15 Answers to John Rennie and Scientific American’s Nonsense--Argument #13
||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
13. [Creationists suggest that] evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils—creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.
Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups. One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx, which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs. A flock’s worth of other feathered fossil species, some more avian and some less, has also been found. A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus. Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus helped to make that transition…. Fossil seashells trace the evolution of various mollusks through millions of years. Perhaps 20 or more hominids (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans.
Creationists, though, dismiss these fossil studies. They argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds—it is just an extinct bird with reptilian features. They want evolutionists to produce a weird, chimeric monster that cannot be classified as belonging to any known group (2002, 287:83).
Again, we ask, why doesn’t Mr. Rennie quote any of his evolutionist colleagues—like we did in point number 5 above—when they say that the fossil record exhibits a specific lack of transitional forms? Why does he center only on creationists’ statements in this regard, instead of quoting someone like Ernst Mayr, who admitted: “Nothing has more impressed the paleontologists than the discontinuous nature of the fossil record. This is the reason so many of them were supporters of saltational theories of evolution” (2001, p. 163). Why not quote George Gaylord Simpson:
This regular absence of transitional forms is not confined to mammals, but is an almost universal phenomenon, as has long been noted by paleontologists. It is true of almost all orders of all classes of animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate. A fortiori, it is also true of the classes, and of the major animal phyla, and it is apparently also true of analogous categories of plants (1944, p. 105, emp. added).
Or why not quote University of Oklahoma paleontologist Dave Kitts?
Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of “seeing” evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of “gaps” in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them…. (1974, 28:467, emp. added).
Stephen Jay Gould (whom we are not misquoting here) lamented:
Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin’s argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life's history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection, we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study (1977a, 86:14).
Why single out the creationist for your unbridled scorn, Mr. Rennie, when your evolutionist cohorts are making even bolder statements than we are?
And then there’s the timeworn Archaeopteryx argument. We have dealt with this at great length elsewhere, and so will not repeat that refutation here (see Harrub and Thompson, 2001; 2002). Suffice it to say that Mr. Rennie finally got it right when he said that “creationists argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds—it is just an extinct bird.” Of course, once again, it is not just creationists who have offered such an assessment. Evolutionists have chimed in as well. Evolutionary ornithologist Allan Feduccia wrote in Science almost a decade ago:
I conclude that Archaeopteryx was arboreal and volant [i.e., possessing extended wings for flight—BT/BH], considerably advanced aerodynamically, and probably capable of flapping, powered flight to at least some degree. Archaeopteryx...was, in the modern sense, a bird (1993, 259:792, emp. added).
Plus, the fossil remains of two crow-sized birds 75 million years older than Archaeopteryx (i.e., approximately 225 million years old according to evolutionary dating schemes) were found in 1986 near Post, Texas, by Sankar Chatterjee and colleagues from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (see Beardsley, 1986; Chatterjee, 1991). Chatterjee has named the find Protoavis texensis (first bird from Texas). In 1997, he authored a beautifully illustrated book on the evolution of birds (The Rise of Birds), in which Protoavis was displayed prominently as being the forerunner of modern birds. All of this, needless to say, has caused evolutionists severe problems because Protoavis appeared at the time of the earliest dinosaurs, which means that if it is accepted as genuine, then birds certainly could not have evolved from dinosaurs and Archaeopteryx could not be the ancestor of modern birds. After looking at the evidence for Protoavis, Kansas University paleontologist Larry Martin suggested: “There’s going to be a lot of people with Archaeopteryx eggs on their face” (as quoted in Anderson, 1991, 253:35). Yes, and Mr. Rennie is one of them!
Next, in what must surely be a terrible embarrassment to his evolutionary colleagues, Mr. Rennie trotted out horses as evidence for transitional fossils, beginning with the tiny Eohippus and going all the way up to our modern Equus. If Rennie were the well-informed scientist he wants us to think he is, then he would realize that evolutionists themselves no longer consider horse evolution to be a good example of transitional forms since they do not believe it represents anything like a straightforward progression, but instead a bush with many varying branches. As Heribert Nilsson correctly pointed out as long ago as 1954:
The family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous only in the textbooks. In the reality provided by the results of research it is put together from three parts, of which only the last can be described as including horses. The forms of the first part are just as much little horses as the present day damans are horses. The construction of the horse is therefore a very artificial one, since it is put together from non-equivalent parts, and cannot therefore be a continuous transformation series (pp. 551-552, emp. added).
Mr. Rennie apparently does not realize that as far back as the 1950s, scientists already had cast aside the false notion of horse evolution in North America via classic Darwinian changes. David Raup acknowledged:
Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded.… 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 (1979, pp. 24,25).
George Gaylord Simpson summed it up well when he wrote: “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature” (1953, p. 125, emp. added). Creationist Jonathan Sarfati wrote along these lines:
Even informed evolutionists regard horse evolution as a bush rather than a sequence. But the so-called Eohippus is properly called Hyracotherium, and has little that could connect it with horses at all. The other animals in the “sequence” actually show hardly any more variation between them than that within horses today. One non-horse and many varieties of the true horse kind does not a sequence make (2002a).
In fact, the fossil record does not demonstrate a sequence of transitional fossils for any species. As Newsweek reporter Jerry Adler accurately noted:
In the fossil record, missing links are the rule: the story of life is as disjointed as a silent newsreel, in which species succeed one another as abruptly as Balkan prime ministers. The more scientists have searched for the transitional forms between species, the more they have been frustrated.... Evidence from fossils now points overwhelmingly away from the classical Darwinism which most Americans learned in high school: that new species evolve out of existing ones by the gradual accumulation of small changes, each of which helps the organism survive and compete in the environment (1980, 96:95).