Food for thought on whale evolution

Why have you posted this silly creationist video? It starts by misunderstanding what Darwin said and goes down hill from there. Are you a YEC?



Well done video… which goes to a problem that I’ve been discussing in the last few days!

The central problems to investigate here at Peaceful Science is not that Evolution is wrong… but that Evolution GOVERNED BY GOD explains all the problems you seem to be worried about.


And then there was those numerous times they pulled whales with legs out of the water. Go figure.

Andrews, R. C. (1921) “A remarkable case of external hind limbs in a humpback whale.” Amer. Mus. Novitates. No. 9. June 3, 1921.

It is not the only example, there have been numerous such cases of whales with rudimentary hind-limbs containing the bone-structures expected of hind-limbs:
From: Hall BK. Development mechanisms underlying the formation of atavisms. Biol Rev
Camb Philos Soc. 1984 Feb;59(1):89-124. Pdf here.

Some remarkable examples of atavistic hind limbs are known, but only from species that possess rudimentary hind limb skeletons. Andrews (1921) described an adult, female humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae, caught on the west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., in July 1919. It had symmetrical left and right external hind limbs measuring 127 cm in length. Each contained four skeletal elements - two bones and two cartilages. The longest cartilage was the femur, a 38-cm rod lying within the body. A 36-cm bony tibia, a 12-cm cartilaginous tarsus and a 15-cm bony metatarsal were also present. Andrews quotes Kukenthal & Goldberg as describing hind limb-buds in embryonic Megaptera novaeangliae, Phocoena phocoena (common porpoise), Phocoenoides dalli (Dall’s porpoise) and Lagenorhynchus acutus (white-sided dolphin).
Berzin (1972) reported a number of similar cases in both male and female sperm whales Physter catodon. One, a female captured near Japan, had deep-set hind limbs, each some 15 cm in diameter at the body surface and protruding 5-6 cm from it. These limbs contained both a femur and a tibia. Another specimen (see his Figure 37), an 11.6-m male, had hind limbs that were 28 and 34cm long, each containing a femur, tibia, fibula, 4th and 5th digits but no tarsals. All grades from limbs with single proximal elements to those complete with digits have therefore been reported. Berzin quotes Nemoto (1963) as reporting an incidence of atavistic hind limbs of 1/5000 sperm whales, and notes that this is within the range of calculated mutation rates (obviously thinking of a single gene mutation as the mechanism for their origin).
The sperm whale, like the humpback whale, has two pelvic bones. Yablokov (1974) describes a specimen with a rudimentary femur and cites six cases of hind limbs in adult sperm whales. Fig. 1 is modified from his book and shows the variability found so far, ranging from the rudimentary femur to limbs with a metatarsal and phalanges arranged into either one or two digits. (Recall that the forelimb has two elongated digits.)

For all the imagined difficulties with whales evolving from terrestrial mammals, we know they did. Given the genetic and morphological evidence, of which things like the above is just a tiny bit, it is beyond rational dispute.


What is the standard to say you know something?

Knowledge is a belief justified by supporting evidence.


What makes you think there are problems, and what does “Evolution GOVERNED BY GOD” mean?



Really? If you are absolutely convinced that E=mc2 is correct (or that 1 + 999,999 = 1,000,000) but you don’t really have supporting evidence (yet)… is it really not knowledge?

I think you mean, you have Unsupported Knowledge.

But knowledge doesn’t have to be supported to be true - - just sayin’ … for a friend.


1] @swamidass says “God-Governed Evolution” is a better version of “God-Guided Evolution”. Go ahead… ask him. I’m taking his word for it.

2] The problems I am referring to in the posting above is the video pointing out that Evolution is better understood as part of God’s design… rather than from Godless Evolution.

So… by pointing out that he is now engaged in one of the two basic tar-baby topics of these pages, if he simply focused on the UNIFYING idea that God USES Evolution to accomplish his creation, then there are no more problems in interpretation for Christians who endorse the validity of the sciences (particularly the Evolutionary sciences).

So you’re using a term without knowing what it means? Not advisable.

Are you sure that’s what it’s saying? The video looks like creationism to me. The same “problems” the video mentions are problems for “God-governed evolution” too. So again, what problems are you talking about?

Finally, and again, what does “God USES Evolution” mean? And why do you feel the need to capitalize “evolution” all the time?

Nope. Having a feeling of being convinced, and having evidence that justifies that feeling, are two different things. You can be “absolutely convinced” of something for both good and bad reasons. Only if those reasons are based on very strong supporting evidence is it knowledge.

You can be absolutely convinced of something and be blatantly and unambigously wrong. I’ve tried that many times. I had a strong sense that I was right about something, and then I discovered that I was wrong. It happens.

So your feelings aren’t sufficient justification for a claim of knowledge, you must be able to point to something external that rationally justifies the knowledge claim. How you feel is just not a good justification. And we can say that because we all have had innumerable experiences of feeling right and being convinced of something we later discovered was totally wrong.

No I really did mean what I wrote. I don’t think there is such a thing as unsupported knowledge. If it is unsupported then it isn’t knowledge. Convictions aren’t necessarily knowledge. Convictions can be knowledge, if they are based on supporting evidence.

If they are not based on supporting evidence, then that conviction would just be a belief. Knowledge is a subset of beliefs. Beliefs are either supported by evidence or they are not. If they are not, they aren’t knowledge. That’s how I use those terms.

Okay, but I disagree with that usage of the terms.

This is an extremely poor way to think critically about any subject. There is no difficulty imaginable with any scientific problem or set of questions you couldn’t postulate is solved by just introducing God as the solution.

A certain protein couldn’t exist at that high a temperature without instantly vaporizing? No problem, God willed it to. Problem solved.

The gravitational attraction by that body of mass is not sufficient to keep that comet in orbit for so long. No problem, God wills it to. Problem solved.

There’s no way an organism could live without this or that organ/tissue/limb/structure? No problem, God willed it to. Problem solved.

No Mr. prosecutor, my client have not had any contact with the mafia, he just happens to know those details because God told him personally in a dream vision. Problem solved. Oh his fingerprints are on the money? God put them there. Gunpowder was found on his hands? Guess what Big-G again.



And this is why you don’t understand the Christian world view very well.

FAITH means relying on something as KNOWLEDGE, even without evidence.

I know, I know, I know … you don’t think that is valid.

But nevertheless… your view of Knowledge can only be distinguished from other things if you have God-like knowledge yourself.

Fascinating. Can you imagine a belief you could not support in that way? Could I not say just the opposite, that I just KNOW that God doesn’t exist? If you ask me how I know, I could just say I support it by faith even without evidence. Is that really the situation we are in, just two people believing things for completely equally bad and unsupported reasons?

No of course not. I think there really is such a thing as a belief held for bad reasons. Claims of knowledge that weren’t.

That makes no sense at all. I don’t need “God-like knowledge” to claim that I know something, since when I claim that know something all I am really saying is that I have a belief for which I can point to evidence. Either I can do that or I can not. We could look at examples.



I’m not saying that “knowledge” is easy to identify.

But if you feel that E=mc2 is proven knowledge … how do we handle the problem that the equations of Newtonian Physics are NOT correct. They are correct for mere mortal-sized scales of reference… but the Cosmos is VAST and MOSTLY VAST. Which makes Newtonian equations MOSTLY in error. And we just didn’t know what the problem was.

There are CERTAINLY beliefs held for bad reasons. And in fact, there were GOOD reasons why people rejected the idea that stars were very far … because they didn’t know enough about optics. But some astronomers, based purely on a hunch, persisted until they really COULD prove that the stars were magnificently far away!

I don’t think you can say that it starts by misunderstanding Darwin given the passage below taken from the OoS.
In North America the black bear was seen by [the explorer Samuel] Hearne swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, 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.
Now, how many mutations do you think it would take to change a land-dwelling mammalian ancestor such as Pakicetus into a whale?

The video claims that Darwin thought whales had evolved from bears, while the quote is just a hypothetical case of how a bear might, under the right conditions, evolve into something rather like a whale. Do you see the difference?

I don’t know. Why?

Did you intend to answer my question? Why did you post the video?

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No, the video claims that Darwin thought that whales could have evolved from bears, which is exactly what the quote is saying.

No, that is clearly not what the quote is saying. The quote is clearly giving a reason to consider how that could have occurred. Not that Darwin is saying this is what did occur.

Edit: Nvm, turns out I misread you and you’re saying the same thing I am.

Ahh and then the video goes off the deep end with the classic Texas Sharpshooter fallacy in the “waiting time for two specific mutations”. It’s trash.