Re: How whales lost their legs? (was Hello)

Stephen Jones (
Mon, 15 Jun 1998 14:12:57 +0800


On Mon, 9 Jun 1997 01:52:39 +0200, Ana Da Silva wrote:

MDS>Hello my name is Mario Da Silva from Swaziland in Africa. I am doing a
>school project on how whales lost their legs. Could you give me some
>information on that subject, I have got information on the mamma web site,
>could you please send me some web sites that I could get info.Thankyou for
>your help.

Welcome! Unfortunately I don't know of any web sites that discuss how whales
lost their legs. However, since this is a mailing list I will respond to your post.
First, I agree with David Attenborough that the presence of vestigial leg
bones in some (not all) whales probably means that whale ancestors once did
have legs:

"The major differences between the whales and the early mammals are
attributable to adaptations for the swimming life. The forelimbs have
become paddles. The rear limbs have been lost altogether, though
there are a few small bones buried deep in the whale's body to prove
that the whale's ancestors really did, at one time, have back legs."
(Attenborough D., "Life on Earth: A Natural History," [1979],
Fontana/Collins, London, 1984, p242)

However, the fact that these lesgs are now "small" and "buried deep in the
whale's body", argues against their being lost *Darwinian* process of random
mutation and natural selection, because such a process would only be
expected to reduce whales legs (if at all) down to a point where the
unused legs' reproductive disadvantage was nil. In a 150 ton whale,
one would have though that legs would have been no reproductive
disadvantage after a certain point well before these legs shrunk down
to their present size of almost nothing.

But in the case of the whales, the legs have shrunk down to about *one ounce*
in a body of over 100 tons, and indeed have continued to shrink right through the
skin and into the whale's body:

"One of Prof. Kellogg's most amusing illustrations concerns the
femur (thigh bone) of the whale. This bone is now, say, 1 OZ. in
weight, or one-millionth part of the weight of the body. But the femur
is, on evolutionary assumptions, an atrophied bone on its way to yet
smaller dimensions. Imagine that femur, then, when it was 2 OZ. in
weight, and try to conceive what possible advantage there was
accruing to the whale in the Struggle for Existence with other whales
which the diminution of 1 OZ. in the weight of its femur gave to it! It
certainly is a reductio ad absurdum of this part of the Darwinian
theory." (Morton H.C., "The Bankruptcy of Evolution," Marshall Brothers:
London, 1924, p89).

Even though this is an old quote, the problem still has not been solved
by Darwinian evolutionists, as far as I am aware. In 1991 noted Intelligent
Design theorist Professor Phillip E. Johnson wrote:

"Even the vestigial legs present problems. By what Darwinian process
did useful hind limbs wither away to vestigial proportions..." (Johnson P.E.,
"Darwin on Trial," First Edition, 1991, p85).

That this is a real problem is shown by the fact that America's leading
Darwinist, Harvard paleontology Professor Stephen Jay Gould, in a
hostile reveiw of Johnson's book (Gould S.J. "Impeaching a Self-
Appointed Judge,". Book Review of "Darwin on Trial," by Phillip E.
Johnson, Regnery Gateway: Washington, D.C., 1991, Scientific
American, July 1992, p92), went out of his way to find any scientific
errors to discredit Johnson, but Gould did not dispute this point.

Milton points out that the problem of regressive organs generally
are a problem for Darwinism:

"The question is, what was the evolutionary advantage of the
thighbone becoming any smaller than the whale's streamlined
body envelope? What was the evolutionary advantage of the
snake's arms and legs disappearing altogether? Or the mole's
eye sockets being filled with muscle? Is it really rational to
suppose that random mutations appeared which progressively
diminished just these organs until they vanished entirely, long
after any survival advantage could have been gained? The
concepts of mutation and selection are both flawed in
explaining the whole field of regressive organs. It seems clear
that some systematic process or programme is taking place
which, once initiated, proceeds to a conclusion. Where does
the 'programme' reside? How does the 'system' know when to
start and stop?" (Milton R., "The Facts of Life: Shattering the Myth of
Darwinism," 1992, p216)

The issue is this: if Darwinist evolution cannot explain the
reduction of the whale's legs, then maybe Darwinism
is the wrong explanation for some of the things it thinks it can


"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."
--- Dr. William Provine, Professor of History and Biology, Cornell University.

Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)