Is evolution a hard science?

Discussion about scientific issues as they relate to God and Christianity including archaeology, origins of life, the universe, intelligent design, evolution, etc.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#46

Post by Danieltwotwenty » Thu Oct 10, 2013 2:56 am

PerciFlage wrote:
Ivellious wrote: Fourth ... the article and everything it quotes is ... completely valid.

I hope you have some pretty strong evidence for that, young sonny Jim me lad.
:pound: very clever Perci, best chuckle I have had in ages.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#47

Post by PerciFlage » Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:15 am

Pat, I know that you believe in creation rather than evolution, but please tell me that you can recognise that particular article as a massive exercise in intellectual dishonesty. The entire piece is composed quote mining, (seemingly) deliberate mis-representation, and goalposts that aren't so much moving as shifting around at warp speed.

Please, please, please tell me that you can see that presenting this article as a refutation of evolution is about as convincing as presenting the God Delusion as a refutation of theology.

I can't shake the feeling that I'm being baited, but I also can't let such a crock lie there unopposed, so here goes.
No Evolution at Present.
The lack of a case for evolution is most clearly recognized by the fact that no one has ever seen it happen.
No New Species.
Not only could Darwin not cite a single example of a new species originating, but neither has anyone else, in all the subsequent century of evolutionary study.
There are abundant examples of observed speciation in the literature. Creationists generally respond by shifting the goalposts - "they're still the same kind of animal", "this might be a new species, but information has been lost" - but the fact remains: speciation has been directly observed.
No Known Mechanism of Evolution.
It is also a very curious fact that no one understands how evolution works. Evolutionists commonly protest that they know evolution is true, but they can't seem to determine its mechanism.
Apart from descent with modification combined with natural selection?
No Fossil Evidence.
It used to be claimed that the best evidence for evolution was the fossil record, but the fact is that the billions of known fossils have not yet yielded a single unequivocal transitional form with transitional structures in the process of evolving.
There are huge numbers of transitional forms in the fossil record. Again, creationists have a tendency to shift the goalposts in response - "well of course species B appears to be transitional between species A and C, but where's the transition between A and B?", "that's not a transition, that's a perfectly well formed animal!" - but once again the fact remains: the fossil record is littered with transitional forms and, what's more, a large proportion of them have been found by searching areas and strata where those forms were predicted to lie.
No Order in the Fossils.
Not only are there no true transitional forms in the fossils; there is not even any general evidence of evolutionary progression in the actual fossil sequences ... The superficial appearance of an evolutionary pattern in the fossil record has actually been imposed on it by the fact that the rocks containing the fossils have themselves been "dated" by their fossils.
It is patently absurd to say that there is no semblance of order in the fossil record. Precambrian rabbits are the oft-toted example, but even creationists tend to recognise that there is an inherent order to the record - the Cambrian explosion is a concept that finds favour with a lot of creationists, for example, and the belief that humans and dinosaurs co-existed is not a commonly held one.
No Evidence That Evolution Is Possible.
"The basic reason why there is no scientific evidence of evolution in either the present or the past is that the law of increasing entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics, contradicts the very premise of evolution. The evolutionist assumes that the whole universe has evolved upward from a single primeval particle to human beings, but the second law (one of the best-proved laws of science) says that the whole universe is running down into complete disorder."
No evidence that evolution is possible...apart from all of the above as a very small starter?

This interpretation of the second law is flawed. The law doesn't simply state "entropy increases.", but that "entropy increases within a closed system". The biosphere isn't a closed system, it is an open system which feels the effects of two enormous entropy sinks: the sun and its own radioactive core.

The article goes some way to acknowledging this ("raw solar energy is not organised information!"), but the author misapplies the theory by failing to take into account the effect of the sun's energy on molecules. Using this misapplication of the theory one could argue, for example, that water shouldn't exist in three different states on our planet, or in fact that every atom on the planet should have the same temperature. Neither of these things are true, so either the second law is wrong, or it is being wrongly used.
No Evidence From Similarities.
The existence of similarities between organisms--whether in external morphology or internal biochemistry--is easily explained as the Creator's design of similar systems for similar functions, but such similarities are not explicable by common evolutionary descent.
Similarities between organisms are not explicable by common evolutionary descent. Even the most trenchant creationist can see that this statement makes no sense, right? Right? Please?
No Recapitulation or Vestigial Organs.
The old arguments for evolution based on the recapitulation theory (the idea that embryonic development in the womb recapitulates the evolution of the species) and vestigial organs ("useless" organs believed to have been useful in an earlier stage of evolution) have long been discredited.
Recapitulation theory was long ago thrown into the same bin as homunculi. To say that arguments based on vestigial organs have been discredited because some apparently vestigial organs have been found to be a little bit more than useless is a bit of a rhetorical leap.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#48

Post by Byblos » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:00 am

PerciFlage wrote:
Ivellious wrote: Fourth ... the article and everything it quotes is ... completely valid.

I hope you have some pretty strong evidence for that, young sonny Jim me lad.
:D

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#49

Post by 1over137 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:49 pm

Hmmmm
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#50

Post by PaulSacramento » Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:46 am

People keep throwing the term "macroevolution" around but I am curious as to how THEY define it.
In lay man terms, in biology, it happens when a branch of a species evolves to a point that it can no longer procreate with its original species group.
They may even look exactly the same.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#51

Post by PerciFlage » Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:29 am

PaulSacramento wrote:People keep throwing the term "macroevolution" around but I am curious as to how THEY define it.
In lay man terms, in biology, it happens when a branch of a species evolves to a point that it can no longer procreate with its original species group.
They may even look exactly the same.
The term macroevolution in the literature - to the extent that it is used at all - is generally defined to be genetic changes "at or above the level of species". Creationist usage typically defines it as change above the level of species, from one "kind" of creature into another. The term "kind" is fairly plastic - I've never seen it used completely consistently, but in taxonomic terms it tends to sit somewhere between genus and order.

Observed change at the species level is either filed as microevolution (because it fails the "kind" test), as normal genetic variance (because the new species emerged out of an existing population, and so it might just be a recombination of existing genes from that population), or as "backwards" evolution (because genes have mutated meaning information has been lost).

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#52

Post by hughfarey » Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:49 am

PerciFlage wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:Creationist usage typically defines it as change above the level of species, from one "kind" of creature into another. The term "kind" is fairly plastic - I've never seen it used completely consistently, but in taxonomic terms it tends to sit somewhere between genus and order.
The Institute of Creation Research says: "Scripture uses the word 'kind' to describe the category of originally created groups of creatures." These categories get vaguer and vaguer the further you get from homo sapiens. Thus in 'Evolution vs. God' the entire kingdom of bacteria is considered a 'kind.' While exploring this I came across the term 'baramin,' meaning one of the original created kinds. There are remarkably few lists of baramins, but one, devoted to mammals, http://creationwiki.org/Baraminological ... 29_Baramin, seems to deal mostly in families. In a discussion at http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/postmonth/jun02.html, a writer is not sure if ravens and doves (both on the ark) are the same baramin or not.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#53

Post by pat34lee » Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:08 pm

PerciFlage wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:People keep throwing the term "macroevolution" around but I am curious as to how THEY define it.
In lay man terms, in biology, it happens when a branch of a species evolves to a point that it can no longer procreate with its original species group.
They may even look exactly the same.
The term macroevolution in the literature - to the extent that it is used at all - is generally defined to be genetic changes "at or above the level of species". Creationist usage typically defines it as change above the level of species, from one "kind" of creature into another. The term "kind" is fairly plastic - I've never seen it used completely consistently, but in taxonomic terms it tends to sit somewhere between genus and order.

Observed change at the species level is either filed as microevolution (because it fails the "kind" test), as normal genetic variance (because the new species emerged out of an existing population, and so it might just be a recombination of existing genes from that population), or as "backwards" evolution (because genes have mutated meaning information has been lost).
I will get back to other questions as I have time, but I want to agree with you here. 'Kind' is necessarily a little vague from a creationist standpoint. We don't know what the original kinds were or how many there were. The difference, as far as change is concerned, is that evolution counts on adding complexity through time, where creation and nature show that everything is breaking down, not building up. Look up genetic breakdown and the increase in disease, cancer and other harmful mutations and the rate at which they have increased in the recent past. Without help, we are headed for extinction soon, and not just mankind.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#54

Post by Revolutionary » Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:17 am

pat34lee wrote:
PerciFlage wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:People keep throwing the term "macroevolution" around but I am curious as to how THEY define it.
In lay man terms, in biology, it happens when a branch of a species evolves to a point that it can no longer procreate with its original species group.
They may even look exactly the same.
The term macroevolution in the literature - to the extent that it is used at all - is generally defined to be genetic changes "at or above the level of species". Creationist usage typically defines it as change above the level of species, from one "kind" of creature into another. The term "kind" is fairly plastic - I've never seen it used completely consistently, but in taxonomic terms it tends to sit somewhere between genus and order.

Observed change at the species level is either filed as microevolution (because it fails the "kind" test), as normal genetic variance (because the new species emerged out of an existing population, and so it might just be a recombination of existing genes from that population), or as "backwards" evolution (because genes have mutated meaning information has been lost).
I will get back to other questions as I have time, but I want to agree with you here. 'Kind' is necessarily a little vague from a creationist standpoint. We don't know what the original kinds were or how many there were. The difference, as far as change is concerned, is that evolution counts on adding complexity through time, where creation and nature show that everything is breaking down, not building up. Look up genetic breakdown and the increase in disease, cancer and other harmful mutations and the rate at which they have increased in the recent past. Without help, we are headed for extinction soon, and not just mankind.
This "breaking down" that you are pointing to is actually a perfecting mechanism of nature that demonstrates balance, it keeps populations from exploding.... As populations strengthen and increase, it weakens the form through simple mechanics. If an environmental, predatory, food/prey or competitive nature of some sort isn't testing the survival of the fittest scenario, then weakening or 'devolving' characteristics run rampant within that population..... It's not only the balance relative to other animals that keep things in check; nature is the ultimate safety net keeping a species from developing like a cancer/virus that consumes the earth.
Humans as that virus/cancer upon the earth are headed in that inevitable direction unless we can evolve our intellect to exist symbiotically within that balance.
Species only 'evolve' to change and strengthen their form as a response to a stressor which forces them too in order to survive.... We can't observe that in a static form of a population either, or by removing a small percentage of that population and performing tests on them.... It's a magnificent balance that begins selecting characteristics as a population dwindles in response to that stressor, that is the "building up" portion!

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#55

Post by jlay » Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:50 am

As a creationists we certainly do not need to build our position on the fallacious reasoning. However, I think this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black.
There are abundant examples of observed speciation in the literature. Creationists generally respond by shifting the goalposts - "they're still the same kind of animal", "this might be a new species, but information has been lost" - but the fact remains: speciation has been directly observed.
You say that this is moving the posts, but you don't actually demonstrate that in your objection. You site abundant examples, yet fail to provide even one. Regarding the objections you site: The fact is that they are the same kind of aninal. The fact is that there is a loss of information. How is an objection rooted in fact moving the goal posts? It isn't. The science community has at least admitted that the term "speciation" is at best gray around the edges. It isn't as if there is a HARD measure in nature. Man is the one who is establishing the terms here. And that is question begging. For example. "Speciation confirms that Darwinism is true. And we see speciation happening in this breed of fruit fly. Therefore, Darwinism is true." Worse, this often includes an equivocation fallacy mixed in as well.
PerciFlage wrote:There are huge numbers of transitional forms in the fossil record. Again, creationists have a tendency to shift the goalposts in response - "well of course species B appears to be transitional between species A and C, but where's the transition between A and B?", "that's not a transition, that's a perfectly well formed animal!" - but once again the fact remains: the fossil record is littered with transitional forms and, what's more, a large proportion of them have been found by searching areas and strata where those forms were predicted to lie.
This is hard to address without a specific example. But, I'm quite certain, that this is classic question begging. Notice how I highlignted "predicted." The thinking here is, "We expect to see "x" in this strata, therefore Darwinism is true." It is entering into the search with a preset conclusion of the evidence. The fact is that there can very well be other valid explanations as to why "x" appears in said strata. However, when one starts off begging the question it immediately discards and creates a prejudice over alternate explanations. Not to mention that "speciation" is abused to further distort the conclusions.

Example: "We have examples of speciation that are observable today. Therefore, given enougn time (descent with modifcation and NS) we could easily get from A to B to C." In other words, keep losing and mutating information over time and this will move you to more complex and advanced life forms.

The problem is that that none of this accounts for the information in the first place. Speciation is defined to fit the situation. Somehow we just assume that the human eye with its FULLY functioning complexities can be the result of what we witness in the fruit fly combined with enough time.
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#56

Post by PerciFlage » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:56 am

Jlay, can't quote you I'm afraid as I'm posting from a phone. I'll do my best to make it clear which bits of your post I'm referring to at any given point.

Regarding the fact that I didn't provide any examples of speciation - I thought this was fairly in controversial even in creationist quarters, i.e. creationists accept speciation occurs, but file it as microevolution rather than macro. If you want specific examples of observed speciation then search for speciation on Google scholar, and if you're still unconvinced then I'll be happy to continue that line of discussion and provide more examples.

The term species (and, by extension, speciation) are a little gray around the edges, but all variations have yes ability to reproduce at the core. The fuzziness comes in corner cases, e.g. animals which can breed, but only produce infertile offspring, and animals with compatible gametes but who refuse to mate in the wild.

You're correct that "speciation happens, therefore universal common descent" is an unsupportable leap, but you'd be hard pushed to find such a statement in the literature. If Darwinism is true then speciation is a necessary corollary, but by itself speciation confirm the theory.

The same goes for predictions of transitional fossils. Darwinian mechanisms necessarily mean that there should be an order observable in the fossil record, but discover in order isn't alone a confirmation. By the way, when scientists predict and hunt for a given fossil trait, it isn't to make a "therefore Darwinism." leap. Generally such discoveries are made by scientists studying one particular type of fossil who note that a particular trait is missing from their fossil collection, and they go hunting for new fossil species to improve their data set rather than to prove evolution.

Regarding speciation being a loss of data - I consider this to be a moving of the goalposts because, as with the second law of thermodynamics, it relies on an inconsistent, corrupted or misapplied version of information theory.

I can how certain types of mutation - namely deletions - could be regarded as a loss of information, but to try and spin an insertion or corruption that has been observed and has had an effect on th phenotype as a loss of information is pure sophistry.

I agree with you that making a firm leap from any one line of evidence or single observation to the statement that evolution is true is unsupportable. I don't believe I've ever come across anyone who stands by evolution on the strength of a single piece of evidence, but there are multiple lines of consistent evidence across multiple disciplines, and a singular lack of a coherent body of inconsistent evidence.

That's why there's such a consensus in favour of the idea in academia, even to the point where some scientists rely on the theory for making predictions that are important to their work.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#57

Post by jlay » Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:35 pm

PerciFlage wrote:Jlay, can't quote you I'm afraid as I'm posting from a phone. I'll do my best to make it clear which bits of your post I'm referring to at any given point.

Regarding the fact that I didn't provide any examples of speciation - I thought this was fairly in controversial even in creationist quarters, i.e. creationists accept speciation occurs, but file it as microevolution rather than macro. If you want specific examples of observed speciation then search for speciation on Google scholar, and if you're still unconvinced then I'll be happy to continue that line of discussion and provide more examples.
There were two things addressed, (1)speciation and (2)transitional fossils. You are missing the point. I'm not saying that there aren't examples of speciation. What I am debating is what "speciation" itself examples regarding molecules to man evolution. My bigger concern for examples is (2).
The same goes for predictions of transitional fossils. Darwinian mechanisms necessarily mean that there should be an order observable in the fossil record, but discover in order isn't alone a confirmation. By the way, when scientists predict and hunt for a given fossil trait, it isn't to make a "therefore Darwinism." leap. Generally such discoveries are made by scientists studying one particular type of fossil who note that a particular trait is missing from their fossil collection, and they go hunting for new fossil species to improve their data set rather than to prove evolution.
You just said a mouthful and don't even realize it. Yes, they go hunting. For what? Transitional fossils. You see, the problem here (which I doubt you will acknowledge) is that forensic science is entering into the search with an agenda. And that agenda in many cases is to find links and confirm Darwinism. Again, provide an example and we can discuss that particular one.
Regarding speciation being a loss of data - I consider this to be a moving of the goalposts because, as with the second law of thermodynamics, it relies on an inconsistent, corrupted or misapplied version of information theory.
Please elaborate.
I can how certain types of mutation - namely deletions - could be regarded as a loss of information, but to try and spin an insertion or corruption that has been observed and has had an effect on th phenotype as a loss of information is pure sophistry.
Well, I'm not sure how you deduce that I am making that claim.
I agree with you that making a firm leap from any one line of evidence or single observation to the statement that evolution is true is unsupportable. I don't believe I've ever come across anyone who stands by evolution on the strength of a single piece of evidence, but there are multiple lines of consistent evidence across multiple disciplines, and a singular lack of a coherent body of inconsistent evidence
That all depends. Based on countless debates I've been a part of, I have found numerous logical fallacies to be at the foundation of this very kind of thinking. Now, perhaps you have something completely original that I've never heard before regarding this, and if so, I'm all ears. First and foremost I would address your use of the term "evolution" in this claim. I can just about bet that you regularly equivocate the term evolution (change) with Evolution (molecules to man Darwinism) without as much as giving it a second thought. I can also say that given enough time you'll committ those same errors here on this forum. In fact, I would state that you already have in this paragraph.
That's why there's such a consensus in favour of the idea in academia, even to the point where some scientists rely on the theory for making predictions that are important to their work.
Ad-populum??
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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#58

Post by PerciFlage » Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:39 pm

In addition to my last post, I just though I'd say that I am not in principle opposed to the idea of "kinds". I've always thought that baraminology would be a fantastic area for creationists - or non-creationists, for that matter - to produce genetic research in.

This is based on a few assumptions, none of which I think are particularly controversial to creationists or evolutionists alike:
- Genetic changes occur, and they sometimes have an effect on the phenotype.
- Phenotype is largely if not entirely dependent on the genome.
- If baraminology is true, there is very likely a mechanism which prevents changes beyond the kind/baramin level.

I think there's a lot of potential for PhD level research in there, and the research could potentially take the form of a critical review of the existing literature rather than laboratory work. At the very least it could help to make the definition of "kind" far less fuzzy than it currently is.

Whilst YEC seems completely unsupportable to me, I could see how, given enough good quality evidence I could get on board with the idea of progressive creation. Multiple distinct creation events separated by large time intervals and with huge amounts of variation allowed within each created kind. Based on everything I've read to date my prediction would be that no mechanism would be found and that if any definition of "kind" were settled on it would map near enough directly onto one of the currently existing taxonomic ranks. Still, I'd be more than just interested to see a large amount of good quality research in this field.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#59

Post by PerciFlage » Sat Oct 12, 2013 2:34 pm

jlay wrote:
The same goes for predictions of transitional fossils. Darwinian mechanisms necessarily mean that there should be an order observable in the fossil record, but discover in order isn't alone a confirmation. By the way, when scientists predict and hunt for a given fossil trait, it isn't to make a "therefore Darwinism." leap. Generally such discoveries are made by scientists studying one particular type of fossil who note that a particular trait is missing from their fossil collection, and they go hunting for new fossil species to improve their data set rather than to prove evolution.
You just said a mouthful and don't even realize it. Yes, they go hunting. For what? Transitional fossils. You see, the problem here (which I doubt you will acknowledge) is that forensic science is entering into the search with an agenda. And that agenda in many cases is to find links and confirm Darwinism. Again, provide an example and we can discuss that particular one.
I see the problem - scientists finding what they want/expect to find is a big issue, which is part of the reason why we have peer review and why replication of results is seen as such a crucial thing.

I guess you're concerned about a "file drawer" sort of effect, where only positive studies are published when the actual scenario could be that for every hundred predictions made, only one comes to pass. This is almost certainly the case, but I'd have to do some more reading to find out the possible extent of the effect. My intention with the stuff you quoted above was to provide a rebuttal to the statement in the article linked by Pat that there is "no order" in the fossil record - part of the rebuttal was that the fossil record is ordered enough that predictions can be made, but the more important point is that all species, genuses, etc. have an initial date in the record which they are not seen before. Precambrian rabbits.
jlay wrote:
Regarding speciation being a loss of data - I consider this to be a moving of the goalposts because, as with the second law of thermodynamics, it relies on an inconsistent, corrupted or misapplied version of information theory.
Please elaborate.
The example which springs most readily to mind is the response to Lenski's e. coli experiment. Genetic change leading to adaptations in the phenotype was observed, and numerous responses acknowledged the change but tried to spin it as actually being a loss of information. No such analysis I saw used a coherent application of information theory.
jlay wrote:
That's why there's such a consensus in favour of the idea in academia, even to the point where some scientists rely on the theory for making predictions that are important to their work.
Ad-populum??
I wasn't saying it's true because people believe in it, I was saying that people believe in it because so much evidence goes in its favour and so little goes against it.

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Re: Is evolution a hard science?

#60

Post by hughfarey » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:24 pm

You just said a mouthful and don't even realize it. Yes, they go hunting. For what? Transitional fossils. You see, the problem here (which I doubt you will acknowledge) is that forensic science is entering into the search with an agenda. And that agenda in many cases is to find links and confirm Darwinism. Again, provide an example and we can discuss that particular one.
I'm not sure you understand the process of fossil hunting. The hunt for transitional species is indeed due to an "agenda." It's more usually called a hypothesis. A good example is the recent explorations in Greenland and Canada. A fossil lobe-fish called Eusthenopteron was discovered n 1881 and dated to 385 million years ago. A fossil tetrapod called Ichthyostega was discovered in 1932 and dated to about 370 million years ago. A hypothesis in accordance with evolution suggested that intermediate forms would be found in intermediate strata. A hypothesis in accordance with creationism would be that fish and amphibians are different "kinds" and that no such intermediate form would be found. When palaeontologists went out and looked in the predicted place for the predicted fossil, they found it. Several in fact, such as Acanthostega and Tiktaalik. To that extent the hypothesis in favour of evolution was confirmed and the hypothesis in favour of creationism was rejected.
But is this enough? No. A further evolutionary hypothesis is that yet more intermediate forms will be found in strata intermediate between Tiktaalik and Eusthenopteron, or between Acanthostega and Ichthyostega or even between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega, and the search continues. Creationists, on the other hand, have to rethink. Now they consider Tiktaalik merely a "fish" and Acanthostega an early "amphibian," and not transitional stages at all. Their new hypothesis would be that no transitional species will be found between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega.
Well we know what will happen, don't we? Even as I type, new fossils, intermediate between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega, and found in intermediate strata, are being identified. The evolutionary hypothesis will be confirmed, and the creationist hypothesis will change again. No, they will say, this new creature is either a late form of "fish" or an early form of "amphibian" and no intermediate stage will be found between the new creature and anything of the other class.
And so it will go on. Eventually a row of fossils forms from fish to amphibian, each dated less than a million years apart, will be laid out in a museum, and every single one will be a confirmation of an evolutionary hypothesis and a rejection of a creationist one. And yet creationists will nervously make an arbitrary division between fish and amphibians somewhere along the line, and say that no intermediate species will be found between them - but they'll probably say that last bit in a worried whisper, as a new crate is being unloaded at the door...

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