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Still Missing A Consensus On Link?

Welcome Tiktaalik, nice to have you on the family tree. Or are you just another pretender to the throne of human ancestry? It seemed so clear when your existence was uncovered and announced in the news this week. Indeed, you're supposed to be the "missing link" – or is it just a missing link? At any rate, you are us. At least you were us before we were us. Weren't you? Now I'm confused.

This evolutionary "missing link" has caused up quite a stir, more than you'd normally expect from a 375-million year old fossil. Here's how Malcolm Ritter of the Associated Press reported the findings:

Scientists have caught a fossil fish in the act of adapting toward a life on land, a discovery that sheds new light one of the greatest transformations in the history of animals.
Scientists have long known that fish evolved into the first creatures on land with four legs and backbones more than 365 million years ago, but they've had precious little fossil evidence to document how it happened.
Meanwhile, The New York Times' John Noble Wilford goes much further in describing what the finding may mean:
Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375 million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought "missing link" in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land.

In addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils are widely seen by scientists as a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who hold a literal biblical view on the origins and development of life.

Several well-preserved skeletons of the fossil fish were uncovered in sediments of former stream beds in the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole, it is being reported on Thursday in the journal Nature. The skeletons have the fins and scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long.

But on closer examination, scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but exhibiting changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — a predecessor thus of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

I'm no scientist but I was taught fairly early on in my life that we all climbed out of the primordial soup in the form of some kind of fish or another so I was a little surprised to learn that scientists just now feel like they have some kind of actual evidence of that. Now that this whole evolution thing is finally settled and we can finally rid ourselves of all the religion stuff … wait, you mean it's not settled? Now I'm really confused. Some people certainly think it is. Ronald Bailey at Hit & Run claims victory:
Look for creationists of all stripes to demand, "So where's the transition between eusthenopteron and tiktaalik, not to mention the transiton between tiktaalik and ichthyostega?" Essentially what they are requiring for proof of evolution are the fossils for every creature that ever lived because without them, there will always be a "missing link." Nevertheless, the discovery of tiktaalik forces their God into ever smaller gaps.
Ich-thingamajigy links aside, John Aravosis at AMERICAblog asks:
One question: If God really created the earth 6000 years ago, then why did he create a fake 375 million year old fossil and bury it near the North Pole? A kind of Old Testament April Fool's joke?
But blogger Doug_TenNapel offers a lengthy rebuttal to the find and says this means nothing in terms of the debate:
You can't know that the fins are limbs in the making or if the fins are fully functional and perfectly complete as is. It's also really suspect that an entire arm system would be evolving at the same time. Does a fish fin that has 10% progress in the digits, wrists, elbows and shoulders really have an advantage over his peers to help him get his genes into the next generation? If I have 10% of a shark tail growing out of my butt have I gained a swimming advantage? How about 1% of a shark fin? I'm sorry but this kind of Darwinism is just self-evidently dumb.

Plus if any "scientist" would bother reading Hugh Ross they would see that most of us in Intelligent Design actually strongly believe that some form of evolution occurred. So again, I don't agree with the Times that this is some death nail in our position.

Well then, what have we learned from the introduction to our new friend Tiktaalik? It's pretty safe to say that when it comes to the debate over evolution, this bunch of fish bones isn't going to change a whole lot of minds. And, of course there's the whole distinction made between strict creationism and intelligent design to deal with as well. The New York Times, and probably a whole lot of other stories that have and will be written, are doing their best to sound very authoritative but as we've seen time and time again on scientific issues (be it global warming or evolution), there is rarely consensus.