Fossil Record - Are there "Transitional" Forms?
Let's start by looking at a few more of Darwin's very honest statements:
Firstly, why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined? 1
But, as by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? 2
Lastly, looking not to any one time, but to all time, if my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed. 3
Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. 4
Since Darwin put forth his original theory, scientists have sought fossil evidence indicating past organic transitions. Nearly 150 years later, there has been no evidence of evolutionary transition found thus far in the fossil record. In Darwin's own words, if his theory of "macro-evolution" were true, we would see a vast number of fossils at intermediate stages of biological development. In fact, based on standard mathematical models, we would see far more transitional forms in the fossil record than complete specimens. However, we see none -- not one true transitional specimen has ever been found.
Our museums now contain hundreds of millions of fossil specimens (40 million alone are contained in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum). If Darwin's theory were true, we should see at least tens of millions of unquestionable transitional forms. We see none. Even the late Stephen Jay Gould, Professor of Geology and Paleontology at Harvard University and the leading spokesman for evolutionary theory prior to his recent death, confessed "the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology." 5
The history of most fossil species includes two features inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Statis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear… 2. Sudden Appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and 'fully formed'. 6
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. 7
Wait. I need to tighten this down! Are there some transitional fossils, or none? If Gould uses phrases like "extreme rarity" and "most species exhibit no directional change" when referring to the fossil record, that must mean that there are at least some transitional specimens. Right?
1 Darwin, Origin of Species, 143.
2 Ibid., 144.
3 Ibid., 149.
4 Ibid., 230.
Natural History 86(5), 1977, 14.
6 Ibid., 13.
7 Gould, "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History, Vol. 5, 1977.