Hambo and the Fossil Fish Fingers

When we saw this at PhysOrg a couple of weeks ago, we knew that we’d be hearing from creationists about it. PhysOrg’s title is Ancient fish fossil reveals evolutionary origin of the human hand. One excerpt from the beginning will be sufficient:

An ancient Elpistostege fish fossil found in Miguasha, Canada has revealed new insights into how the human hand evolved from fish fins. An international team of palaeontologists from Flinders University in Australia and Universite du Quebec a Rimouski in Canada have revealed the fish specimen, as described in the journal Nature, has yielded the missing evolutionary link in the fish to tetrapod transition, as fish began to foray in habitats such as shallow water and land during the Late Devonian period millions of years ago.

Here’s the paper in Nature: Elpistostege and the origin of the vertebrate hand. Unless you have a subscription, all you can see is the abstract. Anyway, now we have the inevitable creationist response.

It’s from Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else. He just posted this at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), his creationist ministry: Human Fingers Evolved from Fish? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

With our fingers we can type on a keyboard, play notes on a piano, and sketch a detailed landscape. Whom do we have to thank for these nimble appendages? [Great question!] Well, according to a recent news item [Fish sprouted fingers before they ventured onto land, fossil shows], we can express our thanksgiving to . . . an extinct fish! [Gasp!]

Shocking! Then he says:

Researchers recently reported the discovery and analysis of a nearly complete (yet poorly preserved) specimen of a supposedly [Hee hee!] 380-million-year-old fish, Elpistostege watsoni. This five-foot-long fish, found in modern-day Quebec, Canada, is being heralded as a “transitional form” between fish and tetrapods (four-legged animals). Why? Well, because of the bones found in this fish’s fin.

Hambo is horrified! He tells us:

While not regarded as a direct ancestor to modern man, this fish is being interpreted as the “closest we can get to a true ‘transitional fossil,’ an intermediate between fishes and tetrapods.” But is this really a “missing link” in the evolutionary story? [Is it?] Well, that’s a matter of interpretation.

No one can interpret these things better than ol’ Hambo. Here it comes:

You see, the observational evidence — a cobbled together specimen of Elpistostege watsoni — didn’t come with a tag saying it was 380 million years old or that it was in the lineage of tetrapods. That’s an interpretation of the evidence, based on the evolution story. [Ah, then it’s worthless!] The evidence merely shows us there was a lobe-finned fish that, sometime in the past, was buried and fossilized. Whether you start with an evolutionary or biblical starting point will determine how you will interpret this fossil.

We can always count on Hambo to keep us thinking correctly. Skipping a lot, he continues:

[T]he idea that these evolutionary scientists are starting with is homology — the idea that features shared between organisms is evidence of a shared evolutionary relationship. But that’s not the only interpretation that explains so-called homology. [What’s the other interpretation?] Biblical creationists attribute shared structures to a common Designer.

Ah yes, the common designer. Let’s read on:

God, the ultimate engineer, used similar structures to accomplish similar purposes throughout his creation, just as we do when we design things.

Brilliant! And here’s our last excerpt:

So Elpistostege watsoni is not a “transitional fossil.” It’s a now-extinct lobe-finned fish, buried during the global flood [Aaaargh!!], with fins that point to a common Designer who used the same basic forelimb design throughout vertebrates — possibly including this fish.

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. There’s nothing else to be said. But we suspect you’ll think of something.

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Hambo and the Fossil Fish Fingers

  1. Could I point out that the earliest biblical manuscripts don’t come with tags saying that they are dictated by God to Moses (or Matthew).

  2. “But is this really a “missing link” in the evolutionary story?”
    No. And if it is it results in two other “missing links”.

    “didn’t come with a tag saying it was 380 million years old”
    Aha, now we know what kind of evidence Ol’Hambo will accept as evidence that a fossil is more than 6000 years old: when it has a tag with its age scribbled on it. The question remains open whether such a tag also requires the signature of his god.

    “Whether you start with an evolutionary or biblical starting point will determine how you will interpret this fossil.”
    Well, this one Ol’Hambo got right. The first one adds to our understanding and hence is called science, the second one – if done by YECers like Ol’Hambo – invariably results in nonsense, pretty often of the entertaining version.

    “Biblical creationists attribute shared structures to a common Designer.”
    Yup and they attribute non-shared structures to the same imaginary guy.
    Ol’Hambo expertedly applies that important creationist law:

    1. X is evidence for a common Designer;
    2. -X is also evidence for a common Designer.

    This common Designer explains everything possible and impossible. Thus Ol’Hambo explains nothing.

  3. @TomS wonders: “Could I point out that …..”
    No.That would be a category error. We cannot, may not and will not apply the same rigorous standards for science to creacrap as well. The very idea!

  4. Eddie Janssen

    I wonder if Ken Ham has read Gaining Ground by Jennifer Clack. I think he has and I am wondering what his mindset is while reading such books.

  5. chris schilling

    “God, the ultimate engineer…”

    It’d be nice to see the plans or blueprints for some of these designs some time, to see how well they correspond to the finished product. They must exist, somewhere — if God is truly an engineer.

    And why — if homology can be co-opted by creationists equally as evidence for common design — was Acanthostega, another early precursor to tetrapods, designed with 8-digit forelimbs instead of five? You see (I too can be as irritatingly folksy as Ken), only the extant blueprints would clarify whether that was intentional, or there was a fault somewhere in the production process.

    It’s not like God to just play around for the hell of it, is it? I mean, who does He think he is — Picasso?

  6. @chris schilling
    The ultimate engineer
    But remember that the creation of life violates such fundamental principles as the 2nd law of thermodynamics, so we are told.
    No apprentice engineer, let alone an ultimate one, could get away with that.

  7. chris schilling

    @TomS
    Unremarkable anecdote #23:
    I once had a creationist tell me that evolution violated the 2nd Law of Science (!). I didn’t know where to begin even correcting him.

  8. Yet again, the USA and the UK are two nations divided by a common language:

    Fish finger

  9. Charley Horse X

    Frozen fish fingers …not fossilized…are very popular. Created by human gods from some white fishes. The imported Ham’s god is remarkably almost human per the Bible. That god is described having a personality and temperament of a human. Often prone to fits of rage against humans who fail to admire it….just like Trump….the Retalibans’ messiah.

  10. @TomS: you could have begun to reply your creationist in a friendly and polite way – straight face required: “I never realized evolution violates F = m*a.”

    This follows the common Dutch rule that silly questions invite silly answers.

  11. @FrankB
    I think that you were responding to @chris schilling.
    I would have pointed out that, indeed, one has to be a designer to break the law “what goes up must come down”: Intelligent design is what explains interplanetary rockets.

  12. Wait a minute hammy. why would a fish get “buried” in a flood? You seem to be floundering around here. hee hee…And did you check in with your trailer park homeowners association before you made this announcement on their behalf?

  13. Michael Fugate

    “ God, the ultimate engineer, used similar structures to accomplish similar purposes throughout his creation, just as we do when we design things.”

    no Bible verse supporting that claim?

  14. @Michael Fugate
    The Intelligent Designer used similar structures to accomplish similar tasks,
    except when:
    Similar structures for different tasks, such as with the skeletal structure in common for wings, fins, arms, and legs, for all their varied uses among the tetrapods;
    Different structures for similar
    tasks, such as the different eyes for vertebrates, insects, and octopuses.
    And the close similarity between the human body with chimps and other apes (not to mention extinct hominins).
    Is this a sign of the closeness of
    purposes: human closer to chimp
    than gorilla is to gibbon?

  15. @TomS
    “But remember that the creation of life violates such fundamental principles as the 2nd law of thermodynamics, so we are told.”
    @chris schilling
    “I once had a creationist tell me that evolution violated the 2nd Law of Science (!). I didn’t know where to begin even correcting him.”
    You would do well to start with my series of blog posts:
    https://agrumpyoldphysicstechnician.wordpress.com/2019/10/16/the-second-law-of-thermodynamics-part-0/
    The idea that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics goes well beyond creationism.

  16. @anaturalphosopher
    Thank you!
    For example, this debunks the idea that the impossibility of parts in a junkyard spontaneously join together forming something has any relevance to biology.
    May I also add this:
    An intelligent designer is also constrained by the laws of nature, including the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Indeed, the 2lot was discovered in the context of a limit on the design work of the clever engineers of the 19th century. Intelligent Design offers no way to produce a perpetual motion machine.
    If there were a violation of the 2lot in the world of life, design would not provide a way out.

  17. @Naturalphilosopher: “You would do well to start with …..”
    No, he wouldn’t, because it would fly way over the head of ChrisS’ (you were right, TomS) creationist.
    Solid, well-thought, scientific stuff simply doesn’t work when dealing with such people.

  18. Retired Prof

    chris schilling says “It’s not like God to just play around for the hell of it, is it?”

    If the book of Job is anything to go by, that’s exactly why he and his adversary Satan tormented poor old Job. YHVH bragged on his worshipper’s loyalty, Satan offered a bet he could break that loyalty, God took the bet, and in the rest of the book they teamed up just for the hell of it. Refused even to teach Job anything about how the world works. In fact, YHVH disguised himself as a talking tornado and informed him he could not possibly understand even if ihe heard the explanation. He didn’t need to gain understanding anyway. The only thing he needed to achieve was abject submission to authority. That’s the chief value the fundamentalists hold in esteem today.

    I have pointed out elsewhere that The Grand Old Designer’s purpose for creating the universe could have been to amuse himself–by playing around for the hell of it. That answer neatly explains the problem of evil. He puts in wars, plagues, natural disasters, and every other ill right down to sniffles and hangnails because complications make the story interesting.

  19. @Retired Prof
    About the Book of Job, in particular, the happy ending. Job lost his wife and kids, but God made that all up for him by giving him a new set. So Job, after all that, had nothing to complain about.
    That tells us something about family values, eh?