What do Mill Ave’s Creationists and Avatar: The Last Airbender have in common?

Turtle_ducks Turtle-ducks.

Almost six-months ago, Al, one of the street preachers who dispenses his wares on Mill Ave arrived with an odd replica animal that appears to be a mythological hybrid between modern ducks and modern turtles. It’s difficult to tell if it has a turtle shell instead of wings, but it definitely has turtle-flippers instead of webbed duck feet. And, I should point out, two of the limbs grow out of what would be mid-ribcage on humans, a skeletal location that neither avian nor reptile skeletons support.

We see hybrid animals from a lot of ancient mythology: the gryphon (lion and eagle), the chimera (lion, snake, and goat), harpies (human and bird), etc. The origin of the turtle-duck, however, is not from modern Creationist folklore—although, it would be very amusing if this subculture would generate its own mythological creatures—but instead from a contemporary Japanese animé Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Al uses the turtle-duck from this cartoon as part of his ignorance about a strawman form of biology. It’s the sort of sideshow freak-animal that might have convinced backwoods yokels during the 19th century as a circus traveled around rural areas—and, when it comes to Avatar, it’s an adorable fictional animal imagined by an artist to up the cute factor. Al, however, vacillates between claiming it’s “faked evidence” or at least an expected organism according to his strawman biology. If Al had actually done any observing of modern biology, he wouldn’t be professing such an obviously inaccurate assertion. He has been overheard claiming that people believe it’s a “transitional form,” but when pressed for the names of actual biologists who have made this claim he deflects.

The reason is obvious: no credible biologists have ever made this claim. Turtle-ducks are not used as evidence for biology; they’re part of a children’s Japanese animation fantasy cartoon.

The meat of one of his claims is that the Avatar animé turtle-duck represents a transitional form between turtles and ducks as it contains components of both modern turtles and modern ducks. Actual students of biology would probably immediately object at this point based on the fact that it contains fully-formed structures from two modern animals belonging to genera separated by millions of years. No known transitional fossils ever do, and anyone with even one class in modern biology under their belt would be able to explain why one will never emerge.

Let me introduce everyone to an actual transitional fossil: Tiktaalik roseae. It’s species lived during the late Devonian period, approximately 375 million years ago, and it represents a transition between fish and tetrapods. As you can see, it has almost no highly complex, fully formed features represented in modern species—but it does have similar basic structures that modern species build their complex structures on. Like all species, Tiktaalik is fully formed in of itself, but differs both from ancient fish from which its species descended and ancient tetrapods into which its species branched and evolved.

For those of you who don’t study comparative anatomy, you’ll also see that unlike Al’s turtle-duck, even Tiktaalik doesn’t have its upper limbs growing out of the middle of its ribcage.

There’s a problem here and it’s not an issue of just sheer ignorance; it’s that Al is deliberately ill educated and he wants you to be just as ignorant as he is. Look at him, he’s walking around with a cartoon animal, claiming that biologists would find it as credible evidence for a transitional form, failing to support that statement with any actual biologists, and when pressed he retreats into himself.

He’s a fool, proud of his ignorance, and he wants you to accept his "real science", taken from theologians rather than reality, so that you will be just as ignorant and misinformed as he is.

Someone should let Al know that Avatar: The Last Airbender also has turtle-seals, wasp-vultures, pig-sheep, ad nauseam…the list goes on. Maybe he’d like to bouquet his ignorance with some other hybrid cartoon animal from the series in the future.