A recent article in the journal Science put forth the argument that a species of skate may demonstrate how the first fish crawled out of the water and began to live on land. This article is par for the course of evolutionary thought. Their belief in life crawling out of the water and on to dry land is a fixture of their theory. However, there are several issues with both the walking skate and the theory as a whole. This article will attempt to address both.
Before going any further, it would be best for us to know exactly what skates are. There are numerous types of skates, all of which are considered closes relatives of sharks and rays. Skates tend to be smaller and lay eggs, whereas rays and many sharks give birth to live young. Skates also lack the defensive spine on the tail that rays have. With that very brief description in mind, let us examine the article in question.
The article I mentioned above makes the bold claim that the ability to walk evolved millions of years before the first fish left the water. The research has been featured in most of the major general public science magazines, all touting the ability of skates to walk. This is based on research conducted at the New York University School of Medicine. The study discovered that skates use the same neurological wiring that land animals do to walk. This discovery led the the scientists running the project to claim that skates use the same method to walk as amphibians and other land dwelling creatures. “It’s not like tetrapods had to invent an entirely new system. They basically had a lot of the main elements in place, and that enabled skates and tetrapods to evolve the walking behavior.” researcher Jeremy Dasen is quoted as saying. Essentially, skates use the same locomotion system found in four legged animals. This is what constitutes proof of evolution.
Skates neural mechanisms are undoubtedly important. Neurons control the movement of extremities such as fins. Having a neural network in place is vital for locomotion. Without it, the skate could not move at all. The neural network connects the brain to the fins and allows the brain to dictate precise movements of the fins. This specialized connection allows them to walk along the seafloor. Further land animals walk without moving their spinal cord. This prevents them from wobbling from side to side. This is also how skates swim through the water. This similar neural set up has led researchers to believe that the vertebrate body plan is similar throughout the animal kingdom, even in swimming creatures, and has been recycled by evolution for use as needed.
What the study conveniently overlooks is that skates do not have legs. In fact, skates do not even have bones. Skates, like sharks and rays, have cartilaginous skeletons, made entirely of a tough, flexible material called cartilage. Further, the skates in question are not walking in the sense we usually think of walking. Instead they are shuffling themselves along using their rearmost fins. No steps are taken. The skate merely shuffles forward along the seafloor. Their usual method of locomotion is the flap their fins in a graceful motion resembling flying underwater. If anything, perhaps skates should be considered against the bird body plan rather than the tetrapod one. That, however, is not inline with the prevailing theory so it cannot be considered.
Claiming a skate, which lacks bones entirely, is doing the same thing as an amphibian when it walks the seafloor is disingenuous at best. It relies on the general public not knowing the difference between a fish walking and a land dwelling creature walking. What a skate does in water would not be possible on dry land because the buoyancy present in water would no longer hold a skate up and it would collapse to the earth, unable to do more than flap its fins helplessly. True walking requires more than a specialized neural network, and skates simply lack the necessary tools to truly walk.
Skates walking actually provides evidence against evolution and in favor of a designer. Even the studies author somewhat agrees. “Generally, people think of evolution as moving from simple to more complicated. But in fact, this relatively more simple and primitive species actually uses the same sort of complicated network to generate that type of behavior.” Dr. Dasen is quoted as saying. He conveniently ignores the fact that evolution IS moving from simple to complex since it starts with a chemical soup and ends with man. The fact that a relatively evolutionarily primitive fish uses the same neural network to move as supposedly higher organisms is not evidence of a common ancestor. No evolutionist would argue that salamanders evolved from skates and the same neural network does not exist in sharks or bony fishes. So it could not have been passed on which means it had to evolve multiple times for evolution to be true. This significantly lowers the already abysmal odds of it happening. In order to appear in multiple unrelated places, a designer must have been involved. It is the only answer. In no other way could similar systems arise in completely unrelated organisms. An omnipotent designer is the only answer for the skate’s neural network and ability to shuffle along the ocean floor.