Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ancient Cuttlefish Ink

Follow this link to a summary of exciting recent research in which the ink of a 160-million-year-old fossil cephalapod was found to be intact. Here's the important bit:
The finding -- in an extremely rare case of being able to study organic material that is hundreds of millions of years old -- suggests that the ink-screen escape mechanism of cephalopods -- cuttlefish, squid and octopuses -- has not evolved since the Jurassic period, and that melanin could be preserved intact in the fossils of a range of organisms.
Of course, my take on this discovery is slightly different than that of most of the folks involved in it. I share their excitement at the truly astonishing half of this--it is wonderful that this pigment could be so well-preserved from so long ago as to be susceptible to analysis. This analysis has already led to valuable insights, and the success in this particular case offers hope that other compounds may be preserved and open to testing from organisms that have long ceased to walk the Earth (er, swim the planet's seas).

The other aspect of this is the recognition that this inky compound is identical to that of modern cuttlefish, that, as the study's coauthor John Simon has it,
It's close enough that I would argue that the pigmentation in this class of animals has not evolved in 160 million years. The whole machinery apparently has been locked in time and passed down through succeeding generations of cuttlefish. It's a very optimized system for this animal and has been optimized for a long time.
This seems to be an unexpected result to the evolutionists involved, but it is, frankly, completely in line with all other relevant evidence and thus no surprise to those who have not been misled to embrace evolutionism.

Truly, this system (not only the inky compound but the entire set of related anatomy, physiology, and behavior) is--and always has been--optimized. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that having such a system is--and always has been--a part of what it means to belong to this group of organisms. To put it in empirical terms, there is no evidence that there ever existed squids with partial ink-screen systems; nor is there any evidence that any cephalod species ever lost its ink-screen system. The really interesting question is this: why would any rational person expect to find any evolution in such a system (as the researchers quoted clearly did)? And the answer is that they have been indoctrinated with a world-view--evolutionism--that has no basis in evidence or reason.

Today's squid--just like the squid of Jurassic times--arose fully-formed, fully-adapted for its time on Earth and its role in the ecology of which it is--or was--a part. The default understanding (throughout human history, and certainly throughout Western history for which we have the record) of such adaptation is a teleological one, one of design. It is only within the last 160 years that it has become popular to deny design and purpose as the explanation for such optimization and adaptation. And the price for such denial is great: it involves both the need to ignore the actual evidence of the fossil record in favor of a mischaracterization thereof, and it involves ignoring the top-down approach to studying organisms that makes anatomy, physiology, taxonomy (and virtually every other discipline) reasonable.

Simply put, the only reason these researchers could be surprised that an optimized system is found both in ancient cephalapods and modern ones is because they have been taught to view science in a design- and purpose-less way (that is, through a neo-Darwinian lens) that flies in the face both of evidence and reason.

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