While we're discussing scientific skepticism, what about evolution?

Let me state right from the start that evolution driven by natural selection makes a lot more sense than some magical spirit guy started it all and created all the animals and plants.

But what's seldom discussed is some of the amazing holes in the evolutionary evidence. We have ample fossils of some species and none of others. 

Case in point: We've all seen at least one chart showing the evolution of man, or of the horse. 

I dare you to find one showing the evolution of the cow. I've spent hours and hours on google image search and have nothing to show for it.

Another massive hole: the bat, quite possibly the most prolific type of mammal. Bats seem to have popped out of thin air. There is no record of a creature whose fingers gradually get longer and longer until they are long enough to support a wing made out of skin.

But these are far from the only creatures lacking transitional fossils. This critique of the Darwinian position by Dr. Duane Gish, a prominent creationist, raises a lot of very interesting questions. A quote:

The essence of the neo-Darwinian view is the slow gradual evolution of one plant or animal into another by the gradual accumulation of micromutations through natural selection of favored variants.

If this view of evolution is true, the fossil record should produce an enormous number of transitional forms. Natural history museums should be overflowing with undoubted intermediate forms. About 250,000 fossil species have been collected and classified. These fossils have been collected at random from rocks that are supposed to represent all of the geological periods of earth history. Applying evolution theory and the laws of probability, most of these 250,000 species should represent transitional forms. Thus, if evolution theory is true, there should be no doubt, question, or debate as to the fact of evolution.

Such is not the case at all, however. The fossil record was actually an embarrassment to Darwin, and some paleontologists are willing to admit that it looks even worse from an evolutionary point of view today than it did in Darwin's time.1 Some even appear to admit that there is, in fact, little, if any, evidence for transitional forms in the fossil record. Kitts, for example, states, "Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of 'seeing' evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of 'gaps' in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them." More and more paleontologists seem to be coming to the point where they are now willing to admit that this is indeed the case, and are seeking to devise a mechanism for evolution that will tolerate, even predict, systematic gaps in the fossil record.

Other evolutionists remain steadfastly wedded to neo-Darwinism. They argue that there are examples of transitional forms in the fossil record, and that even if examples of gradual change are few, these few examples eliminate the necessity of seeking mechanisms for evolution other than neo-Darwinism. The examples most often cited are the reptile-to-bird transition (Archaeopteryx is the sole suggested intermediate), the so-called horse series, and the reptile-mammal transition.

Of the latter, Olson has said "The reptilian-mammalian transition has by far the finest record of showing the origin of a new class."2 Others claim that there are forms that stand perfectly on the reptilian-mammalian boundary. In an "Impact" article to be published soon, we will examine in some detail the "mammal-like" reptiles that some paleontologists believe represent transitional forms between reptiles and mammals. In the present article we wish to review the general nature of the evidence related to the origin of mammals.

 

Tags: Duane Gish, creationism, evolution, natural selection

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It is very true that there are huge gaps in the fossil record. Also I've heard that the dinosaur structures have been pieced together with bones of different dinosaurs. They are definitely not perfect and there are lots of reason why fossils are so hard to piece together. There are probably many fossils we haven't even found yet since the world is so huge and there are still many uncharted areas. Who knows?

I have my own theory regarding at least some of the gaps. Take the absolute absence of bat fossils. Perhaps they evolved in isolation, in a valley or, better, on an island, then after they were mostly evolved into modern day bats and flew away, some natural catastrophe obliterated their fossil history. A tsunami or asteroid.

What is accepted science today will probably change at some point, and I think that's the point, is that while I believe evolution is the best theory going, it is still just a theory (not a gospel, hopefully).

This often begs the question 'Do you think that gravity is just a theory?' As a matter of fact, I do. Gravity does not explain everything (weak atomic bonds, et al).

If science already had an answer for everything, there wouldn't be any need for research, right? 

"Just a......." has a pejorative or demeaning connotation Andy. Like saying "he's just a boy" or "it was just a shag" or "it was just a joke" or "that's just your period talking". Likewise when people say "evolution is just a theory" the intent isn't to communicate the infallibility of science but to belittle it as less than credible or as credible as any other pseudo-science or myth. It's not "just a theory". It's an outstanding monumental towering theory.

Only grand theories even purport to explain everything. You know, a "theory of everything" as Einstein and Hawking mean/t the term. 

Religious people don't seem to understand that words can have different meanings. On the one hand, a theory can be like a conjecture, hunch, guess, or supposition. This isn't the sense the word is used by science. A theory in science is a organizes data and has implications for further study.

That's true.  They say creationism is a theory just like evolution is a theory.  That's like saying a paper airplane is an airplane just like a B2 stealth bomber is an airplane.  One is a complex integration of systems relying on many different technologies and scientific disciplines, designed and refined over decades; the other is creationism.

One is a complex integration of systems relying on many different technologies and scientific disciplines, designed and refined over decades; the other is creationism.

I like that statement.

My tweak at the end may be like "the other is just... creationism".

Gravity does not explain everything (weak atomic bonds, et al).

Unless I misunderstand, isn't that what the so-called "electroweak" force does?

The classic "gaps in the fossil record" canard rears its ugly head once again. Absent having fossils for every animal that has ever lived, every time a fossil is discovered, all it does is create another "gap" in the fossil record.

Paleontologist: Hey, look. I found a transitional fossil.
Crackpot: Aw, too bad. That's two more "gaps" in the fossil record.
Paleontologist: Excuse me?
Crackpot: Yep, that's one "gap" before it and one "gap" after it. Too bad, evolution!

Thus, the more fossils we find, and the more evidence we attain, the more "gaps" it creates for God to exist in. This creationist argument is brilliant in its stupidity.

Of course, it's been proven false many times over, both in its premise and conclusions. See the section below for details.

--------------------------

Claim: Given all the species that exist and have existed, there should be billions of transitional fossils in the fossil record; we should have found tens of thousands at least.

Response:

  1. Some important factors prevent the formation of fossils from being common:

    • Fossilization itself is not a particularly common event. It requires conditions that preserve the fossil before it becomes scavenged or decayed. Such conditions are common only in a very few habitats, such as river deltas, peat bogs, and tar pits. Organisms that do not live in or near these habitats will be preserved only rarely.
    • Many types of animals are fragile and do not preserve well.
    • Many species have small ranges. Their chance of fossilization will be proportionally small.
    • The evolution of new species probably is fairly rapid in geological terms, so the transitions between species will be uncommon.
    Passenger pigeons, once numbered in the billions, went extinct less than 200 years ago. How many passenger pigeon fossils can you find? If they are hard to find, why should we expect to find fossils that are likely from smaller populations and have been subject to millions of years of potential erosion?
  2. Other processes destroy fossils. Erosion (and/or lack of deposition in the first place) often destroys hundreds of millions of years or more of the geological record, so the geological record at any place usually has long gaps. Fossils can also be destroyed by heat or pressure when buried deep underground.
  3. As rare as fossils are, fossil discovery is still rarer. For the most part, we find only fossils that have been exposed by erosion, and only if the exposure is recent enough that the fossils themselves do not erode.

    As climates change, species will move, so we cannot expect a transition to occur all at one spot. Fossils often must be collected from all over a continent to find the transitions.

    Only Europe and North America have been well explored for fossils because that is where most of the paleontologists lived. Furthermore, regional politics interfere with collecting fossils. Some fabulous fossils have been found in China only recently because before then the politics prevented most paleontology there.
  4. The shortage is not just in fossils but in paleontologists and taxonomists. Preparing and analyzing the material for just one lineage can take a decade of work. There are likely hundreds of transitional fossils sitting in museum drawers, unknown because nobody knowledgeable has examined them.
  5. Description of fossils is often limited to professional literature and does not get popularized. This is especially true of marine microfossils, which have the best record.
  6. If fossilization were so prevalent and young-earth creationism were true, we should find indications in the fossil record of animals migrating from the Ark to other continents.

(Source)

Typically overdone 

Anyway, while it's easy to dismiss the absence of fossils of bat ancestors (they are small creatures with tiny and fragile bones), the absence of pre-cattle is a far bigger puzzle.

Typically overdone.

Typically content-free.

Anyway, while it's easy to dismiss the absence of fossils of bat ancestors (they are small creatures with tiny and fragile bones), the absence of pre-cattle [fossils?] is a far bigger puzzle.

The ancestor of cattle is the aurochs, which is now extinct. I suppose it could be technically true that no "pre-cattle" fossils exist, but if so, we have complete skeletons of the aurochs. No fossils are needed.

The domestication process that made this type of animal into modern domestic cattle began at least 10,500 years ago. It's worth mentioning that the evidence of bones and fossils is only part of the picture. We have the evidence of genetics as well.

--------------------------

Morphological and genetic evidence for early Holocene cattle manage...

Abstract: "The domestication of cattle is generally accepted to have taken place in two independent centres: around 10,500 years ago in the Near East, giving rise to modern taurine cattle, and two millennia later in southern Asia, giving rise to zebu cattle. Here we provide firmly dated morphological and genetic evidence for early Holocene management of taurine cattle in northeastern China. We describe conjoining mandibles from this region that show evidence of oral stereotypy, dated to the early Holocene by two independent 14C dates. Using Illumina high-throughput sequencing coupled with DNA hybridization capture, we characterize 15,406 bp of the mitogenome with on average 16.7-fold coverage. Phylogenetic analyses reveal a hitherto unknown mitochondrial haplogroup that falls outside the known taurine diversity. Our data suggest that the first attempts to manage cattle in northern China predate the introduction of domestic cattle that gave rise to the current stock by several thousand years."

What is it with the blank messages? You can just delete them if you no longer believe what you said.

It's not blank now. And really, Unseen. Lately it's your claims-- that pre-cattle are "absent", that Nobel prize-winning science is "dogma", that evolution isn't "exactly" true-- which I find increasingly difficult to believe.

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