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Coelacanth - from evidence to tall tale (or is it tall “tail”?)

Coelacanth - from evidence to tall tale (or is it tall “tail”?)-slide0
Fair use, to illustrate article's context.

What do you do when 1) your theory calls for gradual change from fish to human over an expanse of time, 2) you find some nice fish fossils to which you can point, 3) you point to modern day humans, 4) you tell a nice impressive sounding story full of fancy book learnin′ words about how one changed into the other but then, 5) you find that the fish is still alive, well and unchanged?

Well, if you are a Darwinist, of the “Evolutionary Theodicy” sort, you do that which your theory is practically based upon; you disregard the evidence and concoct yet another tall tale to fill the gaps in your previous tall tale. And you always remember that when evidence contradicts theory you do not augment the theory in order to accommodate the evidence rather, you manipulate the evidence so that it will fit the theory.

The story of the coelacanth is fascinating for various reasons, for our purposes the fascination is in noting how the evidence implies one story and the Darwinist infers quite another (for a companion article, see Coelacanth - The Hopeless Monster).

Fossils of the fish coelacanth are said to date as far back as 400,000,000 years ago and they were thought to have gone extinct circa 60,000,000 years ago. This opened the door for the telling of tall tales about how the coelacanth decided to get out of the water and trot about on land. Oh, the stories that were told; we can tell from the fins that _________ (fill in the blank with a Darwinian story) and became legs because _________ (fill in the blank with a Victorian Era scientific tall tale), anatomy this, evolution that, and bada bing—human being.

What a time they had; chin strokingly pontificating as they interpreted evidence based on bias schools of thought and adherence to theory (which I evidenced in the essay Scientific Cenobites). But then the show was over and reality swam past them as in 1938 AD South African fishermen made Marjorie Courtenay Latimer, the curator of a museum in East London (northeast of Cape Town, South Africa), aware of the living fish—the Gombessa, as they knew it.

But the party was not over. While many biologists express consternation at the upsetting of their theories, a good Darwinist never lets those troubling little facts get in the way of a good theory. For example, recall that the fact that human embryos have gill slits proved that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Yet, when it was proved that human embryos do not have gill slits this still proved that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny because human embryos used to have gill slits and have now evolved (as recently as a couple of year ago an Atheist Darwinist who had actually studied anatomy told me that human embryos have gill slits—relying on a century and half old hoax anyone?).

Thus, when the living fish toppled the dead theory, the fish was prepared with a twist of lemon and the theory was propped back up in the form of a red herring. What comes forth from this strange sort of weird science is that there are two stories of the coelacanth: the actual story told by the evidence itself and the story told regardless of evidence which is meant to function as smoke and mirrors which call attention away from the story told by the evidence—smoked coelacanth, yummy.

The evidence presents a fish which has not changed in 60,000,000 years (with the possible exception of size, etc.). The theory remains all but unchanged; this fish decided to go on walkabout. But how is the gap filled between the evidence of an unchanged and the human who examines the fish from which it supposedly evolved? By appealing to the mythical environmental pressures which caused part of the fish population to remain unchanged for 60,000,000 years and part to change into human beings who eat them (actually, I understand that they are too oily to be good eat′ns).

I encountered an interesting and vacuous statement which sought to take creationists to task at

“Seemingly immune to the pressures of natural selection, the coelacanth changed little (except in size and possibly in habitat) over the eons. Creationists have used this as evidence against the theory of Evolution, but most observers see the coelacanth as a startling, and loveable (Old Four Legs) messenger from the past.”

No joke, this was the entirety of their refutation. Note the way that they fill the gap in that it just so happens that the coelacanth was “Seemingly immune to the pressures of natural selection.” What do we learn about natural selection? It is the driving force behind evolution except when it is not because some creatures are immune. also stated:

“Two back, or dorsal, fins and one protruding beneath the nape of the tail are complimented by paired lobed pectoral and pelvic fins. These contain in their trunks bones mimicking those of Eusthenopteron which later developed into arms and legs. While coelacanths have not been observed to ‘walk’ on the bottom, their pectoral and pelvic fins can be seen as ‘pre-adaptations’ to land locomotion. Used under water their action maintains stability and balance. But in their cousin Eusthenopteron, the same action became four-legged land walking.

While the living coelacanths retain many ancient features they have also, contrary to their public image, done some evolving along the way. Live bearing, for example, would seem to be a modern feature.”

So, they “changed little…over the eons” and have also “done some evolving along the way.” Incidentally, they are mistaken about “Live bearing” being “a modern feature” as it is claimed that in fish this process dates from the Carboniferous period of 360,000,000-290,000,000 years ago.

You will note that part of the evidence for the coelacanth becoming a land dweller is that its cousin became a land dweller; even though eusthenopteron is a fish of the open sea.

Hans Fricke, an ethologist with the Max-Planck Institute, wrote of the coelacanth’s advanced electric field detection capabilities as well as its lack of walking un-abilities:

“they may also be able to locate prey by detecting changes in the electric field around them…it is intriguing that this fish may hone in on prey by detecting changes in the weak electric field the prey produces…

Our films settled another question that has intrigued scientists: whether the coelacanth can walk on its lobed fins. Though we observed several individuals resting with their fins braced against the sea bottom, we never saw any of them walk, and it appears the fish is unable to do so…

I confess I'm sorry we never saw a coelacanth walk on its fins. Professor Smith himself nicknamed the coelacanth Old Fourlegs in the belief that the creature actually did walk upon the seafloor like a seal on its flippers. Alas, that does not seem to be the case.”

When you see early taxidermic reconstructions of the coelacanth you can tell just how desperate the scientists were to, quite literally, bend the evidence in the favor of their theory as the coelacanth’s legs were bent downwards in order to make it seem as if the poor little guy was read to walk. This is quite evidence from the “Old Four Legs” book cover as well (see attached slide show):

“Indeed, there is quite a difference between manipulating a dead fish or skeleton to do as you please like so many marionettes on the one hand and observing the living fish in its environment doing as it will. Fricke notes,

For all their excellent work in the past, the scientists who preceded us in the study of coelacanths were severely hampered by the lack of a submersible. They could only examine dead or dying specimens brought up by Comoran fishermen.

Alas, as noted by Peter L. Forey

Fifty years ago this week [the week of Dec. 1988], Latimeria chalumnae was discovered, the only living representative of the otherwise extinct coelacanth fishes. Half a century of research shows it is not the hoped for missing link between fish and land vertebrates.”

Some years ago PBS aired a “documentary” retelling the story of the Coelacanth. You could literally take the documentary and re-edit it into two documentaries: one about the evidence for the unchanged fish which obviously did not turn into land walkers, much less human beings and the other which would be the evolutionary mythology about how, despite the evidence, it did so.

Lastly, I wanted to note that I learned that Jacques Millot had researched the coelacanth and checked the search engine at Scientific American for his article of 1955 AD simply titled, “The Coelacanth.” Having no hits searching various ways I finally typed “Jacques Millot” and got this result:

Your search for ""Jacques Millot"" resulted in 0 documents.

Did you mean "hotcakes Mildest"?

No, I did not—no, I did not.


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