"There is no such thing as a 'transitional fossil'..."


This is a common criticism of the fossil record as evidence for evolution.

But we can look at the same fossil and one might seem to me to a “transitional” but to someone else as “a distinct species, and so not transitional.”

What would we expect to see? What qualifies a species as “transitional”?

Can anyone provide examples of YEC resources that promote distrust of science?
(Phil) #2

Having descendants.

(Mark D.) #3

I’ve heard it said that every fossil found which appears to be transitional between two others creates two new gaps in the fossil record.


The only species that don’t have descendants are the ones that are suddenly wiped out (that is, that don’t allegedly evolve into another species).

Arguably, every species is transitional (or potentially transitional, if it’s not wiped out).

But what are the criteria for “transitional”? How would we know it if we saw it?

(Phil) #5

Well, my definition was pretty minimalistic. While every fossil is in some sense transitional, seldom do we see a fossil that is the immediate direct ancestor of a current animal, as it is far more likely that we will find a fossil of a nearby twig on the bush of life than the particular twig that branched to any specific pre-selected result.
As someone once gave an example of here, if I went back to the Isle of Bute where my ancestors arose, and started digging up graves, I would more likely dig up the bones of a distant cousin than my great …great grandpa.


My layman definition would be the transitional species contains some characteristics of the older species that are not contained in the newer species. The transitional also contains some characteristics of the newer species that are not contained in the older.


That kind of makes almost every species a “transitional species.” Which I wouldn’t disagree with.

I wonder how a YEC would define “transitional species” since they write off…well every fossil that exists…

(Matthew Pevarnik) #9

Apparently some YEC now accept transitional fossils and even claim their models predicts them:


:roll_eyes: Wow…just…wow. Maybe I should save that article for the next time I get a “no transitional fossils” argument…

(Mervin Bitikofer) #11

It reminds me of the ‘lawyerly’ tale I’ll describe as the “multi-tier” fall-back defense that Smith’s lawyers mounted when Jones accused Smith of having broken the pot Jones loaned him.

Smith’s first defense strategy: The pot doesn’t exist.
Jones’ lawyers produce the pot.
Smith’s 2nd defense: The pot isn’t broken.
Jones’ lawyers show that indeed it is.
Smith’s 3rd defense: The pot was already broken when Jones loaned it to him.
Jones’ lawyers show proof that it wasn’t.
Smith’s final gambit: “I never borrowed the pot.”

(Matthew Pevarnik) #12

I also think this is a nice outline of some “transitional fossils:”

(Mary) #13

Presumably if you tackled this the other way round, it would be more successful? I.e. Do the digging first and then try to find the right descendants. Does this have a parallel in fossils? Find the fossil first and then figure out what descendants are still around. Or are there just too many species that have died out to make this possible?

(Phil) #14

I think you are correct at least in part. There are more dead ends than there are successes. Also, without sequence-able DNA in fossils, you have to go by morphology which is a lot less reliable.

(Chris) #15

Well I had to go to the link in the link for this one. It turns out that Jeanson at AIG is referring to transitional in terms of intermediate in form rather than intermediate in descent. Not quite what was presented in the primary link.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #16

Er what? I don’t quite follow what you’re saying. Jeanson is claiming they predict these ‘transitional’ forms just like those evolutionists.

Also looking at the original article, he apparently also misunderstands a lot about what making testable predictions means as he cited Russ Humphreys’ ridiculous magnetic field lies.

I don’t think one can make testable predictions in a special creation model other than organisms with similar functions should have similar genomes in those regions which we know is not true (ie whales vs fish, bats vs birds).


I also went to the link and found this:

I was struck by several thoughts.

So when we see bad design in nature we can now blame it on God. If God designs like man then we can certainly tell when a design is bad.

We now know the mind of God since His mind and our mind must be the same. We are after all created in His image.

Jeanson’s examples of “transitional forms” actually are examples of how humans mix and match previous designs to save time and expense. Humans also are free to mix and match widely which we don’t see in the fossil record. You don’t find gills on a mammal for example when the gills could actually be useful for an aquatic mammal. A human designer doesn’t face that restriction.

(Daniel Fisher) #18

Not exactly sure what claim you’re specifically referring to. However, when discussing the question of whether evolutionary theory is or is not true, calling something a “transitional fossil” is an example of the fallacy of begging the question. That is, using a “transitional fossil” as evidence for common ancestry or Darwinian evolution is a circular argument. It assumes the very transition you are trying to prove.

How do we know whales evolved from land animals?

Because there are transitional fossils such as pakicetus.

But how so we know Pakicetus to be a transitional fossil?

Because whales evolved from land animals, and Pakicetus fits within that transitional pathway.

If some fossil is determined to be transitional due the fact of evolution, it can’t then be used to establish the truth of evolution. At best one can only say it is consistent with evolutionary theory, and fits with evolution’s predictions, which may well be a significant observation, it it can be declared a “transitional fossil” and then used to establish the truth of evolution.

(Sorry, meant to address this to the original post)


No there are multiple lines of evidence that says whales evolved from land animals. All of the lines of evidence point to common descent. The fossil record is just a particularly clear example of this.

(Daniel Fisher) #20

?? Bill, I don’t see how your examples of gills is particularly relevant. You don’t find carbon dioxide scrubbers in automobiles, nor sonar on the space shuttle, even when human designers are involved.

And we don’t see mixing and matching in life, except when we do. Like wings on reptiles, insects, dinosaurs, mammals, birds, and fish; fins on birds, mammals, and fish, sonar in bats and dolphins, etc…


(Phil) #21

And also because they have vestigial features derivative from land animals, and also because DNA sequencing now allows us to show relationships with land animals. I suspect there are more reasons also.
One piece of information is probably not adequate to come to that conclusion, but when the mass of information can be explained by a scientific framework, it makes it probable that that framework is accurate.