The Fossil Record and Transitional Forms:
A Guest Commentary

Dr. Joseph, former young earth creationist speaker and writer, discusses the fossil record and transitional forms in response to a thread in my comment section titled The Deck is Stacked.

(You may want to open that page in a new window for reference, since this is a response to that thread, though it can be read on its own as well.)

You won't be able to google Dr. Joseph. He has not offered personally identifiable information. The following was too long for my comment section, and it was posted for your benefit, not for the benefit of the person to whom he was responding. Neither Dr. Joseph nor I believe that person is interested in the answers given.

Nonetheless, the answers given by Dr. Joseph are clear and give remarkable insight into the scientific method, the way of thinking that turns evidence into useful theories that benefit mankind. We wanted you to be able to read them.

This is my last paragraph. All that is below is from Dr. Joseph. His quotes from his opponent, whom he refers to as Mr. F, are in green.

*********************

I have to admit that I'm having just a little bit too much fun. And I don't wish to be accused of torture as I continue pulling wings off of a fly. But even though Mr. F refuses to engage any of the facts of the debate and wishes to cling to his debunked card deck illustration, I should probably analyze some of the other excuses posted so that spectators can better understand YEC "debate tactics." [I'm applying those terms extremely loosely.] Sadly,I understand them so well because I used to be a member of the Young Earth Creationist camp.  (I remain a staunch Creationist in the original Religious Studies sense of affirming God as the author of all Creation as recorded in Genesis and also a verbal plenary inspiration believer who affirms 100% inerrancy.)

"Sidestepping what should be found"

I absolutely LOVE that title because it aptly describes what Mr. F. is doing. What would the fossil record look like if the YEC "Special Creation Model" were true? (i.e., if each "kind" was created separately and the geologic column was "pure fiction" and "doesn't exist anywhere on the planet" as most YECs claim.)

Definition of Terms

1.) YEC – Young Earth Creationist, a person who believes that the earth was created from nothing 6 to 10 thousand years ago.

2.) Kind – Genesis says that God created life to reproduce "after its kind." YECs believe that this means that a species can never evolve into a another "kind." Kind is usually left undefined, and even YEC's allow evolution within a species or genus. Some young-earthers even allow evolution within a whole family (using a taxonomic term), so that they believe that all tigers, lions, ocelots, and kitty cats descended from an original cat "kind."

3. Special Creation Model – The theory that God created all life by divine fiat {creative command] in one 7-day week without any evolution involved.

[If the "special creation model" were true] we would expect to find Mr. F's dogs [i.e., the wolf "kind"] fossilized among the T-Rexs and Archeopteryx.  Modern salmon and dolphins would be found among the trilobites. Indeed, one of the reasons that evolution is so strongly attested under the scientific method is that it SHOULD be so easy to refute it with counter-examples. All Mr. F. would have to do is document fossils of modern species among the ancient ones. But as his title ironically declares, he is "Sidestepping what should be found" if the Special Creation YEC model is true. But he'd rather talk of some incomprehensible, artificial illustration of imaginary card decks [see original discussion] rather than what is ACTUALLY found (and not found) in the fossil record.

And if he believes that he has discovered some overwhelming fossil evidence that overturns any possibility that evolution has ever existed, he is welcomed to publish his revolutionary theory which overturns the current scientific consensus (just as Einstein trumped Newton) and join the ranks of Nobel-Prize winners.  (Of course, here is where the anti-evolution crowd screams "discrimination", as if a conspiracy of scientists always stands in the way of jarring revolutions in thinking. Somehow Einstein and countless others successfully overcame the scientific consensus of their day but those poor, unjustly persecuted, anti-evolution YECs are forever barred from publication—as if any journal editor wouldn't jump at the chance to be known for the citation that launched a new scientific paradigm!) Mr. F. is welcomed to publish his history-changing discovery and then we can all tell our grandchildren that we listened to him describe his Grand Synthesis on the eve of its epic publication!

"How convenient to say now that the Fossil record isn't necessary to prove Evolution..."

Definition of Terms

1.) Transitional Forms – Fossils that bridges a gap between two other fossils. By this definition, every fossil is a transitional fossil, so it's very odd when anti-evolutionists say there are no transitional forms. Further, every new fossil creates a new gap between it and its closest evolutionary relative, though the closest evolutionary relative cannot always be determined.

2.) Geologic Column – A general term for the layers of the earth, each representing an epoch in earth's history. It is found complete in a few places on earth, but in most places due to the fact that erosion and sedimentation are rarely consistent over hundreds of millions of years.

"Convenient" is an understatement!  I call it SPECTACULAR.  In Darwin's day there was virtually no organized study of the limited hodge podge of fossils collected around the world.  Nobody could have predicted the stream of exciting "buried treasures" which ushered in the field of paleontology and countless new evidences confirming the mechanisms and milestones in the history of evolutionary processes. Those finds—and especially the strata where they were found—demolished the Special Creation Model and provided yet another kind of affirmation of evolution.

Mr. F. refuses to engage the voluminous fossil evidence cataloged at TalkOrigins.org because blanket denial is the only strategy the "Lying for Jesus" leaders he cuts-and-pastes have given him. When I was still part of the YEC camp, a growing number of my colleagues were confident that such mantras as "No transitional fossil forms have ever been found" and "The geologic column only exists in textbooks" and "Radiometric dating is built upon empty presuppositions of great age" could keep the average Christian pew-sitter passively content with what they were told. But the rise of the Internet has made it far too easy for honest inquirers to Google their way to both sides of every debate.

Definition of Terms

1.) Straw-Man Argument – When you can't defeat your real enemy, you set up a straw man and defeat him. Straw-man arguments are characterized by misrepresenting what your opponent says, then attacking your misrepresentation rather than his real argument.

Simple denial never had any chance of convincing the educated. But now that ANYONE can check the facts, without even bothering to trek to the library, only those who restrict themselves to the straw-man arguments of the Ken Hams and Kent Hovinds need remain in denial and ignorance any longer.  And anyone who thinks I'm wrong is welcomed to publish their rebuttal and win instant fame and faculty tenure at the top university of their choice.

Definition of Terms

1.) sic – When you are quoting someone who has made grammatical, spelling, or vocabular mistakes, you can make clear the mistakes are in the original quote by adding sic after the mistake.

"Thats [sic] a Good come back [sic] for someone w/ a theory that doesn't have the Fossil record to make their case"

Mr. F. knows that simply denying the "case" of the fossil record is a lot less work than having to read and understand it—let alone rebut it. He doesn't dare even to admit that the following tomes of evidence exist in simplifications accessible to every layperson:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/a_anomaly.html

Nor the huge compilations of transitional fossils forms which his heroes keep trying to ignore:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

"I'm waiting for a site to Pictures of Fossil that would SURLY [sic; humorous Freudian slip]  be there considering what we have found so far of intermediary Fossils closely related to the Kinds of species we have found"

His request that he be given the evidence in "picture book form" is a punch line just waiting to happen—and I refuse to go for the easy laugh at his expense.  After all, he is probably a Christian brother who truly THINKS that denying evolution is some kind of spiritual requisite. But sadly, the "Lying for Jesus" strategy has done much damage to the Kingdom and reminds us that IGNORANCE is NOT a fruit of the Spirit.  God is honored by TRUTH and God has revealed his truths BOTH in His Book of Scriptures (the Bible) and His Book of Nature (Science).  We need not fear the mountains of evidence that God has provided for evolution in the fossil record, the human genome and every other, the phylogenetic trees of Linnaeus' taxonomy as well as modern taxonomy, or even the evolution we can observe today in RING SPECIES (a topic upon which I find AnswersInGenesis.org and their ilk strangely, or not so strangely, silent.)

Mr. F. has no excuse for ignoring the fossil evidence other than a refusal to engage the published evidence in general.  Indeed, he won't even engage the simplest kinds of evidences I've described in this and previous posts. And Mr. Pavao already addressed his deck of cards an illustration he used in his original post] so I'm not going to kick a dead horse, lest Mr. F. insist that dead horses exist. (And as to decks, Mr. F. stacked them but not nearly well enough.)

"There is one model that would parallel the creation Model of Fossils if Creation is true"

YES! And here is your big chance to explain exactly WHAT your "model" predicts and explain WHY human and modern animal fossils are not found alongside dinosaurs and other ancient animal fossils nor in the same geologic layers as trilobites.

(Spectators: If you are looking for comedy told with a straight face, prepare yourselves for the "hydraulic sorting argument" which will claim that Noah's Flood separated the poor runners from the fleet-footed "kinds".)

But as I wrote previously, Mr. F. and his YEC brethren will NEVER engage any overall outline of the foundations of evolutionary biology because (1) they don't understand the most elementary basics, and (2) they know that their only chance is to try and pick off one or two details of some secondary corollary or scientific procedure at which they can poke someone's doubts (e.g. "A lab did a Carbon-14 test on a live clam and deemed it millions of years old!" is one of my favorite lies.)

Definition of Terms

1.) Speciation – Evolution at the species level. This is normally defined as the point at which two populations which were once one population can longer interbreed. By this definition, speciation has been observed. Ring Species, mentioned above, are an example.

2.) Kind – Genesis says that God created life to reproduce "after its kind." YECs believe that this means that a species can never evolve into a another "kind." Kind is usually left undefined, and even YEC's allow evolution within a species or genus. Some young-earthers even allow evolution within a whole family (using a taxonomic term), so that they believe that all tigers, lions, ocelots, and kitty cats descended from an original cat "kind."

3. Special Creation Model – The theory that God created all life by divine fiat {creative command] in one 7-day week without any evolution involved.

4. Macro-evolution – An anti-evolutionist term for evolution beyond a "kind." Mainstream scientists make no such distinction for no mechanism is known that would put limits on evolution.

5. Micro-evolution – Anti-evolutionist term for evolution within a "kind."

[IMPORTANT NOTE: I believe all of the debate participants would agree that "Creation is true" in that God created everything. The "creation model" to which Mr. F. appeals is NOT the Biblical doctrine of origins found in Genesis 1 & 2. He refers specifically to the "Special Creation Theory" (defined above) a traditional INTERPRETATION of Genesis which claims that evolution played no role in the diversification of "kinds" (also defined above) but that God designed and created each kind "in the beginning." That theory allows for limited variation within those kinds but (according to most adherents) no new "kinds" and some even deny "speciation"—and all tend to deny "macro-evolution" but not "micro-evolution," although pinning them down long enough to define the boundaries runs into problems of moving goal-posts when nobody's looking.]

"Another completely different Model of more random finds of all creatures scattered about there[sic] metamorphic stages throughout different periods of time & not all/every creature all the same as the rest of it's[sic] Kind"

I have no hope for extracting any meaning from that collection of gibberish. (Believe me. I tried. I truly did.)  Obviously it comes from a land far removed from anything resembling a grammatical English sentence.  Mr. F. ignored my polite plea to get some editing assistance from a native English speaker.  [Please: "sic" is NOT the Latin word for the congratulatory "You can say that again!"]

"Like the 30 t-rexs~same
9 Archeopteryx~same
millions of trilobites~Same"

The more I see that refrain repeated, the more I suspect it is the rousing chorus of one of those comic songs that Dr. Francis Collins does with his guitar at conferences.  (Perhaps it is sung in the spirit of "Twelve Days of Christmas" with the the background singers harmonizing in response:  "Same!")

"Its a Dang good thing Dogs didn't go extinct
or evolutionist would say
Chiwawas were early dog,
& then came the Pekingese
Then terrier
then Retrievers
then Shepard's
& Huskies & eventually great Danes & then they evolved into todays Horse
Thank god the Dogs didnt go extinct
;-) LOL"

Now that one HAS to be a song!

But seriously, I offer this as yet another proof that Mr. F. HAS NO IDEA what the Theory of Evolution claims.  But he can prove me wrong by simply explaining WHY the various varieties of dog breeds would provide evidence for his imagined chronology of their evolution.  WE ALL AWAIT WHAT SHOULD BE A VERY SIMPLE TASK FOR MR. F.  All he has to do is explain HOW evolutionary Biology uses morphology to determine a "time path" for the development of the various dog breeds.

(Don't get your hopes up. His arguments are based upon making claims that he has absolutely no intention of having to explain nor make rational sense. He has learned from his YEC heroes that even the most senseless mocking of evolution will get laughs from the like-minded peanut gallery. So there's no reason that the joke has to make any sense. He couldn't explain even if he tried.  AND THIS WAS YET ANOTHER REASON WHY I HAD TO LEAVE THE YEC CAMP. "Lying for Jesus" was bad enough. But listening to my colleagues resort to mocking of scientific principles that they didn't understand was far too close to the Book of Proverbs' descriptions about the foolishness of mockers and the folly of "answering a fool in his folly."  But I'm sobered to confess that in my day this Lying for Jesus strategy was far less common. It was never the heart of our strategy like it is for so many anti-evolution Christians today.

Definition of Terms

1.) Quote Mining – Searching literature for quotes that can be pulled out of context to make the writer or speaker appear to be saying something he never meant to say.

"Have you ever heard the quot[sic] from the British museum head administrator evolutionist"

Yes I have! And I'm absolutely delighted you've chosen to illustrate what I just said.  Now I'm tempted to warn our audience that you are about to provide one of my favorite quote-mining examples, most likely by Dr. Patterson.  But I'm going to first ask you to provide a complete citation for the quotation AND the exact quotation itself. You see, if I go ahead and expose why your argument here is a great example of a quote-mining lie, you will reply by saying that you weren't referring to THAT particular quotation from Patterson—and you will manage to weasel out of the corner you've backed yourself into.

SO I CHALLENGE YOU: (1) Post the exact quotation you are talking about, and (2) give us the entire citation for when and where it was published.  And then—once you can't post any after-the-fact excuses for why your lie wasn't really a lie—I will use this as a prime example of anti-evolution lies.  WE AWAIT YOUR POST. (However, I'm not holding my breath. Liars  are much like roaches. They prefer the dark—and if they know that the light is going to be turned on, the two-legged kind will stay hidden.)

"as quoted saying he didn't put in hos [sic] book any pictures of Transitional forms"

Notice how PICTURES seem to be important?

"Coelacanth" is commonly called a "living fossil." Assumed to have been extinct for 200 million years, Coelecanths were found living and well off the coast of Africa.

The problem is that "Coelecanth" is a reference to an order, not a genus or species.

What does that mean? Well, humans are part of the primate order. The modern Coelacanth is as closely related to the 200-million-year-old Coelecanth as we are related to, say, a lemur or spider monkey. These and other "living fossils" have changed quite a bit over the last 200 million years.

Those who don't understand evolutionary processes often depend upon external appearances of animals, as if that would somehow demonstrate common descent.  Indeed, a common YEC mantra is that "the ancient fossil form [e.g. coelacanth] looks identical to those found today", even though marine biologists know that the differences are significant and they are NOT the same species. But when preaching to the choir, PICTURES can be persuasive because general appearance is the ONLY thing which a layperson can judge!   But if a picture book is what they need, anyone can use Google to find artists depictions of most of the countless transitional forms listed in compilations such as those I posted above. So knock yourself out! (Of course, even Mr. F. knows that PHOTOS of extinct animals from ancient times are hard to find—which is exactly why he demands them!)   And yes, I understand that a "picture book" can be easier to read than all of those complicated articles with big words, those nasty footnote things, and way too much intimidating science in them!  (Sorry. I just couldn't resist pointing out the obvious. He just keeps demanding to see picture books!)

Definition of Terms

1.) Common Design vs. Common Descent – Many organisms share what is known as "homologous parts." An example would be a dolphin's fin, a bat's wing, and our hand. All three share the same bone structure. The common design vs. common descent controversy involves whether those homologous structures are the result of a designer, God, using the same pattern over and over again, like most auto makers do with different brands of cars, or the result of descent, meaning that dolphins, bats, and humans share a common ancestor.

Meanwhile, I'm very surprised he has not yet run for cover under the "Common Designer"-beats-"Common Descent" argument, one of my personal favorites.  But if he dares take up that subject, I'm going to expect him to explain phylogenetic trees [see image below] (both in the fossil record and in the modern biosphere) and RING SPECIES (for those who want modern examples of evolution in action).

I always enjoy watching the cut-and-paste crowd twisting in the wind when denying RING SPECIES because AnswersInGenesis and Dr. Dino (Federal Prison Inmate Hovind) provide absolutely no help with that unimpeachable evidence for evolution. Mr. F, you will actually have to think for yourself on that one.  Good luck!

[Once again, everyone, don't get your hopes up. He won't touch them in any meaningful way. He'll just go back to the denial strategy and try to ignore that I responded to each of his arguments—something he refuses to do in response. No, he won't talk about the genomic evidence I raised, including the merge of chimp chromosomes #2 & #3 in human DNA.]

You can see the whole discussion at The Deck is Stacked.

phylogenetic tree

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