Creationist horse feathers

If creationists keep spewing nonsense about horses and horse evolution, there may come a day when I run out of literary references and idioms involving horses to play off of in my post titles. But today is not that day.

Before I start I want to promise any regular readers of this blog that despite this being yet another post that is (in part) about creationists and horses, I promise there will be no mention of Hyracotherium this time. No quotes of Richard Owen. No references to hyraxes whatsoever, you have my word.

Once again the source of my ire is the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) who sent forth one of their minions, Christine Dao, to dutifully report what the institute’s “creation scientists” had to say about the recent news that the South Korea is going to be altering their school textbooks to pander to creationists in that country.

Dao: Science gained a victory when South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced last month that textbook publishers will correct editions that contain misinformation regarding evolution.

Yes, absolutely, if there is misinformation in the textbooks we would certainly want to weed that out. The problem is, to a creationist, any of the data that makes up the mountain of empirical evidence supporting evolutionary theory is “misinformation”. Let us examine the two examples of supposed misinformation the South Korean “Ministry of Education, Science and Technology” is planning of removing from textbooks and the “scientific” reasons why the ICR agrees that they should be removed; starting in reverses order with “feathers” (figuratively speaking):

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Open mouth, insert hoof

Ken Ham, president/CEO of Answers in Genesis (USA), which is headquartered in Kentucky has attacked an exhibit at the Kentucky Horse Park on horse evolution in a recent post to his blog “Around the World with Ken Ham” and it is yet another glittering example of creationist scholarship.

Reading it immediately brought to mind the words supposedly* whispered by Thomas Huxley as he rose to respond to Samuel Wilberforce in their exchange at the 1860 Oxford evolution debate:

“The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands”.

The reason this came to mind was that it is clear from his comments that he has not bothered to educate himself on the subject and is just mindlessly repeating tired, long refuted creationist clichés on the subject of horse evolution.  In other words, he’s lobbing softballs at defenders of science like me.

Alright, without further ado let’s saddle up and ride forth into the mind of Ham:

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Epic Horse Exhaust

OK, it took me a while to get to it but I am, as promised, responding to creationist Arthur Biele’s lengthy comments left in response to my criticisms of his writings on horse evolution. For those interested I suggest you go back and read Mr. Biele’s article and my original critique first. Those that do I think will find that his response didn’t really answer any of my original criticisms. Instead what he did was dump a new load of barely coherent nonsense on me.

A warning though, this goes on for quite a bit (it sure felt like it while I wrote it), which is of course due to the well known fact that accurately and substantially responding to horseshit takes considerably more time and effort than it does to spewing it.

Biele: With regard to Eohippus, If you knew anything about the actual fossil record, Eohippus finds are many and that category has been a dumping ground for certain archaic partial skulls that defy any specific classification, nor are they known to be ancestors of any known ‘evolved’ descendants, and they are mostly from Europe.

While apparently attempting to impugn my knowledge of the “the actual fossil record” Mr. Biele clearly demonstrates his own ignorance of the subject at hand. Let’s break this down in order:

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Horse (non)sense

Creationist Arthur Biele whose claims about the fossil record of horses I dissected a while back, has left a couple of lengthy comments in response. I will get around to dissecting these as well but not till I get some other things done first.

Feel free to beat me to the punch.

More scientific ignorance from Dr. John Morris

Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research is at it again. Apparently not content with advertising his abject ignorance of zoology as he did a few months ago when he listed tunicates (phylum chordata) along with sea stars as members of the phylum echinodermata, he is now letting everyone know that he is equally incompetent to comment intelligently on the subject of paleontology (I know, I am as shocked as you are).

More specifically he has come out attacking the classic fossil evidence for the evolution of the horse in the September (2008) issue of ICR’s Acts & Facts.

Morris: Horse evolution prominently appears in textbooks as a supreme example of the evolution of one body style into another. All students remember the “horse series” sketches, tracing the development of a small browser named Hyracotherium (formerly known as Eohippus) with four toes on the front feet and three on the rear, into the large one-toed horse of today. Intermediate steps included the three-toed Mesohippus, a modified horse with one toe touching the ground [Emphasis mine]

Mesohippus_toes_arrows

Wrong right off the bat. The fact is that with Mesohippus all three toes touch the ground as can be seen in the above photo of a mounted fossil at the Chicago Field Museum. This is especially true when it is taken into account that Mesohippus probably would have had pads on its feet similar to those found in tapirs.

Tapir hooves

Tapir hooves

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A horse is a horse, unless of course…

…the horse is of course the famous Eohippus.

One of my favorite corners of the alternate universe that is creationism is where creationists get to talking about (denying) horse evolution. The fossil record for horses and their relatives (rhinos, tapirs and some extinct groups) is so well documented it is amusing seeing how creationists rationalize their way around the evidence and when I find something about horses on a creationist site I often take a look to see what sort of silliness they’ve gotten up to.

Case in point: Answers in Genesis put up a short piece on their site recently titled “Not Just Horsin’ Around” which directs their readers to a site called “eQuest 4 Truth.com”. They report that the owner of the website (Rebekah Holt) started it to “… steer young people away from the incorrect information that they receive in many public school textbooks and encyclopedias” and that the site “…helps refute the claim that the modern horse evolved from a much smaller, non-horse ancestor.”

On the site is a page titled “Horse Evolution – Fact or Horse Manure?” written by creationist Arthur Biele, who, judging by a Google search on his name, has been pestering people with nonsense in various internet discussion forums for years. His article here attacking the evidence for horse evolution is a barely readable hodgepodge of unsupported assertions, factual errors and standard quotes from “The Creationist Joke Book™”.

Given that there is so much creationist nonsense out there on the web I normally wouldn’t have taken as much time as I did to dissect it but since Answers in Genesis put their seal of approval on it I figured it would be worth the time.

OK, we’re off to the Eohippus races…

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I’m still here…

Sorry for the lack of new posts but I am working on about three different things right now (and remember I have a day job ;) ). One is a big post on fossil horses, another post has to do with ICR and tunicates and lastly I am supposed to be helping on a rewrite of the Talk Origins Archive FAQ on the Lewis Overthrust (hi John).

The horse piece is dragging on a bit as it involves an ongoing correspondence with people from two major museums and a major university, and I’ve had to make two trips to the local UC library to pick up relevant papers.

So please bear with me, and hopefully it will all be worth the wait.