Intelligent Design

This Just In

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No paleontologists reported finding any transitional forms today – yet another stunning confirmation of the theory of punctuated equilibrium.

Seriously, I hope some of our Darwinists friends who post comments on this site can help me understand how evolutionary theorists deal with their cognitive dissonance when they consider the issue of gradualism and the general absence of transitional forms from the fossil record.

Now on the one hand, you have Charles Darwin, who understood that if his theory were true there must have been a whole universe of transitional species. He understood that the fossil record did not support this view, but hoped that in the future this would be remedied by determined paleontologists finding ever more proof of his theory.

“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 my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”

Origin of Species, chapter 6

But he knew that if his appeal to the imperfection of the fossil record turned out to be unavailing, his entire theory would crumble:

“He who rejects this view of the imperfection of the geological record, will rightly reject the 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 successive stages of the same great formation?” Origin of Species, chapter 11.

Today, it is clear that just that has happened. Darwin’s predictions about gradualism have been refuted.

“Darwin’s prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.” Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myth of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 45-46.

“Gradualism, the idea that all change must be smooth, slow, and steady, was never read from the rocks. It was primarily a prejudice of nineteenth-century liberalism facing a world in revolution. But it continues to color our supposedly objective reading of life’s history.” Stephen Jay Gould, “An Early Start,” Natural History 87, February 1978): 24.

“I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism . . . I wish only to point out that it was never ‘seen’ in the rocks.” Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History 86 (May 1977), 14, 12-16.

“The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change . . .” Stephen Jay Gould, “The Return of Hopeful Monsters,” Natural History 86 (June/July 1977): 22, 22-30.

Nor can the absence of proof for Darwinian gradualism any longer be attributed to an incomplete fossil record:

“The record jumps, and all the evidence shows that the record is real: the gaps we see reflect real events in life’s history – not the artifact of a poor fossil record.” Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myth of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 59-60.

“Niles Eldredge and I . . . argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record – geologically ‘sudden’ origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis) – reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record.” Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” in Science and Creationism, ed. Ashley Montagu, 123 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).

“We must learn to accept the fossil record at face value and construct our theories around it, not the other way round. Too often we have endeavored to force it into a particular mold or to ignore awkward facts contained in it . . . We still have a long way to go before we look at the fossil record for what it is and not for what we would like it to be. Historically, from Lyell and Darwin onwards, people have looked at the fossil record with a particular pattern in mind. They have failed to find the pattern they sought and have appealed to the incompleteness of the fossil record to explain way this anomaly. We are still doing this . . .”

Christopher R.C. Paul, “The Adequacy of the Fossil Record,” in K.A. Joysey and A. E. Friday, eds., Problems of Phylogenetic Reconstruction, 115-16 (London, Academic Press, 1982).

Yet today, Darwinists continue to argue that gradualism is absolutely necessary to the success of Darwin’s theory:

“Gradualness is of the essence. In the context of the fight against creationism, gradualism is more or less synonymous with evolution itself. If you throw out gradualness you throw out the very thing that makes evolution more plausible than creation. Creation is a special case of saltation – the saltus is the large jump from nothing to fully formed modern life. When you think of what Darwin was fighting against, is it any wonder that he continually returned to the theme of slow, gradual, step-by-step change?”

Richard Dawkins, “What Was All the Fuss About?” review of Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria by Niles Eldredge, Nature 316 (August 1985): 683-684 (emphasis added).

“Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwin’s authority, but because my understanding of genetics seems to demand it.” Colin Patteson to Luther Sunderland, April 10, 1979, quoted in quoted in Luther .D. Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems 4th ed. (El Cajon, CA: Master Book Publishers, 1988), 89.

Some Darwinists have gone so far as to say that if the fossil record does not support gradualism, then “so much the worse for the fossil record.” We will chuck it out and continue to believe in gradualism:

“The argument [between gradualists and punctuationists] is about the actual historical pattern of evolution; but outsiders, seeing a controversy unfolding, have imagined that it is about the truth of evolution – whether evolution occurred at all. This is a terrible mistake; and it springs, I believe, from the false idea that the fossil record provides an important part of the evidence that evolution took place. In fact, evolution is proven by a totally separate set of arguments – and the present debate within paleontology does not impinge at all on the evidence that supports evolution . . . In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.”

Mark Ridley, “Who Doubts Evolution?” New Scientist 90 (June 25, 1981): 830-1, 830-32.

The problem with this approach is that, as should be obvious, the fossil record is the ONLY evidence we have for what actually happened in the past, as opposed to what we think might have happened:

“Although the comparative study of living animals and plants may give very convincing circumstantial evidence, fossils provide the only historical, documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more and more complex forms.” Carl O. Dunbar, Historical Geology (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1960), 47.

“Naturalists must remember that the process of evolution is revealed only through fossil forms. A knowledge of paleontology is, therefore, a prerequisite; only paleontology can provide them with the evidence of evolution and reveal its course or mechanisms. Neither the examination of present beings, nor imagination, nor theories can serve as a substitute for paleontological documents. If they ignore them, biologists, the philosophers of nature, indulge in numerous commentaries and can only come up with hypotheses. This is why we constantly have recourse to paleontology, the only true science of evolution . . . The true course of evolution is and can only be revealed by paleontology.”

Pierre P. Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation, (New York: Academic Press, 1977), 3-4, 204.

In summary, Darwin said that his theory depends upon gradualism. Gradualism has never been seen in the fossil record. Therefore, gradualism, and any theory that depends upon on it, is falsified. Nevertheless, Darwinists continue to believe in gradualism, and some have even proposed abandoning the fossil record if it does not support it. But the fossil record is the only evidence we have for what actually happened.

Can someone help me out here?

47 Replies to “This Just In

  1. 1
    idnet.com.au says:

    Barry, I am reading a very recent book by Darryl Falk who says that a lot of transition fossils have been found in the last 10 years. Do you have any really recent comments that say there are no transitions?

    Does he list the finds? -ds

    Also, look again at what Darwin predicts: “the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly ENORMOUS . . .” The handful of hopefuls that have been put forward in the last few years will never, ever come close to what the theory predicts should be there. It really is a closed case. — BA

  2. 2
    johnnyb says:

    ident —

    Are you sure that they are transitions or are they relabelling chimeras as “transitions”? The two have very different implications.

  3. 3
    BK says:

    Transitional forms are alot like beauty; they are in the eye of the beholder.

  4. 4
    dougmoran says:

    BarryA – Very nice synopsis of the issue, and great question.

    From what I’ve been able to read about recent “transitional forms” I can see little in the way of evidence for evolution by mutation and natural selection based on ever so slight, gradual changes over long periods of time. For that to be the model for evolutionary change the fosil record should be overwhelmed with almost nothing but transitional forms – to the point of being a challenge just to track lineages due to the sheer numbers of them. That the record does not show this points to punctuated eliqualibrium or some other mode such as front-loaded prescribed evolution with pre-planned transitions.

  5. 5

    Golden Oldies: Transitional Fossils

    With the recent find of various additional transitional fossils, it may be relevant to revisit a ‘golden oldie’ written by Wesley Elsberry title Missing links still missing!? Talkorigins Post of the Month: February 1998. Although, given the number of t…

  6. 6
    Smidlee says:

    I like what this guy wrote about the lastest transitional fossil of fish to land animal. http://www.scienceagainstevolution.org/v10i8n.htm

    “…Now that the theory of evolution is seriously being challenged, evolutionists are desperately trying to find anything that can be called an intermediate form.

    If one politician is running a negative campaign against another politician, and the most damning thing he can say is that the other guy got one parking ticket 28 years ago, the weakness of the charge is better evidence of innocence than guilt. If the best transitional form evolutionists can come up with is Tiktaalik, then the weakness of their claim is better evidence against evolution than for it.

  7. 7

    Gradualism (Missing Link theory) is yet another great ‘cornerstone’ of Methodological Naturalism (MN) and is the very fabric of its cheap gorilla suit. It is a hairy tissue, wraught with “evidence” like:

    – Piltdown Man
    – Haekel’s faked embryonic drawings
    – The Yale DNA Hybridization Scandal
    – Archaeoraptor Liaoningensis (National Geographic 1999) Fraud
    – More to come …

    RM+NS pressure can observably adapt pre-existing design parameters (exons) built into the genetic code. It is mechanistic, fully automatic, and no one would dispute it.

    But RM+NS does not observably affect itrons (what neo-darwinists disturbingly refer to as ‘junk’). Introns do not fit into the mechanistic doctrine of MN. MN has yet to explain where introns come from, only giving two theories — the junk showed up early in the evolutionary process, or later (intron early vs intron late)

    Nature does not produce junk, but crappy human behaviour caused by crummy human doctrine spews the stuff forth like there’s no tommorow (Global Warming is also crummy doctrine – but that’s for another blog)

    One recent thread in this blog got around the idea of a SETI-like project to search genomic intron data for intelligent design. Since introns were not ‘created’ by RM+NS, evidence of intron intelligence would really knock MN on its neo-fascistic ass. It would cause the cornerstones of post-modernism to crumble like the sandy foundation that they truly are.

    But this won’t happen until we become what we truly are. Those intron design patterns aren’t going to appreciate themselves…

  8. 8
    johnnyb says:

    BK:

    That’s largely because they don’t exist. If they really existed they would not have to be in the eye of the beholder, they would be obvious to every viewer.

    The only transitional forms that the evo’s have ever been able to present are essentially within-kind transitions, like a horse to a horse. For a funny overview of evolutionary transitions, see http://www.evolutionfairytale.com/cleanerf.htm

    One of the things that unfortunately props up evolutionary theory is the fact that fossils are generally from bones. The skeletal structure is probably the most morphologically similar feature that all vertebrates share. And that is the only thing that is preserved in the fossil record! Soft tissue is not preserved. Habitats are not preserved. Just the skeletal structure. Which is interesting, especially since you don’t see any sort of transitions whatsoever in non-vertebrate animals, where the fossils are holistic rather than just a single part of the anatomy. The invertebrate fossil record shows nothing of evolution, neither does that of plants, yet these are what dominate the fossil record.

    Again from the same website:

    http://www.evolutionfairytale......lusion.htm

    Interesting link johnnyb. It is a good think to keep in mind — and not remarked upon often enough — that the absence of transitional forms is clearest in just the place we would expect them to be most overwhelming if gradualism were true, i.e., among the invertebrates. — BA

  9. 9
    zapatero says:

    Barry wrote:
    “Also, look again at what Darwin predicts: “the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly ENORMOUS . . .” The handful of hopefuls that have been put forward in the last few years will never, ever come close to what the theory predicts should be there. It really is a closed case. — BA”

    Barry,
    Read carefully. Darwin says that the number of formerly existing intermediate varieties must be enormous. He does NOT say that the number of fossils available to us from those intermediates must be enormous.

    To successful challenge Darwin, you would need to show that given the quality of the fossil record, the number of intermediate fossils ought to be much higher than it is. That would mean quantifying the following:

    a. the probability that an individual becomes fossilized
    b. the probability that the fossil is available to us now at the earth’s surface
    c. the probability that someone finds the fossil before it is scattered or eroded
    d. the rate of evolutionary change for the trait(s) in question
    e. the size and location of the population in which the change happened
    and others.

    Unless you’ve crunched the numbers, I don’t see how you can argue that the number of intermediate fossils is less than would be expected under the Darwinian paradigm.

    Excuse the heck out of me for such heresy but why doesn’t the Church of Darwin have to defend its scriptures by quantifying a, b, c, d, and e above? It’s the Darwinian dogma that hasn’t matched up with the fossil record. It’s therefore up to the defenders of the Darwinian faith to crunch numbers and explain why the fossil record isn’t in accord with the preaching of the Darwinian clergy. -ds

  10. 10
    Michael Tuite says:

    Hello everyone,
    I’d be interested to know how folks here think the paucity of transitional fossils is best accounted for in an ID-informed history of life on earth. For instance, does the pattern of rapid appearance of species followed by long periods of stasis support the notion of an active, tinkering designer? Do some folks see this as real proof of a young earth and a more recent single episode of creative design?

    Thanks

    Front loaded evolution. Saltation. -ds

  11. 11
    idnet.com.au says:

    I will give you the quotes I was referring to from Darryl Falk “Coming to peace with Science” IVP 2004

    (By the way, don’t shoot me, I am a convinced ID advocate. I am just the messenger here. He may not be telling things like they are. How am I to know? He is coming to Australia in the next week or so. I would like to challenge him if he is wrong.)

    p94 “The existence of the so called Cambrian Explosion is highly controversial in the halls of science. Many biologists doubt that the Cambrian expolsion ever really occurred. Some think it is an artifact. About 550million years ago a change resulted in much greater liklihood of fossilization.”

    p94 ‘There is little evidence to support the notion of a small number of distinct bursts of creative activity.”

    p98 “Fossils provide a record of 164 different elephant-related species.” p99 “It is possible to trace the history of these magnificent beasts.”

    p103 “It is possible to detect some turtlelike species that resided on earth “shortly” before turtles themselves appeared.”

    p105 “Elephants and turtles give the same message. They do not appear fully formed all at once in the fossil record. Just before they make their debut, other animals with similar but more primative features make an entry, only to leave when the “real thing” comes along.”

    p125 “Over the past decade or two there has been a tremendous increase in the number of transitional species that have been found.”

    “The 1990s was the greatest decade in history for the discovery of transitions. It takes a while for the findings published in the scientific litterature to trickle down to non biologists.”

    idnet.com.au: “The 1990s was the greatest decade in history for the discovery of transitions.” Why do I get the feeling that there is more than simple correlation between the fact that Johnson and Denton wrote in the late 80’s and early 90’s and then, all of a sudden, there was an increase in the number of claimed intermediates.

  12. 12
    great_ape says:

    “Seriously, I hope some of our Darwinists friends who post comments on this site can help me understand how evolutionary theorists deal with their cognitive dissonance when they consider the issue of gradualism and the general absence of transitional forms from the fossil record.” -BA

    Personally, I have taken to drinking… Just kidding. As I have alluded to on another thread, I was troubled for a while by the implications of the Cambrian explosion when I first read about it. When the genetic data later came that suggested several of those phylums (specifically, those that are extant and can provide genetic data) had a much deeper history and didn’t just appear in a 10myr span, I was less troubled.

    Where are the transitional forms? I can reiterate to you the party line(s)–or at least my own take on them–which you no doubt have all heard before, but they are nevertheless what helps us sleep at night. (1) Fossilization is a rare occurrence requiring a very specific set of conditions contingent on the organism’s environment. While Darwin was correct in assessing that the fossil record was woefully incomplete, he was overly optimistic concerning our future ability to remedy the situation.

    (2)Transitional forms *may* frequently be more “transitional” and consequently more ephemeral. Their slices in history are smaller than their stable “equilibrium” ancestors/descendants, and therefore they may be less likely to be “sampled” by rare fossilization occurrences. Gould did a fine job of pointing out–even if folks still disagree about the details and extent of the phenomenon–that Darwin’s slow, monotonous gradualism was an oversimplification of what happens and may well be the exception rather than the rule. I suspect that most modern evolutionists are not strongly wedded to Darwin’s vision of gradualism. That is not to say they are strong adherents of punctuated equilibrium either. Some things are gradual, some are not. On top of all this, “gradual” is a relative term. If you’re a YEC or something similar, then yes, all modern evolutionists have a *very* gradualistic concept of evolution. If you’re not a YEC, then you can appreciate that gradualism is a relative concept. The mammalian radiation appears to have occurred very rapidly in evolutionary terms, but it still took millions of years. The pace of change will depend upon many complex influences.

    (3)there are *some* plausible transitional forms discovered(e.g. the recent leggy fish thing, the brow-ridged humanoids, little horsies…slightly bigger horsies, etc.) What’s more, the genetic data–particularly that derived from retrotransposon insertions (look up N. Okada’s work, for many such examples)–provides rock-solid common descent evidence. (e.g. relationships among hippos and whales, etc.) A strong foundation for common descent makes one rather comfortable with transitional forms. You have two observed forms with established common descent; it doesn’t take a great leap of faith to infer that they were, at some point, connected by transitional states. How rapid that transition occurred can obviously be argued extensively, of course, but no evolutionist questions the transition itself…so we don’t loose any sleep over this particular matter.

    (On that note, what are you suggesting BA?…that the transitional forms simply don’t exist at all–and that’s why they’re found in such small number–or are you suggesting that the transition was super-rapid in a way that modern evolution can not accomodate within its framework? Clearly I consider the latter position more defensible (given the empirical data) than the former.)

    So I guess that while I still have a few concerns about the adequacy of current evolutionary theory to completely account for the complexity of life as we know it, the matter of transitional forms or lack-there-of does not endanger my peace of mind. If Darwin thought that evolution would need to be tossed out if there turned out to be, many years later, still a lack in many people’s minds of sufficient evidence for his particular version of gradualism, then so much the worse for *Darwin*. He was also wrong on a number of other points. Evolution, as we currently understand it, does not live or die on the words of a 19th Century naturalist. Thus he’s not the most appropriate fellow to engage in an ongoing dialogue with. He’s quite dead, after all. Has been so for some time, and we’ve learned much in the interim.

    Lack of a continuum of species with small changes in the fossil record probably isn’t due to a grossly incomplete record. It just didn’t happen like that and the fossil record IS giving us a good picture. Corroboration for this is that the fossil record matches the lack of a continuum of species living today. Darwin explains this by saying that extant species are perfected to a point where they outcompete their immediate ancestors and cause them to become extinct. Selection pressure really isn’t strong enough to do that for small changes. In fact as Sanford posits in his book the signal-to-noise ratio is so low in the natural selection of beneficial mutations that he doesn’t think NS can come anywhere close to doing anything constructive. -ds

  13. 13
    idnet.com.au says:

    D Falk p109 “The story of intermediate fossils to whales from organisms closely related to predecessors of the hippopotamus to whales has become one of the greatest “transitional species” stories in all of biology. cit K Wong Sci Am 286, no5 (2002):70-79.”

    p120 “There really is a set of excellent candidate species for transition between reptiles and mammals.”

    p123 “Almost unanimously, paleontologists now believe they can explain the liniage of birds.”

    p126 “Fosilization is an exceedingly unlikely event. Only a miniscule fraction of the organisms happened to be at the right place at the right time to be preserved in perpetuity. Transitional species are expected to occur primarily in tiny populations.”

    p128 “The fact is that some transitional forms have been “caught” but most have not. This is not surprising; it is exactly what geneticists would predict.”

    p129 “Those who say there is an absence of transitional organisms in the fossil record are wrong. A number have been found. They do not understand the reasons for the scarcity of such fossils. The fossil data is expected to provide only a tiny glimpse.”

    W Dembski writes on the back cover of this book: “It is important to .. grapple with the arguments contained in this book.”

  14. 14
    benkeshet says:

    The following comes from the US Geological Survey about dinosaur fossils.

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dinosaurs/types.html

    “How many types of dinosaurs are known?

    Approximately 700 species have been named. However, a recent scientific review suggests that only about half of these are based on fairly complete specimens that can be shown to be unique and separate species. These species are placed in about 300 valid dinosaur genera (Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, etc.), although about 540 have been named. Recent estimates suggest that about 700 to 900 more dinosaur genera may remain to be discovered.

    Most dinosaur genera presently contain only one species (for example, Deinonychus) but some have more (for example, Iguanodon). Even if all of the roughly 700 published species are valid, their number is still less than one-tenth the number of currently known living bird species, less than one-fifth the number of currently known mammal species, and less than one-third the number of currently known spider species.”

    Seems surprising to me that so few species of dinosaurs have been found after ~170 years of digging. You’d get the impression from naturalists that if dinosaurs ruled the world for several hundred million years that there would be vast numbers of species, not a few hundred.

  15. 15
    Raevmo says:

    Let me defend Darwin here a little bit. First, he said there must be an enormous number of intermediate *varieties*, not intermediate *fossils*. Secondly, he explained why there are so few intermediate fossils: the extreme imperfection of the geological record. I think most modern day biologists would agree with both points.

    Where most modern day biologists would probably disagree with Darwin is on his extreme gradualism. Both slow gradual change and more abrupt “punctuated” change are believed to have occurred, and are not seen as contradicting the general theory of evolution. Spectacular adaptive radiations such as the explosion of metazoans in the early Cambrian were probably “waiting” for the right environmental conditions to occur, such as the increasing oxygen level in the Pre-Cambrian.

    Waiting implies planning. It never fails to amuse me how loaded teleological terms are used in discussions of evolution by those who think there’s no teleology involved. Even you, who realized you were using a loaded term and put it in qoutes to acknowledge it, evidently couldn’t come up with a better word devoid of implied purpose. You argue against but your choice of words unavoidably argues for. 😎 -ds

  16. 16
    Jeffery Keown says:

    That’s why we’re still digging.

  17. 17
    jerry says:

    Great_Ape,

    I can understand the taking to drinking comment. When I was in graduate school, some of my classmates and I took to the bars and would have fun making up stories about history, politics and science or other things. The more beers we had, the better the stories. We had this great story about why Caesar was killed. They were fun nights. After reading what Darwinists say about transitional events, I am beginning to believe these “events” originated in bars too.

    Are you saying that because there are no or almost no transitional forms (so gradualism is suspect) or that the transitions must have happened rapidly (but we don’t have any mechanism to explain such a rapid transition) as long as we can make up stories, everything is hunky dory in evolutionist land and you and your buddies can sleep at night. This is great. We can now add a new kingdom at Disney World where all the rides are the dream worlds of Darwinists. Or are they bar tales?

    On a serious note, people should add to their list of must see’s, the new video by David Berlinski. He destroys Darwinists and illustrates the hypocrisy of modern biology better than anything I have seen so far. I love his “cow to whale” discussion. Of course in Evolutionist Land, this would only be one long ride. But of course we have been taken for a ride by the Darwinists now for about 150 years.

    Thanks for the heads up on the Berlinski video. Any info on where I can order it? — BA

  18. 18
    Raevmo says:

    I should have known the “waiting” would get me into trouble. Watching a soccer game at the same time must have lowered my guard.
    How about the right environmental conditions “triggering” the adaptive radiation? As in the Hawaiian islands being devoid of competition triggered the adaptive radiation of drosophila species.

    Trigger implies something is prepared in advance too. I’ll help you out. You have to say random mutations that resulted in positive reproductive differential in an increasingly oxgenated atmosphere were preserved by natural selection while mutations less favorable for the same changing environment were filtered out by natural selection. This resulted in a vast radiation as life with fast metabolisms enabled by atmospheric oxygen proliferated. How tedious it is to explain everything in terms of an accident. If William of Ockam was still alive he’d slit his wrists with his own razor upon seeing what a twisted yarn has been concocted in the effort to maintain a semblance of credibility in the story of accidental life. -ds

  19. 19
    Smidlee says:

    “That’s why we’re still digging.”
    That’s is really the heart of the matter. Evolution (Darwinism) is what makes paleontologists job seem to have any importance. Without the evolution story, paleontologists is nothing but a bone digger… something a dog does for free. evolution has always been more about story telling than anything else. My favorite evolution story is Darwin’s classic “The little eyeball that could.” You got to have faith in evolution to overcome the miising evidence in the fossil record.

  20. 20
    jerry says:

    Michael Tuite,

    I have said before that if Darwinism is eventually discredited, there will be a real food fight amongst those who are presently supporting ID. There is no uniiformity of belief about alternative mechanisms for evolution within those who think Darwinism is the biggest “con job” of the 20th century. So to get to your question of what caused the changes in the fossil record, it is not discussed here much. Some theories, such as “front loaded evolution” are put forward and may have some support but none are put under the microscope as Neo Darwinism is. Once Darwinism bites the dust, each alternative theory will get its turn in the petrie dish.

  21. 21
    BarryA says:

    Thank you for all of the comments so far, and for the collegial tenor of the discussion. When I asked for help I was serious. I really am trying very hard to get my head around the willingness among some Darwinists to chuck gradualism. The more I think about it, the more I agree with Dawkins (I can’t believe I just said that). Gradualism really is of the essence of not just the original Darwinian project, but also of the neo-Darwinist synthesis. Patterson says his understanding of genetics compels belief in gradualism. So does mine (not that I am an expert in genetics, but I do think I can understand the main thrust of the argument). It does not seem to me to do much good to play linguistic games such as “gradual doesn’t really mean gradual after all; it means kinda gradual.” No, gradual means gradual, and if the synthesis is to survive for the long term (which, as you might expect, I kind of doubt), its advocates are going to have to do more than make up stories about why the “innumerable” transitional species that must have existed if their theory is true, don’t show up in the fossil record.

  22. 22
    bFast says:

    Jerry, “I have said before that if Darwinism is eventually discredited, there will be a real food fight amongst those who are presently supporting ID.”

    Truth! There certainly is no unified ID theory.

  23. 23
    great_ape says:

    “…its advocates are going to have to do more than make up stories about why the “innumerable” transitional species that must have existed if their theory is true, don’t show up in the fossil record. –BA”

    Some components of these explanations, including those I offered, are little more than stories, to be sure, but buried there in the mounds of debris lay two nuggets of bony factual goodness that can’t be casually swept aside:
    (1) chemists/geochemists/paleontologists,etc have numerous “hard-science” studies supporting the extreme rarity of the conditions for fossilization.
    (2) a modest set of well-documented “transitions” do exist; the Falk book appears to have a good catalogue of examples

    It follows from straightforward logic that the total magnitude of #1 probability, complemented by our digging efforts (sampling), will determine the total number of “transitions” documentable in #2. To say that you understand the processes in #1 well enough to designate that #2 is inadequate for evolution to have occurred is, IMO, requiring more darwinists claiming it did. This is because at a bare minimum, evolution requires an extremely small probability of #1 (empirically support: check), and at least a couple of documented transitions (emp. support: check). Now, if you could provide positive evidence indicating that fossilization was more commonplace, then the paucity of samples in #2 would count heavily against evolution.

    BA, I did not mean to play semantic games with “gradual.” Just like “fast” and “slow” I believe we really need to be careful with how we make use of these human words to describe timescales that extend far beyond the everyday context in which they’re traditionally used. That’s all I’m trying to say. If “gradual” means all significant changes need say, 100myrs or so, then we are in agreement that gradualism is suspect given the data. If gradualism means 0.5-5 million years or so, then I’d argue there’s nothing in the data to discount it. Just what definition of gradualism the modern synthesis is wedded to isn’t at all clear to me, even though I think I have a decent background in and grasp of modern theory. My agnosticism is due to the fact that, although discrete genetic changes are inevitably involved in the modern view, just how many changes, their phenotypic magnitude , the extent of epistatic and epigenetic interactions, and the timescales involved all remain open questions that no consensus has been reached on.

    also ds suggested the possibility that: “It just didn’t happen like that and the fossil record IS giving us a good picture. Corroboration for this is that the fossil record matches the lack of a continuum of species living today.”
    I do agree the possibility remains that it didn’t happen the way way think, and the record is more accurate than we believe. This remains alongside the possibility that it did happen the way we think, and the record is poor. It all rests on the details of the physical processes and associated phenomenon of #1 above. I don’t think that the lack of continuum of living species is corroboration for the negative account, though. speciation (biological) sets populations on different non-mixing trajectories; things too similar to each other will compete for niches and be ever-so-much subject to that 999/1000 extinction phenomenon you and I discussed just recently. Even if they don’t go extinct in such a fashion, they’ll drift apart genetically/physically leaving you ownly a window of time in which to “catch” what remains of the continuum in the act. End result: in any given slice of time, you’ll have a break in the continuum except for rather recent radiations. This is very much an oversimplification, and I’ve probably skipped something crucial… Paucity of continuum in living systems is an interesting and valid question, but it has been one that has been addressed and is thought to naturally arise from basic “algorithmic” premises about speciation, selection, and extinction.

  24. 24
    Chris Hyland says:

    “Some theories, such as “front loaded evolution” are put forward and may have some support but none are put under the microscope as Neo Darwinism is. Once Darwinism bites the dust, each alternative theory will get its turn in the petrie dish.”

    As a scientist I find this comment quite bizarre. If you really want to remove evolution as the dominant scientific theory and replace it with some ID theory what you really should do it sort out the ID theory first and then show the scientific community why it is better than the evolution theory and makes better predictions. It seems to me if ID is true this would be the quickest way to go about it.

    “Gradualism really is of the essence of not just the original Darwinian project, but also of the neo-Darwinist synthesis.”

    You have to remember that much of what we understand to cause morphologial evolution wasn’t part of the modern synthesis, ie regulatory changes. I’m sure there’s still an upper limit on the amount of change that can occur in a single generation, but it certainly leaves the way open for some pretty big changes over a short period of geolocical time.

  25. 25
    Tiax says:

    “Seems surprising to me that so few species of dinosaurs have been found after ~170 years of digging. You’d get the impression from naturalists that if dinosaurs ruled the world for several hundred million years that there would be vast numbers of species, not a few hundred.”

    So, what you’re saying is that there are far fewer transitional fossils than you expect, and far fewer non-transitional fossils than you expect? Gee, I’m tempted to draw the conclusion that you expcet too much fossilization.

    Maybe you expect too many kinds. 😉 -ds

  26. 26
    jerry says:

    Chris Hyland,

    As a logical person I find your comment bizzare. I did not say anything about ID as an alternative mechanism for the fossil record. By bringing it up you are trying to introduce a strawman into the discussion. For what motive, to protect Darwinism, maybe? Don’t scientists think logically these days.

  27. 27
    bFast says:

    I checked out the reviews on “Coming to Peace with Science” on amazon.com I have no reason to doubt Darryl Falk’s book. It would therefore seem to this member of the peanut gallery that the gradualists (near gradualists) are winning this debate — pretty much hands down.

    Alas, the longer I discuss the question of evolution, the more convinced I become that common descent is correct. However, it still seems to me that the ID evolutonary models that suggest that the biosphere grew mich like a child grows to become a man, are compelling models. Such models, by definition, are not challenged by evidence of common descent.

  28. 28
    Mung says:

    He who rejects this view of the imperfection of the geological record, will rightly reject the whole theory.

    Thus I feel fully justified in rejecting the whole thoery. I have it from the Master himself.

    A couple things to keep in mind. Not only does Darwinism predict innumerable transitional forms, it also predicts that as you go back in time organisms should become more and more similar.

    One of the best texts dealing with Darwinian cherry-picking of data in order to enforce the illuision of lineage where none exist is Walter ReMine’s book [i]The Biotic Message[/i]. As pointed out by one poster above, the narrow the data points by looking at only certain characters. But then they widen where their data can come from by invoking supra-specific groups.

    jonnyb,

    Yesterday you pointed me to where creationists accept fast evolution. Today you point me to a creationist site that denies evolution ever took place. What’s up with that?

  29. 29
    Chris Hyland says:

    “For what motive, to protect Darwinism, maybe? Don’t scientists think logically these days.”

    I wasn’t talking about the fossil record or your comment specifically, more about the general perception of how science operates and how scientific theories become dominant. It would be very hard to prove that evolution could not take place without intelligece, but could be easy for a competing theory to make better predicitons. If the assumption from the fossil record is that instantaneous leaps occured due to endogeneous factors, ie frontloading, then the best way to prove the theory is to make and test predictions from it. I’m not trying to set up a strawman or be sarcastic, I would genuinely like to hear peoples theories on this.

  30. 30
    BarryA says:

    It was reported above that the 90’s saw a lot of the gaps in the fossil record filled in. Someone must have forgotten to give the memo to Schwartz, Carroll, and Patterson, who wrote the following toward the end of the 90’s:

    “[We] are still in the dark about the origin of most major groups of organisms. They appear in the fossil record as Athena did from the head of Zeus – full-blown and raring to go, in contradiction to Darwin’s depiction of evolution as resulting from the gradual accumulation of countless infinitesimally minute variations, which, in turn, demands that the fossil record preserve an unbroken chain of transitional forms.” Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999), 3.

    “What is missing [in the record] are the many intermediate forms hypothesized by Darwin, and the continual divergence of major lineages into the morphospace between distinct adaptive types.” Robert L. Carroll, “Towards a New Evolutionary Synthesis,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15 (2000): 27, 27-32.

    “Darwin devoted two chapters of The Origin of Species to fossils, but spent the whole of the first in saying how imperfect the geological record of life is. It seemed obvious to him that, if his theory of evolution is correct, fossils ought to provide incontrovertible proof of it, because each stratum should contain links between the species of earlier and later strata, and if sufficient fossils were collected, it would be possible to arrange them in ancestor descendent sequences and so build up a precise picture of the course of evolution. This was not so in Darwin’s time, and today, after more than another hundred years of assiduous fossil collecting, the picture still has extensive gaps.” Colin Patterson, Evolution, 2nd ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 106.

  31. 31
    zking says:

    [troll]

    What a tyrant. Why should I be willing to grovel at your feet to post a comment. Just delete the comments you don’t like.

    Rejection and respect goes both ways, baby.

    I think I’d rather read some evolution nonsense on an evolution blog than cowtow to your uppity ways.

  32. 32
    jerry says:

    Chris Hyland,

    There is a tendency to wrap up evolution into one theory when in fact the topic area could possibly encompass several theories. One reason for this is that the high priest of Darwinism (Richard Dawkins) has said that Neo Darwinism explains everything about life (and many social phenomena such as culture).

    But Neo Darwinism really only explains some basic findings in micro-evolution. It is then extrapolated by Dawkins and many others to fit all the facets that come under the much broader topic of evolution. When this is done, NDE fairs very poorly. One of those areas where it fairs poorly it macro-evolution or what Darwin was mainly concerned about in his writings. He observed some micro-evolution on the Beagle but extrapolated his ideas to macro evolution because that was what was important. He thought that natural selection would explain the diversity in the world and fossil record and hoped that new discoveries in the fossil record would eventually support him. Well it hasn’t which is what this thread is about. It is also why materialists like Gould, Stanley, Eldredge, Schwartz, etc. have suggested alternatives.

    Currently the focus of ID’s efforts seem to be on the low probability events that would lead to the origin of life, the complexity found in a typical cell, some specific aspects of single celled organisms, and the development of the immense complexity of multi-cellular organisms and less so on how a typical species may morph over time into something different.. Once these life forms or complexities are in existence, ID is less concerned with how they might change over time. This doesn’t say that the ID folks 1) won’t weigh in on certain macro or micro evolution topics or 2) find faults with theories used to explain either area.

    Many of us have schadenfreude over the ineptitude of NDE to explain the fossil record and many other things. Maybe, we shouldn’t but witness the abuse heaped on the ID proponents by those who support NDE.

    As a scientist, I would be extremely skeptical of an attempt to have one theory fit all.

  33. 33
    zapatero says:

    I saw an estimate recently that put an individual vertebrate’s odds of being fossilized at less than one in a million. At that rate, less than 300 people out of today’s American population would be fossilized. And that says nothing about the odds of someone actually finding the fossils later.

    Much of what we know about hominid evolution comes from the Rift Valley in Africa, which has one of the best geological environments for the preservation (and later unearthing) of fossils. If this crucial period in hominid evolution had taken place somewhere else, we’d have much less fossil evidence, and no doubt creationists would be complaining about the lack of transitional hominid fossils.

    By the way, the Berlinski video is available online (in Real Audio format) at

    http://www.theapologiaproject......linski.ram

    With the current human population that means 6000 people would be fossilized every 70 years if the population remains stable. Over the span of 10 million years (the average lifespan of a species) there will be a total of 857 million fossilized humans. Imagine the odds of NOT finding one. -ds

  34. 34
    bFast says:

    Jerry, “schadenfreude”, you’re broadening my vocabulary. Schadenfreude:

    Jerry, “There is a tendency to wrap up evolution into one theory when in fact the topic area could possibly encompass several theories.”

    Let me suggest that there are two primary theories of evolution — general evolution, defined as descent from a common ancestor, and NDE, defined as said descent caused by natural selection acting upon random mutation.

    When talking with NDE evolutionists, they often point out a dozen sub-theories, which are theories about specific mechanisms within NDE: genetic drift, molecular clocks, punctuated equilibrium, population genetics, sexual selection, HGT, etc. All of these are merely different aspects of the overarching theory of NDE evolution.

    Id, on the other hand, is primarily the “NDE is in error” or “NDE is incomplete” un-theory. While ID says that such and such is not compatible with NDE, ID does not really offer an alternative causal explanation.

    Now, within ID there seem to be some sub-hypotheses going around. I find the front-loading hypothesis to be the most compatible with the data. If I understand front-loading correctly, the idea is that evoultion happens because organism were designed to evolve. The front-loading model seems very compatible with “universal common ancestor” evolution. It is not, however, compatible with unguided NDE.

    “”ID does not really offer an alternative causal explanation.” ?????? This is one of the problems of always speaking in acronyms. bFast, ID stands for “intelligent design.” It posits causation by an intelligent designer as the best explanation of the data. BA

  35. 35
    j says:

    Another quote for the collection:

    Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document gradual steady change from ancestral forms to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series. New types often appear quite suddenly, and their intermediate ancestors are absent in the earlier geologic strata. The discovery of unbroken series of species changing gradually into descending species is very rare. Indeed the fossil record is one of discontinuities, seemingly documenting jumps (saltations) from one type of organism to a different type. This raises a puzzling question: Why does the fossil record fail to reflect the gradual change one would expect from evolution. — Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is (2001), p. 14

    Mayr (b. 1904 d. 2005) then seems to agree with Darwin that it’s just due to the imperfection of the record… He maintains “A few fossil lineages are remarkably complete. This is true, for instance, for the lineage that leads from the therapsid reptiles to the mammals… A remakably complete set of transitions was also found between the land-living ancestors of the whales and their aquatic descendants.

    If some gradual fossil lineages exist, doesn’t it prove that such fossilization is not so problematic, after all? [:shock:]

  36. 36
    Chris Hyland says:

    “I find the front-loading hypothesis to be the most compatible with the data. If I understand front-loading correctly, the idea is that evoultion happens because organism were designed to evolve. The front-loading model seems very compatible with “universal common ancestor” evolution. It is not, however, compatible with unguided NDE.”

    An interesting hypothesis that I’m suprised I haven’t heard would be that cells were seeded on this planet and were designed for evolvability and adaptability. This would also be compatible with most peoples idea of what evolution is, it just assumes a intelligent cause of the origin of life. I have never heard anyone make this claim though, and any theory of frontloading I have heard involves human beings being a specific goal.

    “As a scientist, I would be extremely skeptical of an attempt to have one theory fit all.”

    I guess that depends on how you define theory. You could defineevolution very broadly simply as common descent, or you can be more specific, in which case it breaks down into a number of different theories regarding the different mechanisms of change and adaption.

    Actually I’ve talked about individual cells containing some amount of intelligence in the form of neural networks using transposable elements or more interestingly quantum computing elements for the memory and logic. Theoretically even a simple bacteria could contain a quantum computer capable of predicting how any arbitrary amino acid string will fold. QC takes astoundingly little hardware to do amazing computational tasks. -ds

  37. 37
    jerry says:

    Chris Hyland and bfast,

    I look at evolution as a series of several different problems, not necessarily related. On another thread last week, I outlined this as a set of four tiers,

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....hives/1166

    See comment #62 in that thread.

    Just about all of the discussion in this thread and topics such as common descent, however you would define it, would be part of tier 3 (except possibly some comments related to the Cambrian explosion). Little or nothing here relates to tier 1 or tier 2 which is where ID is mostly concerned. The four tier classification scheme which I like can certainly be improved and any comments you have would be welcome but should probably be on the other thread which has been inactive for a few days.

  38. 38
    Larry Fafarman says:

    I do not believe in evolution theory, but I think that an argument in support of punctuated equilibrium is that the reason why many organisms continued virtually unchanged for millions of years is that they were optimal organisms that were difficult or impossible to improve upon. However, I find it very hard to believe that the transition periods where evolution supposedly occurred were so short that little or nothing of transitional forms were left in the fossil record.

    Also, despite the supposedly great ability of evolution theory to make predictions, it is apparent that the theory did not predict the general lack of transitional forms in the fossil record.

    Also, evolutionists tend to argue that there is a sort of inevitability about the course of evolution — that is how they explain “convergent evolution,” where identical or analogous features, e.g., wings and eyes, allegedly evolved independently in different branches of the evolutionary tree. But if there is an inevitability to the course of evolution, then it seems that many of the organisms that have become extinct should have re-appeared in nearly identical form later, but I am not aware of any instances of this happening. For example, how come dinosaurs did not evolve again after they became extinct? It could not be because reptiles are nonviable, because many species of reptiles exist today.

  39. 39
    jerry says:

    If anyone wants to discuss the statement, “A remarkably complete set of transitions was also found between the land-living ancestors of the whales and their aquatic descendants”, I would be willing to listen. About three months ago this came up in another thread and I looked into it and it turned out that this complete set was 2 or maybe 3 land animals which had some similar bone structures and that was it. It was not even clear how adapted the final land fossil would have been to water. I believe it had a similar head structure to a porpoise or whale and that is what led to the connection. If I am wrong about this, then let me know the details.

    I have seen statements about fairly complete sequences in other areas such as dinosaurs to birds but when I investigated them I have yet to see anything more than some speculations that a few fossils (sometimes only 1) are the intermediaries.

    If there truly were one let alone several definitive transitional sequences in the fossil record do you think the Darwinist would ever let the ID people forget it. Since they never raise the issue, I assume they don’t exist or what does exist is very speculative.

  40. 40
    eldinus says:

    I think the following website does a decent job of critiquing the infamous talkorigins transitional vertebrate fossil faq…

    http://www.alternativescience......itions.htm

    With that said, I am wondering how long it will take the obsessed “scientists” and RMNS enthusiasts at a certain forum to give me a nickname for posting this comment. I am not expecting anything too creative, these are the same people that have called members of this blog names like “Davetard” etc.. People like that make me glad you moderate this blog Dave. And I find it hilarious how upset they get when you ban them, to the point where they basically e-stalk you and your every comment on another message board. lol

    I love the peanut gallery at ATBC. They’re better than The Three Stooges, The Keystone Cops, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and The Benny Hill Show rolled into one! None of them are actually banned. Some just don’t get all their comments posted. Some hardly ever get a comment posted. A few aren’t even on the moderation list because they’re not stupid or trollish. -ds

  41. 41
    idnet.com.au says:

    Concerning a theory of front loading.

    Consider the way humans develop. We start with a single undifferentiated fertilised egg.

    That egg “speciates” through a continuous series of “transitional forms” into a large number of highly specialised end states “cell species”. The end products can only reproduce to produce the same “cell species”. There are the different “species” of skin cells, liver cells, nerve cells, bone cells etc. They all have a “common ancestor”, but this process has nothing at all to do with Random Mutation. It may be that there is something akin to environmental selection that operates here, but it is almost all front loaded and pre programmed.

    Did the Designer seed life in a similar way? Is there genomic evidence for this?

    I coined the term “phylogenetic stem cell” to describe the first cell in the front loaded scenario. -ds

  42. 42
    idnet.com.au says:

    Dave.

    I was reading about the development of body plans in Australian marsupial mammals. It seems that the body plans that arose in Australian marsupials resemble closely the plans of placental mammals in other parts. They call this convergence, but this does not explain it. There may be partially separated programs for gross morphology and physiology that are allowed to express themselves down stream. I think the genetics of large scale body plan is difficult to understand on the one gene one protein model. I think we have not found the basis for body plan yet. The HOX genes seem to play a part in regulating repetition of certain body plan subroutines.

    It seems that Natural selection may deserve the capital letter but not the random mutation. Maybe we should call it IDNS.

  43. 43
    bFast says:

    Jerry:

    Just about all of the discussion in this thread and topics such as common descent, however you would define it, would be part of tier 3 (except possibly some comments related to the Cambrian explosion). Little or nothing here relates to tier 1 or tier 2 which is where ID is mostly concerned.

    I would agree that your 4 tier model makes sense. Let me summarize here really quickly:
    1 – Abiogensis, how did life arrive in the first place.
    2 – multicellularity, how did cells figure out how to cooperate so well as to become a single organism.
    3 – The development of the phylogenic tree – how did all that happen.
    4 – The development of sub-species, and variety within species.

    I also agree with your analysis that IDers tend to focus on 1 and 2, because we believe that this is the biggest weakness in current theory. And I agree that NDEers see evidence in 4, and extrapolate that to say that they have an adequate explanation for 1 through 3 (I know, “we don’t have a theory of abiogeneis YET, but we’re getting close”.)

    Further, this thread is holding farely tightly to its introduced topic — kinda rare. This topic definitely is a tier 3 topic. In tier 3, I think that IDers break up into two very general camps, the “common descent” camp and the “multiple saltations” camp. Personally, I have moved, in the last two years, from the multple saltations camp to the common descent camp.

    My bias is to believe that as an egg grows to become a bird, so the entire biosphere has been growing, according to prescription, to become what it is. Exactly how detailed that prescription is, I do not know. Exactly what form that prescription has taken, I do not know. I suspect, however, that there is a complete phylogenic tree – common descent. I am definitely an ID evolutionist.

    idnet.com.au: “It seems that Natural selection may deserve the capital letter but not the random mutation.”
    I think that this is a very common view amongst IDers.

    “call it IDNS” – Works for me.

  44. 44
    great_ape says:

    “That egg “speciates” through a continuous series of “transitional forms” into a large number of highly specialised end states “cell species”. The end products can only reproduce to produce the same “cell species”.” –idnet.au

    A technical point…just for clarification’s sake. You may have intended this very same thing, and I simply misread you, but: the very end-state “cell-species” generally do not reproduce/divide. Rather, it is the upstream stem cells corresponding to these terminally differentiated cell “species” that reproduce and populate the end-state ranks. A minor point, but an important one in understanding the role of stem cells. Your analogy still holds nevertheless. The particular implementation of front-loading you mention is nothing less than mind-boggling. If we stopped too long to think about the gargantuan task ahead of us in terms of understanding that developmental unfurling, I suspect we’d all just give up now. Then again, Linus said something like that about developing Linux. If he knew how hard it would ultimately turn out to be, he never would have started. Perhaps our blissful ignorance allows us to more adequately attend to the task at hand.

    Phylogenetic Stem Cell -ds

  45. 45
    russ says:

    “If anyone wants to discuss the statement, ‘A remarkably complete set of transitions was also found between the land-living ancestors of the whales and their aquatic descendants’, I would be willing to listen.”

    Thanks for posting this, Jerry. I’ve often thought that a website that shows photos of all known transitional fossils would be great evidence for Darwinism, and ought to be touted by the theory’s supporters, but the time or two I’ve searched online, I haven’t found anything.

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    …they narrow the data points by looking at only certain characters. They widen where their data can come from by invoking supra-specific groups.

    Case in point:

    …the lineage that leads from the therapsid reptiles to the mammals…

    Mammals offers a huge set of data to cherry pick from. Mammal is not a species. Therapsid reptiles. Again, not a species. How many species does “therapsid reptiles” encompass? The lineage is illusory and can only be created by cherry-picking the data.

  47. 47
    johnnyb says:

    Excellent point, Mung. When lineages are traced as a broad brush, it allows huge amounts of cherry-picking. But the only legitimate way to do it is from one _specific_ species to another _specific_ species.

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