Tag Archives: Stephen Gould

Trilobites Swim Circles Around Creationists – Part 1

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Apologetics Press is so intellectually anorexic, it’s frightening to imagine the base level of research involved in its preparation of creationist material. It’s like watching a poorly conceived horror movie; on the one hand it’s something to laugh at, and on the other it has the occasional shock, even if it’s just a comically masked killer jumping from behind a door with an over-sized knife. It’s cheap thrills, good for a few chuckles. So, here’s today’s feature —the Apologists had something silly to say about the complexity of the trilobite eye. It begins:

One of the most fascinating finds in the fossil record is that of the long-extinct trilobite. Trilobites resided in the Earth’s ancient oceans, and often are considered to be the world’s first arthropods—creatures that consist of hard shells, and that have multiple body segments and jointed legs. Trilobites, which possessed a hard exoskeleton, bear a resemblance to horseshoe crabs, and are thought by evolutionists to be one of the first animals to have lived on the Earth. [my emphasis]

Ah, the errors run like a river: 1) Old-earth creationism invariably involves typological thinking; in other words, some group of organisms must be a “type” without the word ever being adequately defined. Here the Apologists roll the more than 20,000 species of trilobite into one type, as if they were referring to a single creature; and throughout the remainder of the article, trilobite traits are lumped on to that type with complete disregard for the immense diversity that exists within the class, Trilobita. 2) And which paleontologist claims that trilobites were the first arthropods? The first arthropods are thought to have been leggy segmented soft-bodied worms from the Early Cambrian. In fact, if you were to remove all that armor from a trilobite it would look like a worm. It’d be like peeling an artichoke, where there isn’t much underneath. 3) Next, the Apologists claim “evolutionists” think of trilobites as the “first animals to have lived on Earth”. How does it work out that trilobites were the “first arthropods” and the “first animals”? What 19th century children’s encyclopedia have these dimwitted clowns been reading? The sponges might have something to say about who the first animal was.

Let’s wallow in the rest of the Apologists’ misconceptions:

Evolution postulates that all living animals have progressed from simpler creatures, and that by the process of natural selection, organisms have “improved” along the way. Conventional thinking, therefore, suggests that since trilobites are so ancient, they must have been fairly simple creatures with primitive features. However, the eye of the trilobite—which is incredibly complex—refutes such a concept.

Yeah, well, when you disregard the tens of millions of years of natural history that occurred prior to the trilobites’ reign, it’s easy to make that argument. If no creatures with simpler eyes than trilobites had existed, then there would be a problem. But since there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, the flaw clearly lies in the Apologists being willfully ignorant of the subject matter.

Most trilobites had a pair of compound eyes that were made up of 100 to 15,000 lenses in each eye.

Such intricacies suggest that evolution is a degenerative process, for nothing on Earth today compares to the eye of the trilobite.

Darwinian models that attempt to explain the trilobite’s eye are completely unable to account for such complexity, especially considering the fact that the trilobite is considered to have evolved so early. When one considers the complexity of the trilobite’s eye, and compares it with the considerably less-complex eye systems of animals and/or humans today, it would seem that evolution has “gone in reverse.” [my emphasis]

Additionally, they go on to quote-mine paleontologist Niles Eldredge, who only speaks to the complexity of the trilobite lens, not the entire eye. The unique characteristic of the double-layered lens (doublet) of the trilobite is that it corrects for the aberration that occurs when light travels from a less dense material like water to a more dense one like calcite (CaCO3), which is what the trilobite lens –and exoskeleton, not coincidentally– is made of. But the human lens is, in fact, more complex because it can change shape to focus, while the trilobite lens is fixed. What the Apologists don’t grasp is that evolution is adaptive and not progressive in the long term, and that the variation in nature demonstrates how many ways there are for solving the same problem. How many different types of eyes are there? Moreover, they fail to see that eyes don’t see; eyes merely collect light and convert it to signals for the brain to interpret. Are the Apologists going to argue that the trilobite brain was more complex than the human brain? They can speak for themselves –and their own brains– on this point. Are you smarter than a trilobite? Now that’s a game show I’d watch. Trilobites win every time.

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Monkey See, Monkey Do Math

I think the general public has a somewhat comical view of animals and their mental abilities. From chickens playing tic-tac-toe at county fairs to “stupid pet tricks” on TV to humorous news clips of zoo animals entertaining the masses. It isn’t much of a résumé. Perhaps one of the mental barriers to seeing evolution in a clear light is regarding animals as buffoons; and being related to a buffoon is unacceptable to many people.

But if we actually give animal behavior more than a cursory glance, we find that many groups exhibit extraordinary abilities on par with humans, if not quanititatively then qualitatively. My favorite is the birds, specifically the corvid family. (Monkeys get all the attention, the diaper wearing media whores.) New Caledonian Crows have demonstrated their ability to use tools. Watch the video of a crow forming a wire tool, but look closely or you’ll miss the key moment.     

Wikipedia:

Bird Intelligence

Books:

Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays” by Candace Savage

 “Ravens In Winter” by Bernd Heinrich 

 

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Evolution: What The Fossils Say – A Great New Book

For X-Mas, I was delighted to recieve a copy of the new book by Donald Prothero, titled Evolution: What The Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Being unfamiliar with Prothero’s previous published works, I mistakenly took the book to be a pretty coffee table book about fossils. How wrong I was.

Donald Prothero is a professor of geology at Occidental College in Southern California, and he has written a whole list of books, from After The Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals to The Evolution Of The Earth.

His latest book is a stimulating read. I’ve only just finished chapter 3, but I’m too excited to wait to review the whole thing. His style of writing to clear and to the point. And he knows how to introduce technical terms without overwhelming the reader. In the first chapter he explains the philosophy of science, which is very often misunderstood by the general public, especially creationists. Here is an excerpt in which he writes about science as a method and the meaning of the word theory:

…Science is not about final truth or “facts”; it is only about continually testing and trying to falsify our hypotheses, until they are extremely well supported. At that point, the hypothesis becomes a theory (as scientists use the term), which is a well-corroborated set of hypotheses that explain a larger part of the observations about the world. Some well-known and widely accepted theories are the theory of gravitation, the theory of relativity, and, of course, the the theory of evolution.

You can read a sample chapter (PDF Format) or view some of the color plates (PDF Format).

Here are a few of the other chapter titles: Life’s Origin, Cambrian “Explosion”… or Slow Fuse?, Spineless Wonders Of Evolution, Fish Tales, Dinosaurs Evolve and Fly, The Ape’s Reflection.

I’ll be back with more on this great book, because Prothero does a wonderful job crushing creationism with science, and he deserves to be applauded.

Editor

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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