The Fossil Record Problem-Part III

Have you ever seen a fossil plant series in a museum display or textbook on evolution? I haven’t. When I studied botany at university in the 1960s they taught us evolution and paleobotany (the study of plant fossils) but not a single fossil series was ever presented as evidence that plant evolution actually did occur. So, when I saw a new book recently entitled The Diversity and Evolution of Plants, dated 1995 and published by the CRC Press, a reputable publisher of top quality scientific manuals and textbooks, I was keen to see what new evidence had arisen during the last 30 years of research. The author, Dr Lorentz Pearson, appeared to be well qualified, being a Professor of Botany with a string of credits to his name. 1

Yes, apparently plants evolved from bacteria.  All flowering plants from pine trees, and bacteria, from bacteria.

Mushrooms are also from bacteria, as are humans (sorry different tree).  By rights, I think we really ought to pay homage to bacteria.  To them, we owe our lives.  I’m proposing a new type of polytheism here perhaps.

But perhaps I’ve been a bit premature because:

In all 18 chapters, not a single fossil series was quoted or illustrated to support the phylogenetic trees! Many groups have excellent fossil records, but not once does he indicate that there is unequivocal evidence of transition from one to another, as evolution requires.

I think that’s because evolution is true, as is known by a majority of scientists. Therefore, it would be silly to give evidence for something that is true. I think you really ought to just present the truth in the way that everyone agrees and call it good, because the only people that care if you have evidence for you phylogenetic tree are Creationists and IDists. Why waste your time right?

Like so many other people, Professor Pearson appears to have just assumed that evolution is a fact, and has filled in the gaps in the evidence with imagination.

Hey, I say at least nobody will accuse him of making an argument from lack of imagination2, which is apparently a most damning thing to do in science.

1 Did plants evolve? AiG, Williams, A. (1997)
2 Argument from ignorance, Wiki

The Fossil Record Problem–Part II

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.” — Stephen J. Gould

In Part I, I laid some foundations for my personal skepticism in the fossil layer. As noted above, one of the worlds biggest proponents of evolution (now dead), makes an honest statement about the fossil record.

My coauthor1,2 asks:

So if the newbies are virtually unchanged from the “millions of years” old fossils, then where is the evidence for evolution? Why are there not hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of fossilized variations (evolutionary stages) of these creatures, which I would think that you and others, including scientists, would have found as you explored? Were these particular creatures an exception to the rule of evolution? In other words, were these particular creatures created whole from the beginning? If so, then the theory of evolution has some really inventive explaining to do!

The frequent and insightful commenter Mike3 notes:

Consider the modern shark species, which have remained more or less unchanged in the last 100 million years (where they just start “appearing”). And ancient sharks are thought be have been around for as much as 400 million years. Yet sharks have always been predatory fish and nothing else according to the fossil record.

William Dembski speaks to the problem:

Gould’s solution to this problem was to propose his idea of punctuated equilibrium, in which evolution takes place in isolated populations that are unlikely to be fossilized, with the result that the fossil record exhibits a pattern of sudden change followed by stasis. But this patch has its
own problems. For one, it does not address the mechanism of evolutionary change. Also, it is
largely untestable because all the interesting evolution happens where it is inaccessible to
scientific observation.4

So there you have it. Evolution takes place in isolated populations which are unlikely to be fossilized. Isn’t it amazing how we seem to be in a stage of stasis right now?

Uniforimitarians claim that these fossilization takes place over 10000+ years.5

So, in this picture, you can see what ancient man was doing 10000 years ago. Yes, those appear to be fossilized sneakers, teddy bears, and other things.

1 An Outsider’s Perspective
2 An Outsider’s Sojourn
3 Massdream Musicworks
4 Expert Witness Report: The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design, Dembski, W., (2005), pp 6.
5 Wiki – Fossilization

The Fossil Record Problem-Part I

Ever since my earliest days, I was always fascinated with, and collected, fossils. I was a country kid (still am–although the kid part is euphemistic–I hope). There were no close neighbors or friends for me to play with during one period. But there was plenty to do. We had a big woods behind our house (probably 4 square miles). I spent enumerable hours exploring. My father showed me two of his childhood discoveries, which gave me a great deal of pleasure. One was a limestone-bottom creek that was fed by a spring, and the other was a cave system. Both the creek, and the cave were lined with fossils of ancient marine life. Beware, there are chiggers out in the sticks.1 I became accustomed to having scabs on my legs from poison ivy, chiggers, and mosquito bites. That was just part of summer.

There were entire sheets, or masses, of limestone with the same type of fossils. Certain of which, must have been rapidly covered and fossilized. Brachiopods2 were at the top of my list of most coveted fossils (most often Neospirifer or Derbyia).

My father gave me the standard uniformitarian view–that this part of middle America was once an ancient sea bed–millions of years ago.  He also told me that he thought it could be from the great flood, because it was clear that the ancient life forms had been covered rapidly.  I think I just imagined then that it was from millions of years ago, but the wonder of the sheets of fossils stuck with me.  Millions of years is a quite compelling romantic notion for youth (of the tall and short variety).3

Most of these forms are extinct today. But the ones that continue to live are virtually unchanged from their fossilized forms.4,5

So, as always, the problem of the blind search of evolution will be up to you to decide. It’s difficult for me to look at the illustration above, and believe that a virtually blind process can create the complexity of this organism. Perhaps that’s a failure of my imagination, or perhaps I am correct. Your personal beliefs and views will determine what you decide.


1 City folk warn on the ‘disaster’ of chiggers for fossil hunting (amusing)
2 Wiki – Brachiopods
3 Milton Erickson — “You will see many children in your practice. Some of the short variety and some of the tall variety.”
4 Wiki – Craniidae
5 Wiki – Rhynchonellida