Conservative Colloquium

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Darwinian Evolution’s Achilles Heel: The Fossil Record

Posted by Tony Listi on January 21, 2008

When Darwin first proposed his theory, the most strident opposition came not from Christian fundamentalists but rather paleontologists. Surely if Darwin was correct we would see a clear fossil record demonstrating evolution, no? He thought one would see “interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps.” He knew that the fossil record was “perhaps the most obvious and serious objection” to his theory but figured that with more time and exploration, the fossil record would vindicate him. After 150 more years of digging, the record still opposes evolution. The verdict is in. One branch of science contradicts another.According to the fossil record, 500 million years ago there was a Cambrian explosion of life that lasted merely 5-10 million years at maximum (a paltry duration considering geologic and evolutionary timetables) in which new species of animals suddenly appear fully formed, remain largely unchanged for millions of years, and then some disappear. Nearly all the animal phyla we know of today emerged then. (e.g. The oldest bat fossils show bats fully formed, capable of both flight and sonar, two relatively complex mechanisms.) There is no gradual change from one life form to another as one would expect according to Darwin’s theory. In fact, there are fewer examples of evolutionary transitions now than in Darwin’s time (classic cases such as the evolution of horses, Archaeopteryx, etc. have had to be discarded as new information has come to light). Transitional animals are an “extreme rarity” according to the late renowned Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (evolution believer). Moreover, the fact that many organisms from the Cambrian explosion went extinct suggests that there was more diversity then than now. This turns Darwin’s bottom-up “tree of life” paradigm (from simple to more complex and diverse over time) on its head.

(Some have suggested that perhaps pre-Cambrian organisms just didn’t fossilize because they were too soft and/or small. But we do actually have fossils of soft-bodied and microscopic organisms, including worms, sponges, and bacteria!)

Punctuated equilibrium (evolution can happen really fast by mutation) is merely a non-theological miracle, a theory of evolution that abandons Darwin in order to conform to the fossil record and that is more reminiscent of the story of Genesis. This theory strains credibility when we realize that the vast majority of mutations are harmful and undermine survival, if not neutral (e.g. Downs Syndrome, cancer, congenital disorders, etc.) and that the window of time for mutation and natural selection to create all the diversity we know today and then some is very short, only 5-10 million years at most.

7 Responses to “Darwinian Evolution’s Achilles Heel: The Fossil Record”

  1. Richard said

    I’d point out the problems here, too, but I don’t think the “moderator” would approve. Plus, I’m accustomed to getting paid to explain things.

    You’ll have to figure out your errors all by your lonesome.

  2. foospro86 said

    I have approved all your comments thus far and will do so for your future relevant comments. If you would be so generous and compassionate, I am ready to know what my “errors” are.

    Surely you are not so cruel as to leave me in my ignorance?

  3. Ronald Cote said

    Richard, don’t be cruel by refusing to point out the problems. Let’s assume that the moderator will approve. I agree with Foospro86 that it would be cruel to deny us and expose the errors of our thinking. For the sake of humanity, forfeit your substantial fees for the sake of enlightenment. Money just isn’t everything when considering the service you can be rendering.

  4. One thing I notice in your post is that you make a lot of unsupported claims without any backing evidence. One example is the claim that Archeopteryx and the famous hors series have had to be discarded as examples of transitional fossils. You say this as if that were fact with no evidence supporting what you say.

    Contrary to what you say, fossils like Archeopteryx or the well-known horse series have not had to be discarded. With fossils like Epidendrosaurus, Pedopenna, Microraptor, Yanornis, Confuciusornis, Logipteryx, Eoaluavis, Avisaurus, Hesperornis and Ichthyornis along with all the feathered, non-flying dinosaurs like Avimimus, Sinosauropteryx, Protarchaeopteryx, Caudipteryx, Rahonavis, Shuvuuia, Sinornithosaurus, Beipiaosaurus, Nomingia, Cryptovolans, Scansoriopteryx, Yixianosaurus, Dilong, Pedopenna, Jinfengopteryx, Sinocalliopteryx and Velociraptor are all extremely eloquent evidence of the strength of the theory of evolution and that Archeopteryx as a transitional has *not* been discarded. Indeed, the idea of Archeopteryx as a transitional animal has only gotten stronger.

    Nor has famous horse series been discarded, as you claim. As more and more fossil horses have been found some ideas about horse evolution have changed, based on the evidence, but it is still a very good example of both evolution in general and transitional fossils in specific. A good place that lists almost two disen paper son horse fossils nd evolution is .

    You also make a very poor attempt to quote Stephen Jay Gould with a paltry two words taken out of context with no reference given for the honest too look up what Gould actually said. It’s almost as if you are trying to portray that Gould has a problem with evolution or fossils. I presume, that like many others, you are getting this quote from Gould, S. J. 1980. “The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change” in The Panda’s Thumb, pp. 179-185. You can find a discussion of what Gould was actually trying to say at .

  5. Oh, I for got to talk about bats.

    First off, bats are not a phylum, as you suggest by mentioning them right after saying “Nearly all the animal phyla we know of today emerged then” (yet another unsupported assertion). Chiroptera is an order, part of the superorder Laurasiatheria which is part of the Infraorder Eutheria whoch is part of the Order Mammalia whoch, finally, is part of the order Chordata.

    Also, the oldest known bat, Onychonycteris finneyi (described this past February in Nature, Simmons, Nancy B. et al., “Primitive Early Eocene bat from Wyoming and the evolution of flight and echolocation”Nature 451, 818-821 (14 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06549), was apparently not able to echolocate. The size of its cochlea relative to its skull is in the same range as modern, non-echolating bats rather than that of modern bats who do echo-locate. In addition, it’s earbones are not shaped like modern echo-locating bats.

    A very interesting thing is Onychonycteris’s limbs. Unlike modern bats it has claws on all fingers whereas modern bats only have a claw on the first finger (. This is significant enough to give the this fossil bat it’s name – onycho-nycteris is Greek for “clawed bat”.

    Also, Onychonycteris’s lib ratios are very interesting. The ratios of it’s fore-limbs to hind-libs is midway between modern bats and like squirrels, sloths, siamangs and other tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals. The bats with the closest limb-ratios and short wings are the Mouse-tailed bats, the only modern bats that fly by alternately flapping and gliding becaus etheir flapping is not as efficient as other bats.

    Combine those limb ratios with the well developped claws and lack of ability to echo-locate, what we haves is probably a poor flyer but a good climber that most likely spent most of it’s time finding food by crawling about in the trees, only flying when it needed to get to another tree. Rather different than the agile bats we know of today.

    Yet another good transitional species.

  6. foospro86 said

    I’m not going to stand by these previous evolution posts.

  7. Ediacaran said

    Cory, thanks for the good information on the transitional bat fossil. I found a link for those interested in seeing the initial announcement of it (with photos of the holotype):

    Click to access nature06549.pdf

    Darwin mentioned some transitional fossils in On the Origin of Species, so he was already aware of a few examples. Two that I recall Darwin mentioning were Basilosaurus and Prozeuglodon (transitional whale fossils), if I recall correctly. Many more transitional whale fossils have been discovered in the last few decades after scientists figured out where to look. Archaeopteryx was found within 2 years after the first edition of On the Origin of Species, IIRC. And yes, those are still excellent transitional fossils, now joined by all the feathered dinosaur transitionals being discovered in China.

    Foospro86, I’m impressed that you’ve changed your position to view evolution as viable, but people can still wander into these older threads and be unaware that claims made in the opening posts have been debunked. I hope it’s okay if some of us drive stakes into their remains, just in case someone tries to reanimate them elsewhere.

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