Sunday, May 07, 2006

My letter to The Dispatch.

I responded to Mark Looy's (of AiG) letter to the Columbus Dispatch, it was published today. Many thanks goes to the editors of the Dispatch for having the integrity to publish a response to the misinformation spread by Looy.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nicely put, Martin. I hope they (Looy et al.) feel the sting.

- J. Mallon

SteveG said...

Hi Martin,

I posted a copy of your letter that was published in the Columbus Dispatch to a discussion group, and a creationist took issue with your statement about the front limbs of amphibians. After spending quite some time googling for specific discussion/descriptions about this particular aspect of amphibian anatomy, I have yet to find anything specific, so I'm coming straight to you.

Here are the creationist's remarks - from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coCBanned/message/5271:

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Is this editorial an evolutionist lie, or just a mistake?

You quote Martin Brazeau as writing, "The most baffling comment came when Looy wrote that 'the bones in the fins of both the coelacanth and the new fossil are imbedded in the muscle and are not attached to the axial skeleton, which you would have in a reptile or an amphibian.' He should pick up a basic anatomy textbook: The front limbs of amphibians don't have such a connection, either!"

Is he honestly mistaken in his religous zeal for evolution, or is Brazeau purposefully lying? For intance, it looks like a frog's front limbs, and a frog is an amphibian, is connected to the axial skeleton (http://froggy.lbl.gov/teaching.tool.html). The only amphibian's I could find without the front limbs (or rear limbs) connected to the axial skeleton are of the Order Apoda. Then, again, the Apodas do not have legs. And, we are confidently told the Apodas descended from a legged ancestor (http://www.lavc.cc.ca.us/Huang/Biology7%20unit2/Ch34WordLectureOutline.htm). Other than that Apodas, which are descended from ampibians that had front legs connected to the axial skeleton, my search could not find an amphibian that does not have a connection at the axial skeleton.

By you own reasoning, Todd, we must conclude that Brazeau is lying, just, also by your own reasoning, just like all of those other evolutionists. Or, can we admit that someone can simply be wrong, as I am sure that Brazeau is, without calling into question his character?

But, the point where Brazeau is particularly incorrect is that evolutionary theory states that the primative fish evolved into primative tetrapods. One of the characteristics, and it is listed over and over, is that the legs are connected to the axial skeleton. While my search did not find any references to an amphibian with front legs that were not connected to the axial skeleton, it found a number of references to the FACT that primative tetrapodic legs were connected to the axial skeleton (see (http://webpages.marshall.edu/~hurlburt/310lec11.html; http://www.lifesci.utexas.edu/courses/bio478L/LecturesPDF/bodyskeleton.pdf; and http://www.hendersonisd.org/campuses/hhs/local/Clifton%20Notes/Ch30_%20notes.htm as examples).

This is from http://www.arabmedmag.com/issue-31-01-2004/orl/main02.htm:

"In the first tetrapods, there was specialization of the anterior cervical vertebrae into a primitive atlas-axis complex, as well as a distinct split into a cervical trunk, sacral and caudal vertebrae, and interlocking vertebral centra with upright neural arches. The pelvic girdle was firmly attached to the vertebral column, and the pectoral girdle had smaller extrascapular dermal bone components (with the exception of the clavicle, which was larger)."

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How would you respond, particularly in regard to details about the anatomy of the front limbs of amphibians?

Regards,
Steve G.

Martin Brazeau said...

Thanks SteveG,

Whoa boy, oh, boy! It looks likt that guy got burned by my editorial! Feels good.

There are a few things here. First, your creationist friend is deeply misled. There is no bony attachment between the ribs and shoulder girdle in a frog or a salamander. What happens in a frog is that the shoulder girdle wraps dorsally over the thoracic ribs. Here, there is a ligamentous and muscular connections to the ribs, but not a bony connection, like in the pelvic girdle. Tell your friend to dissect a frog or a salamander, instead of using Google. None of the links provided support any of his statements, and several of them are dead.

In any event, the condition in frogs is irrelevant. We should be interested in comparing with the 'amphibians' that we hold to be the next plesions up from Tiktaalik, which are bona fide tetrapods. These would Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, where the condition of the pectoral girdle is essentially identical in this regard.

In all these forms, including Tiktaalik (which has ribs), a link to the axial skeleton would be through soft tissue only.

The second major point is that your friend is changing the subject from the forelimb to the hindlimb. Yes, that has a bony link. I never denied that, nor would I. Secondly, we don't have the pelvic girdle of Tiktaalik, so we don't know what it's condition in that respect is. So, I'm not commenting on that, but I suspect it's probably fish-like, without a bony connection. I'm not concerned about admitting that Tiktaalik has features of a fish, for without them it wouldn't be much of a fish-tetrapod intermediate -- it would be a tetrapod! On the other hand, creationists are just being selective with their observations.

Furthermore this creationist is citing a quote that is factually incorrect on a number of grounds. Neither Ichthyostega nor Acanthostega have an atlas-axis complex. And, their occipital regions is entirely fish-like with the notochord going straight into the braincase (we don't have all of these vertebrae in Ichthyostega, but the braincase retains a notochordal tunnel). The vertebrae of Acanthostega are not differentiated axially, but are pretty much the same from the neck to the tail. The quote says nothing about the forelimbs of either of these forms, other than noting that they are fish-like in retaining some extrascapular dermal bones, namely an anocleithrum -- which is a fish character. It's clear that this creationist doesn't have a clue. Do they ever?

Martin Brazeau said...

On second thought, maybe I'll go over to that site and straighten him out for you, if I have time this afternoon.

SteveG said...

Hi Martin,

I appreciate your response, which I've quoted at that discussion group. The creationist immediately responded with the following http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coCBanned/message/5325:

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I am not mistaken... I do remember high school biology, where I cut the frog open. Martin Brazeau reacts as I would expect any good atheistic evolutionist to react: Don't believe your observations, believe the smoke and mirrors and deny what you know is true.

Regardless of Brazeau's argument, even he admits that the front limbs of frogs and salemanders are connected through ligaments to the bone. Todd, would it surprise you to know that there are a number of bones in the human body that are connected to other bones the very same way? In fact, the pelvic girdle may have a ball and socket arrangement, as does our shoulder blade, but ligaments hold the bones in place.

And, I agree with Brazeau, the condition of frogs and salamanders is not relevant to the discussion. But, he was the one who first made it relevant. Now, that his hand has been caught in the cookie jar, he wishes to remove it through word games.

And, Todd, there is a difference between a fin that contains bony supports, but has no connection, either through bones or ligaments to the axail skeleton, and a leg that is directly connected through ligaments. In this case, the Tiktaalik and Acanthostega and Ichthyostega are different.

Good try, Todd, but as Monica said to Bill, no cigar....

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If you have the time to drop in at that discussion group, I'm sure it'll be fun! (Just a little sarcasm there.)

(Incidentally, my first and second names are "Todd Stephen," which is who the Todd is that the creationist is referring to.)

Regards,
Steve G.

SteveG said...

Hi Martin,

This Tiktaalik specimen is turning out to be a really big deal in creationist circles. It looks like they're pulling out all the stops to try to bury this one deep in the sand (along with their heads, of course).

Here's another article, at another young earth creationist website, by a Dr. Brad Harrub (Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy from the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis):

April Fools—and Missing Links
http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2911

You are so much more qualified than I am to deal with this nonsense, due to your area of expertise. It takes me a great deal of time to research the details, which I believe that you either already have a good awareness of or know how to get needed details "at your fingertips." I would appreciate if you would address the article by Harrub. I know you already have your own "public venues" (such as this blog, or the Panda's Thumb site), but I would like to get your permission for me to gather together all of your discussion about Tiktaalik with respect to critiquing the creationist argument "there are no transitional fossils" and publish it all together in one page on my own website (Greene's Creationism Truth Filter). I think your detailed discussion will be of great use for quite some time.

Martin Brazeau said...

Dear SteveG,

Indeed, the publications are capital nonsense. Creationists are having a huge hissy over Tiktaalik sinice it is yet another gigantic embarrassment for them. I will try to post up here what I can. For your site, please feel free to quote any or all of what I write in full as long as I am clearly stated as the author. I retain no copyright on any of the material posterd here, except that I request that copied material be credited to me as the author and an appropriate link is provided. I will deal with this article in due course.