In North America the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, almost like a whale, insects in the water. Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale .
Charles Darwin (1859)
In my college geology coursework and subsequent studies, I learned that modern whales descend from an animal resembling a pig, hippo and wolf named Pakicetus that lived roughly 55 million years ago . The dominant explanation was that a scenario similar to what Darwin laid out in the quote above pressured these land dwelling animals to take to the sea where they gradually and incrementally evolved over time into the whales of today. Fossil evidence of this is abundantly available and shows this steady progression over time from land animal to sea going whale [Diagram].
The fossil record shows feet and legs gradually forming into fins while the nostrils migrate further and further back until they are the blowholes of today’s whale. There is a distinct sequence that illustrates this change. For example, one does not find a fossil with a blowhole in older rock with the fossils with nostrils. There are also vestiges, like hip bones, in modern whales that reflect their land dwelling past. Because of this whale evolution has been hailed as a shining example of animal evolution. Paleontologist Donald Prothero wrote:
As the years go by, more and more transitional whales are being discovered, so that by now the amazing transformation from land animals to whale is one of the best examples of evolutionary transitions in the fossil record .
Physicist, astronomer and creationist Hugh Ross Ph.D., has a different idea though. In an article he posted on his website , Ross states that the abundance of transitional forms “seems like a point in favor of the evolutionary paradigm,” but, he argues, “a closer look reveals otherwise.” And what does this closer look tell Dr. Ross?
I believe that all these “transitional forms” for whales show up in the fossil record because God likes whales.
This reminds me of the famous quote by geneticist J.B.S. Haldane who, when asked if there was anything that could be concluded about the Creator by studying nature, allegedly replied, “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Ross goes on to say,
Knowing their propensity for rapid extinction, He kept on making new ones. Evidence shows an apparent progression from fresh water habitats to sea coastal regions to proliferating throughout all the world’s oceans. God must have had His reasons for gradually expanding both the habitats and populations of whales. A new research study on sperm whales sheds some light on at least one of those reasons and provides us with more understanding for why God is so enamored with whales.
For someone who has put forth what he considers a testable model for creation , what Dr. Ross has proposed here falls immensely short of being testable. For instance, how can the “God likes whales” theorem be refuted? What possible evidence from nature could reveal that God did not care for or even hated whales? The fact that the majority of these transitional fossils have gone extinct would lead me to believe that a Creator either does not care or wished them to die off. So does that disprove Ross’ theory?
One does not need to dive very deeply into Ross’ argument here to see it for its vapid inanity. Even if we assume the existence of God the whole notion makes no sense. So God loved Pakicetus so much that he let it die off so he could make Ambulocetus. Which in turn he loved until he made Dalanistes and Rodhocetus and so on. This makes God akin to a spoiled child constantly needing new toys to be excited about. Is that really the God Ross wants us all to accept? What happens when God is finished with us and has a new primate species to play with?
It’s articles such as these that make it hard to take Creationist’s seriously. Dr. Ross is not putting forth a legitimate or even well researched counterpoint to the “evolutionary paradigm.” He does not even provide Biblical support for his God like whales theorem.
Ross expands his idea by pointing out the whale’s ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere. He cites research from a team of Australian researchers who estimate that the population of approximately 12,000 sperm whales on the planet removes around 200,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere a year . This, according to Ross, is all part of God’s plan because of global warming resulting from the increased output of the Sun. Ross explains,
God stepped in to compensate for the increasing solar luminosity, in part, by progressively creating new species of whales so as to gradually increase the range and population of whales. As these changes took place, the fertilization of Earth’s photic zones increased, resulting in a progressively greater removal of greenhouse gases from the planet’s atmosphere. Thus, even as the Sun brightens, the progressive removal of greenhouse gases from Earth’s atmosphere keeps the surface temperature ideal for life.
So God created more and more whales because they act as carbon sinks and counter-balance the increased radiation from the Sun that he created? This reminds me of a Simpsons episode where Lisa is watching the timid hyper-religious Flanders children next door who had been terrified by a moth. While they are saying their prayers at bedtime Rod Flanders prays, “and thank you for sending Lisa to protect us from the moth that you sent.” I point this out only to give kudos to the Simpsons writers for such an accurate depiction of the religious mentality.
Dr. Ross’ arguments here are another illustration of what religious prejudices can do to an otherwise intelligent person. This shows how religion can be a poison for clear thinking. When confronted with an almost complete timeline of morphological changes over time and similar structures in modern animals analogous to their evolutionary past, one can abandon the logical connection and infer that it is simply evidence of the whims of invisible deities; I do not think there is much hope that that person can observe evidence honestly.
- Charles Darwin Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, First Edition (1859) Ch. VI
- Robert H. Dott and Donald R. Prothero Evolution of the Earth, Fifth Edition (1994) pp. 489-490
- Donald R. Prothero Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (2007) pp. 321-322
- Hugh Ross Thank God For Whales http://www.reasons.org/thank-god-whales (accessed 11/8/2011)
- Hugh Ross More Than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation (2009)
- Trish J. Lavery, Ben Roudnew, Peter Gill, Justin Seymour, Laurent Seuront, Genevieve Johnson, James G. Mitchell, and Victor Smetacek Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean Proc R Soc B (2010) : rspb.2010.0863v1-rspb20100863.