Thursday, July 10, 2008

Of Flatfish and Creationism

A researcher from the University of Chicago has discovered what is believed to be evidence of a slow transition that flatfish underwent where one eye migrated to the other side of the head, yielding what one sees in flounder, turbot and other, well, flatfish. The story, in Red Orbit, notes:

His first "transitional" fossil was an adult specimen he stumbled on in the Paris Museum, part of a collection that had been given to Napoleon as tribute as he fought in Italy 200 years ago. It clearly had an eye socket near the top of the skull, he said, in transit to the other side of the face.

In London, he found a second fossil species of Amphistium, slightly younger than the one recovered in Italy. In London he also borrowed two Amphistium specimens still deeply embedded in Italian sandstone, which he analyzed with CT scans, also revealing eye sockets in transition.

In Vienna, he found misclassified fossils that turned out to be an entirely new flatfish genus he named Heteronectes ("different swimmer") which he said clearly is in the transitional stage.

How does this involve creationism, you ask?

After publishing his evolutionary theory, On [the] Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin and the theory came under furious attack by religious leaders. In 1871, St. George Mivart, a Catholic lawyer and zoologist, published On Genesis of the Species, challenging Darwin, prominently using the example of flatfish and their eyes in his argument.

"Darwin feebly responded with scenario that relied on evolution of inherited traits," said Friedman, and the flatfish argument has been an arrow in the quiver of anti-evolutionists ever since, cited as recently as 2003 in pro-creationist James Best's online book "God and Fallacy in the Theory of Evolution."

Yup. Never bet against science. You will lose.

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