Evolution And The Fossil Record
Evolution and the Fossil Record
And one last thought on evolution and the fossil record:
In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions
these have not been found -- yet the optimism has died hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks.1
So, what would Darwin say today?
Now, after over 120 years of the most extensive and painstaking geological exploration of every continent and ocean bottom, the picture is infinitely more vivid and complete than it was in 1859. Formations have been discovered containing hundreds of billions of fossils and our museums are filled with over 100 million fossils of 250,000 different species.
The availability of this profusion of hard scientific data should permit objective investigators to determine if Darwin was on the right track. What is the picture which the fossils have given us?
The gaps between major groups of organisms have been growing even wider and more undeniable. They can no longer be ignored or rationalized away with appeals to imperfection of the fossil record. 2
Thanks for indulging that little side bar. Now, back to our 21st century understanding of micro-biology, genetics and design theory
1 David M. Raup, "Evolution and the Fossil Record," Science, vol. 213, July 1981, 289. The reality of the "human fossil record" of the past century:
Ramapithecus was widely recognized as a direct ancestor of humans. It is now established that he was merely an extinct type of orangutan.
Piltdown man was hyped as the missing link in publications for over 40 years. He was a fraud based on a human skull cap and an orangutan's jaw.
Nebraska man was a fraud based on a single tooth of a rare type of pig.
Java man was based on sketchy evidence of a femur, skull cap and three teeth found within a wide area over a one year period. It turns out the bones were found in an area of human remains, and now the femur is considered human and the skull cap from a large ape.
Neandertal man was traditionally depicted as a stooped ape-man. It is now accepted that the alleged posture was due to disease and that Neandertal is just a variation of the human kind.
Australopithecus afarensis, or "Lucy," has been considered a missing link for years. However, studies of the inner ear, skulls and bones have shown that she was merely a pygmy chimpanzee that walked a bit more upright than some other apes. She was not on her way to becoming human.
Homo erectus has been found throughout the world. He is smaller than the average human of today, with a proportionately smaller head and brain cavity. However, the brain size is within the range of people today and studies of the middle ear have shown that he was just like current Homo sapiens. Remains are found throughout the world in the same proximity to remains of ordinary humans, suggesting coexistence. Australopithecus africanus and Peking man were presented as ape-men missing links for years, but are now both considered Homo erectus.
Homo habilis is now generally considered to be comprised of pieces of various other types of creatures, such as Australopithecus and Homo erectus, and is not generally viewed as a valid classification.
2 Luther D. Sutherland, Darwin's Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems, 4th edition, Master Books, 1988, 9.