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.

February 10, 2006

Wooly Mammoth Genome Sequenced

Posted in Archaeology, Paleontology, Zoology at 4:47 pm by Bram Janssen

Scientists have managed to successfully sequence the genome of the long-extinct wooly mammoth.

Woolly Mammoth

This the oldest genome yet sequenced- and quite a feat it is: the wooly mammoth in question is 33,000 years dead and the entire species has been extinct for about 10,000 years.

The reason why this find is important is for our understanding of the elephant evolution. There is a long-standing discussion whether the mammoth was more closely related to the present-day Asian -or African elephants. This research is suggesting it might be the Asian in the end.
(Link)

Quote:

“Although previous studies have shown that the problem with using ancient DNA in evolutionary studies is that DNA modifications can lead to artifact mutations accumulating in postmortem material and, therefore, produce errors in sequences; the strategies and data provided by Rogaev et al demonstrate that their long genomic sequence is essentially free from such artifacts and that the mammoth genome is authentic. Further, they have demonstrated that large DNA fragments can be isolated from ancient specimens recovered from permafrost conditions and that the complete genes can be directly cloned or reconstructed for animals that disappeared from the earth many thousand years ago.”