Does evolutionary theory provide any useful scientific benefit?

(Chris Falter) #560

Hi Edgar,

Paleontologists have created phylogenies (nested hierarchies) that trace extant species back to common ancestors.

Biologists have created phylogenies using mathematical techniques that operate on two classes of data: characters and genomes.

All three types of phylogenies are almost entirely in agreement with one another. (Indeed, scientists would expect stochastic processes to occasionally produce anomalies, just as flipping a fair coin might produce 15 heads in a row, which would strike most folks as evidence of an unfair coin.) Long story short, the fossil record and the genomic data agree on the evolutionary pathways.

Thus I have no idea what you are thinking of when you say that paleontologists think the fossil record refutes evolution. Perhaps you could cite actual quotations from paleontologists who have published research in peer-reviewed journals so we can compare notes.


(Cindy) #561

I just finished reading this article which refutes your claims. I found it quite interesting.


@Edgar is probably thinking of the Gould quote mine, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persist as the trade secret of paleontology.” I am surprised he hasn’t brought it out.

(Chris Falter) #563

Before this goes too far, let’s remember that Gould is simply proposing a different (more stochastic) model of the rate of evolutionary change.


The fossil record ceases to pose any inconsistency whatsoever with the predictions of evolution once you understand the extremely strict criteria for fossilization. These include having a hard shell or bones, and rapid burial in an anoxic environment. There is this widespread assumption among non-scientists that everything that dies leaves behind evidence. In reality, the vast majority of organisms died without leaving a trace.

(Curtis Henderson) #566

Two things may be worth noting - first, “jelly-fish, worms, and sponges” ARE animals, so “jumping to animals” really doesn’t make sense. Second, it is well-supported by evidence that insects evolved from marine arthropods. There really isn’t a big mystery there.

(Phil) #567

Here is an article from the BioLogos site that helps address that:


“Evolutionary biologists and antievolutionists are united in one respect: both agree that there are gaps in the fossil record. The record of life as seen in stone does not present a smooth, intergrading continuum from earliest times until the present, nor is there a continuum of variation of form between all living things.” Eugenie Scott, 2013

“The main reason for paleontologist’s loss of faith in the orthodox evolutionary doctrine was the realization that the most notable features of the fossil record is that most of the time nothing happens.” James Le Lanu, 2012

“About 80% of all known fossils are marine animals, mostly various types of fish. Yet there is no evidence of intermediate forms. The most common explanation for the total lack of fossil evidence for fish evolution is that few transitional fossils have been preserved. This is an incorrect conclusion because every major fish kind known today has been found in the fossil record, indicating the completeness of the existing known fossil record.” Jerry Bergman, 2011

“Palaeobiologists flocked to these scientific visions of a world in a constant state of flux and admixture. But instead of finding the slow, smooth and progressive changes Lyell and Darwin had expected, they saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years-patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation.” M Pagel, 1999

Eugene V. Koonin, evolutionary biologist (2011) - " the general lack of transitional forms between species in the fossil record is a constant theme in evolutionary biology." Koonin notes that even “the extensive accumulation of paleontological data of the twentieth century (has) helped very little, if at all.”


@Edgar I said “probably” as that is the quote used by YEC most often in my conversations with them.

I would have to go back to the original sources, which you failed to indicate, to confirm, but none of these quotes appear to me to be a problem. When I have some time I will try to dig up the sources but I am guessing you picked up the quotes from YEC articles and not the original source.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #570

@Bill_II he probably coped from here:


Which includes the Gould quote mine I was thinking about so that places everything on that page in the questionable column.

(William Pennat) #572

One more time. The fossil record and DNA simply support the fact of progressive evolutionary development of life on Earth. What they don’t support is any particular theory (including both so-called “Intelligent Design” and the various versions of Darwinism) as to the actual mechanism by which this development took place. My own view is that all evolutionary theory is, in a deep sense, “non-scientific” as it is, in principle, unverifiable/unfalsifiable. There’s even still a large gap between “transition forms” and the forms they’re transitioning from and to. The whole “clade” system of classification is just that – a model derived from fossil and DNA evidence that, again, shows the relationship between developmental groups of organism but not how they got from one stage to the next. And, again, I frankly find the Darwinian notion of random mutation to be a stretch, since typically way too many “coordinated mutations” seem needed to produce various complex organic structures. And none of these mutations singly by itself would confer any survival advantage. It’s only the complex combination that does and in most cases, it’s hard to see how that could be “random”…


Evolution has other sources of variation in addition to mutation.

They are not “coordinated” but are simply used by natural selection to solve a problem. Usually step by step just like you do.

But single mutations can provide a survival advantage.

The “random” means “random with respect to fitness”. This means a change could be negative, neutral, or positive. Remember the negative changes can lead to decline of those changes in a population. Sometimes that means that change dies out and sometimes it means when there is a change in the environment the negative becomes a positive.

(Chris Falter) #574

Hi William,

I haven’t had a chance to chat with you before, so welcome! I’ve been here for a few years.

To what @Bill_II wrote I would add that biologists have actually managed to track the step-by-step changes in DNA that led to the emergence of some new proteins. One good example is the 7-step evolution of the “antifreeze” protein in Arctic fish, as described in this nicely written popular article which includes links to the original research papers.

Findings like these provide confidence that the theory of evolution is a good explanation of the history of life. Like any scientific theory, however, it is necessarily incomplete: It cannot tell us God’s thoughts on the matter!


EDIT: Here’s another great article on how natural selection has acted on specific mutations in the mice genome. In other words, natural selection acting on variation to produce descent with modification has been demonstrated in a real world experiment in Nebraska.


That’s such an old and weak argument, I’m surprised anyone still uses it. The fact is there of soft-bodied, pre-Cambrian fossils have been found from the Ediacaran Period (“Ediacara biotaEdiacara fauna, also called Ediacara biota, unique assemblage of soft-bodied organisms preserved worldwide as fossil impressions in sandstone from the Ediacaran Period (approximately 635 million to 541 million years ago)—the final interval of both the Proterozoic Eon (2.5 billion to 541 million years ago) and Precambrian time (4.6 billion to 541 million years ago”, from Encyclopedia Britannica).

Furthermore, where are the fossils that link the Ediacaran biota to all the novel phyla that appeared during the Cambrian? It’s seems they don’t exist. Did soft-bodied organisms evolve into hard-bodied animals overnight? Probably not, so if there are plenty of “soft-body” fossils, where are “harder-bodied” fossils that should be evident before “hard-body” fossils appeared?

And if these missing-links are eventually found, where are you going to place them geologically? There is no “room” in the rock strata between the Ediacaran fossils and the Cambrian fossils - unless these imagined missing-links evolved overnight!


Evolutionists believe in Darwinism DESPITE the fossil record:

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. 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. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record:

“The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find intermediate varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory.” (Charles Darwin)

Darwin’s argument still persists as the favoured escape of most paleontologists from the EMBARRASSMENT of a record that seems to show so little of evolution directly … I only wish to point out that it (gradualism) was never “seen” in the rocks.

Paleontologists have paid an enormous price for Darwin’s argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we almost never see the very process we profess to study.

from The Panda’s Thumb, 1980, by S.J. Gould, pp. 179-185 (emphasis added)


In that case, where are the evolutionary links between “jelly-fish, worms and sponges” and fish?

Tell that to Gunter Bechly, a world-renowed paleotologist who specialises in insects. He says there is no evidence at all for evolutionary ancestors of insects.

“Günter Bechly is a distinguished scientist focusing on the fossil history of insects. He has authored or co-authored about 150 scientific publications, including a co-edited book published by Cambridge University Press and a popular science book on evolution. He has discovered and named more than 160 new species, and has 10 biological groups named in his honor. He has served on the editorial boards of two scientific journals, and has organized five large public exhibitions on Earth history and evolution. He has been interviewed widely in German media and served as a science advisor for two natural history documentaries on the BBC” …

“Dr. Bechly notes three contradictions at odds with Darwinian gradualism: Insects pop into existence at one blow, as do insect wings, as does the phenomenon of metamorphosis.” (


Edgar, I’m not a professional scientist, just a physician with a biology background convinced by genetic evidence of common ancestry and biblical evidence that scientific concordism is a flawed hermeneutic. I’ll let someone else more capable interact with the statements you have quoted. My point above is don’t be surprised that the fossil record is incomplete–and always will be. Many of us came to affirm evolution based on the essentially mathematical data provided through comparative genomics.

I would be curious to know what alternative you are posing as an explanation of origins (YEC or OEC?).

(Randy) #580

Bechly is ID, and supports common ancestry, including that of insects, according to his website. Thanks.

(Phil) #581

Edgar, it really is a pity the earth is billions of years old and the fossil evidence of such ancient life is so fragmented. If only it were 6000 or so years old, we would have ample evidence including sequence-able DNA that could answer such questions. But it is not, and scientists have to work with what they have, which will always be fragmented.
I understand you are an old earth proponent and accept progressive creation. It seems to me there is not a lot of difference in progressive creation and evolution other than the size of the steps. One question, do you believe progressive creation continues to occur today? If so, what is the evidence? if not, why not?