January 30, 2008

Arguments Against God #01: There Are Transitional Fossils

Posted in Archaeology, atheism, christianity, creationism, darwinism, evolution, Paleontology at 1:01 pm by Bram Janssen

“There are no transitional fossils”

“Darwin himself admitted there were no transitional fossils”

This is one of the main arguments an evolutionist gets from non-evolutionists. It’s always something like this: “If land animals evolved from fish, then where are the transitional forms- the fish with feet? Or where are the half-human apes?”

Of course Darwin was one of the first biological evolutionists living at a time when the field was yet newborn and he made mistakes because of that. But Darwin did not know about punctuated equilibrium. This was only “discovered” and developed in the 1970s:

“Evolution is characterized by geologically long periods of stability during which little speciation occurs, punctuated by short periods of rapid change, species undergoing most of their morphological changes shortly after breaking from their parent species.”

This was a major advance in evolutionary science that was spun by its opponents as being proof Darwinists were clinging to straws. Darwin himself thought of speciation as pretty much of a gradual process – like a child growing into an adult is gradual – but what 150 years of fossil-digging has shown us is that speciation is more like driving a car with a faulty gearbox. Darwin could not know this, nor could any of his contemporaries. What has happened here is called: “gaining knowledge about a subject through test and theory.” You cannot quote Darwin or his colleagues in the context of disproving transitional forms, much in the same way as not quoting Galileo Galilei on the nature of comets.

But what are the implications of punctuated equilibrium in the search for transitional fossils? Well, mainly: expect them to be hard to find. If life on earth evolved in (relatively) short spurts, chances are you will be finding a lot of fossils from the much, much longer periods of gradual evolution.

That is not to say there are no transitional forms found, museums are filled with them. In a broad sense every creature that has ever lived and every organism that is alive today is transitional species. But if you want fish with feet: here is one:

tiktaaliktiktaalik impression

This is tiktaalik, read up on it here and here. Here is an interview (video) with the co-discoverer of tiktaalik: “Neil Shubin.” (Note that he doesn’t like the term “missing link”)

Of course the anti-evolutionists follow suit with denying it’s transitional:

“However, the claim of a transition from water to land is no more than a dream, because the physiological gulfs between terrestrial animals and fish cannot be overcome by any of the fictitious mechanisms of the theory of evolution. The latest attempt to make Tiktaalik roseae fit this scenario, which is supported out of blind devotion to the theory of evolution and rests on no scientific evidence whatsoever, is based on preconceptions and intentional misinterpretation.”

I don’t have a mind to go debunk the entire article, suffice to say it shows a shocking lack of what is actually out there. The depth of ignorance is staggering.

Here’s an apeman:

australopithecus

To be precise: here is Australopithecus Anamensis

Here’s a dinosaur bird:

dinobird

All of these (and there are many, many more, musea filled with them) aren’t convincing to the anti-evolutionists. They might say the fossil isn’t transitional but either one or the other. They might also claim it’s a sick animal or human, deforming by say: “arthritis” (the first ever found Neanderthal Man had arthritis, which was spun by some as meaning: all Neanderthal specimens ever discovered were normal modern humans with arthritis. Which makes me wonder why my arthritic neighbor doesn’t look like a Neanderthal Man.)

In the end, what it boils down to is misinformation and ignorance. Groups and individuals claiming there are no transitional fossils always show a lack of knowledge of what has actually been discovered and how these discoveries were actually interpreted. To remedy this I can only recommend two things: teach every child from any cultural background evolutionary science and fact and – if it’s too late for that – read up on the scientists’ side of the issue.

6 Comments »

  1. Matt said,

    It’s not surprising, really.
    It seems the domain of creationists is that of ignorance and WILLFUL ignorance at that. They simply do not seem willing or able to actually objectively look at available evidence.

  2. Bram Janssen said,

    Matt:

    True. Fact and logic do not enter the mind of a religious person. They have no use for it. They live religious lives in religious communities- probably have been for their entire lives. Who would want to suddenly throw all that away, make enemies of life-long friends and neighbours and probably piss off your family as well? So I can understand why people would vehemently defend their faith to the point of absurdity- however, devotions just do not alter reality.

  3. Lucy Nom de Plume said,

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.

    Genesis is a piece of religious poetry. I don’t think anyone can seriously dispute Darwinian evolution and not have holes picked in their argument.

    God lives outside time (rather like British sci-fi hero the Doctor) so why do people like creationists get so hung up on what happened in the beginning. If He lives outside time then He can see the beginning and the end at the same time.

  4. Lucy Nom de Plume said,

    Oops, sorry, I thought this was Russ Cruzan’s blog. But thank you for having a blog anyway!

  5. James said,

    so just because it has strong fins everyone is jumping on the bandwagon that this animal is a missing link?
    the apeman skull is mostly plaster with little bone peices to even try to convince someone it’s a “missing link”
    and we have found many fossils like archaeopteryx and figured out it was just a very strange bird, look at the Cassowary, it’s a bird that looks like a dinosaur and no one is yelling out it’s a transitional form or dinosaur or anything of that sorts

  6. Bradley said,

    I find it interesting that you refer to a religious person devoid of any apprecciation for fact and logic. I also find it interesting that you have harshly over-generalised a “religious person”. I myself, an agnostic, would suggest that you revise your argument against a “religious person’s” disagreement with the theory of Evolution, and also insist that anyone of religious background cease to use unsatisfactory arguments, and start to view the argument of the feasibility of Evolution, from Cosmic to Macro (all loosely, from my research so far, theoretical), more objectively and far less personally.
    With regards to Matt and Bram’s condensation of the psychology of a religious person, you would do well to have a look into the common scientists point of impossibility, relating to chance (one in 10^50, or one in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) and a few conservative figures from well-known scientists (Sir Fred Hoyle one in 10^40,000 and Harold Marowitz one in 10^100,000,000,000). That is mathematics. That is fact. That is logic.
    With regards to James, your painful belittling of fossils and there grounding in fact, in my opinion, needs revision, and a more unbiased opinion, as you only serve to confuse and encourage the vague idea of a “religious person” that many evolutionists have in their heads, as shown in James and Matt’s statements.
    Thankyou for allowing me to share my opinions with regards to your arguments and, more likely I believe, musings. Please view them as objectively as I viewed yours.


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