Re: Morphologically intermediate species

Pim van Meurs (
Thu, 13 Mar 1997 21:33:47 -0400

sejones @
03-11-97 02:25 PM

"Welcome to the Reflector! I'm sorry but I haven't the time to answer
your private messages on Reflector topics. I will normally only
answer public ones on Reflector topics since I feel Creation v
Evolution should normally be a public debate."

Unless I made a mistake, the messages are sent to the reflector. My e-mail
program insists on responding to you so I have to manually reset it to the
reflector. I might have mixed up.

"I am not sure where you are coming from in this debate. Are you a
naturalistic or theistic evolutionist? Apologies if you have already
stated this and I have missed it."

No I have not introduced myself. My name is Pim van Meurs and I am an
oceanographer. My viewpoint is naturalistic rather than theistic, being
the incurable scientist.

PM>There are never enough intermediates to satisfy you? When will
>it be enough?

"When Darwinists can prove their step-by-step `blind watchmaker'
macroevolutionary hypothesis. Denton suggests how:"

And one is never satisfied with 'perfect sequence' ? The increasing
number of transitional fossils continue to present more and more evidence
supporting evolution. I am surprised that the response to this is 'never

"To show that any two species of organism are related in an
evolutionary sense, to show for example that one species A, is
ancestral to B, ie A->B or that both species have descended from a
common ancestral source, ie A<->B, it is necessary to satisfy one of
the following conditions. Either one, to find a 'perfect' sequence
of fully functional intermediate forms I1, I2, I3 leading
unambiguously from one species to another, ie A->I1->I2->I3->B...or
two, to reconstruct hypothetically in great detail the exact sequence
of events which led from A to B or from a common ancestor to A and B,
including thoroughly convincing reconstructions of intermediate forms
and a rigorous and detailed explanation of how and why each stage in
the transformation came about." (Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis", 1985, pp55-56)

PM>Given the problems of fossilization, the possibility of
>regionally restricted development make it remarkable that so many
>intermediates have been found.

"It depends how you define "intermediates". In a strict sense of
ancestor to direct descendant, *no* "intermediates" have been found:"

Irrelevant, the issue is not a complete record of all the animals.

"But even if a less strict sense of ancestor to indirect descendent,
in the really important areas of transition between higher taxonomic
groups there are few (if any) "intermediates" at all:"

"Where information regarding transitional forms is most eagerly
sought, it is least likely to be available. We have no intermediate
fossils between rhipidistian fish and early amphibians or between
primitive insectivores and bats; only a single species, Archaeopteryx
lithographica represents the transition between dinosaurs and birds."
(Carroll, R.L., "Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution", 1988, p4)

Again, by focusing on what is not there you ignore what IS there. You are
confusing the issue of absence of evidence with evidence of absence. Why
ignore the many transitionals that are known and focus on what is not
(yet) known ? From a scientific point of view this does not make sense.

"If Darwinist `blind watchmaker' macroevolution is true, one should
expect not only intermediates, but intermediates from the

And intermediates from intermediates from intermediates. And when you
this to the absurd then the more intermediates there are found the more
'gaps' there will be until you have the total family tree of all animals
that ever lived. Given the reality of fossilization that is unlikely. Nor
does the absence of such a sequence mean that blind watchmaker
macroevolution is wrong.

"As Darwin himself put it, if Darwinism is true
the Precambrian world must have `swarmed with living creatures'..."
(Johnson P.E., "The Blind Watchmaker Thesis" , tape 2 of 3, Trinity
Founders Lectures, 1992)

Depending on how you define 'swarmed' there are quite a few fossil
species from the precambrian. Just not as abundant as later species.

"Denton points out that in the case of the whale alone the number of
side-branches must have been "inconceivably great" unless there was
"an external unknown directive influence in evolution":

The transisitional record for the whales has lately been increased quite
impressively and the finds are truely remarkable in that they show an
impressive transition. If the argument is that 'not enough' have yet be
found, why not address what has been found ? After all the possibilities
of a strawman fossil
record as 'required' by Denton aer quite small but the absence of such a
record does not undermine evolution. It's the presence of data which
should be addressed, not the absence of data.

1994 Stephen Jay Gould, writes of whales in _Natural History_ 5/94,

"... I am absolutely delighted to report that our usually
recalcitrant fossil record has come through in exemplary
fashion. During the past fifteen years, new discoveries in
Africa and Pakistan have added greatly to our paleontological
knowledge of the earliest history of whales. The embarrassment
of past absence has been replaced by a bounty of new evidence -
and by the sweetest series of transitional fossils an
evolutionist could every hope to find. ... I don't mean to
sound jaded or dogmatic, but Ambulocetus is so close to our
expectation for a transitional form that its discovery could
not provide a professional paleontologist with the greatest of
all pleasures in science - surprise."

"I accept the actual evidence of the fossil record that `evolution'
has been too direct for any known naturalistic evolutionary
mechanism. Therefore, I believe in "the fast-transition theory",
namely mediate creation through the progressive introduction of
genetic information by an Intelligent Designer."

Why invoke a supernatural which can not be disproven or proven when
naturalistic explanations explain as well or better, allow for predictions
for falsifications ? Under Occam's Razor the supernatural power (Deus ex
Machina) fails as a viable hypothesis, not just because of its unnecessary
complexity, the additional questions it raises (who created the creator)
but also because of a lack of adherence to what is considered scientific,

PM>It needs the intermediates where there are none found yet. To
>focus on the absence of evidence rather than on the presence of
>evidence is not very useful.

"See above. I *do* "focus...on the presence of evidence". The actual
"evidence" does not support Darwinist, `blind watchmaker'

"We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the
story of gradual adaptive change], all the while really knowing that
it does not."] ( Eldredge N., "Time Frames", 1986, p144, in Johnson
P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, p59)

And why are you suggesting that 'punk eek' or abrupt change, is evidence
against the blind watchmaker macro evolution ? But the data on gradual
versus punctual change show evidence of both. Similarly punk eek, should
not be seen as a replacement but addition to the theory of evolution.

"The actual evidence supports what Gould calls "the fast-transition

"the fossil record, read literally, seems to indicate...the
fast-transition theory" (Gould S.J., "Wonderful Life", 1991, p273).

Gould has both addressed the evidence of abrupt change as well as the
evidence of slow transitional changes. The existance of one does not
preclude the other as they can be easily explained in the same framework.

"It is *Darwinist* who need to claim that there must be an "absence of

"I can answer these questions and objections only on the supposition
that the geological record is far more imperfect than most geologists
believe." (Darwin C., "The Origin of Species", 6th Edition, 1967
reprint, p441)

Of course this once again means ignoring the evidence that IS there and
secondly it is explained by the reality that fossilization is rare.
Whether the observed jumps are actually caused by an imperfect fossil
record or by punk eek, they do not serve as a problem per se for evolution.

PM>Stasis in the record is not a problem for darwinism either. Even
>Darwin speculated about the possibilities of stasis followed by
>rapid change.

"Agreed, but nowhere near the extent of the degree of stasis that
modern palaeontology has revealed:"

"Having carefully scrutinized data from the fossil record during the
past decade, however, I have demonstrated a biological stability for
species of animals and plants that I think would have shocked Darwin.
Certainly it has jolted many modern evolutionists." (Steven Stanley,
"The New Evolution", Johns Hopkins Magazine, June 1982, pp6-11), in
Sunderland L.D., "Darwin's Enigma", 1988, p103)

And there are similarly good examples of a gradual change in organisms.
Stasis is not a problem per se for evolution and neither is the abrupt
changes. Stasis is expected for instance in larger populations while
abrupt changes can take place when the population is constricted in
geographical extent or by catastrophy. For instance from a theoretical
point of view the pattern of punk eek is not a problem. Models by Lande
and Newman (Lande, expected time for random genetic drift of a population
between stable phenotypic states" Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 82, 7641 (1985),
Newman et al "Neo-Darwinian evolution implies punctuated equilibria",
Nature 315 400 (1985)). predict a jerky evolution during relative
environmental constancy. The question remains if the fossil record is
enough to address these issues but in the last decades, punk eek and
stasis have become far better understood in terms of possible mechanisms
explaining them within the classical neo-darwinian framework.

"Like all major theories in the sciences of natural history, including
natural selection itself, punctuated eequilibrium is a claim about
relative frequency, not exclusivity. Phyletic gradualism has been well
documented across all taxa of microfossils to mammals. Punctuated
equilibrium surely exists in abundance but validation of the general
hypothesis requires a relative frequency sufficiently high to impart the
predominant motif and signal to life's history."

Stephen J Gould and Niles Eldredge, Punctuated Equilibrium comes of age,
Nature 366, 1993, pp 223-227.

PM>Except what you consider a small number is not necessarily so.

"Disagree. See above quotes by Johnson and Denton. If evolution was
a gradual, step-by-step undirected `blind watchmaker' process, then
there must have been hundreds of thousands of intermediate species in
the whale transition alone, and each of those transitional species
would have branched off into other species. This would mean
countless millions of actual individual animals in total, revealing
different stages in the transition. Even with an extremely low rate
of fossilisation and recovery, one would expect to find much more
evidence of these transitional stages than what has been found."

Could you quantify this number ? Given the rareness of fossil finds,
fossil preservation and given the possibility that much of the change in
species might be limited in geographic extent it is remarkable that so
many transitionals have been found. Your are arguing from an argument of
'absence of evidence' leading to evidence of absence by neglecting what
has been found in favour of what has not (yet) been found.

PM>Why not focus on what has been found and what is supporting
>evolution rather than the evidence which has yet to be found ?

"See above. The word "evolution" without qualification or defintion
is too vague to even be wrong! The actual "evidence" is more
consistent with a progresssive mediate creation than fully naturalistic
`blind watchmaker' macroevolution."

I disagree since it requires additional requirements which by virtue of
Occam's Razor should lead to dismissal as viable arguments. A 'Deus ex
machina' explanation, while convenient requires far more faith, has far
less predictability and falsifiability than a naturalistic explanation.
Resorting to the unknown when trying to explain scientific data is never a
satisfying answer.
Especially if the 'problems' are hardly as large as you are suggesting.

PM>Indeed, you find one transitional and there are two gaps to fill.
>Extrapolating this idea reveals that the more transitionals are
>found, the more are lacking.

"This wouldn't be so if they were true ancestor-direct descendant
"transiitonals". It only highlights that there are enormous "gaps"
between most claimed "transitional" forms."

True, but once again this requires you to ignore the available evidence
in favour of what you expect should be found. The transitionals show
perfect examples of evolution just not to the degree to satisfy you.

PM>Of course this requires ignoring the evidence found in support.

"No. It actually *considers* "the evidence" claimed to "support"
Darwinist `blind watchmaker' macroevolution and finds it inadequate."

Inadequate perhaps, depending on one's expectations, but not
contradicting. The question remains is the data inadequate, your
expectations inadequate or is the theory inadequate.

"If one has no apriori bias that naturalistic evolution just has to be
true, then a mediate creation by the progressive introduction of new
genetic information is more consistent with the evidence."

In science the assumption of something that cannot be proven, observed or
falsified has little meaning. Furthermore the theory fails the test of
Occam's Razor in that it requires more complex explanations to explain
The Blind Watchmaker or neo-darwinian theory explains the observed data
equally well, especially when marrying the concepts of stasis and punk eek
without the need to resort to the 'unkown supernatural force' which cannot
be proven or disproven and is as such not a very useful scientific theory.

So in conclusion your arguments against the Blind Watchmaker
interpretation are based upon the fallacy of implying that a absence of
evidence or absence of sufficient evidence is (sufficient) evidence of
absence. The observed transitional fossils have to be ignored, punctuated
equilibrium and stasis have to be interpreted as competing, exclusive