After watching the film, reader Stephen Batzer kindly writes to reflect:
I’ve read some terrific books on fossils, new and old. Same problems, new and old books.
Peter Ungar’s book from 2010 Mammal Teeth: Origin, Evolution and Diversity is interesting:
The Origin(s) of Teeth – Most researchers believe that teeth first evolved from pharyngeal or skin structures resembling the placoid scales of sharks or rays…Evidence for the first teeth is equivocal, though they surely evolved as early experiments with vertebrate biomineralization … Regardless of when or where teeth first appeared … (p. 223)
So, as attorneys might ask me in a deposition, “The bottom line is, you just don’t know, do you?”
Ungar doesn’t know the mechanism of teeth origin or change. This is just about teeth and the guy (whom I’ve met, great guy) has spent his entire career on “food reduction.” No real knowledge of teeth origin, just description of progression in the fossil record.
If phyletic gradualism were “a thing” then we wouldn’t have “punctuated equilibrium” — the “get rich quick” scheme of evolution. That is why those buzz words were thought up, like, 50 years ago.
Of course there are always new fossil discoveries, but they tend to produce more questions than not. Think “Burgess Shale.”
One thing I always come back to is the “March of Progress” of horses. If we can’t get that one lineage figured out, the topic is hopeless. We have lots of horse fossils across multiple continents. What do we have? A dodge.
An arrangement of fossil horses is put in size order, and the reader is invited to “connect the dots.” However, as far as I know, no reputable anybody claims that the small horse to the left is the ancestral species to the marginally larger horse to the right. Remember, there is no genetic tree of life. If there isn’t, then there is no common ancestor. Full stop.
Schindewolf’s Basic Questions in Paleontology” is wonderful.
St. Mivart’s On the Genesis of Species is worth reading. It is, however, very much a product of its time.
Carroll’s book, Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, is an absolute delight.
So, we’ve had, plus or minus, two centuries of fossil studies. Right now we’re getting revolutionary findings that fundamentally change our understanding of the whole enterprise I call nonsense. An appeal to secret knowledge: “Yes, I can see how you could reach those conclusions by reading these antiquated and obsolete manuscripts, but if you were familiar with the current literature, etc.?
Pffft. Species don’t change substantially, and we know why, genetically. If they departed indefinitely from type, we could breed a dog into a cat. As Phil J queried, if we can’t do this using skill and persistence, what makes us think that blind natural processes can do it?
I’ll tell you what makes some people think this, their philosophical allegiance to naturalism. It’s nature or nature.
You may also wish to read: Science Uprising # 9: Unvarnished fossil record is bad news for Darwin. Fossils, we are told, demonstrate the Truth of Darwinism as the history of life. But that’s only if you don’t look too closely. Science Uprising #9 looks too closely.