A Misleading and Deceptive Article
Posted by Tod BillingsPresident of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, Astronomy lab instructor at the University of Arkansas (UALR), and owner and maintainer of the popular "Godless Zone" online message boardApril 15, 1999.
By Tod Billings
t appears my friend John has already adequately addressed the basics, but I'd like to add a few more points. First of all, this article is one big appeal to authority, which, as we all know, or all should know, is a poor way to make an argument. Secondly, notice the source: Creation Science Foundation Ltd, hardly unbiased!
Secondly, some aren't even in a field in a position to even know anything about the fossil record, biology, or genetics; notice that Dr. T.N. Tahmisian is from the Atomic Energy Commission! What are his credentials? How is he in a position to know if evolution is a good theory or not? Atomic energy has absolutely nothing to do with the field of biological evolution. Dr. Scott Huse, the last person quoted, is a "computer scientist," as we read on the back of his book cited in the above quote. What does he know about evolution? What are his credentials? If you are going to make an appeal to authority, you ought to at least quote an authority!
Thirdly, we have absolutely no idea of the personal biases all these folks may have. Many "authorities" go into a field just to get credentials so people will listen to them, so they can support their presuppositions with a degree in front of their name, note Dr. Duane Gish. The fact that a person is a scientist, even in a relevant field, doesn't mean they are open to the evidence, and kept an open-mind while examining it. If a fundamentalist Christian with a degree in biology tells me that evolution is false, I have to consider his presuppositions and the emotional impact they may have on his/her judgment. Just because they make an assertion doesn't make it so, I want to know the objective evidence they use to support their assertion. I happen to be educated in relevant fields, primarily paleoanthropology, so the fact that it is a fellow scientist telling me this isn't good enough, I'm in a position understand the evidence, and demand the evidence they use to support their position.
Fourthly, the nature of most of these quotes aren't even detrimental to evolution in the least. The first one says: "Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless."* So he says, where is his evidence? His opinion means nothing without any basis. Dr. Colin Patterson allegedly says this false quote: " I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transition in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils I will lay it on the line--there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument." Is he joking!? Gould does not argue that there aren't any transitional fossils. This is such a lie, and Gould wrote one whole essay on the transitional forms of whales that have been found which is entitled "Hooking Leviathan by Its Past," which can be read in his book Dinosaur in a Haystack, on pages 359-376. Let me quote a little bit of what he has to say:
"We can trace, through a lovely sequence of intermediates, the reduction of these small reptilian bones, and their eventual disappearance or exclusion from the jaw, including the remarkable passage of the reptilian articulation bones into the mammalian middle ear (Where they have become our malleus and incus, or hammer and anvil). We have even found the transitional form that creationists often proclaim inconceivable in theory [and who which often dishonestly claim Gould supports them here]. Still, our creationists incubi, who would never let facts spoil a favorite argument, refuse to yield, and continue to assert the absence of all transitional forms by ignoring those that have been found " (ibid, p. 361).
Either Patterson or the one citing this letter (which conveniently can't be verified, can I check out this letter at the library and read it?) is a liar or an ignorant fool, one or the other. If I were him, I'd check with Gould before I tried to represent him.
Dr. Craig Kirby spouts off: "...not being a paleontologist, I don't want to pour too much scorn on paleontologists, but if you were to spend your life picking up bones and finding little fragments of head and little fragments of jaw, there's a very strong desire to exaggerate the importance of those fragments..." Oh, okay, is that supposed to be an argument? That is an opinion, an arbitrary one made without substantiation, and one that I would personally find insulting. How dare he claim that just because paleontology is their life's work, that paleontologist will be dishonest to make their claims look more important than they are! Sure, some might, some do, but to imply that all do this is to offer only an insult, not an argument against evolution. His credibility just went way down in my book.
Dr. Michael Walker says: "One is forced to conclude that many scientists and technologists pay lip-service to Darwinian theory only because it supposedly excludes a Creator." One is forced to conclude this based on what premises? This is another arbitrary assertion, without support. No further comment needed.
Lastly, they are very selective quotes. Take the quote of Tim White, who is not only an anthropologist as we are told, but a paleoanthropologist (which means he studies prehistoric hominids). He is an evolutionist, and does find the fossil record compelling enough to draw this conclusion. He is the one who was with Donald Johanson when he found the Australopithecus afarensis now known as "Lucy." Here is what Tim White said about Lucy: "That's what Don found at Hadara common ancestorbut when Richard [Leakey] heard about it he wouldn't buy it." (Donald Johanson, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, p. 255).
So apparently, while Tim White does think that "a lot of anthropologists" misidentify hominid bones, he does believe that protohuman fossils exist, and is responsible for identifying many of them himself! He is, by the way, the head of the team that recently discovered what is now called Ardipithicus ramidus, believed to be a predecessor of the Australopithecine. He would hardly support the use of his quote being used to argue against evolution (and anybody who was even halfway familiar with the field of paleoanthropology would know this).
Now I'd like to address some of the issues raised in the post. First, we hear complaints about the gaps in the fossil record. Well gee, what do we expect? Out of every 1,000,000 creatures that live and die, on average, only 1 will fossilize. With those odds, would we expect anything less than gaps in the fossil record? However, considering the rarity of fossilization, we have an excellent fossil record that provides more than enough evidence that evolution has occurred. You don't need to see the full picture to know what the picture is!
Take this analogy: You are walking through the woods, and stumble across some burnt remains. You see a foundation, what appears to be a front porch, and a partial frame still standing. in one part of the remains, you see a burnt stove and refrigerator. In another part, a burnt television set and a cast-iron coffee table. You see a brick fireplace still standing, and see remains were a staircase used to be, indicating this building was a two-story building. You see the charred remains of a bed frame. You find a charred toilet seat, bathtub, and sink.
Now, do you have enough to realize that this used to be a house? Of course you do. You may not be able to tell me the details: did it have carpet and if so what color, what color were the walls, what room was the master bedroom, what did the furniture look like, etc., and indeed you don't know what 90% of it looked like, but you see enough to know that it used to be a house! The same applies with our fossil record. We have large gaps, and we aren't even close to tracing through the fossil record the phylogenic relationships of all the animals (in other words, we can't trace the evolution of every animal living, not even close), but we see enough to realize that evolution has occurred.
We read the claim above that: "both man and dinosaur prints been found together in Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois..." Okay, cite me one single science journal that supports this. Making a claim doesn't make it so. Any fool can make a claim, but who can support the claim that has been made? Such a claim is made by Kent Hovind about dinosaur tracks along side human footprints by the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas. However, for a while, the owner of the land wouldn't allow them to be examined. When they were finally open to examination, it was discovered that portions of the prints had been darkened with shellac to make them look human, and they were actually only dinosaur footprints, and in some cases, they weren't even actual footprints of any kind, but just erosional markings made to look like footprints!
Here is what paleontologist Lauri Godfrey wrote about the examination of the footprints: "Texas paleontologist Wann Langston Jr., pointed out that some of the 'man prints' have distinct claw marks emanating from what the creationists call their 'heels ' These 'man prints' are nothing more than dinosaur toe impressions, selectively highlighted, with sand placed where the rest of the dinosaur's foot might show. The existence of claw marks on some of the best series of 'giant man prints' is now acknowledged by creationist John D. Morris, son of Henry Morris and author of Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs and the People Who Knew Them." (Godfrey, "An Analysis of the Creationist Film, Footprints in Stone," Creation/Evolution, Issue VI (Fall 1981), pp. 23-30, published by the National Center for Science Education) She concludes with: "In short, the film is a distorted pseudodocumentary, which belongs in the realm of science fiction rather than science."
Considering this site was shown to be a hoax, I have little faith in the validity of the others that are claimed. It seems odd that not a single science journal has ever published anything about these footprints, one would expect such news would have been the cover story of several. Since creationists have been shown once to have deliberately fabricated such tracks once, I have no reason to doubt that the others are either nonexistent or hoaxes themselves. Perhaps you could cite some form of verification so I could see for myself, your word alone is hardly sufficient, all things considered here.
The claim was made that there are no transitional fossils. This claim is a hoot. John made reference to a list of many, but I'd like to examine one famous case indepth, Archaeopteryx, an intermediate form between reptiles and birds that lived in the Jurassic period. It is fully transitional between a therapod (an extinct group of reptiles, including the famous Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus rex) and a modern bird. Diagrams, photos, and illustrations which verify the following analysis can be found in the February 1998 issue of Scientific American, in an article called "The Origin of Birds and Their Flight," found on pages 38-47, written by Kevin Padian and Luis M. Chiappe.
It has a partially fused wristbone. It isn't completely separate like in a therapod, but it isn't completely fused like a birds, having some mobility.
The fingers are another completely transitional feature. It's third and second digits are fused at the bottom, but not at the top. The first digit is completely separate, with no fusion at all. It's first digit is about half of the length of the second (and longest) digit. In modern birds, the first digit has been reduced to almost nothing, and the other two digits have been fused completely. In a therapod, all three digits are free of each other with absolutely no fusion, and the first digit is almost as long as the other two, being a little over three quarters the size of the second (and still longest digit).
So Archaeopteryx is completely in the middle. You have a therapod with three unfused bones, and a first digit three-quarters the size of the second. You have Archaeopteryx with three digits, the second and third fused, and a reduction of the first digit to about half the size of the second. You have modern birds, with completely fused second and third digits, with the first haven been shrunk to almost nothing, being less than ten percent of the second digit.
Archaeopteryx is completely in the middle.
It's clavicles are fused (wishbone), like in late therapods and a modern bird, but it is shaped like a deeply curved boomerang (curved at roughly a right angle, about 90 degrees), right in the middle of a therapod and a modern bird. A therapods wishbone has a shallow-curved boomerang shape, with an angle of about 150 degrees. A modern bird's is curved like a horseshoe, with an angle of about 50 or 60 degrees. Early therapods have unfused clavicles, and hence no wishbone. Once more, Archaeopteryx is completely transitional.
Then you have its fully reptilian characteristics. It has a pelvis exactly like a therapods, with the pubic bone running completely vertically and pertruding significantly from the pelvis. It is completely unlike a modern bird's however, which isn't anywhere near vertical, but rather jutting out at about a 45 degree angle from the vertical axis. A modern bird's is very short compared to it's pelvis however, with the pubic bone pertruding out from the pelvis a short distance, less than 1/6th the length of the pelvis' width. In contrast, Archaeopteryx and a therapod's pubic bone jutted out about four to five times further.
It's has teeth unlike modern birds who have none, teeth that are exactly like those of a therapod's.
It has a long series of tail bones which made up a long tail like other therapods. Bird's have no tail bones, but rather theirs have fused in a manner similar to our "butt-bone," albeit bit longer, and called a "pygostyle."
It's traits found exclusively in birds include both feathers and claws on the feet that curve towards each other.
It is clearly a fully transitional fossil between therapods and modern birds.
Humans are even a prettier example, as you can line up Australopithecus africanus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, archaic Homo sapien, and modern Homo sapien sapien, and easily see how they flow smoothly into each other, with a steady trend towards reduced sub-nasal prognathism (the jutting of the jaw), reduced browridges, increased cranial capacity, increased size, a steady trend towards the formation of a chin, and the steady rise of a vertical forehead from a sloping forehead that was practically nonexistent. To deny that any of those in the middle aren't intermediate is to be dishonest or willfully blind to the obvious.
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