Re: Reply to creationist students #5

Stephen Jones (
Tue, 05 May 98 22:31:08 +0800

Josh (and Steven)

On Wed, 18 Mar 98 14:42:06 -0500, Steven Schafersman wrote:

SS>Members of this email list may be interested in something I
>posted on the web at


JA>If Darwin's theory is true the fossil record should consist almost
>entirely of transitional forms with modern animals themselves
>snapshots on a continuum of perpetual change. One or two possible
>candidates will not suffice. The theory inarguably calls for
>"innumerable" intermediates, an "infinitude of connecting links."
>However, although over 140 years of extensive exploration and
>research has yielded what George Neville called an "unmanageably
>rich fossil record" no clear transitional forms are found. To say that
>convincing evidence that these forms once existed is conspicuously
>absent is something of an understatement. As Darwin put it: "Nature
>may almost be said to have guarded against the frequent discovery
>of her transitional or linking forms."(78)

Indeed this was the original expectation of Darwin:

"But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on
an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties,
which have formerly existed, be truly enormous. Why then is not
every geological formation and every stratum full of such
intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely
graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and
serious objection which can be urged against the theory. The
explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the
geological record. " (Darwin C., "The Origin of Species," 6th edition,
Everyman's Library, 1967 reprint, pp292-293)

"By the theory of natural selection all living species have been
connected with the parent-species of each genus, by differences not
greater than we see between the natural and domestic varieties of the
same species at the present day; and these parent-species, now
generally extinct, have in their turn been similarly connected with
more ancient forms; and so on backwards, always converging to the
common ancestor of each great class. So that the number of
intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct
species, must have been inconceivably great. But assuredly, if this
theory be true, such have lived upon the earth." (Darwin, 1967, p294)
"But I do not pretend that I should ever have suspected how poor
was the record in the best preserved geological sections, had not the
absence of innumerable transitional links between the species which
lived at the commencement and close of each formation, pressed so
hardly on my theory." (Darwin, 1967, p311)

But when Darwinism failed this test, Darwin and his followers
protected their unfalsifiable theory by multiplying auxiliary
hypotheses, such as imperfection of the fossil record and rapid

SS>The first sentence is the above paragraph is a creationist

Darwinists also protect their unfalsifiable theory by routinely accusing
those who would criticise it of "misrepresentation". This intolerance
to criticism is further evidence that Darwinism is a pseudoscience:

"Popper put the essential point in a marvelous aphorism: "The wrong
view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right." In some
cases this craving results from the pride of a discoverer, who defends
a theory with every artifice at his disposal because his professional
reputation is at stake. For Marxists and Freudians, the craving came
from the sense of security they gained from having a theory that
seemed to make sense out of the world. People base their careers and
their personal lives on theories like that, and they feel personally
threatened when the theory is under attack. Fear leads such people to
embrace uncritically any device that preserves the theory from
falsification. Popper proposed the falsifiability criterion as a test for
distinguishing science from other intellectual pursuits, among which
he included pseudoscience and metaphysics." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin
on Trial,", 1993, pp149-150)

SS>Speciation occurs rapidly on a geologic time scale, while species
>usually persist after they form; after all, they adapted to a new

The point is that if Darwinism is true, both the transitional forms *and
their branching descendants*, being better adapted to the
environment, would also survive. But they didn't. So Darwinism is
not true.

SS>and stabilizing selection will preserve them in their original form
>as long as the environment remains constant (speciation is usually
>driven by environmental change).

This fails to explain why "environmental change" does not produce
"speciation" in `living fossils' which have remained unchanged
through all the same "environmental change" that allegedly produces
"speciation" in their close relatives:

"In the last decade, major critics of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis have
arisen from the ranks of paleontologists. Their criticisms are primarily
twofold. First, whenever there is an opportunity to observe an
organism through successive periods of geologic time, the species
shows little or no morphologic change. This phenomenon is referred
to as stasis and can cover hundreds of millions of years. Stephen
Stanley, a paleontologist from Johns Hopkins, gives a number of
examples of "living fossils." A few with their lengths of duration in
millions of years are listed below. (Stanley S.M., "Macroevolution:
Pattern and Process," 1979)

Sea urchins 230 MY
Horseshoe crabs 230 MY
Bowfins 105 MY
Sturgeons 80 MY
Bats 50 MY
Alligators 35 MY

This evidence is seen as contradictory to Neo-Darwinism or gradual
evolution for two reasons. First, the origin of these animals is sudden
and seemingly complete. The earliest horseshoe crab found in the
fossil record is nearly identical to the horseshoe crab that exists
today. Second although there have been numerous environmental
fluctuations, these animals remain virtually unchanged, even to the
present day. Gradual evolution would have produced continuous
change, especially over tens of millions of years. This would not be
particularly persuasive if stasis were an exception to the rule, but to
punctuationalists such as Stanley, it *is* the rule. In just about all
cases, once a species appears, it remains constant morphologically
and either persists to the present day or becomes extinct, but no
major evolutionary transitions are observed."

(Lester L.P. & Bohlin R.G., "The Natural Limits to Biological
Change," 1989, pp106-107)

SS>This means that the pattern we should expect to find in the fossil
>record is species stability through time (stasis) with gaps during the
>speciation events in most cases. Niles Eldrege and Steve Gould
>called this pattern "punctuated equilibrium," as if this natural
>process needed a name

What is this supposed to mean? *All* natural processes of any
significance are given names by science!

SS>but they soon gave this name to their own hypothesis of how
>evolution works (more on this later). Think about it: if one really
>expected to see "innumerable intermediates" and an "infinitude of
>connecting links," this would mean that both the stratigraphic and
>fossil records would be perfect, allowing complete fossilization of
>all stages of all subpopulations' change, preserving them perfectly
>in a complete and continuous sedimentary record, during all
>speciation events of the billions of species that existed on Earth.

This is simply not the case. A *pattern* of gradual adaptive change
should be able to be made out, even if the fossil record was imperfect.
In fact, a pattern *can* be made out, and it is *sytematically* of
discontinuous abrupt appearance, as Neo-Darwinism's co-founder,
Harvard palaeontologist George Gaylord Simpson pointed out:

"They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost
imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should
be usual in evolution. A great many sequences of two or a few
temporally intergrading species are known, but even at this level most
species appear without known immediate ancestors, and really long,
perfectly complete sequences of numerous species are exceedingly
rare. Sequences of genera immediately successive or nearly so at that
level (not necessarily from one genus to the next),are more common
and may be longer than known sequences of species. But the
appearance of anew genus in the record is usually more abrupt than
the appearance of anew species; the gaps involved are generally
larger, that is, when a new genus appears in the record it is usually
well separated morphologically from the most nearly similar other
known genera. This phenomenon becomes more universal and more
intense as the hierarchy of categories is ascended. Gaps among
known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known
orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.'
(Simpson G.G., "The History of Life," in Tax S., ed., "The Evolution
of Life," 1960, p149, in Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis,"1985, p165)

Denton, who is not a creationist, or even a theist, comments:

"The fundamental problem in explaining the gaps in terms of an
insufficient search or in terms of the imperfection of the record is
their systematic character - the fact that there are fewer transitional
species between the major divisions than between the minor. Between
Eohippus and the modern horse (a minor division) we have dozens of
transitional species, while between a primitive land mammal and a
whale (a major division) we have none*. And this rule applies
universally throughout the living kingdom to all types of organisms,
both those that are poor candidates for fossilization such as insects
and those which are ideal, like molluscs. But this is the exact reverse
of what is required by evolution. Discontinuities we might be able to
explain away in terms of some sort of sampling error but their
systematic character defies all explanation. If the gaps really were the
result of an insufficient search, or the result of the imperfection of the
record, then we should expect to find more transitional forms
between mouse and whale than between dog and cat." (Denton M.,
"Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1985, pp192-193)

* This argument is not materially affected by the fact that there are
now a few claimed intermediates between land mammals and whales.
Denton's point is that there should be *many, many* more transitional
forms than a few between "mouse and whale"

SS>>This is patent nonsense, and it would be irrational to expect to
>see such a thing. Darwin, of course, was using a common literary
>device in his writing, that of rhetorical hyperbole, i.e., deliberate
>overstatement, meant to put the opposing argument in its strongest

Indeed, Darwin was a brilliant user of "rhetorical hyperbole"! :-)

SS>And yet we do have many transitional fossils, thousands of them
>in fact. These are well known to paleontologists, have been
>extensively investigated, and are widely discussed in the
>paleontological literature. Mr. Anderson's statement that "no clear
>transitional forms are found" is blatantly untrue.

Maybe that's why the late Dr Colin Patterson, senior ichthyologist at
the British Museum of Natural History, and one of the world's
leading authorities on fossil fish, said:

"...Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict
when they say there are no transitional fossils. As a palaeontologist
myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of
identifying ancestral forms in the fossil record. You say that I should
at least 'show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism
was derived.' I will lay it on the line-there is not one such fossil for
which one could make a watertight argument. The reason is that
statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil
record. Is Archaeopteryx the ancestor of all birds? Perhaps yes,
perhaps no: there is no way of answering the question." (Patterson
C., letter 10 April 1979, in Sunderland L.D., "Darwin's Enigma:
Fossils and Other Problems", 1988, p89)

SS>Because of the "140 years of extensive exploration and
>research" he disparages, paleontologists have identified thousands
>of transitional fossil species.)

This is dodging the issue. The problem is not that there may be
"thousands of transitional fossil *species*" but that there should be
millions if not billions of them, if Darwinism is true. And also, if
Darwinism is true, there should be more transitions between higher
taxa like phyla, classes, and orders, than between lower taxa like
families, genuses and species. But there isn't and therefore Darwinism
is not true. What the fossil record pervasively reveals is major
discontinuities which are a hallmark of the rapid and directed major
changes that creationists would expect of the guidance and
intervention of an Intelligent Designer.

SS>These have been recognized by inference and hypothesis during
>stratophenetic analyses (studies of stratigraphy and morphology)
>and cladistic analyese (studies of primitive and shared derived
>characters) of fossils. (In the case of a cladistic or phylogenetic
>analysis, taxa are ususally said to share common ancestors rather
>than be transitional, because to infer ancestral-descendant
>relationships adds an unnecessary extra hypothesis to most studies.)

Agreed. To claim that a form is "transitional" *is* "an unnecessary
extra hypothesis". Palaeontologists cannot know if the fossils they
find left any descendants:

" genes must have ancestors, whereas dead fossils may not
have descendants. Molecular biologists know the genes they are
examining must have been passed through lineages that survived to
present; paleontologists cannot be sure that the fossils they examine
do not lead down an evolutionary blind alley." (Wilson A.C. & Cann
R.L., "The Recent African Genesis of Humans," Scientific American,
Vol. 266, No. 4, April 1992, p22)

SS>For good and easily accessible discussions of the facts about the
>existence of transitional fossils, simply go to the Transitional
>Vertebrate Fossils FAQ by Kathleen Hunt on the Talk.Origins
>website and to the disscusion of Taxonomy, Transitional Forms, and
>the Fossil Record by Keith Miller on the American Scientific
>Affiliation website (the ASA is an organization of Christian
>scientists who are interested in the study of natural origins, so
>young creationists can visit this site with confidence!). Another
>site with transitional fossil examples and references, including the
>classic land mammal to whale transition, originally predicted by
>Darwin in the Origin of Species on the basis of anatomical
>similarities between the two groups, is here. Checking these sites
>on the Web will save the interested reader from the necessity of
>actually visiting a library and locating a book about paleontology
>or evolution.

The Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ is at: I am not a YEC,
I have no problem with the claimed existence of transitional fossils
that are both stratigraphically and morphologically intermediate. As
a Mediate Creationist, I would expect there to be some, but not
because the process was God-directed, and therefore its speed and
directionality would leave few traces in the fossil record. And that
is in fact precisely what we find! It is not the alleged transitional
forms which evolutionists focus on, but the immense gaps between

"In the same spirit, Mr. Wadkins calls me to task for failing to
cite "the specific cases where transitional fossil forms are found in
abundance." The fossil record does contain many intermediate forms;
a recent publication on the Internet (Kathleen Hunt, Transitional
Vertebrate Fossils, FAQ [Frequently Asked Questions], lists more than 250. But Mr. Wadkins
misunderstood the nature of the argument. My concern was to state
the obvious: the fossil record contains gaps, places where the
continuity assumptions of Darwinian theory break down. That there
are places where the gaps are filled is interesting, but irrelevant.
It is the gaps that are crucial." (Berlinski D., "Denying Darwin:
David Berlinski and Critics", Commentary, September 1996, p30)

SS>As I mentioned earlier, most transitional fossils are transitional
>between genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, i.e. between taxa
>higher than species. But some fossils transitional between species
>are known from sedimentary records that are so complete and
>continuous that this level of detail is possible. Most frequently
>this is the record of tropical pelagic sediments during the Cenozoic
>in the oceans, so studies of fossil microplankton (planktonic
>foraminifera, radiolarians, diatoms, coccolithophores, etc.) have
>yielded fantastically preserved and complete fossil records
>revealing the details of phyletic transitions between species.

I have no problem with there being "phyletic transitions between
species". I presume that from first to last, the "fossil
microplankton" stayed "fossil microplankton"?

SS>As I said, both gradual anagenetic and punctuated cladogenetic
>change are observed during speciation among these protist lineages.
>These studies have taken place only in the last two decades (they
>require that cores from the sea floor be taken by deep-sea
>drilling), so many non-paleontologists are unaware of them.
>Certainly Darwin and his contemporaries could only imagine that we
>would see these "innumerable intermediates" with an "infinitude of
>connecting links," but now we can!

At few paragraphs back this was just Darwin's "literary device" of
"rhetorical hyperbole, i.e., deliberate overstatement, meant to put
the opposing argument in its strongest form". Now when the
rare bit of evidence that supports the Darwinian paradigm is found,
it suddenly becomes the sober truth!

SS>The most recent paleontology and micropaleontology textbooks
discuss these. In addition, detailed studies of the best
continental stratigraphic records had yielded transitional mammal
fossils between species.

This is not entirely true. There are instances where the "best
continental stratigraphic records" have *not* "yielded transitional
mammal fossils between species":

"According to Steven Stanley, the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming
contains a continuous local record of fossil deposits for about five
million years, during an early period in the age of mammals. Because
this record is so complete, paleontologists assumed that certain
populations of the basin could be linked together to illustrate
continuous evolution. On the contrary, species that were once
thought to have turned into others turn out to overlap in time with
their alleged descendants, and "the fossil record does not
convincingly document a single transition from one species to
another." (Stanley, S.M., "Macroevolution," 1979, p39) (Johnson
P.E., "Darwin on Trial," 1993, p51)

SS>Finally, an enormous amount of effort has been devoted to
>discovering and studying the hominid fossil record in east Africa, so
>we now possess an excellent record of all the species leading up to
>our own, along with many of the intermediate stages (see
>theTalk.Origins FAQ on Fossil Hominids).

This is not entirely true. Carroll says there is a gap of *10 million
years* between the apes and hominids:

"Unfortunately, there are no fossil hominoids known in Africa
between 4 and 14 million years ago. The African apes Gorilla and Pan
have no fossil record. Based on anatomical evidence, they might have
diverged from the ancestors of humans any time from about 5 to 14
million years ago." (Carroll, R.L., "Vertebrate Paleontology and
Evolution," W. H. Freeman & Co: New York, 1988, p474)

If Darwinian `blind watchmaker' evolution was true, we should
expect to see *more* fossils in the period 14-4 mya than between 4-0
mya. The evidence considered as a whole better fits the
Mediate/Progressive Creation model than the Darwinian `blind
watchmaker' evolution model:

"...I am happy to assume arguendo that small apes (the
Australopithecines once existed which walked upright, or more nearly
upright than apes of today, and that there may also have been an
intermediate species (Homo erectus) that walked upright and had
brain size intermediate between that of modern men and apes. On that
assumption there are possible transitional steps between apes and
humans, but nothing like the smooth line of development that was
proclaimed by Dobzhansky and other neo-Darwinists. We have to
imagine what Steven Stanley calls "rapid branching," a euphemism for
mysterious leaps, which somehow produced the human mind and
spirit from animal materials." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," 1993,

JA>For many years proponents of the theory of evolution have
>argued that the imperfection of the fossil record or an insufficient
>search on our part explains the otherwise perplexing lack of
>transitional forms. However, in light of what we now know, this
>reasoning can no longer be considered valid. In fact, this position
>becomes increasingly weaker with each passing day as large tracts
>the fossil record from around the globe are closely examined and
>our knowledge of the history of life grows.

Indeed, as Raup has pointed out, we are now more than a hundred
years after Darwin and we actually have *fewer* examples of smooth
transition than we had in Darwin's time:

"Darwin predicted that the fossil record should show a reasonably
smooth continuum of ancestor-descendant pairs with a satisfactory
number of intermediates between major groups Darwin even went so
far as to say that if this were not found in the fossil record, his general
theory of evolution would be in serious jeopardy. Such smooth
transitions were not found in Darwin's time, and he explained this in
part on the basis of an incomplete geologic record and in part on the
lack of study of that record. We are now more than a hundred years
after Darwin and the situation is little changed. Since Darwin a
tremendous expansion of paleontological knowledge has taken place,
and we know much more about the fossil record than was known in
his time, but the basic situation is not much different. We actually
may have fewer examples of smooth transition than we had in
Darwin's time because some of the old examples have turned out to
be invalid when studied in more detail. To be sure, some new
intermediate or transitional forms have been found, particularly
among land vertebrates. But if Darwin were writing today, he would
probably still have to cite a disturbing lack of missing links or
transitional forms between the major groups of organisms." (Raup
D.M., "Geological and Paleontological Arguments," in Godfrey L.R.,
ed., "Scientists Confront Creationism," 1983, p156)

SS>Transitional fossils were present in the fossil record known in
>Darwin's day, they just weren't recognized as such. The reason for
>this is because scientists explain nature by using theory--without a
>theory of evolution to explain the transitional fossils, they were
>not recognized and identified.

And now maybe "with a theory of evolution to explain the transitional
fossils", the evidence for *creation* is "not recognized and

SS>Soon after the Origin of Species was
>published, however, paleontologists began to publish descriptions of
>such fossil transitions. A famous example is Archaeopteryx,
>suspected on and off of being the transitional link between
>dinosaurs and birds. This claim was first made by Thomas Henry
>Huxley in the middle 1860's, soon after the first Archaeopteryx
>specimen was disovered, and only a few years after the publication
>of the Origin.

The very fact that "Archaeopteryx" has been "suspected on and off of
being the transitional link between dinosaurs and birds" just shows
how fluid the term "transitional link" is!

SS>The "imperfection of the fossil record" is the
>excuse paleontologists still use for why we don't have millions of
>transitional fossils between hundreds of millions of extinct
>species, but we don't use this excuse for a lack of ANY transitional
>fossils--because we have so many of them, no excuse is necessary!

It all depends on how the term "transitional fossil" is defined. Most of
the above are probably only fairly minor variations on existing themes
and may just represent microevolution. Indeed, Carroll bemoans the
fact that in the *really* important changes, "transitional fossils" are

"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.
On the other hand, certain genera of fish, amphibians, and reptiles are
known from thousands upon thousands of fossils from every
continent." (Carroll R.L., "Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution,"
1988, p4)



Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)