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

Gary Collins (
Mon, 15 Jun 1998 08:49:17 +0100 (BST)

Hello Mario,
You may also find the following quote to be of some interest...

It is hardly necessary to dwell at length on all the minor arguments advanced
by Darwin. These consist essentially in a translation of certain facts in terms
of evolutionary theory, or, in other words, on an historical basis. If an
organism possesses a structure having no assignable function, but looking like
a reduced specimen of a functional structure existing in some other form, it was
regarded as a 'rudiment' whose existence is explicable only as a relic that has
gradually degenerated in coming down from a remote ancestor, where it was well
developed and functional.
It is clear that this supposition has no demonstrative value. It itself
requires demonstration. Unless one adopts the Darwinian postulate that all
characters have survival value, it is not necessary to assume that they have,
or ever had, definite functions. Some so-called rudiments, such as the
homologies of the mammary glands in man cannot, so far as any plausible
evidence goes, have been inherited from an ancestor in which they were
functional. Others, once believed to be useless, have definite functions. The
existence in whales of transitory teeth and of small bones buried in the flesh,
but corresponding to the pelvis, the femur, and the tibia, is commonly regarded
as proof of their descent from ancestors of the tetrapod type with functional
teeth; but in the first place some anatomists consider that these structures
have an important role in the developmental process; in the second place, we
have no proof of descent from ancestors in which these structures were more
strongly developed; in the third place, it is clear that if they exist now,
this is not primarily because they existed in the past, but because actual
present causes now operate to produce them. What such cases like those of
anatomical 'convergence' and general homology actually demonstrate is that
there are large numbers of organisms, differing considerably in the details
of structure but constructed on the same fundamental plan. However, this is
no proof of descent from one original ancestor of this anatomical type. This
itself requires proof. It may be said that if we admit this, we must make the
much more difficult supposition that many complex types originated
independently. This, it will be remembered, was a point Darwin make against
Lamarck. But I, for my part, do not see that I am obliged to express a view
on such matters. Darwin himself considered that the idea of evolution is
unsatisfactory unless its mechanism can be explained. I agree, but since no one
has explained to my satisfaction how evolution could happen I do not feel
impelled to say that it has happened. I prefer to say that on this matter our
information is inadequate.

W.R. Thompson F.R.S., Director of Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control,
Ottawa. From his introduction to 'The Origin of Species,' Everyman's Library No 811 1963)


> Mario
> 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
> explain.
> Steve
> "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)
> --------------------------------------------------------------------