did the monkeys get to South America to begin with? Against our will, because it’s against common sense, we’re once again forced to say by rafting … . Ah yes, the theory of animal rafting by uprooted tree and violent storm. The distribution of animals across the globe is often brandished by Darwinists as evidence for common descent.

Where is Klinghoffer going with this? What’s his alternative explanation? Is he arguing for special creation on the separate continents? He quotes from an old article by Casey — that venerable source — claiming that biogeography “in fact poses one of the toughest challenges for evolutionary theory.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Darwin regarded Biogeography as some of the strongest evidence for his theory. Two entire chapters in Origin of Species are devoted to the subject. Klinghoffer continues:

To borrow a famous image from Sherlock Holmes, the instance with the Channel Island foxes is a case of the dog that didn’t bark in the night.

Your Curmudgeon often refers to that Holmes story — Silver Blaze — but we do so when some important evidence is obviously missing. The last time we used it was Why No News about Ark Ticket Sales?. But what obvious evidence are those infernal “Darwinists” holding back in the case of the rafting monkeys? This is how Klinghoffer justifies his invocation of the Sherlock Holmes analysis technique:

The foxes didn’t raft [from 12 to 70 miles], because, under evolutionary theory, they didn’t need to. Monkeys did raft, even across a whole wide ocean [about 100 miles], because evolution required it. On other hand, if the theory needed foxes to do so, you can be sure they would obediently hop aboard. It should be the facts that drive startling conclusions, not the theory that’s supposed to explain the facts. But with evolution the roles of fact and theory are often reversed.

Huh? What’s so wildly inconsistent about the two different situations? Why is Klinghoffer so enraged by the offered explanations? And what’s the missing evidence that the Holmes reference suggests? Here’s the rest of Klinghoffer’s baffling essay, which — at least to him — ties it all together:

Animals do the most striking things, like sailing across oceans on their own, on demand. These are theory-driven “facts,” not a fact-driven theory. The non-rafting foxes are the thing that gives the game away. They are, as Holmes says, the curious incident. Dogs, by the way, like horses and foxes, are not thought to raft. Not yet!

Your Curmudgeon is mystified. We keep looking for the missing piece of the puzzle — the dog that didn’t bark — showing that the Discoveroids’ “theory” of intelligent design supplies the answer to this alleged mystery of biogeography. But we don’t see it. Maybe you can help us out, dear reader.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “What Is Klinghoffer Saying?

  1. Dave Luckett

    Wallace’s divide, anyone?

  2. Mark Germano

    This appears to be an excellent line of research for an ambitious intelligent design proponent to tell us, as TomS would say, what happened when and where.

  3. Now would you believe unaided animals journeying across ocean waters not for 12 or 70 but hundred of miles [sic]?

    So he originally wrote something like “about a hundred miles,” decided that didn’t look sufficiently impressive, and beefed it up a bit. But, alas, hasty editing, an’ all that . . .

    Is my guess.

  4. Assume that radiodecay rates have always been the same? Too uniformitarian.
    Assume that animals take different, but similar paths when it comes to self-distribution? Not uniformitarian enough.
    (And I notice no mention of the kind of sea being crossed here – I’d rather swim a dozen miles in an inland lake or narrow crossing than a mile in open ocean.)

  5. This dimwit thinks foxes on rafts is impossibly stupid but I bet he believes some old man made an unsailable rafty thing with 2 of every kind on board.
    Right! A real brain guy!

  6. Richard Bond

    Given that there were millions of years, hence thousands of millions of opportunities for rafting, I recommend that Klinghoffer acquaints himself with the principles established by the Italian statistician Carlo Emilio Bonferroni. It really is amazing the creationists indulge in so much statistical masturbation in near total ignorance of so many of the basic principles.

  7. It’s obvious that he didn’t read the book The Monkey’s Voyage or my review of the book (despite knowing he does read my website). He would understand…

    Of course, it’s not his job to understand.

  8. Stephen Kennedy

    Up until about 14,000 years ago, so much of the Earth’s water was locked up in continental ice sheets that sea levels were several hundred meters lower than they are today. The foxes could simply have walked to islands 12 or even 70 miles from the present coast.

    It was the uplift of Costa Rica, which is north of Panama, that connected the South American and North American continents so primate fossils of greater age in Panama do not suggest that the monkeys had to cross a large body of water.

    If you look at a map of the Atlantic Ocean, you will see that the distance between the European Continent and the North American Continent is substantially greater than the distance between Africa and South America. The creation of the South Atlantic Ocean did not start to take place until about 60 mya. By that time prosimians were starting to take on monkey like characteristics. Therefore it is no surprise that there are monkeys in both Africa and South America but that they have distinct differences from each other due to 60 my of isolation from each other.

  9. It’s a case of the simplest explanation is the best. Foxes might well have rafted to the islands on their own, but it is more likely they hitched a ride with humans (because humans existed and they were a totem animal). As for monkeys rafting to South America from Africa, one could come up with any number of complex solutions. Aliens could have abducted them in Africa, found them unsatisfactory after they anal probe, and released them in South America. Obviously this isn’t particularly likely, it is more likely they rafted over the 14 day journey which studies show they would be able to survive.

  10. “What is Klinghoffer saying?”

    Why nothing, of course. Think of his writing as scat singing. He’s got a tune his listeners are familiar with, they’re all hanging out down at Club Creation, heads bopping, grooving with the Jesus love, and they don’t need real words to stay in the groove. It’s about the feeling, Daddy-O.

  11. Derek Freyberg


    “Of course, it’s not his job to understand.”

    “Of course, it’s his job to not understand.” FTFY

  12. James Chapman

    “What is Klinghoffer saying?”

    He’s just playing the old “weaknesses of evolutionary theory” gambit. A key element of that gambit, of course, is never mention any alternative.

  13. Apparently it doesn’t occur to Casey that his argument could also be used against the reality of Noah’s Flood. If everything alive outside the Ark (except, presumably, sea life) drowned, how did animals and plants travel thousands of miles to the Americas, the Far East, western Europe and of course Australia, and why did different “kinds” end up in these different locations?

    Oh, but I forget—it was a miracle! Not that there’s any faith involved there, you understand.

  14. Three possibilities for monkey presence in the Americas.

    1. a group of primitive ancestors of modern monkeys was blown across the (then narrower) southern atlantic on a mat of debris. It is possible this happened multiple times.

    2. ancestors of modern monkeys were present across both the present-day Africa and South America continents before they separated, and subsequently evolved along different paths.

    3. an unobserved, omnipotent, supernatural being magically poofed monkeys into existence in both Africa and South America, and subsequently tinkered with their DNA to produce the monkeys seen today.

    Which possibility seems the most probable?

  15. I knew I was going to miss Casey