Sunday, May 20, 2012

How did Animals Cross the Ocean? Evolution says, uhhh...

Evolutionists have three totally different methods they they mix and match to explain the distribution of animals and plants across the face of the earth: Land Bridges, Oceanic Dispersal, and the Pangaea supercontinent. If one doesn't sound right, try the other! Is this Science? Are we in the midst of another paradigm shift and a return to “a science of the improbable, the rare, the mysterious, and the miraculous”? Or maybe the worldwide flood of the Bible offers a better explanation...

Selections from Biogeography: A Creationist Perspective, by Bill Johnson.

(These selections by Marko Malyj are of the article published in Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal, Volume 48, Number 3, Winter 2012)

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Why is it that animals and plants are not equally distributed over the face of the earth? Why are some animals, like giraffes and lions, confined to only one location—Africa, whereas other plants and animals are either ubiquitously or discontinuously distributed? Biogeography, or the geography of life, has been an active field of study for centuries. Early creationists tried to explain these distributions a variety of ways. Universal Flood geologists postulated that all animals dispersed from the Middle East. Can this be true? From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, evolutionists have dominated the biogeographical debate, and creationists have largely remained silent on the issue. As a result, it is commonly believed that evolution best explains the geography of life. But macroevolutionary biogeography is far from proven.

Land Bridges

Until recently, it was widely accepted that the continents as we know them have always been in their current locations. Belief in the permanence of the continents led many evolutionists to explain distributions by postulating land bridges between the continents. These land bridges crisscrossed every ocean and were thrown up or torn down wherever and whenever their theory required. Up until the second half of the twentieth century, most evolutionists employed this line of reasoning. Ernst Haeckel is a case in point:

The Lemuria land bridge of nineteenth-century geology.
Even Europe and America have been directly connected. The South Sea at one time formed a large Pacific continent... The Indian Ocean formed a continent which extended from the Sunda Islands along the southern coast of Asia to the east coast of Africa (Haeckel, 1892, pp. 375–376).
Everywhere there was a disjunct distribution to explain, evolutionists like Haeckel “sharpened their pencils and sketched land bridges between the appropriate continents” (Corliss, 1970, p. 61). Some of the land bridges were small and plausible; others, such as the landmass that stretched across the entire Pacific Ocean to allow bears, raccoons, and other animals to gain access to the American continent, were of continental proportion. After the fauna and flora reached their appointed destination the evolutionists’ “eraser disposed of the bridge when it had outlived its usefulness as evidenced by the divergence of species on the sundered continents” (Corliss, 1970, p. 61). The problem with continental land bridges and their sudden disappearance after they served their purpose was that in nearly every case there was absolutely no geological evidence for their existence. The only reason for their construction was to explain away the puzzling distributions of life.

Even Darwin, who was once an avid land bridge builder, eventually saw just how convenient it was to throw up land bridges to explain distributions. In a letter to J. D. Hooker he noted that some conjure up land bridges “as easily as a cook does pancakes” (Darwin, 1959, p. 432).

Oceanic Dispersal

Another way to explain the puzzling distribution of life is to have animals and plants crossing formidable water gaps by means of rafting, or, in the case of birds, postulating island colonizations achieved by transoceanic flights. Ernst Mayr used oceanic dispersal to explain how the banded iguana came to reside in the south Pacific.
The lizard family Iguanidae is confined to the Americas, except for one genus (with two species) found in Fiji and Tonga …a long time ago they floated there on logs and flotsam carried by ocean currents (Mayr, 2001, p. 32).
Mayr’s explanation seems plausible until one realizes that the Fiji Islands are 5,000 miles away from America. Granting a generous thirty miles of drift per day for this treacherous journey (which required a sail mate of the opposite sex), the iguanas would have arrived in Fiji eight months later!

Mayr and Phelps claimed the Hawaiian Islands house many land birds that supposedly migrated there from the American continents. These birds would have had to fly over 2,000 miles without the aid of intervening islands to serve as “steppingstones” (Mayr and Phelps, 1967). Some of these long-distance colonizations
seem miraculous.
How about the dispersal of freshwater fish (i.e., cichlids) found only in Africa and South America? Phillip Darlington, the most prominent biogeographer of the twentieth century, flirted with a south Atlantic land bridge but favored the hypothesis that these fish traveled out of Africa, up through Asia, across the Bering land bridge, down North and Central America, and finally into South America (Darlington, 1957). The most amazing part of this story is the disjunct distribution is also explained by extinction in the intermediate parts of a wide distribution that did not leave a single fossil behind!

Continental Drift

Generalized reconstruction of the supercontinent,
Pangaea in latest Paleozoic time.
 In the 1960s many evolutionists opted for what is called vicariance biogeography, i.e., that most plants and animals were widely distributed on the super continent Pangaea and the discontinuities we observe today are largely due to the breakup of this continent. The cichlids, along with other fish, would not have had to travel tens of thousands of miles from Africa to South America (as Darlington claims); they needed only to disperse a short distance while the continents were still together. With vicariance it appeared that evolutionary biogeography was saved from the embarrassing theories of the past. Or has it?

For example, if the continents were once connected, why are there not more fauna and flora similarities between the southern continents?

Also, it requires many taxa to have originated preceding the breakup of Pangaea. Recently, evolutionary dating methods have shown that many plants and animals evolved after the continents separated. This would include freshwater fish (i.e., aplocheiloid, cichlid), ratite birds, parrots, frogs, baobab trees, and anolis lizards (Briggs, 2003; De Queiroz, 2005). Evolutionists are now forced to acknowledge that longdistance dispersalism must have played an even greater role than many have suspected.

So which is it, Land Bridges, Oceanic Dispersal, or Pangaea? Are we in the midst of another paradigm shift and a return to “a science of the improbable, the rare, the mysterious, and the miraculous” (Nelson, 1978, p. 289)?

Is this Science?

Evolutionary biogeography has now come full circle. The “recent flood of evidence” that McGlone and others talk about is not evidence, per se; rather it is lack of evidence for drift. Alan De Queiroz (2005, p. 70) notes, “A main objection to dispersal hypotheses is that they are unfalsifiable and thus unscientific … However, this can be countered by noting that, if plausible vicariance hypotheses are falsified, then dispersal is supported by default.”

The explanations given for the dispersal of freshwater fish are just as eclectic. Evolutionists originally postulated a land bridge between Africa and South America (Eigenmann, 1909). Darlington (1957) followed this idea by moving these fish across almost every continent. Along came vicariance with its explanation of short-distance dispersal before the continents fragmented (Stiassny, 1991; Murphy and Collier, 1997).

Now that many freshwater fish are judged as too young to have been moved by drift, the explanation is that they are tolerant of saltwater and made the long journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

Biogeography can “explain” every distribution in a multitude of ways, while never making a prediction that could subject the theory to falsification. Even evolutionists have long recognized that it is an explain-all theory. How is this Science?

We began by with the early creationists, who were Universal Flood geologists. They postulated that all animals dispersed from the Middle East, as suggested by the Biblical worldwide flood described in the book of Genesis. In the second part of this article, we will reexamine this old viewpoint. It turns out to be a far superior explanation.

References (selected)

Briggs, J.C. 2003. Fishes and birds: Gondwana life rafts reconsidered. Systematic Biology 52:548–553.
Corliss, W. 1970. Mysteries Beneath the Sea. Crowell, New York, NY.

Darlington, P. 1957. Zoogeography: The Geographical Distribution of Animals. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Darwin, C. 1959. Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. Basic Books, New York, NY.

De Queiroz, A. 2005. The resurrection of oceanic dispersal in historical biogeography. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20:68–73.

Eigenmann, C. H. 1909. The fresh-water fishes of Patagonia and an examination of the Archiplata – Archhelenis theory. In Scott, W.B. (editor), Reports of the Princeton University Expedition to Patagonia 1896–1899, pp. 227–374. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Haeckel, E. 1892. The History of Creation. Appleton, New York, NY.

Mayr, E. 2001. What Evolution Is. Basic Books, New York, NY.

Mayr, E., and W.H. Phelps. 1967. The origin of the bird fauna of the south Venezuelan highlands. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 136:273–327.

Murphy, W.J., and G.E. Collier. 1997. A molecular phylogeny for aplocheiloid fishes (Atherinomorpha, Cyprinodontiformes): the role of vicariance and the origins of annualism. Molecular Biology and Evolution 14:790–799.

Stiassny, M. 1991. Phylogenetic interrelationships of the family Cichlidae: an overview. In Keenleyside, M.H.A. (editor), Cichlid Fishes: Behavior, Ecology and Evolution, pp 1–35. Chapman and Hall, London, UK.

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