The Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge (2005/02/24)

First, have a look at the following text:

This gradualism insisted upon by Darwin has proved increasingly embarrassing to modern scientists. If evolution occurred at an excruciatingly slow rate, then why can’t we find transitional forms in the fossil record? There should be literally millions of instances where a fossil manifests many of the characteristics of a reptile, but some of the characteristics of a bird (or vice versa)—where are those fossils? Darwin dodged this lack of evidential support for his theory by claiming that scientists had seen only a small portion of the fossil record, and it was spotty at best. Modern scientists have a much more complete picture of the fossil record—but, tragically, still no transitional forms. [Emphasis added -- WRE]

This lack of evidence—confessed by committed evolutionists like Stephen Jay Gould—drove Gould to concoct the theory of “punctuated equilibrium.” We obviously don’t have space to discuss punctuated equilibrium here (for an excellent discussion, see the work of Bryan College professor Dr. Kurt Wise), but briefly this theory kicks neo-Darwinism into hyper-drive. Darwin’s gradualism must be discarded in order to save evolution! More to the point, Darwin’s theory must be re-interpreted to account for the lack of evidence precisely where Darwin told us we should expect to find evidence.

When we read Darwin himself, rather than modern textbooks about Darwin, we find what the scientific community has known for awhile: Darwin, and theories of evolution in general, are on shaky ground.

(Jeff Baldwin on “Worldview Blog”)

No, Jeff, evolutionary biology is doing just fine. Modern evolutionary biology textbooks are not “about Darwin”; they are about a branch of science that has gone a long way past where Darwin left off.

The text above has plenty of egregious errors. There’s the typical antievolutionist take on “punctuated equilibria”. I explain why several antievolutionist claims about PE are ill-founded in this essay. There’s the common error of saying that Darwin predicted that we should find “millions” of transitional forms, but that’s not what falls out when one applies some numbers to what Charles Darwin actually wrote.

But the claim that I would like to concentrate on here is the one I highlighted in bold above, that the fossil record has no transitional fossil sequences in it at all. This is hardly the first time that I’ve seen such a claim. It had been fairly common throughout my time online discussing these matters going back to the late 1980s. But around 1994 I decided to start documenting the claims made and the response to a challenge. If the claim is so good, I figured that the claimant would have no trouble at all explaining why real paleontological evidence should be set aside as not showing transitional sequences. This led to my development and deployment of the “Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge”.

Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge

Last Updated: 2005/02/24

The Claim:

Anti-evolutionists often make a claim that the fossil record contains no transitional fossils. This runs counter to the claims of many researchers in paleontology.

The Challenge:

This challenge is to show just how much familiarity the anti-evolutionist making the claim of no transitional fossil sequences has with the actual evidence of the fossil record. By making a universal claim concerning transitional fossils, the anti-evolutionist should be prepared to back up the claim with extended technical discussion of the reasons why all sequences that others believe to be transitional in nature really are not transitional. Because there have been many such sequences put forward by various researchers, this challenge focusses upon one case at a time. The first such case is found in:

Pearson, P.N.; Shackleton, N.J.; and Hall, M.A., 1997. Stable isotopic evidence for the sympatric divergence of _Globigerinoides_trilobus_ and _Orbulina_universa_ (planktonic foraminifera). Journal of the Geological Society, London, v.154, p.295-302.

Now, it is up to you to show why the fossil sequence described therein fails to show transitional fossils. After you outline your objections to this sequence, I have another 100 or so citations of sequences that are said to show fine grained transitions ready to go, one at a time, until either you demonstrate that none are actually transitional, or you give up your claim.

Consider yourself challenged.

Andrew MacRae pointed out the citation listed above. Other bibliographic entries come from the examples in Tables 1 & 2 in Roger Cuffey’s excellent paper, Paleontologic evidence and organic evolution, which can be found in Montagu’s “Science and Creationism” or the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 24(4), just in case you want to get a jump-start on the rest of the entries.

Please note that unfamiliarity with the reference above is a failure of the claim of absence of transitional sequences — the claim requires *complete* knowledge of fossil sequences, and unfamiliarity with any is prima facie evidence that the claimant doesn’t have the basis for the claim.

Andrew Macrae’s commentary on the cited paper:

In the example I cite above, it is a transition between two species that are assigned to separate genera. Furthermore, there are 4 other species “between” them, 3 of which are assigned to yet another genus. It could always be argued that the genera have been “oversplit” in the foraminifera, but that does not change the obvious morphologic pattern or the fact that one morphology incrementally diverged into two that remained subsequently distinct.

[End quote -- A. Macrae, Message-ID <5prq71$d91$1@kerberos.ediacara.org>]

Figures from the Pearson et al. paper are now on the WWW at
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/orbulina.html.

Evidentiary and Non-Evidentiary Responses to Challenges

There are two main ways in which respondents can deal with the Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge. The intellectually honest and appropriate way is with specific discussion of the fossil evidence as described and discussed in the primary literature. This is by far the least common approach taken by those who have been given the TFEC, and typically only follows after a long period of non-response, the elapsed time apparently serving as an index of the claimant’s unfamiliarity with the specific evidence.

The other category of approach is to ignore, so far as possible, any mention or discussion of actual fossil evidence. These varied strategies are what I term “non-evidentiary” responses, since they are completely independent of empirical data. There are many routes to achieving this end. The simplest is non-response. The challenged person may decide that not saying anything further is the best option, sometimes in the hope that there will be no long-term penalty for this behavior, and that eventually few, if any, persons will remember the abandonment of the original claim. Another common non-evidentiary response is digression. Bringing up a different topic as if it held some relevance to the TFEC allows someone to give a semblance of a reply, even though few will be fooled by it. Yet another strategy is to discuss theoretical issues as if theory did away with the need to actually look at the empirical data. A variant of the theory strategy is the quote-mining of those people who expound theory. Usually, though, quotes reveal nothing about the specific data at hand, and often come from sources whose opposition to anti-evolutionary action is otherwise well-known. Still another variant upon the theory strategy is the definition game. One can construct connotations of “transitional” such that no real-world evidence can satisfy all the piled-on conditions. It is useful to know when an anti-evolutionist simply defines evidence out of existence, though. Another possible tactic is to dismiss the taxonomic category from which the cited example comes. A respondent can claim that they really meant no transitional fossils in some other taxonomic hierarchy, but they often seem to forget that this means that the “no transitional fossils” claim is then self-admittedly false. A particularly brazen non-evidentiary response is to play an “even if” game, as in, “Even if this is true, it doesn’t mean anything.” That ignores that if the cited sequence does contain transitional fossils, it at least means that the claim of no transitional fossils is false.

The following is a short form for response to the TFEC, if a challenged person wishes to ignore the evidence and simply adopt one of the non-evidentiary tactics for their own. Simply indicate which one or more of the following Non-Evidentiary Response Items (NERI) fits what would otherwise involve a bunch of redundant typing.

Non-Evidentiary Response Items:

A. You have your faith; I have mine.

B. I meant that no vertebrate transitional fossils exist.

C. I meant that no transitional fossils above taxonomic rank ____________ (fill in the blank) exist.

D. I have quotes from _______________ (give list of names) that say that no transitional fossils exist.

E. My understanding of ________________ theory (fill in blank) is that transitional fossils cannot exist.

F. My connotation of “transitional fossils” is ____________ (fill in blank), which means that none can exist.

G. I have a cool rebuttal of ___________ (fill in blank). What were you saying about transitional fossils?

H. Even if the cited example does show transitional fossils, it doesn’t mean anything.

I. I cannot be bothered to support my claim, so I will not be giving you a reply.

J. I promise to support my claim Real Soon Now. I will be in touch. My reply will be devastating to you and completely and utterly convincing to everyone. Just you wait. It’s in the mail.

K. Provide the fossils for the transition from X to Y, which will let me ignore these fossils that actually exist. (Courtesy of “edwin voltaire” aka “evossler” 20030210.)

L. Person X says this challenge is bogus, therefore I don’t have to provide any response to actual evidence of transitional forms.

The Challenged:

The people whose names appear below all made a claim or implication of absence of transitional sequences, and were served up with a version of the Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge. This is a roster of who they were, when they were challenged, where they were, and how they responded to the challenge.

It should be noted that the TFEC may be issued to “trolls”, people who assert nonsensical claims in an annoying fashion in a bid for attention. It is unfortunately quite difficult to distinguish a “troll” post from the usual antievolution effort.

Date Name Forum/Source Response

19940228 Bruce Willis CONTROV Disappeared

19940309 Michael Funk CONTROV None

19940510 Johnnie Odom CONTROV None

19940714 Andrew Cummins Evolution “Prove all biologists accept it”

19940717 Ras Mikael Enoch t.o. None

19940718 Jim Pattison CONTROV “Can’t find the reference”

19940816 Charles Edward Evolution None

19940917 Davey Jones Evolution None

19941002 Lane P. Lester Evolution None

19941030 John Shirey t.o. None

19941129 Kevin Clark Evolution None

19941208 Doug Wagner Evolution None

19941214 Jim Loucks t.o. None

19950312 Mark Russell misc.education.science None

19950322 Ross Wolfle t.o. Implied recantation

19950401 Scott Brian Allen t.o. None

19950404 B. Schweig (?) t.o. “No time to do research”

19950407 Lawrence Free Email “I only meant vertebrate transitions”

19950514 Arthur Biele t.o.
Irrelevant re-posted criticisms of Hunt’s FAQ (19961116)
Irrelevant re-re-posted criticisms of Hunt’s FAQ (19990305)
First mention of Barnard’s paper (19990306)
Misquoted Barnard (19990306, M-ID
<19990306111112.19561.00003970@ng-fr1.aol.com>)
Misrepresented Barnard (19990306, M-ID
<7brtg0$9su$1@nnrp1.dejanews.com>)
Claims differences are due to temperature or environment (19990306)
See for
my rebuttal (19990309)
Some further highly selective commentary on Barnard has been posted
by Biele, in which he misrepresents Barnard as disputing any
change at the species level or higher.

19950610 Tony Ermie Evolution None

19960408 Jahnu Das Email “I am really not qualified to discuss
evolution on a technical level.”

19960506 David Markwordt Evolution None

19960520 Ted Holden t.o. None

19960828 David Ford t.o. DF actually looked up the article, quoted
Barnard saying that he had transitionals across genera, but did not
admit existence of transitionals. Has since engaged in a great deal
of rhetorical excess, none of which disestablishes Barnard’s examples.

19961027 Steve Sorenson t.o. “You’ve got your faith; I’ve got mine.”

19961109 Tim Harwood t.o. None

19961230 Karl Crawford t.o. None

19970125 Herman Reimann t.o. None

19970224 Darren Serhal t.o. None

19970324 Eldridge t.o. “Put the paper on a WWW page.”

19970412 Joe Potter t.o. None

19970421 RevMike t.o. None

19970423 Larry Cavender t.o. “Do you believe the Bible?”

19970603 Yehuda Silver t.o. None

19970701 A Pagano t.o. Didn’t understand the logic behind the challenge;
failed to address the evidence for over three years.
2001/01/29: Whined that the Pearson citation was in a journal other
than “Science”; admitted that he was ignorant of the evidence
discussed by Pearson et alia.
2001/03/01: Posted a response saying that the Pearson et alia 1997
sequence didn’t show “nascent structures” and “increasing diversity”,
neither of which appeared in Pagano’s 1997 claim.
2001/08/04: Repost of the 2001/03/01 post, with some additional
comments about the lack of a reply from me (I’ve been writing up
my dissertation; Pagano is welcome to disagree with my assignment
of priorities.)
2002/01/08: Pagano posted claiming that I had never addressed six
specific issues he had raised. I posted on 2002/01/14 showing how
each of those topics were addressed by me in previous posts.
Further posts by Pagano have shown no reduction in his ignorance and
a considerable decline in his courtesy. It seems that each new
issuance of the TFEC results in a flurry of re-postings of old
refuted arguments by Pagano.

19970816 Jonathon O’Quinn t.o. None

19980717 Publius t.o. None

19981006 Alal t.o. None

19981110 Minor23fsu@aol.com t.o. None

19990107 Teno Groppi http://www.vbe.com/~tdg/creation/cedebate.html
“These figments of imagination are renewed constantly. It
used to be Archaoepteryx and the Equuine series. One they
were disproved, it was something else. Once that was
debunked it was another. Now this. How much you wanna bet
this is replaced by another wild claim next year?” (19990108)
“They are not transitions FROM anything, they are not
transitions TO anything. The entire claim is totally bogus and
a figment of your imagination. [...] When did I agree to a
wager? Was that as one groundless as your alleged
transition?” (19990114)

19990224 Steve Sorenson (again) t.o. None

19990225 Mark Allison t.o “Worst case scenario (for me): all 100
of your examples are at least possible scenarios to prove you
completely correct. But… here are three reasons why this wouldn’t
prove ANYTHING:” No discussion of Barnard or the fossil evidence (19990304)

19990309 Katy Moffitt atl.general None

19990417 Rhett alt.religion.christian.roman-catholic None

19990421 Brad Clark alt.christnet None

19990505 MS Goodrich talk.origins None

20000202 JerryG talk.origins None

20000217 Todd talk.origins None

20000815 Erik talk.origins “Sorry, your challenge, as
written, is impossible. Trying to prove a negative is
impossible. The burden of proof lies on you to prove a
positive.” (2000/08/16)
Erik wasn’t asked to prove his entire claim all at once.
Erik was asked why the specific evidence cited should not
be considered transitional. Erik did not address the
existing evidence.

20001107 “Pastor Dave” Raymond alt.christnet Original
statement: “The fact remains, that there are no
transitional fossil records.”
Response to TFEC (2000/11/28): “Another faulty and false tactic.
It is never up to me to prove a negative. It is up to the ones
making the claim that something is the way they say it is, to
prove that it is. The fact remains, there are no transitional
fossils.”
Pastor Dave completely ignored the evidence of the fossils
and gave no reason to discount the cited example as
documenting a transitional fossil sequence.
2003/01: Pastor Dave has gone from asserting that there are
no species-to-species transitions to saying that there are
no kind-to-kind transitional fossils. What you hear is ratchet
noise from Dave’s furious backpedalling.

20010116 Ed Finn alt.politics.bush Original statement:
“The most shocking fact is that the fossil record has
absolutely no transitional forms between species.”
Response: None.

20010118 ‘d ocean’ talk.origins Original statement:
“there are NO transitional fossils, and there is NO proof
that the fossil record confirms macro-evolution.”
Response: None.

20010120 John B. Williston alt.games.baldurs-gate Original
statement: “What would be nice would be a clear,
consistent and slowly gradual record of even *one* species’
transition. And to date, there is none to be had.”
Response: “More specifically, I should not have said that
*no* evidence for transitional forms exists; rather, I
should have said only that there is a startling *dearth* of
evidence.” (20010121)

20020320 “Amy Lynn” talk.origins Original statement:
“There have been no transitional species. The fossil record
only shows fossils of different kinds. Noone can prove
definitively that those fossils were some kind of transitional
creature.” (20020320)
Response: None.

20021212 “Doug Matulis” talk.origins Original statement:
“Transitional forms should be prolific. There are none.
Some have dreamed them up, but they are either non-existent
or far from conclusive.” (20021212)
Response:
“First, I am sure you know this is an unfair challenge, throw a
highly technical paper, loaded with terms I have not idea the
definitions of and expect a lay person develop and rebuttal.
I will give it a shot and post my response under a new
subject.” (20021216)
“Dana, your points are well taken and will be acted upon.”
(20021219 response to Dana Tweedy, who pointed out that Doug’s
original claim was based upon ignorance.)
(No further responses.)

20030206 “evossler@hotmail.com” talk.origins Original statement:
“But yet, evolution is STILL a theory and there are still no
in-transition fossils. How do you explain that?” (20030206)
Response:
“Sending a BS, trick survey is not equivilent to
procurring a in-transition fossil. If you have so much
evidence of these changes, show me a fossil of the
in-transit form between archeoptriches(sp) and whatever
dinso-form it came from.” (20030210)

20030408 “Suzanne” talk.origins Original statement:
“Because we still have one celled organisms. They are
plentiful. We still have living uncomplicated lifeforms.
And, the question is, where are the fossils, indeed. There
are no living examples, and there are no dead ones
either. Yet there are fossils of life abundant. But in the
fossil record, there are not any transitionals. How can it
be that the solid lifeforms lasted in the record, yet the
transitionals all disappeared, if they ever existed, that
is.” (20030408)
Response: None.

20040103 “Roy Jose Lorr” or.politics Original statement:
“I repeat: ‘No one has shown anything close to what
you claim… no “transitional fossils” and no evidence that
“speciation” is compatible with “evolution theory”.’”
(20031229)
Response: None.

20040104 “Laurie AppIeton” talk.origins Original statement:
“Out of the millions of fossils in the world, not one
transitional form has been found. All known species show up
abruptly in the fossil record, without intermediate forms,
thus contributing to the fact of special creation.”
(20040104)
Response: None.

20050224 “Jeff Baldwin” http://www.worldview.org/blog/index.php?p=70%20rel=
Original statement: “This gradualism insisted upon by Darwin has
proved increasingly embarrassing to modern scientists. If evolution
occurred at an excruciatingly slow rate, then why can.t we find
transitional forms in the fossil record? There should be literally
millions of instances where a fossil manifests many of the
characteristics of a reptile, but some of the characteristics of a
bird (or vice versa).where are those fossils? Darwin dodged this lack
of evidential support for his theory by claiming that scientists had
seen only a small portion of the fossil record, and it was spotty at
best. Modern scientists have a much more complete picture of the
fossil record.but, tragically, still no transitional forms.
Response: Pending.

No *evidentiary* response within a month causes the “Pending” to be changed to “None”. A “None” response can be changed to something else if an *evidentiary* response is eventually made, or a particularly revealing non-evidentiary response is made. Responses sent via non-public channels confer an irrevocable right of publication to Wesley R. Elsberry. I can’t have unquotable responses showing up in my incoming email or snailmail. I plan to create a web page that includes every follow-up made to the TFEC, whether the contents are relevant or not, for public documentation of all claims and counterclaims, arguments and rebuttals.

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17 thoughts on “The Transitional Fossil Existence Challenge (2005/02/24)

  1. Stephen Stralka

    I’m curious about Teno Groppi’s claim from 1999 about “Archaoepteryx and the Equine series” being “disproved” and other transitional series being “debunked.” I can only assume he means they were “disproved” by the magical art of creationist hand waving. There isn’t any substance to this assertion, is there?

  2. Austringer Post author

    None that I know of.

    Groppi is a fan of antievolutionist evangelist Kent Hovind. Hand-waving is considered good evidence by those folk.

    About the horse fossil record, Niles Eldredge describes it as every creationist’s nightmare:

    The dead horse that Sunderland and all other creationists beat is, of course, not stasis versus gradualsim, but the existence of anatomical intermediates, especially if they exist in perfect stratigraphic order. I am here to tell you that my predecessors had indeed unearthed and mounted a wonderful series of skeletons, beginning with the Eocene Hyracotherium (the so-called dawn horse), with its small size, four toes on the front feet, five on the back feet, shortened face, and generalized perisodactyl teeth suitable for browsing, not grazing. Climbing up the Tertiary stratigraphic column of the American West, we find the horses becoming progressively bigger, with fewer toes (modern horses have but one on each foot) and more comlicated teeth. The horses of the Pliocene are essentially modern,

    This is not a made-up story. The fossils are real. They are in the proper order, and they are a spectacular example of anatomical intermediates found in the exact predicted sequence in the rock record. They are every creationist’s nightmare.

    No, horse evolution was not in the straight-line, gradualistic mode. But to state or imply that the horse evolution exhibit was somehow arranged to support an evolutionary story – to imply that the old museum curators deliberately misled the public by arranging the order of these horse fossils as they saw fit – is a damn lie.

    (Niles Eldredge, as quoted by Jason Rosenhouse)

    I’m pleased to be able to say that we have such a clear statement from Eldredge in part because of some correspondence I had with him a few years back. There’s a footnote associated with that passage in the book that mentions me.

  3. ~DS~

    BTW following up on the Pharyngula comment, I would like articles about sonar in dolphins. My understanding is it’s tied into their visual cortex, kind of over laid on their optical field of vision?

  4. Austringer Post author

    DS,

    There is discussion and research going on to try to determine if dolphins utilize sound information to develop image-like representations. These include work on what has been called “acoustic daylight”, which is the passive use of sound present in the environment to sense aspects of the environment.

    The neural organization of dolphins includes a relatively larger auditory cortex, rather than co-option of visual cortex. Interestingly, dolphins lack the lateral superior olive (LSO), a formation which functions to link eye movements to perceived sound in humans. Bats are another group without the LSO.

    I had to write up an answer to the question, “Trace the pathway of neural impulses in dolphins from hair cells in the cochlea to the auditory cortex”, for my pre-lim examination. I’ll see if I can dig that up.

  5. Austringer Post author

    DS,

    Found the text. I’ve made a new post from the answers to my pre-lims. Hope that helps…

  6. mynym

    (Pearson P.N. ; Shackleton N.J. ; Hall M.A.
    Affiliation: P.N. Pearson, Dept of Geology, Univ of Bristol, Queens Rd, Bristol, BS8 1RJ
    Country: United Kingdom
    Title: Stable isotopic evidence for the sympatric divergence of Globigerinoides trilobus and Orbulina universa (planktonic foraminifera)
    Source: Journal – Geological Society (London) 154, no.2 (1997) p. 295-302)

    “The first appearance of O. universa (15.1 Ma) was preceded by an increase in the morphological variance of the ancestral lineage. Biological speciation (cladogenesis) probably occurred before 15.1. Ma. New oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotopic results are compared with analyses of two reference species, Globigerinoides ruber (shallow water) and Globoquadrina venezuelana (deep water). Oxygen isotopic ratios of G. trilobus, Praeorbulina spp., and O. universa indicate that the entire evolutionary transition took place within mixed layer habitats similar to those occupied by modern G. trilobus.”

    Let me edit that for you.

    “…probably occurred…

    …indicate….”

    You are relying on esoteric jargon and single celled plankton of which there are 10,000,000,000,000 to try to create some sequence. The general pattern of Nature is typological, not sequential. This is what is observed empirically, again and again…and then, again and again. These are the very laws of Nature too, they are not one Grand Unified Law. Instead, so far they are separate.

    I think some of this has to do with the psychology of “nerds.” They seem to have an urge to merge. So they deny all typology and focus on sequence, throwing out the empirical evidence of typology. The reason that you can quote Darwin trying to attack the fossil record is because he was going against the empirical evidence and had to try to refute it and promise that it would fit better in the future.

    Yet we still seem far from Darwin’s “infinitude” of intermediaries. And apparently evolutoinists have to rely on ever more esoteric claims, more and more jargon, etc., to deny the empirical fact of typology, not sequence. There is no general pattern of blurred together sequence in Nature. The fact that evolutionists have to rely on 10
    ,000,000,000,000 plankton to try to arrange things in a sequence is itself telling.

    If you cut out the jargon on some of the things said on the Panda’s Thumb with respect to some of their attempts to go against the typological grain of Nature in favor of sequence they are saying things like, “These fish have jaws. And would you look at that, humans have jaws too! It is settled then, this means that fish and humans have the same ancestor.”

  7. Austringer Post author

    Mynym,

    First things first. Before we get to arguments concerning proportionality, we need to examine the claim that no transitional fossil sequences exist. That’s the claim at issue when the TFEC comes into play.

    Your text is a nice examplar of Non-Evidentiary Response Item “E”: E. My understanding of ________________ theory (fill in blank) is that transitional fossils cannot exist.

    Except, of course, that the blank wasn’t filled in.

    And as I pointed out before, Darwin did not say that we should expect to find an “infinitude” of intermediate forms. If you would care to make a direct statement that the fossil record yields far fewer transitional sequences than one would expect to find from evolutionary mechanism theories, I have a “Transitional Fossil Proportionality Challenge” as well. I could then add you to the roster.

  8. mynym

    Darwin did say that there would have to be an infinitude of intermediaries, then he tries to make excuses as to why they were not found:
    “On this doctrine of the extermination of an infinitude of connecting links, between the living and extinct inhabitants of the world, and at each successive period between the extinct and still older species, why is not every geological formation charged with such links? Why does not every collection of fossil remains afford plain evidence of the gradation and mutation of the forms of life? Although geological research has undoubtedly revealed the former existence of many links, bringing numerous forms of life much closer together, it does not yield the infinitely many fine gradations between past and present species required on the theory, and this is the most obvious of the many objections which may be urged against it. Why, again, do whole groups of allied species appear, though this appearance is often false, to have come in suddenly on the successive geological stages?

    I can answer these questions and objections only on the supposition that the geological record is…imperfect…”

    There is the Darwinism of the gaps. Whatever looks a little similar or somehow supposedly fits a sequence, generally of smaller to bigger, aquatic to semi-aquatic to land and so on, will all support the evolutionist’s typical urge to merge. It’s not that they just arranged the environment in a sequence. No, the organisms must all be ancestral because of that arrangement and perhaps some just so narratives are thrown in or, “Hey, this has legs. And would you look at that, that has legs too!”

    It’s not that they arranged things smaller to bigger. No, it is because the little things are ancestral to the bigger things. Or morphology, “Hey, you know, this looks a little like that! This leg, it looks like the one on the other side too. Hey, that must mean that the left leg is ancestral to the right leg!”

    You can have fun with people who make the overbroad claim that “no” transitional fossils exist. What they’re really referring to is what type of narrative about origins is warranted based on the evidence.

    And the simple fact is, people don’t care about the silly jargon and cherry picked examples based on micropaleontology and millions of fossils.

    With that many things in transit it is easier to arrange a transition and begin to say, “Hey, all things share the same ancestor!”

    Most micropaleontologists will have the urge to merge, so they will not tend to say anything until they feel safe enough to begin to argue among themselves. That is typical for evolutionists.

    But anyway, the general pattern of Nature is typological, not sequential. This is what is observed empirically, again and again…and then, again and again. Some people willfully choose do fit the empirical to their type of psychology. Their type of psychology is quite clear, using esoteric jargon and dealing in foraminifera does not change that.

    Most people are not interested in dealing with it. You should not assume that means anything other than that they are not interested in all the jargon and such. That’s why I did not reply until now when I came across an old bookmark. I’m not that interested in it either.

    You’re making up the terms of what is “transitional.” And you don’t seem to understand that those who say there are “no” transitionals are also making up their terms.

    It’s something that humans do, to name and classify.

  9. Austringer Post author

    And as I pointed out before, Darwin did not say that we should expect to find an “infinitude” of intermediate forms.

    This is still true, despite “mynym”‘s long-winded misunderstanding of what I said.

    Again, “mynym” fails to address the evidence, preferring the comfort of Non-Evidentiary Response Items. I can understand the need the ideologically precommitted feel for hand-waving away the evidence, but I don’t have to concur with them.

  10. Curtis Anderson

    I have invited Pastor Merrill Olson to take your challenge. Here is his quote from a LTTE in our local paper.
    “Let’s state something clear about the fossil record. If it took millions of years for animals to evolve, surely intermediates should be found. Surely, one would be able to find thousands of fossils of the intermediate. But, the plain fact is: none have ever been found.”

  11. Adam

    A couple of points from earlier in the comments – horse lineage and Archaeopteryx supposedly debunked. Typical Creationist misunderstanding of evolutionary biology’s internal arguments. (i)Creationists point to the bushy tree that is all the fossil horse species and claim that it somehow refutes the evident progression from Hyracotherium to Equus. It doesn’t because they confuse the difference between direct lineages and related lineages.

    In strict logical & probabilistic terms a fossil can’t be proven to be the direct ancestor of any living species, but this goes for any old bones being ancestral to any living individual today that you don’t have a documented pedigree for. What fossil lineages represent are forms intermediate between one suite of characteristics and another, as required by neo-Darwinian evolution. Organisms with feature changes between two species states must themselves be viable, which is what fossil lines demonstrate. Thus we have the lineage required to link “reptiles” and “mammals” – the mammal-like reptiles are perfectly intermediate showing a clear transition, for example, from multiple bone structures in the lower jaw to a single bone, the maxilla. Yet as a group they are as bushy as fossil horses with many extinct lineages with no living descendents.
    (ii)Archaeopteryx is usually claimed to be debunked because either it’s a fake, or else it’s a modern bird. The Hoyle-Wickramasinghe-Spetner fake fantasy was disproven years ago by the exemplar fossil’s owner, the British Museum, but that’s never stopped Creationists from quoting it as fact. The modern bird nonsense is a misreading of claims by ornithologists that Archaeopteryx is more bird and less reptile. This is an out-dated opinion and was never used by the researchers as a claim against evolution.

  12. Adam

    Oh and a final note about Archaeopteryx – an older misquotation is that either Gould or Eldredge claimed Archie was not a “transitional fossil” and was just a mosaic. This utterly misunderstands what Gould and Eldredge are arguing, that evolution progresses by species hops, and that evolution is through step-like changes in characteristics, often with different rates of change, so an intermediate form is a mosaic of old and new characters, not some sort of morphed hybrid of the old and new, as supposedly required by “gradualistic evolution”. This was the “strawman” version of conventional palaeontological opinion that Gould and Eldredge set themselves apart from by positing punctuated equilibrium, but it’s a concept that few, if any, workers in the field really held to.

  13. Matt G

    Once I trudged through the pretentious rhetoric and elaborate ‘methodology’, I could only conclude that the TFEC is fanciful way of avoiding the issue and demanding that the skeptic justify his own skepticism.

    Unfortunately, the author seems to focus on those individuals who made the mistake of digging their own grave by needlessly asserting that transitionals dont exist.
    While this may be true, the skeptic merely must demand principles of sound logic.
    The evolutionist makes the claim that transitional fossils exist.
    He who makes a positive assertion bears the burden of proof.

    Rather than claim transitional fossils dont exist, the skeptic merely has to demand that the evolutionist provide examples of these transitional fossils and explain why they are seen as some transition rather than the imaginative interpretation of fossils of different TYPES of the same KIND of animals.

    Of course, the discussion would inevitably lead into vestigial organs, irreducible complexity, etc…but the skeptic is within his rights to demand the evolutionists bear the burden of proof that comes with the assertion.

  14. Austringer Post author

    So, Matt, tell me why the Pearson et al. paper cited in the TFEC does NOT provide a description of a transitional fossil sequence? So far, no “skeptic” (a misapplied label if ever there was one) has managed to say why not.

  15. Austringer Post author

    OD,

    I had a look at the linked page. All I saw there was a pretty weak application of NERI (F) (see the full list of NERIs above). Did I miss something?

  16. OD

    Yes that does appear to be the main argument. However one person does appear to have at least taken on the challenge with regard to the tetrapod transition. Unfortunately I have been banned from the site now so I can no longer reply to their attempts at the challenge… oh well.

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