Friday, August 11, 2006

David Raup on Horse Evolution

Related to my post on the current horse evolution display in the Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, David Raup's observations are enlightening. One of America's leading paleontologists, Raup was formerly the curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago:
Darwin's general solution to the incompatibility of fossil evidence and his theory was to say that the fossil record is a very incomplete one that it is full of gaps, and that we have much to learn. In effect, he was saying that if the record were complete and if we had better knowledge of it we would see the finely graduated chain that he predicted. And this was his main argument for downgrading the evidence from the fossil record. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information - what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection. (Raup D.M., "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History: Chicago IL, January 1979, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp.22-29, pp.24-25)

I included this quote in this post as well.


At August 24, 2006 3:18 AM, Blogger JOHN DAVIES said...

You don't need the fossil record to observe evolution on a time frame that is less than your own life time.

Just pick any flu virus or examine the recent bird flu virus. Amazing mutations and evolution going on every day.

At February 09, 2008 11:47 PM, Blogger Stan Kerns said...

When you look at the time span that the horse family occupies ponder just how many animals lived in that interval. How many fossil examples do we have?--a few hundred. Is it surprising that with so few to choose among that we can't furnish perfect examples that would illustrate supposed landmarks along the way. What you might ponder is that these animals inhabited a changing world, and that their changes were pretty logical in view of the changing environment they lived in--specifically the appearance of grasses, and those grasses replacing forests. We see a changing animal that is adapting to a changing world. Unless you are a flat earther surely you recognize the changing nature of the world we live in--does not a changing world require changeable animals??
Stan Kerns

At February 18, 2008 4:20 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...


Who are you arguing with- David Raup? Me? Darwin? The fossils?

The fossil record as a whole shows different animals at different times, but it does not tell us how they got that way, and that remains an interesting question. "Darwin's problem" as Raup put it is still a problem, and is an even bigger problem today. So why shouldn't we continue to test Darwin's theory?


At December 15, 2008 12:40 AM, Anonymous Wry Mouth said...

"to observe evolution on a time frame that is less than your own life time"

does the virus evolve into a bacterium? a protozoa? a prion? inquiring minds want to know!

DF: I was led here by "Hatless in Hattiesberg" link; so nice to find another "macroevolutionist" agnostic... I find evolution invaluable as a scientific model (my expertise is math and statistics), without the need to see it as "the truth." I've known too many useful models (e.g., Ptolemy's solar system) that didn't necessarily need to be truthful to be useful.

I have many problems with macroevolution, particularly at certain breakpoints: nonlife to life, single-to-multi-cell, cold- to warm-blooded, etc. etc.

I'm sure I'll be stopping by to peruse your archives from time to time until I catch up!



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