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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(Since you've left one of your blank replies, I'm replying to the text which came in my email.)

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.

They are not. One planet, Earth, we know much about and its orbit presents no mysteries or anomalies

When some astronomers 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?

They will likely question the explanation because there will likely be no conclusive proof for it but just conjecture. Why should I have to explain this to you?

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.

Maybe you could address my point, which is that physics is subject to proof while evolution and astronomical explanations are based on preponderance of evidence. The one lives little room for doubt, the other does leave some 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,

Moving the goal posts is a logical fallacy where evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded.

For example, you did this earlier in this thread. First you asked for evidence for the evolution of modern cattle. I provided that evidence (the 10,500 year old aurochs skeleton and its domestication, and its preceding 2 million year history). You said that didn't count. Then you demanded more evidence predating the 2 million year history of the aurochs ("How about a fossil that almost looks like a cow and the [one] before it and one before that, etc.?").

That's what 'moving the goal posts' is. Demanding a different set of rules, a wider set of criteria, an ever greater set of evidence.

I am doing no such thing here. In this case, the evidence is that our planet (named Earth) is observed to orbit a star (named Sol) based on the laws of physics and orbital mechanics. Likewise, based on the same observable evidence of physics and orbital mechanics, a planet (named WASP-17) is orbiting a star (also named WASP-17).

It was you who introduced the claim that an unexplained anomaly in the orbit of the planet (Earth) around the star (Sol) would render false that it orbits the star (Sol) at all.

It's all based on the same established parameters, the same standards of evidence. How am I 'moving the goal posts' and demanding a different standard or a greater set of evidences? Explain. Be specific.

Even if you remove the unexplained anomalous orbit of WASP-17 from all consideration, there are unexplained anomalies in Earth's orbit around the Sun. These include various aspects of the Chandler Wobble, Nutation, and Polar Motion.

How do these unexplained anomalies mean it's not true that the Earth orbits the Sun? Explain. Be specific.

But you're not going to address that are you? You're going to keep avoiding that point and then accuse me falsely of doing what you're doing yourself.

Maybe you could address my point, 

Your "point" was that an unexplained anomaly in an orbit means there is no orbit, that the orbit is not true. This is ridiculous. I addressed this already.

which is that physics is subject to proof while evolution and astronomical explanations are based on preponderance of evidence. The one lives little room for doubt, the other does leave some room for doubt.

You're using the term 'proof' rather carelessly.

All science is subject to proof based on preponderance of evidence. 'Proof' in a scientific context means 'strongly supported by scientific means'.

Scientific proof cannot establish a scientific fact to be formally 'true' beyond all question. All scientific concepts are open to re-evaluation with the discovery of new data and the means of new technology. Absolute proof exists only in the abstract sense of mathematics and formal logic.

Science is as sure that evolution is true as that the Earth orbits the Sun. Science asserts neither statement (nor any statement outside of abstract mathematics) as a claim of absolute proof. The preponderance of evidence for both is overwhelming.

You claim (or strongly implied) there are "unexplained anomalies" in evolution, which is the science which shows that a population's gene pool changes over time. So let's see these anomalies. What are they? Then explain how these anomalies mean that it's not true a population's gene pool changes over time. (And you do realize this amounts to you denying that evolution is true?)

That is the point. I'm not the one who is failing to address it.

(Archaeopteryx is the sole suggested intermediate)

And that's as it should be --

All hail Archaeopteryx!

Thank ya, thank ya verra much!

The fossil record could be totally absent, and the biologists would still believe evolution to be true based on other evidence.

As for transitional forms:  new species often arise because of a change in the environment.  These changes can happen suddenly.  Therefore you get a sudden change in species. 

True ,but "And then, all of a sudden, there were bats" is a bit hard to swallow. All but a few species are the size of mice or shrews, but what sort of mutation or change in the environment would cause not just the physologiical modifications but the behavioral ones, and suddenly?

I imagine the intermediate form was some kind of gliding shrew.  A change in ecology would have made this a good idea.  In my book it says "Even the very earliest Eocene bats had fully developed wings and were accomplished flying predators that used sonar to detect insects."  It does seem like there's a gap in the fossil record there, so far. 

What book is that? 

When it comes to extreme physiology for a mammal, bats are obviously near the top of the list. Obviously, wings made of extremely extended finger bones didn't happen overnight through a single cosmic ray damaging a string of DNA. It had to develop over a very long time. 

I'm not arguing here that the theory of evolution is wrong. Far from it. Only that it's in intermediate stages of truth and that there may be mechanisms we're unaware of and that it may never be fully proven due to some of the problems in the fossil record and other seeming anomalies.

Despite the problems in accounting for the evolution of some species, gradual evolution driven by natural selection remains the best postulate. Far better than that some spiritual overlord accounts for it.

My first guess is that bats are smaller versions of pterodactyls. Over time they got teeth and radar?


You're probably going back too far. Bats are mammals, not reptiles.


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