Astoundingly, some of our Darwinist friends continue to insist that Darwin had no problem with the fossil record, that he thought it was in complete agreement with this theory. This is nuts. He spent major portions of his book explaining why we should accept his theory even though the fossil record does not support it. Here is a summary of what Darwin said:
1. My theory predicts that natural selection is working everywhere all the time to effect tiny morphological changes that accumulate over time and result in new species appearing.
2. The result is an extremely gradual process in which new species arise from prior species over eons of time though slow practically imperceptible changes.
3. If that is what happened, there must have existed infinitely many fine gradations between past and present species. IOW “just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly enormous.”
4. My theory predicts that “infinitely many fine gradations” (i.e., a “truly enormous” number of intermediate varieties) existed. IOW, the record of life is one of rampant gradual morphological change affecting the vast majority of species the vast majority of the time. Obviously, if my theory is correct the GENERAL record of life cannot possibly be characterized by sudden appearance and stasis. Yes, stasis can sometimes happen with respect to an individual species, but stasis is not the rule. Indeed, my entire project is aimed at undermining the creationist notion of the fixity of species. How could I do that if I were to say that stasis is the rule among life forms generally?
5. The fossil record most assuredly does not reveal “infinitely many fine gradations” (i.e., a “truly enormous” number of intermediate varieties) as the rule.
6. Instead, if we had nothing but the fossil record to go on, we would have to believe that sudden appearance and stasis, not constant gradual morphological change, is the rule.
7. Thus, the fossil record would seem to falsify my theory, because it does not reveal what my theory predicts it should reveal.
8. And that is a serious problem for me. Indeed, it is the “most obvious of the many objections which may be urged against” my theory.
9. The answer lies not in my theory but in the fossil record. My theory is perfect; the history of life is exactly as I said it was, full of an infinite number of transitions. The fossil record is imperfect, because it fails to capture that.
10. Here is why I believe the fossil record is imperfect: blah, blah, blah.
11. If I am wrong about why the fossil record is imperfect, my theory comes falling down around me.
In response to all of this the Darwinists keep coming up with some version of “Darwin knew about stasis; he wrote about it and said it occurs.” Of course Darwin knew about stasis, and yes he did write about it and say that it sometimes occurs. Those facts change nothing. Darwin wrote about stasis not to suggest that stasis is the rule, but in his effort to explain why the fossil record is — his words — “extremely imperfect.”
Look, if Darwin believed that the fossil record revealed what his theory predicted it would reveal, would he have called it “extremely imperfect”? Of course not. The whole point of Darwin’s lengthy discussion of the fossil record is to show that it did NOT reveal what actually happened, and that is why it is “extremely imperfect.”
But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.
Then he attempted to show why the record is extremely imperfect. Then — and here is the key to the whole thing — he wagered his entire theory on whether he had successfully explained away the “extremely imperfect” fossil record that does not support his theory. He wrote:
He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional links which must formerly have connected the closely allied or representative species, found in the several stages of the same great formation.
When Darwin was talking about stasis he was most assuredly not saying that he believed stasis is the general rule of the history of life. How could he have? That would have undermined his entire project. Instead, he was trying to make lemonade out of lemons, and he himself said if the lemonade did not turn out his whole theory would crumble.
None of what I’ve said is the least bit controversial. That the fossil record was an embarrassment to Darwin is no secret. It has been the standard narrative for 157 years. What is truly astounding is that we have Darwinists today who are somehow trying to claim that Darwin believed the fossil record offered perfect support to his theory even though he himself called that record “extremely imperfect” for the very reason that it did not. Revisionism of this magnitude beggars belief.
This update comes after the first three comments in the comment thread. The Darwinian fundamentalists who wrote these comments cannot see this:
That’s the thing about fundamentalists; their faith commitments have a strangle hold on their reason. What is the 500 pound gorilla here? Perhaps a choice between alternatives will make him more obvious than he already is. Which do you choose:
1. Darwin understood that on its face the fossil record falsified his theory because it does not show what his theory predicts. He attempted to rescue his theory by claiming the problem was with the “extreme imperfection” of the record, not his theory, and he set about arguing for why the record should be extremely imperfect.
2. Darwin warmly embraced the fossil record because it reveals exactly the pattern his theory predicts it would reveal.
If you choose “2,” congratulations, you are a fundamentalist blind to the glaringly obvious. Give yourself a cookie.