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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The Hindus have it right! Cows are divine messengers from Vishnu!

Maybe the fact the we can admit that not all of the answers are there only underscores the difference between science and religion.

I have no doubt that some of the evolutional models we are using today we at some point be improved and/ or corrected. A lot has happened since The Origin of Species hit the bookshelves, so we've already done a lot of tweaking.

Here's an example of contemporary tweaking. I just watched lots of When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth or whatever. According to those people, Velociraptor had feathers, do they disagree with the experts used for Jurassic Park.

Science means never feeling bad about reexamining your fundamentals and always remaining open to reason.

By studying mitochondrial DNA, I think most scientists are going with the 'out of africa' theory.

But being science, another theory may overcome it in time.

The simplest answer for gaps in the fossil record are that some species didn't live in areas that were conducive to fossilization. Fossils normally occur in areas where rapid sedimentation can occur. When one considers the sheer totality of all the creatures that have died on this earth for all time, fossilization is an incredibly rare event. It's because there have been so many creatures walking, swimming and flying on this planet that the exceptionally rare event of fossilization can seem normal. Statistically fossilization is an aberrant occurrence, but even if only there's a 0.000001% for any creature that dies to die becomes fossilized, then out of 1,000,000,000,000 animals, that's still 1,000,000 animals!

Despite the sheer number of fossils, it's only the most meager percentage of a tiny selection of animals that have ever lived. It should come as no surprise that there are enormous gaps. It's one of the reasons we look at DNA to compare ancestry. The more DNA one animal shares with another then the more closely related they are and thus they have a later divergence. In this way, we can build a relative chronology based off of the fossils we do have. It's helpful when we have a transition fossil, but a lack of them doesn't say anything against evolution. It does say something about the process of fossilization though.

Also, some areas aren't conducive to finding fossils. The we have found relatively few fossils from areas covered in jungle and forest doesn't mean that the strata beneath them doesn't hold any fossils, just that they are nearly impossible to find to begin with and as nearly impossible to excavate. Who knows what sort of archeological treasure trove lies beneath the Amazon? Until we find some way to penetrate the ground without physically penetrating the ground to look for them, we'll never know.

As a side note when you think about it since evolution is a process that never ends, all fossils are transition fossils and all species are transition species.

Good stuff.

It should come as no surprise that there are enormous gaps.

That's a really good point that not everything fossilizes. There aren't many petrified forests, are there? We don't have fossils of all tress.

And all species are transitional, another great point. The term 'transitional species' is a misnomer from the get go.

"Natural history museums should be overflowing with undoubted intermediate forms. About 250,000 fossil species have been collected and classified."

NOT claiming to be a big expert, but I am educated and moderately well read.

My response to the above quote would probably include these initial thoughts:

1) It's a big planet, and they are working as fast as they can, and

2) Evolution is a theory, and theories can (and most often do) improve over time. To characterize evolution as 'true' is a slight mischaracterization of how scientists usually categorize evolution. Not a 'truth,' a theory.

Like Indiana Jones said, archaeologists deal in facts. For truth, see the philosophy department.

 

I think that the only theories that can be rightly called "true" or "proven" are the ones which repeatable testing. For the rest, it's a matter of how much confidence is felt in the data and methods of examining, organizing, and theorizing about the data. 

Thus, evolution isn't "true" in the sense of an actual fact (such as "all metals expand when heated"). Rather, we feel highly confident based on the fact (and it is a fact) that it is at this time by far the best we can do in terms of understanding the data.

So, evolution true? Not exactly the right word.

Thus, evolution isn't "true" in the sense of an actual fact (such as "all metals expand when heated").

Evolution (which biologists define as a change in the gene pool of a population over time) is an observable biological fact.

The number of predictions and observations supporting evolution is overwhelming. New species have been observed appearing both in the wild and under laboratory conditions.

So, evolution true? Not exactly the right word.

It's exactly the right word. Science is as sure that evolution is true as that the Earth orbits the Sun.

It's exactly the right word. Science is as sure that evolution is true as that the Earth orbits the Sun.

Oh? Where are the unexplained anomalies about the orbiting of the Earth around the sun? Evolutionary science isn't in the same league, just yet, as Newtonian/Einsteinian physics, with its mathematically sound calculations.

Gallup: Science is as sure that evolution is true as that the Earth orbits the Sun.

Unseen: Oh? Where are the unexplained anomalies about the orbiting of the Earth around the sun?

You're making a claim here.

Biologists define evolution as a change in the gene pool of a population over time. (Most non-scientists are confused about definitions of biological evolution.)

Even if there are "unexplained anomalies" about "a change in the gene pool of a population over time", that does not make it 'not true' that the gene pool changes over time.

Likewise, even if there are "unexplained anomalies" about "the Earth orbiting the Sun", that does not make it 'not true' that the Earth orbits the Sun.

But you, the teacher of logic, say it does. I'm sure an astrophysicist will enjoy hearing you explain how this planet, due to the unexplained anomaly in its orbit, is therefore not in orbit around its star.

Evolutionary science isn't in the same league, just yet, as Newtonian/Einsteinian physics, with its mathematically sound calculations.

You're moving the goal posts. I didn't say biology and physics are capable of equal levels of precision.

I said science is as sure that evolution is true as that the earth orbits the sun.

It is.

I'm sure an astrophysicist will enjoy hearing you explain how this planet, due to the unexplained anomaly in its orbit, is therefore not in orbit around its star.

Setting aside the idea that you have (to use a term you're so fond of) moved the goal posts from Earth, a planet about which we know a lot, to one recently discovered, when they propose an explanation, which they will very UN-likely be able to prove, by the way, there will be room for doubt.

Lacking proof and relying on what seems the most logical explanation, I'm sure there will be other scientists expressing doubts or proposing other explanations. That's how science works when it's done properly and without a hit squad out to paint any skeptics as any sort of "ilk" whose views should be swept under the rug. 

I didn't say biology and physics are capable of equal levels of precision....I said science is as sure that evolution is true as that the earth orbits the sun.

And in that difference between the sciences is room for doubt. The assertions of physics are provable one way or the other and anomalies disappear with finality. In terms of evolution, there is a preponderance of evidence standard which isn't the same as nor as powerful and final as proof. Anomalies leave room for doubt.

Setting aside the idea that you have (to use a term you're so fond of) moved the goal posts from Earth, a planet about which we know a lot, to one recently discovered,

The goal posts are in the same spot, unless you're suggesting the laws of physics and orbital mechanics are different in that star system.

when they propose an explanation, which they will very UN-likely be able to prove, by the way, there will be room for doubt.

Doubt that it's true that the planet orbits the star?

Gallup: I didn't say biology and physics are capable of equal levels of precision....I said science is as sure that evolution is true as that the earth orbits the sun.

Unseen: And in that difference between the sciences is room for doubt.

Amazing, oh teacher of logic.

I think I pulled a muscle.

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