Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Missing Link? Or Just One More Species Appearing Suddenly In the Fossil Record?

The scientists are exploding with excitement in this NY Times article, claiming to have found once again "the missing link." The WaPo article is here. Is it a transitional fossil? We really do not know. We have no specific and clear evidence that it evolved from something or evolved into something. Maybe it did; maybe it did not. Truly valuable "transitional fossils" would be a series that shows one species turning into another species. This does not. This fossil might just be one more unique species that went extinct, as many now consider Archaeopteryx to be.

This fossil does make somewhat more plausible the theory that fish evolved into land animals. How plausible that theory is depends on looking at all the evidence. How you judge the plausibility of various possibilities involves the subjective evaluation of the evidence. And that in turn depends on one's worldview and subjective bias.

The quoted scientists' confidence that this "proves" macroevolutionary theory merely shows how eager they are to find evidence that supports their theory, which in turn supports their worldview. It also shows their weak logic and their unwillingness to even consider a more skeptical evaluation. There are many other possibilities that are apparently not even considered by these scientists.

Of course, the article does not mention one other thing: this fossil is one more confirmation of the overall pattern in the fossil record: sudden appearance of species and stasis. As Stephen J. Gould noted:
The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.

2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and "fully formed."

(Gould, Stephen J., "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History, Vol. 86, No. 5, May 1977, p.14).

That is one of the big evidentiary problems that Darwinian theory has, and this fossil find provides more evidence (if not terribly significant) of the sudden appearance aspect of this problem. Gould's attempt to explain away this problem with the overall fossil record was his theory of punctuated equilibrium, but is this the most plausible explanation? Is this letting the evidence speak for itself, or cramming it into a theoretical box? Reasonable scientists disagree.

As Phillip Johnson said in Darwin On Trial in the context of evaluating Archaeopteryx, another fossil that many claimed "proved" Darwin's theory:
Persons who come to the fossil evidence as convinced Darwinists will see a stunning confirmation, but skeptics will see only a lonely exception to a consistent pattern of fossil disconfirmation. If we are testing Darwinism rather than merely looking for a confirming example or two, then a single good candidate for ancestor status is not enough to save a theory that posits a worldwide history of continual evolutionary transformation. p. 81.

The New York Times also fearlessly takes on Doug LaPointe of Calvary Academy, in Lakewood, NJ. The article references his web site and ruthlessly demonstrates how this fossil contradicts one point that he makes there. Wow. The Times has met its equal and does OK. Compare the Times article with the Post article. The New York Times certainly earns the title: "The Voice of the Darwinian Cheerleading Squad."

Watch out, Doug. They really have your number this time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Scrappleface has picked up on the big fossil discovery too, and refers to another big scientific discovery. However, Scott failed to provide a hyperlink to information about that other discovery, so, um, here is the missing link.

Cool New Fossil

The Post reports on the discovery of a fossil of an interesting animal that shows characteristics of different known animals. I love dinosaurs, and you can add this to the list of "cool extinct animals." I am also a big fan of alligators, so this one is especially fun.

I will comment later on the impact of this on macroevolutionary theory. In the meantime, if you want to know how people who are serious skeptics of the theory may view it, you can read Phillip Johnson's discussion of Archaeopteryx on pp. 80-81 of Darwin On Trial, and at other points in that book (listed in the index). If you don't own this book already, now is a good time to get it. His chapter "The Fossil Problem" helps put this in perspective.

One other bit of good news: this fossil is not likely to be deemed unconstitutional like the less fortunate Opabinia and Anomalocaris.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tribute to Darwinian Fundamentalists

Jonathan Witt has a tongue in cheek "tribute" to Darwinian Fundamentalists here. Some choice excerpts:
Why stop at beating up on small school districts (Dover) for briefly mentioning to students that they can learn about an alternative origins theory, intelligent design, in the school library? Why stop at expunging from Ohio’s biology curricula any mention of the weaknesses in modern evolutionary theory? No, it’s time for them to go after all of those mainstream biologists and their impermissible facts that have infiltrated the peer reviewed literature.

. . . .

After that the real work begins. I’m talking about all those uncooperative fossils, the great quarries in Canada and China that show how most of the major groups of animals appeared in a geologically brief period of time during the Cambrian explosion, contradicting Darwin's gradually branching tree of life. Those fossils can't just be left sitting around. They too will have to be gotten rid of.

. . . .

It’s not enough to keep this information from students in high school biology classes. The facts are a danger to us all. Such stories will have to be stopped.

But take heart. The Darwinian Fundamentalists have arrived. They just want to help.

Those poor Cambrian fossils. They have already been deemed unconstitutional. Now they are in danger of getting whacked.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Weekend Humor 060401

Check out this amazing photograph from Mars. C'mon, Krauze. You know who really put it there. The new Christo-Taliban Overlords (CTO). If you have any doubts about the conspiracy, all you have to do is read Barbara Forrest (also here) and nothing else. And by all means, do not read the original sources in context. One other tip: remember that "critical analysis" is synonymous with "creationism." Avoid it.

I think Barb knows deep down that Resistance is Futile. Think about the acronym for Biblical Overlords for Rule by God. It all becomes so clear.