Is Your Mother a Fishopod?

I found this article in an old issue of National Geographic. I thought it was a pretty good example of modern evolutionary thinking.

Many people rely on science as the definitive, never changing, be all end all of life. Though they would never claim that science is a belief system, their actions betray the fact that they both believe in and depend upon it.

As a belief system it kind of ‘forcefully inhales’ (sucks). Now, don’t get me wrong. I like science. I enjoy studying it. I enjoy teaching it to my kids. Don’t think I’m a science-hater. But, there is a lot about it that is not definite, changes often, and even requires faith.

Notice some of the wording from the article…


“would have allowed”


“may have been”

If you don’t know the answers, don’t claim to have them, and please stop creating entire species of animals from a few discovered bones.


11 thoughts on “Is Your Mother a Fishopod?

  1. But surely if they were claiming to have the answers they wouldn’t be using such language. The fact they’re pointing out they aren’t certain is pointing out the issue is not completely resolved.

    1. Good point. My main problem is that all of their assumptions are based on other assumptions that they believe are true. For example, they assume evolution is a fact and therefore the fishopod is a transitional creature. What is they assumed that the fishopod was it’s own specific species and not a transitional creature?

      1. It’s not so much making an assumption as it is fitting it into known data. The vast preponderance of evidence points towards a tree of life so it makes sense to try and work out where an animal fits into it. You’re not really making an assumption by doing so, just going from what you know. In the same way you aren’t making an assumption if you ask a new person about their parents but rather working from what you know (all people you’ve met have parents so it is reasonable to conclude this new individual does).

  2. But that’s the point I’m making. This entire discovery is based on assumptions, not known data or a preponderence of evidence. It’s based on the discovery of a few fossils discovered in one single edge of the world. To me, that doesn’t constitute a new species or an important step in the evolutionary ladder. Science is built on the scientific method, which is supposed to either eliminate or prove assumptions, not randomly assign them a place in the tree of life. To me, a proper, truthful response for the scientific community would be to state “Look what we found. We don’t know what it is or where it fits in the whole. It’s the only one we’ve found anywhere. We’ll try to find out more.” Instead, they say, “Here’s this thing. Here’s where it fits into our evolutionary belief system.”

    1. What’s wrong with concluding a bones that don’t belong to any known species therefore belong to a new species?

      It’s also worth noting that this work is based on a large quantity of data. Regardless of which aspect of an animal you study, if you try and trace its ancestry you come up with the same tree of life. Whether its the DNA in their cells, the proteins that make them up or the shape of their skeleton, nearly every line of inquiry points to the same answer.

      The picture isn’t complete and there is still a lot that needs to be worked out but that doesn’t mean trying to place an organism in the tree is “random” or built on “assumptions.” If you figure out someone is in your family you can work out roughly where they fit within the tree of humanity, even if you don’t know whether they’re a sister or mother etc.

      1. Don’t get me wrong. You’re making a lot of valid points. It’s the automatic presupposition to transitional forms and evolution, both theories and not proven fact, that bothers me.

  3. A science curriculum explains it better than I could, since that’s its job!

    Science has developed explanatory theories, such as the germ theory of disease, the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, and Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species. Although their role is often misunderstood—the informal use of the word “theory,” after all, can mean a guess—scientific theories are constructs based on significant bodies of knowledge and evidence, are revised in light of new evidence, and must withstand significant scrutiny by the scientific community before they are widely accepted and applied. Theories are not mere guesses

  4. Widely accepted and applied doesn’t change the fact that a theory is still unproven and still requires faith to believe in until it’s proven.

    1. That was a long quote. What made you pull out those four words rather than say…

      “theories are constructs based on significant bodies of knowledge and evidence”
      “must withstand significant scrutiny”

  5. And interesting touche which also begs the question, what made you draw out your specific wording? My point from the beginning is that we’re both dealing with assumptions and basing our beliefs on a certain amount of faith.

    1. I place primacy on the evidence. Whilst looking to what the scientific consensus is can be a good rule of thumb when one is uninformed on a subject (which happens more often than not) the ultimate merit of an idea is on the evidence that supports a claim.

      Thus to me, the phrases regarding acceptance are of less importance than those regarding whether there is actually evidence to begin with.

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