By Jon Covey, B.A., MT(ASCP)
Edited by Anita K. Millen, M.D., M.P.H., M.A.

 

At one of our meetings, Dr. Galen Hunsicker, a zoology professor at Southern California University, explained that one segment of Darwin’s unfinished business involved the unfilled gaps in the fossil record, which encouraged the development of the Punctuated Equilibrium Hypothesis. Darwin fully expected those gaps would be filled by new discoveries, but they have not. Continued collecting of fossils has only served to emphasize the discontinuities, not fill them.

Creationists Agree with Evolutionists about Microevolution

Keep in mind that changes in species would never qualify for demonstrating the large-scale changes required by the evolutionary model, nor would they refute the creation model. We believe God instilled enough variation in the genetic pools of the created kinds to allow the generation of new species, which creationists affirm and call microevolution.

Dr. Frank Marsh’s book Variation and Fixity in Nature explains, in much detail, the tremendous diversity contained in the genetic code of most species. He gives many examples of cross-fertility among animals and among plants. For example, the horse, the zebra, and the ass can interbreed and are cross-fertile. Therefore, they come under the umbrella of the Genesis horse kind (the baramin—the created kind, from the Hebrew word for create, bara, and kind, min). These three animals are examples of microevolution, all of which evolved from a common ancestor, which was the original horse. Therefore, the fossil collections demonstrate what we would logically predict if God created all the known kinds (baramin) of creatures: the complete absence of transitional forms in the major divisions of living forms.

The fossil record precisely confirms the prediction from the creationist’s perspective. In this way, the fossil record is powerful evidence for creation. I mention this because of my recent encounter with Dr. McCarthy as CSUDH. He suggested that certain vegetable hybrids prove evolution, and I explained that all it does is show variants of a basic kind (baramin) can interbreed, e.g. the Chihuahua and the Great Dane. Both are dogs. No one would disagree with that, but the two breeds would have a great deal of difficulty breeding. If the connecting breeds of small and intermediate dogs were done away with, the two would not breed except with special help.

False Claims of Transition Forms Made in most Textbooks

Until recently, most evolutionists said that the fossil collections truly contained graduated transitions among the major taxa (classification groups, e.g., phylum). For instance, on p. 9 of his textbook Biological Science, 1972 [or p. 7 in the scaled down 2nd ed., Norton, New York, 1973], William Keeton sets up a straw man hypothesis of divine creation and then refutes it by saying,

Soon, however, the fossil record itself made this hypothesis untenable. As more and more fossils were discovered and studied, it became evident that gradual shifts in characters could be traced through time. If an investigator studied the fossils in one rock layer and then studied the fossils in a slightly more recent layer, he would often find that those in the more recent layer were very similar to the older ones but showed slight differences. If he then studied a third layer slightly more recent than the second, he would again find that slight changes in the characters of the fossil species would be detected…It was far more likely that the changes seen in the fossils were the result of accumulation of many small alterations as the generations passed.

By the time nearly 100 years of intensified searching by professional and amateur collectors for missing links had been done, George Gaylord Simpson, who was one of the twentieth century’s leading paleontologists and professor of vertebrate paleontology at Harvard, explained the problem:

A great deal is known—an amazing amount in view of these limitations—and it would be pointless to emphasize once more the general incompleteness of the paleontological record, except to stress that this incompleteness is an essential datum and that it, as well as the positive data, can be studied with profit. When the record does happen to be good, it commonly shows complete continuity in the rise of such taxonomic categories as species and genera and sometimes, but rarely, in higher groups. When breaks or apparent saltations do occur within lines that are true or structural phyla, frequently they can be shown to be due to one of the two causes now exemplified: to hiatuses in the time record caused by nondeposition of middle strata or fossils and to sampling of migrants instead of main lines. Continued discovery and collecting have the constant tendency to fill in gaps. The known series are steadily becoming more, never less, continuous In cannot be shown that discontinuity between, let us say, genera has never occurred, but the only rational conclusion from these facts is that no discontinuity is usually found and that there is no paleontological evidence that really tends to prove that there is any. On these levels everything is consistent with the postulate that we are sampling what were once continuous sequences. The collections include about as many continuous series and about as many breaks in various phyla as would be expected from the nature and intensity of the sampling so far accomplished.

Major Systematic Discontinuities of Record

The levels to which these conclusions apply without modification are approximately those discussed as macroevolution (under that or an equivalent term) by neozoologists and biologists. On still higher levels, those of what is here called ‘mega-evolution’, the inferences might still apply, but caution is enjoined, because here essentially continuous transitional sequences are not merely rare, but are virtually absent. [my emphasis—ed.] These large discontinuities are less numerous, so that paleontological examples of their origin should also be less numerous; but their absence is so nearly universal that it cannot, offhand, be imputed entirely to chance and does require some attempt at special explanation, as has been felt by most paleontologists.

Matthew has pointed out (e.g., 1926) that Hyracotherium (Eohippus) [Kerkut says, "The alleged horse ancestor, which more closely resembles the coney than the horse, and could have just as easily been considered the ancestor for tapirs or rhinos"]{1} is so nearly a generalized primitive perissodactyl [odd-toed hoofed mammal—ed.] that it could be near the ancestry, if not itself the ancestor, of all the later families of perissodactyls. Knowledge of a nearly continuous sequence leading to the horses and ignorance of smaller or larger parts of sequences leading to other families (tapirs, rhinoceroses, titanotheres, and so forth), at first closely similar, might be due only to chance. But nowhere in the world has any recognizable trace been found of an animal that would close the considerable structural gap between Hyracotherium and the most likely ancestral order, the Condylarthra.

This is true of all the thirty-two orders of mammals, and in most cases the break in the record is still more striking than in the case of the perissodactyls, for which a known earlier group does at least provide a good structural ancestry. The earliest and most primitive know members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters, and in no case is an approximately continuous sequence from one order to another known. In most cases the break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculative and much disputed. Of course the orders all converge backward in time to different degrees [debatable]. The earliest known members are much more alike than the latest highly diverse ungulates [hoofed mammals] did have a common ancestry; but the line making actual connection with such an ancestry is not known in even one instance.

As regards the orders of mammals [he refers to the table on his pp. 108-109] and Fig. 16 [in his book] give some idea of the inadequacy of the record, both systematic, with regard to the origins of the various groups, and random, within the orders once they have appeared in the fossil record.

Listing of data as to the occurrence of possible ancestry involves subjective judgment as to what constitutes a ‘possible ancestry,’ and in some cases opinions differ radically because of the magnitude of the morphological gaps between the bases of ordinal records. These data are also strongly affected by random, and in some cases also systematic, gaps in the records concerning possible ancestors. They do, however, more nearly than any other available information provide objective criteria as to the span within which the orders probably originated.

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, themselves, and of the major animal phyla, and it is apparently also true of analogous categories of plants. Among genera and species some apparent regularity of absence of transitional types is clearly a taxonomic artifact: artificial divisions between taxonomic units are for practical reasons established where random gaps exist. This does not adequately explain the systematic occurrence of gaps between larger units [my emphasis]. In the cases of the gaps that are artifacts, the effect of discovery has been to reveal their random nature and has tended to fill in now one, now another—now from the ancestral, and now from the descendent side. In most cases discoveries relating to the major breaks have produced a more or less tenuous extension backward of the descendent groups, leaving the probable contact with the ancestry a sharp boundary. None of these large breaks has actually been filled by real, continuous sequences of fossils [my emphasis], although many of them can be exactly located and the transitions described by inference from the improved record on both sides.{2}

Bibliography

  1. Kerkut, G.A., Implications of Evolution, Pergamon Press, New York, 1960, p. 149.
  2. G.G. Simpson, Tempo and Mode in Evolution, Columbia University Press, New York, 1944, p. 107.

I included the above lengthy quote, because evolutionists often accuse creationists of quoting them out of context. I have included the context, and I think it is very clear that the gaps in the fossil record are far from trivial and they are extremely discontinuous, contrary to what Dr. Kroman said during our mini-debate at CSUDH. It was because of this feature in the fossil record that Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University and Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History formulated the punctuated equilibrium hypothesis. Furthermore, also contrary to what Dr. Kroman said, the Precambrian fossil record does not show a continuous sequence leading to the Cambrian stage. The morphological distinctions of the blue-green algae from the Precambrian are far removed from the complex organisms found in the Cambrian, e.g., mollusks, brachiopods, and trilobites.

Billions of Fossils Laid Down by Flood Waters all over the World

Creationists have a different interpretation for the geological strata and the fossils buried in them. Most of the sedimentary rocks were laid down as a result of a great world-wide flood, which is mentioned in the ancient stories, legends and religious writings of hundreds of cultures around the world, including the Havasupai Indians living near Grand Canyon. According to their legend, the immense chasm we call the Grand Canyon was formed after a great flood covered the world. In consideration of this concept, and believing that God created the baramins with enough genetic variability to generate numerous species within each baramin, creationists would predict that the fossil record would contain only the remains of the baramins and their subsequent species. We predict that what we would see, and what we actually do see, if the world had been catastrophically inundated by a great flood, is billions of fossils buried in rock layers laid down by the flood all over the world (as Ken Ham says).

Organisms occupying the same ecological zones at the time of the flood would tend to be buried together. That’s what we see. Marine trilobites, brachiopods, ammonites, sponges, and mollusks are buried together, and not with desert rattlesnakes. Likewise, there are huge graveyards of mammals which appear to have been swept together in the rush of titanic flash floods, such as is seen in Nebraska. The same is true of dinosaurs, and the paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument freely admit that their main attraction of dinosaur bones stuck together in a wall of lithified mud came about as the result of a very large flash flood.

In the fossil record, we see tremendous fossil graveyards of what had obviously been living populations suddenly caught in the flood’s onslaught. Gigantic schools of fish buried together, some found with smaller fish in their mouths; others gripped in death agony. Henry Morris’ The Genesis Flood still provides good geological evidence for a global flood and is highly recommended, although it could stand some minor revisions. Call (800) 999-3777 to order it or Harold Coffin’s Origin by Design, which is more recent.

Eye Evolution Absurd in the Highest Degree, Says Darwin

Because Drs. McCarthy and Kroman seemed shocked and incredulous when I mentioned it, here is Darwin’s quote from The Origin of Species, (p. 168, 1958, Mentor) under “Organs of Extreme Perfection and Complication:”

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.

After the original publication of this article, a reader, evolutionist Dave Matson, felt that I had quoted Darwin out of context. In a subsequent issue of Creation in the Crossfire, I explained that the quote was out of context (most quotes are out of context, e.g., “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”). Newspapers often quote out of context, often giving a paraphrase. Most people are aware contextual quotes, like the above quote I gave from George Gaylord Simpson, is more than most people want. However, I would like to include Mr. Matson’s own remarks concerning this and conclude with two quotes from an article by Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, and the hyperlink to Behe’s entire article. If you follow the link, be sure to see his other articles. He also has some especially fine animations of biological machines such as the bacterial flagellum in action (see my drawing below). Behe offers such machinery as evidence of intelligent design. Of course, I would encourage Mr. Matson to provide a link to an article that would he feels would answer Behe’s argument. It is always good to see both sides of the argument.

Dear Jon,

While checking out “PALEONTOLOGY: The Fossil Record by Jon Covey” I came across this statement at the very end, in big letters:

EYE EVOLUTION “ABSURD IN THE HIGHEST DEGREE” SAYS DARWIN.

It was followed by that very familiar, out-of-context quote from Darwin. We discussed that quote at some length several years ago, and you agreed with me that the quote was out of context. In fact, Darwin marshaled excellent evidence in his book for the evolution of the eye. He had no problem explaining its general features.

True, these articles are from past issues of Creation In The Crossfire, but don’t you think, IN THE NAME OF HONESTY, that this misleading quote should be tagged? Innocent readers will come across it and get the impression that Darwin had a serious problem with the evolution of the eye. Others, with a less favorable opinion of creationists, may think that you are dishonestly cashing in on Darwin’s name to attack evolution.

Best wishes,

Dave Matson

The purpose of that quote was for the benefit of two well-qualified university professors of biology and genetics. However, Darwin certainly was a master of convincing answers to questions about which science of his day had very little knowledge. Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box and professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, made the following observations concerning Darwin’s understanding:

How do we see? In the 19th century the anatomy of the eye was known in great detail and the sophisticated mechanisms it employs to deliver an accurate picture of the outside world astounded everyone who was familiar with them. Scientists of the 19th century correctly observed that if a person were so unfortunate as to be missing one of the eye’s many integrated features, such as the lens, or iris, or ocular muscles, the inevitable result would be a severe loss of vision or outright blindness. Thus it was concluded that the eye could only function if it were nearly intact.

As Charles Darwin was considering possible objections to his theory of evolution by natural selection in The Origin of Species he discussed the problem of the eye in a section of the book appropriately entitled “Organs of Extreme Perfection and Complication.” He realized that if in one generation an organ of the complexity of the eye suddenly appeared, the event would be tantamount to a miracle. Somehow, for Darwinian evolution to be believable, the difficulty that the public had in envisioning the gradual formation of complex organs had to be removed.

Darwin succeeded brilliantly, not by actually describing a real pathway that evolution might have used in constructing the eye, but rather by pointing to a variety of animals that were known to have eyes of various constructions, ranging from a simple light sensitive spot to the complex vertebrate camera eye, and suggesting that the evolution of the human eye might have involved similar organs as intermediates.

But the question remains, how do we see? Although Darwin was able to persuade much of the world that a modern eye could be produced gradually from a much simpler structure, he did not even attempt to explain how the simple light sensitive spot that was his starting point actually worked. When discussing the eye Darwin dismissed the question of its ultimate mechanism:

How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated.

He had an excellent reason for declining to answer the question: 19th century science had not progressed to the point where the matter could even be approached. The question of how the eye works—that is, what happens when a photon of light first impinges on the retina—simply could not be answered at that time. As a matter of fact, no question about the underlying mechanism of life could be answered at that time. How do animal muscles cause movement? How does photosynthesis work? How is energy extracted from food? How does the body fight infection? Nobody knew.

Click here to see the remainder of this article by Michael Behe. By doing so, you will leave this web site and enter Access Research Network’s domain. Behe’s article is excellent and easy to read. Readers are encouraged to view the entire article and browse other articles at ARN.

 

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