Last week was a bad week for those who make their living denying science. In the past week, scientists discovered 375 million-year-old fossil evidence of a creature with the body structure of a fish, including fins shaped as primitive limbs for walking on land. Such a finding proves that a transitional species between fish and early amphibians once existed.
As if that wasn’t enough, molecular biologists found evidence of genes from extinct creatures last week, also giving way to how genes evolve over time. With such incredible evidence, the Darwinian theory of evolution has been given an even bigger step toward being proven correct.
One of the strongest arguments by opponents to the theory of evolution is that there is no evidence of transitional species between fish and amphibians, and therefore, evolution could not have occurred. However, scientists, who have long tried to disprove anti-evolution theories, now have a new piece of evidence in their favor.
According to an article in Time magazine, the creature’s fins had early fingers, a characteristic only of species that spend at least some of their lives on land. The article describes this creature, now called a Tiktaalik, as being about nine feet long, with clear-cut characteristics of both fish and the earliest amphibians.
These creatures were exactly what Darwin believed had to have existed, as he felt it was impossible for all species to appear at exactly the same time. His theory of evolution relied on the fact that one day scientists would discover these creatures, carrying out his hypotheses.
Even with this finding, the ongoing philosophical debate between scientists and anti-evolutionists will surely not be over. Creationists have long argued that God placed fossils here and thus all creatures came into being at one time. A further discussion of faith, though, should be saved for a discussion of philosophy, not of science.
An unfortunate truth of this ongoing debate is that people often misconstrue scientists as people who lack religious faith. I am studying to become a scientist and, at the same time, consider myself a religious person. Even though I believe in God, I have always felt that science is something that seeks to convey the truth. I believe that God created the universe, but that he also created the natural processes that were created on their own terms rather than him interfering.
When scientists come up with new findings, they are not trying to knock down views of religion, but instead trying to unearth evidence that will allow them to prove a long-debated theory. In fact, many of us find the ongoing philosophical debate fascinating.
Consistent findings of fossilized remains of potentially transitional creatures have occurred over the years, though due to the advanced nature of the limbs, the Tiktaalik is especially prominent. Unearthing this creature gives proponents of the theory of evolution a one-up in proving their point, making it harder for creationists to prove that it did not exist.
Needless to say, these findings won’t phase the Kansas school board and relentless religious activists. But as more evidence like this surfaces, it becomes more imperative that our science classes at all levels continue to convey the updated truth.
Becky Schiffer is a junior biology major from Gaithersburg, Md.