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Whales — Time to Put Evolution’s Exhausted “Poster Child” to Rest

David Klinghoffer

“Fortunately for us, the whale fossil record is so remarkably represented that scientists have even called the whale ‘a poster child of evolution.’” So states, in a breezy fashion, a recent article by biology PhD student Ellen Coombs at The Conversation. This echoes other evolution advocates, including a biology journal, BioScience, touting “Whale Origins as a Poster Child for Macroevolution.”

True, it’s a commonplace in discussions of evolution’s strengths and (zero) weaknesses: whales are held to be emblematic of Darwinian theory’s splendid success in explaining biological origins. They are “one of our best examples of an evolutionary transition,” as Jerry Coyne assures his readers. A series of brief videos from Discovery Institute, Long Story Short, has been considering whale evolution, and the two videos so far on the subject caught the attention of critics. The dispute has led to a productive exchange. See:

Now find the latest here, a second rebuttal:

The argument about whales turns on two points: “Population genetics calculations say no,” and “New fossil find throws the series into disarray.” The filmmaker, whom we’re calling Long Story, is a wry but also very substantive debater. In the new video, he spars with Jackson Wheat, co-author of The Rocks Were Therewhose response you can find here. Long Story apologizes for the technical nature of the discussion but I think it shows, as he puts it at the end, that the beef is missing from claims for whales like Dr. Coyne’s, and therefore, “It might just be time to retire the whale series as evidence for neo-Darwinism.”

Truer than They Know

“Poster child,” by the way, is an interesting formulation, truer than Darwinists seem to realize. As Wikipedia says, it refers to, “according to the original meaning of the term, a child afflicted by some disease or deformity whose picture is used on posters or other media as part of a campaign to raise money or enlist volunteers for a cause or organization.” In other words, being a poster child, disabled and hobbling on crutches and possibly exploited for his impairment, is not something you’d wish on a person. Not on a whale either. You’d rather be that than a milk carton kid…but not by much.