Refutation of “Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups” – Questions 11 – 20

Question 11

Regarding the fossil Mononykus as thought to be a bird was a “fossorial tetropad,” which paper recorded this?
Ray answers “Time.”
(Source: Australia, April 26, 1993)
Non-Academic Source
Time is not a science article. Monokykus may not have been subjected to peer review before going public, and this is not the first time in all the fields of science when things like this happen. Mononykus is not a tetropad, but a theropod. Mononykus is usually reconstructed with a covering of feathers. Indeed, in the fossil of its relative Shuvuuia feather traces were discovered, proving that
Alvarezsauridae (same family of Mononykus) were among the
theropod lineages with feathers.
Does not damage evolutionary theory
This piece also ignores the vast library and collections of confirmed fossilized transitional birds.
Discrediting one fossil does not automatically discredit all of the others.

 

In-Depth Comments

“The researchers found lots of Mononykus bones while digging over the past few years, but one in particular convinced them they’d found a bird. Mononykus had a keel—a prominent ridge that extends forward from the breastbone—to which the muscles that allow flight would attach. With arms instead of wings, Mononykus obviously wouldn’t fly. But the keel, says Norell, betrays its bird heritage.

Not everyone is convinced. ‘It’s very interesting as whatever it is,’ says Storrs Olson, a curator of birds at the Smithsonian Institution, ‘but it’s not a bird.’ He thinks the keeled breastbone looks much more like the sternum of a mole, a digging creature, than the sternum of a bird. And trying to make digging hooks out of a bird’s wings, says Olson, would be ‘like trying to make a backhoe out of an airplane.’ Other researchers speculate that the keel came from another animal altogether and was mistakenly lumped in with the Mononykus bones. A better interpretation of the evidence, they say, would be to call Mononykus a birdlike dinosaur.”

(Source: Kathy Svitil, “Bird or mole? Mononykus olecranus, a bird-like fossil with claws instead of wings,” Discover, January 1994).

 

Does not damage evolutionary theory
Notice the ending piece, “A better interpretation of the evidence, they say, would be to call Mononykus a birdlike dinosaur.”
This reference is another failure by Ray Comfort’s plan to provide a reference to discredit the theory of evolution as a whole. Discrediting one fossil does not discredit all the other thousands of fossils that have sufficiently and thoroughly proven the theory of evolution.

Question 12

 

Question about the Bible. Which book reveals the seasons are caused by changing positions of the sun?
Ray answers “Genesis 1:14”… “and God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to let the day and night be divided and let there be days, seasons, and years.”

 

Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
This bible verse provided by Ray Comfort says nothing at all about the tilt of the earth or angle of the earth in relation to the sun. All it says is “let the day and night be divided and let there be days, seasons, and years.” This is biblical scientific foreknowledge at its best? Nothing about astronomical position, orbit, speed of light, angles, angular momentum, nothing at all.
Even if the bible got this part about the seasons, it does not discredit the theory of evolution in the slightest. It does not provide any material attacking or discrediting genetics, alleles, phylogeny, embryology, adaption, speciation, or anything in the field of biology.
Distortion of Science
If you read further, Genesis 1:16 says “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” The moon is not a light! You can only see it glow only because of the sun’s reflection off of it. During some of its phases, you can’t even see it at all! Also, note that in Genesis 1:14 it says “firmament.” There are dozens of instances where the Bible hints and promotes the flat earth hypothesis.

 

In-Depth Comments

Includes a quote from National Geographic that explains changing position of the tilt of the earth changes temperature and length of daylight in certain seasons.
The article also says “the astronomical position of the Earth causes the seasons.”

 

Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
This reference does not provide any proof for Comforts “biblical scientific foreknowledge.” It goes into much greater detail of how the days and seasons form. While the scientific evidence for the tilt of the Earth is sufficient, it does not matter to the field of biology or the theory of evolution.
“We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”
(Source: Sir Isaac Newton. No other verification for this reference is provided)

 

Appeal to authority
Using the personal views of a single smart scientist does not provide credulity to a sacred text. Comfort would easily dismiss any smart scientist who gave any credit to the Qu’ran or the Bhagitavida. Likewise, the validity of Scripture (for which none have been revealed) does not disprove or damage the fact of evolution via natural selection.
Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
The quote from Sir Isaac Newton gives no credibility to the Bible, nor does it have any value in regards to the evidence of the theory of evolution.
The last quote from geologist James Dwight Dana addressing Yale senior students, “Young men, as you go forth, remember that I, an old man, who has known only science my whole life, say unto you that there are no truer facts than the facts found within the Holy Scripture.”
Comfort does not provide any source.
All Ray shares is that Dana was a geologist in the 19th century “whose Manual of Geology was on the shelf of almost every American geologist.”

 

Appeal to authority
Dana was a geologist, his work is not in the field of biology of evolution, thus including him in this book is baseless and meaningless. We cannot verify if this is what he said, nor has Dana provided any evidence for this claim.
Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
Even if this is a legitimate quote, it addresses nothing about the theory of evolution. For that matter, we do not even know if Dana agrees with creationism.

Question 13

 

Fill in the blank. A quote from a textbook author Gary Parker that “fossils are a great embarrassment to _____.”
Comfort answers “evolutionary theory.”
Comfort’s source is from a video On the Origin of Species by William Glashouwer and Paul Taylor.
Comfort then gives a brief intro to Gary Parker while naming his credentials. Comfort says that Gary Parker eventually stopped accepting evolution because of the lack of evidence.

 

Distortion of Science

Gary Parker is simply and demonstrably wrong here. Why do we not find millions of fossils but rather we find gaps? When something dies, it is usually disassembled, digested, and decomposed. Only rarely is anything ever fossilized, and even fewer things are very well-preserved. Because the conditions required for that process are so particular, the fossil record can only represent a tiny fraction of everything that has ever lived. Darwin provided many environmental dynamics explaining why no single quarry could ever provide a continuous record of biological events, and why it would be impossible to find all the fossilized ancestors of every lineage. But despite this, he predicted that future generations, -having the benefit of better understanding- would discover a substantial number of fossil species which he called “intermediate” or “transitional” between what we see alive today and their taxonomic ancestors at successive levels in paleontological history.

In fact, in the century-and-a-half since then, we’ve found millions of evolutionary intermediaries in the fossil record, much more than Darwin said he could reasonably hope for. There are three different types of transitional forms and we have ample examples of each. But creationists still insist that we’ve never found a single one, because what they usually ask us to present are impossible parodies which evolution would neither produce nor permit (like the Crocoduck) Parker does not explain what he means by the word “kind” either. We have found thousands of fossils between families, orders, and classes, such as transitions from dinosaurs to birds, fish to tetrapods, and transitions from condylarths (a kind of land mammal) to fully aquatic modern manatees (in particular, Pezosiren portelli is clearly a sirenian, but its hind limbs and pelvis are unreduced). We even find transitions between kingdoms and phyla (Cambrian and Precambrain fossils Anomalocaris and Opabinia are transitional between arthropods and lobopods). A decade ago, Kathleen Hunt, a zoologist with the University of Washington, produced a list of a few hundred of the more dramatic transitional species known so far, all of which definitely fit every criteria required of the most restrictive definition. Myriad transitional species have been, and still are being, discovered; so many in fact that lots of biologists and paleontologists now consider that list “innumerable” especially since the tally of definite transitionals keeps growing so fast! Several lineages are now virtually complete, including our own.

In-Depth Comments

Comfort provides another quote by Gary Parker, “If evolution were true, we should find literally millions
of fossils that show how one kind of life slowly and gradually changed to another kind of life. But missing links are the trade secret, in a sense, of paleontology. The point is, the links are still missing. What we really find are gaps that sharpen up the boundaries between kinds. It’s those gaps which provide us with the evidence of creation of separate kinds. As a matter of fact, there
are gaps between each of the major kinds of plants and animals. Transition forms are missing by the millions. What we do find are separate and complex kinds, pointing to creation.”
(Source: Dr. Gary Parker, quoted in Willem Glashouwer and Paul Taylor, The Origin of Species (Mesa, AZ: Eden Films and Standard Media, 1983)
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Even if we did not have a single fossil, evolutionary theory and common descent could still be proven by genetics.
Distortion of Science
As for the missing link, they are no longer missing, not even in human lineage. Now the problem for evolution is that there are too many contenders, while a compounding problem for creationists is that not even one of them should exist if their story was true. And yet they do –by the bushelful! Despite their complaints to the contrary, the intermediate gradations in the human evolutionary line are now so fine that paleoanthropologists can’t agree whether they’re all different species or merely mildly modified varieties of the same ones, such that there are no more links needed for human evolution anymore.
The next quote-mine Comfort provides comes from the book Darwin’s Enigma that has a whole article refuting it (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/patterson.html)
Does not damage evolutionary theory
The author of Darwin’s Enigma several years later publishing the book, changed his mind and accepted he was wrong.

Question 14

Regarding the Cambrian Explosion. Who said “With few exceptions, radically new kinds of organisms appear for the first time in the fossil record fully evolved, with
most of their characteristic features present.”
Comfort answers “T.S. Kemp”
(Source: Fossils and Evolution, 1999, p.253).
Does not damage evolutionary theory
The Cambrian explosion does not refute evolution. In fact, the two are compatible.

In-Depth Comments

Comfort includes a quote from Derek V. Ager who admits there is no evidence of gradual evolution, despite Ager being an evolutionist. “The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or species, we find——over and over again——not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another.”
(Source: “The Nature of the Fossil Record,” Proceedings of the British Geological Association, Vol. 87, 1976, p. 133)
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Again, even without a single fossil, we can confirm evolutionary theory and common descent through genetics. Furthermore, the Cambrian explosion does not contradict evolutionary theory.
Outdated Source
As for Ager, the source is highly outdated. Much was discovered in the past several decades that has shown gradual evolution. The horns of titanotheres (extinct Cenozoic mammals) appear in progressively larger sizes, from nothing to prominence. Other head and neck features also evolved. These features are adaptations for head-on ramming analogous to sheep behavior. Scallops of the genus Chesapecten show gradual change in one “ear” of their hinge over about 13 million years (the ribs also change). This is just a small samples of the bigger picture.
Comfort provides a quote from Niles Eldredge’s
website www.ucg.org/booklets/EV.fossilrecord.html
but the website no longer exists.
Eldredge’s website no longer exists. The contents of this quote cannot be verified, if it came from Eldredges website at all. For that matter, this quote will be discarded.

Question 15

True or False question: A Chinese farmer glued together the head and body of a primitive bird and the tail and hind limbs of a dinosaur, and in 1999 completely fooled the
world-wide scientific community into thinking that they had found the “missing link” between carnivorous dinosaurs and modern birds.
Comfort answers “True.”
(Source: National Geographic, Vol. 196, November 1999, No. 5).
Comfort then adds, “Named ‘Archaeoraptor,’ this fossil find constitutes the most recent evolution fraud…that we know of. Storrs L. Olson of the Smithsonian
Institute said, “National Geographic has reached an all-time low for engaging in sensationalistic, unsubstantiated, tabloid journalism” (Open letter to Dr. Peter Raven, Secretary, National Geographic Society, November 1, 1999)
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Archaeoraptor was not a scientific fraud. It was put together by the Chinese fossil hunter who discovered it. The pieces were assembled to make the fossil more marketable to collectors, not to researchers. Archaeoraptor was published in the popular press, not in peer-reviewed journals. The main author of the article about it was National Geographic’s art editor, not a scientist. Nature and Science both rejected papers describing it, citing suspicions that it was doctored and illegally smuggled (Dalton 2000; Simons 2000). Normal scientific procedures worked to uphold high standards.

In-Depth Comment

“The principal part of a famously fabricated dinosaur fossil is an ancient fish-eating bird, scientists report. The Archaeoraptor fossil was introduced in 1999 and hailed as the missing evolutionary link between carnivorous dinosaurs and modern birds. It was fairly quickly exposed as bogus, a composite containing the head and body of a primitive bird and the tail and hind limbs of a dromaesaur, glued together by a Chinese farmer.
Initial CT scans suggested that the fossil might have been made up of anywhere from two to five specimens
of two or more species. Chinese and American  scientists now report that the fabricated fossil is made up of two species. The tail and hind limbs were identified in 2000 as belonging to a Microraptor zhaoianus, a small, bipedal, meat-eating dinosaur with some bird-like features.
Scientists in the November 21 issue of the journal Nature report that the avian parts of the false dinosaur-bird fossil are from one specimen, a fish-eating bird known as Yanornis martini.”
(Source: Hillary Mayell, National Geographic News, November 20, 2002 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1120_021120_raptor.html
Does not damage evolutionary theory

Note, that Mayell tells that Archaeoraptor was exposed by scientists, not creationists. Only a handful of scientists ever saw Archaeoraptor, but every one who did noted that it was composite piece, and the artistic amateurs who paid for the fossil were repeatedly warned that some parts of it might not even belong to the whole. Popular press foolishly scooped the story prior to peer review, where it was instantly exposed as a fake by multiple experts, and each submission to scientific journals was immediately rejected. Archaeoraptor therefore fooled no one in the scientific community at all.

The irony there is that the tail of the alleged Archaeoraptor turned out to belong to the as-yet undiscovered Microraptor, a four-winged and apparently gliding feathered dinosaur which turned out to be even more compelling proof of avian evolution from dinosaurs than Archeopteryx was in Darwin’s day.

The scientific process of peer-review seeks out and exposes fraud by design. But antievolutionist arguments are withheld from peer-review because they are driven entirely by frauds including misstatements, out-of-context quote-mining, and contrived or distorted falsehoods, and terms erroneously redefined into instigative reactionary nonsense unintelligible as anything other than propaganda. In short, if creationists knew how to expose a fraud, they wouldn’t be creationists anymore.

 

Question 16

Who said it? “It’s as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.”
Comfort answers “Richard Dawkins”
(Source: Dawkin’s book The Blind Watchmaker [New York: W. W. Norton Co., 1987], p. 229).
Comfort adds, “evolutionist Richard Dawkins goes on to say in the next paragraph that all evolutionists ‘despise so-called scientific creationists’ and reject divine creation. He proposes that the fossils must just appear like that because of ‘imperfections in the fossil record.’”
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Dawkins doesn’t claim to know why there is so little pre-Cambrian fossil evidence but he suspects “it might be that many of these animals had only soft parts to their bodies: no shells or bones to fossilize” (Dawkins 1996: 230) Dawkins is also aware that the Cambrian does not refute evolution, it rather supports it.

In-Depth Comments

“For all of the animal phyla to appear in one single, short burst of diversification is not an obviously predicable outcome of evolution.”
(Source: Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth (Springer, 2000), p. 150).
Does not damage evolutionary theory

Ward and Brownlee are advocates of the Rare Earth hypothesis. While their hypothesis is not widely accepted amongst astrobiologists, the Rare Earth hypothesis only argues life can appear on planets that share earth’s characteristics. However life started on Earth is irrelevant to the theory of evolution. Evolution only occurs when new alleles are spread throughout a given community.

Despite Ward and Brown’s statements about no new phyla appearing after the Cambrian Explosion, only some phyla appear in the Cambrian explosion. In particular, all plants postdate the Cambrian, and flowering plants, by far the dominant form of land life today, only appeared about 140 Million years ago.

“One of the most difficult problems in evolutionary paleontology has been the almost abrupt appearance of
the major animal groups—classes and phyla—in full-fledged form, in the Cambrian and Ordovician periods.”
(Source: A. G. Fisher, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1998, fossil section)
Does not damage evolutionary theory
There are several plausible explanations for why diversification may have been relatively sudden that does not contradict or invalidate the
theory of evolution.
“Most orders, classes, and phyla appear abruptly, and commonly have already acquired all the characters that distinguish them.”
(Source: Francisco J. Ayala and James W. Valentine, Evolving: The Theory and Process of Organic Evolution (Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Co., 1979), p. 266).
Does not damage evolutionary theory

Even if this was correct, that ”’most”’ orders, classes, and phyla appear suddenly in the Cambrian explosion, it does not pose as a problem to the theory of evolution. Molecular evidence shows that at least six animal phyla are Precambrian. (Source: Wang, D. Y.-C., S. Kumar and S. B. Hedges, 1999. Divergence time estimates for the early history of animal phyla and the origin of plants, animals and fungi. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences 266: 163-71) Although many new animal forms appeared during the Cambrian, not all did. According to one reference,(http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/phyla/metazoafr.html) eleven of thirty-two metazoan phyla appear during the Cambrian, one appears Precambrian, eight after the Cambrian, and twelve have no fossil record.

This comes to show that evolution did take place before and after the Cambrian Explosion.

 

Outdated Source

Question 17

Fill in the blank question. At the turn of the 19th century, Robert Wiedersheim listed over a hundred _______
organs.
Comfort answers “vestigials”
(Source: www.allaboutscience.org)
Comfort goes on to add that we have found functions for each and every one of them.
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Vestigial organs are still legitimate evidences for evolution.
Distortion of Science

“Vestigial” does not mean an organ is useless. A vestige is a “trace or visible sign left by something lost or vanished” (G. & C. Merriam. 1974. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1974, 769). Robert Wiedersheim, the notorious cataloguer of 86 human vestigial structures, never claims that vestigial structures must lack functions. In the introduction to The Structure of Man, Wiedersheim defines “vestigial” in evolutionary terms:

“Comparative morphology points not only to the essentially similar plan of organization of the bodies of all Vertebrates, … but also to the occurrence in them of certain organs, or parts of organs, now known as ‘vestigial.’”

By such organs are meant those which were formerly of greater physiological significance than at present.” (Wiedersheim 1893, p. 2)

 

In-Depth Comment

Comfort includes a quote from Turkish creationist Harun Yahya (whose real name is Adnan Oktar). Oktar blames the ills of Turkey on evolution, the Jews, and the Freemasons. He is also a Holocaust denialist.

Here is Harun’s comment:

“A list of vestigial organs that was made by the German Anatomist R. Wiedersheim in 1895 included approximately 100 structures, including the appendix and the coccyx. As science progressed, it was discovered that all of the organs in Wiedersheim’s list in fact had very important functions…. All of these were once considered to be “vestigial organs.” Finally, the semi-lunar fold in the eye, which was referred to as a vestigial organ by Darwin, has been found in fact to be in charge of cleansing and lubricating the eye.”

(Source: Harun Yahya, Evolution Deceit (London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 1999)

Does not damage evolutionary theory

As for Holocaust denier and old Earth creationist Harun Yahya, some vestigial organs can be determined to be useless if experiments show that organisms with them survive no better than organisms without them. The human appendix may not be functional. Its absence causes no known harmful effects (other than surgical complications from removing it). When it is present, there is a 7 percent lifetime risk of acute appendicitis, which is usually fatal without modern surgical techniques (Hardin 1999). The coccyx is a developmental remnant of the embryonic tail that forms in humans and then is degraded and eaten by our immune system. Our internal tail is unnecessary for sitting, walking, and elimination (all of which are functions attributed to the coccyx by many anti-evolutionists). The caudal vertebrae of the coccyx can cause extreme and unnecessary chronic pain in some unfortunate people, a condition called coccydynia. The entire coccyx can be surgically removed without any ill effects (besides surgical complications), with the only complaint, in a small fraction of patients, being that the removal of the coccyx sadly did not remove their pain (Grossovan and Dam 1995; Perkins et al. 2003; Postacchini Massobrio 1983; Ramsey et al. 2003; Shaposhnikov 1997; Wray 1991).

 

Question 18

Who said it question; “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Ray Comfort answers “Albert Einstein.”
(Source: Science, Philosophy, and Religion: a Symposium, New York 1941).
Outdated Source
Appeal to authority
Quoting one great scientist’s personal views does not invalidate science or open credible room for religion.
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
The evidence of evolution and science in general does not rest on the opinions of a single scientist. Yes, Einstein was brilliant, but his personal perspectives of science does not over-rule it. Religion does not guide science or theories. A theory has to be tested indefinitely. It demands understanding instead of belief. So it must be based on verifiable evidence; It must explain related observations with a measurable degree of accuracy; It must withstand continuous critical analysis in peer review, and it must be falsifiable too. If it doesn’t fulfill all these conditions at once, then it isn’t science. If it meets none of them, it may be religion.

In-Depth Comment

Comfort’s first quote is from Denis Brian’s opinion of Einstein’s views of science and religion. While Brian notes that Einstein did not believe in a personal God, he
claims Einstein was not an atheist or a pantheist. Brain also quotes Einstein that we are children in a library filled with books written in many different languages.
(Source: Denis Brian, Einstein: A Life [New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1996] pg. 186).
Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
We are discussing evolution, not the personal views of Einstein.
Does not damage evolutionary theory
The quote from Brian is a secondary source, and less trustworthy than what Einstein said himself on the matter. Einstein believed that the universe was a wondrous mystery waiting to be discovered, but he did not fill in the unknown and unexplained with gods, fairies, deities, aliens, etc. This is what Ray Comfort and other theists do, assume that their narrow beliefs explain away the unknown without a shred of evidence.

Question 19

True or false question. “Nobel Prize winner Sir Ernest Chain once said of the theory of evolution, ‘I would rather believe in fairy tales than in such wild speculation.’”
Ray answers “True.”
(Source: Ronald W. Clark, The Life of Ernest Chain [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985] pg. 147-148.)
Outdated Source
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology
The validity of evolution does not rest on the personal views of a single Nobel Prize winner. Rather it rests on the the mountains of evidence that Ray Comfort is failing to address.
Appeal to authority
Ernest was a biochemist and received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, however he disagreed with the theory due to his personal views. One man’s personal opinion does not have any weight over the massive amounts of evidence for evolution.

In-Depth Comments

From R. Dickerson, “The evolution of genetic machinery is the step for which there are no laboratory models; hence we can speculate endlessly, unfettered by inconvenient facts.”
(Source: “Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life,” Scientific American, September 1978, pg.
70.)
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Not relevant to evolutionary theory or biology

Dickerson is rather addressing the origin of life, which is a completely different topic and field of discussion than evolution. The theory of evolution only addresses the diversity of life, not the origin of it.

Outdated Source
The second quote from Dickerson is outdated. Several solid hypothesis and theories have been proposed since then.

“A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology and paleontology unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian that it is. This probably comes from the oversimplification inevitable from secondary sources: low-level textbooks, semi-popular articles, and so on. Also there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general, these have not been found—yet the optimism has died hard and some pure fantasy has crept into the textbooks.” (Emphasis added by Ray Comfort).

(Source: David Raup, “Evolution in the fossil record.” Science Vol. 213, pg. 289.)

 

Appeal to authority
Does not damage evolutionary theory
Finally, the last quote from Raup (which was published July 17, 1981), is useless. Even if we did not have a single intermediate fossil (which we have), the evidence for common descent is overwhelming. Could not find Raup’s article on Google Scholar, but still falls under the fallacy argument from authority. It also is out of touch with the evidence that has since been found. After many years, we have found more fossils than Darwin could have reasonably hoped for. A decade ago, Kathleen Hunt, a zoologist with the University of Washington, produced a list of a few hundred of the more dramatic transitional species known so far, all of which definitely fit every criteria required of the most restrictive definition. Myriad transitional species have been, and still are being, discovered; so many in fact that lots of biologists and paleontologists now consider that list “innumerable” especially since the tally of definite transitionals keeps growing so fast! Several lineages are now virtually complete, including our own.

Question 20

Fill in the blank. Stephen J. Gould said “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in
many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for __________”
Ray answers “gradualist accounts of evolution.”
(Source: Gould, Stephen J., “Is a new
and general theory of evolution emerging?” Paleobiology, Vol 6(1), January 1980, p. 127.)
Quote Mine/Distorted message of author

In typical quote-mining style, the sentence used by Gould has been taken out of its natural ecosystem. In this section of the paper, Gould is outlining the challenge to gradualist models of macroevolution in three loosely united themes. He is not challenging evolution itself nor is he discounting the vast wealth of fossil data that already exists.

Here is the actual quote (with words omitted in bold)

“2. The saltational initiation of major transitions: The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary states between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution. St. George Mivart (1871), Darwin’s most cogent critic, referred to it as the dilemma of “the incipient stages of useful structures” — of what possible benefit to a reptile is two percent of a wing? The dilemma has two potential solutions. The first, preferred by Darwinians because it preserves both gradualism and adaptation, is the principle of preadaptation: the intermediate stages functioned in another way but were, by good fortune in retrospect, pre-adapted to a new role they could play only after greater elaboration. Thus, if feathers first functioned “for” insulation and later “for” the trapping of insect prey (Ostrom 1979) a proto-wing might be built without any reference to flight.

The next paragraph goes as follows

“I do not doubt the supreme importance of preadaptation, but the other alternative, treated with caution, reluctance, disdain or even fear by the modern synthesis, now deserves a rehearing in the light of renewed interest in development: perhaps, in many cases, the intermediates never existed. I do not refer to the saltational origin of entire new designs, complete in all their complex and integrated features — a fantasy that would be truly anti-Darwinian in denying any creativity to selection and relegating it to the role of eliminating new models. Instead, I envisage a potential saltational origin for the essential features of key adaptations. Why may we not imagine that gill arch bones of an ancestral agnathan moved forward in one step to surround the mouth and form proto-jaws? Such a change would scarcely establish the Bauplan of the gnathostomes. So much more must be altered in the reconstruction of agnathan design — the building of a true shoulder girdle with bony, paired appendages, to say the least. But the discontinuous origin of a proto-jaw might set up new regimes of development and selection that would quickly lead to other, coordinated modifications.” (Gould, Stephen J., ‘Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?’ Paleobiology, vol 6(1), January 1980, pp. 126-127)”

Gould then goes on to show that Darwin conflated gradualism with natural selection, and then talks more in point #2 about future work in the field of evolutionary development that yields testable hypothesis for small changes in developmental pathways (corresponding to small evolutionary changes) yielding large changes in adult body plans. Gould states that this is the kind of approach that will give forth real information rather than adaptive stories or hypothetical intermediates. Gould was probably not exactly a ‘visionary’ for proposing this in print, but evolutionary developmental biology seems to be giving plenty of support to the theory of evolution these days.

 

In-Depth Comments

“One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that
the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin’s predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction is wrong.”
(Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I., The Myths of Human Evolution, 1982, p. 45-46)
Quote Mine/Distorted message of author

The Eldridge and Tattarsall is also taken out of context. Bold line are words Comfort omitted,

That individual kinds of fossils remain recognizably the same throughout the length of their occurrence in the fossil record had been known to paleontologists long before Darwin published his Origin. Darwin himself, troubled by the stubbornness of the fossil record in refusing to yield abundant examples of gradual change, devoted two chapters to the fossil record. To preserve his argument he was forced to assert that the fossil record was too incomplete, to full of gaps, to produce the expected patterns of change. He prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search and then his major thesis – that evolutionary change is gradual and progressive – would be vindicated. One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin’s predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction is wrong.”

The Next paragraph goes on as follows,

“The observation that species are amazingly conservative and static entities throughout long periods of time has all the qualities of the emperor’s new clothes: everyone knew it but preferred to ignore it. Paleontologists, faced with a recalcitrant record obstinately refusing to yield Darwin’s predicted pattern, simply looked the other way. Rather than challenge well-entrenched evolutionary theory, paleontologists tacitly agreed with their zoological colleagues that the fossi record was too poor to do much beyond supporting, in a general sort of way, the basic thesis that life had evolved.”

Note the claim that the fossil record supports the theory of evolution.

“For more than a century biologists have portrayed the evolution of life as a gradual unfolding…Today the fossil record…is forcing us to revise this conventional view.”
(Source: S. M. Stanley, The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of Species (New York: Basic Books, 1981), p. 3)

Outdated Source

Quote Mine/Distorted message of author

Here is the full quote (with words omitted in bold)

The word “evolution” means unfolding, and for more than a century biologists have portrayed the evolution of life as a gradual unfolding of new living things from old, the slow molding of animals and plants into entirely different forms. It was this persistent style of change that Darwin described as “The Origin of Species.”

Today the fossil record—a rich store of information that was long un-tapped—is forcing us to revise this conventional view of evolution. As it turns out, myriads of species have inhabited the Earth for millions of years without evolving noticeably. On the other hand, major evolutionary transitions have been wrought during episodes of rapid change, when new species have quickly bedded off from old ones. In short, evolution has moved by fits and starts.

Stanley goes on to explain that there is fossil evidence that proves the theory of evolution, but he argues in favor of the punctuated equilibrium model.

 

TOTALS FOR THIS SEGMENT (Q 11 – 20) 26 Total Quotes

Fallacy Number of Fallacies
Quote Mining 3
Appeal to Authority 5
Outdated Source 6
Non-Academic Source 1
Not a qualified biologist or scientist 0
Not Relevant to Evolutionary theory or Biology 8
Not Damaging to Evolutionary theory 19
Distortion of Science 4
Total 46

 

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