CREATION, EVOLUTION, & THE FOSSIL RECORD: A PRELIMINARY STUDY by JOSEPH DAVID RHODES
2 STUDIES IN CREATION (S-402) PROFESSOR: JOHN W. KLOTZ, PH.D., D.D. CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AUGUST 15,1991CREATION, EVOLUTION, AND THE FOSSILRECORD: A PRELIMINARY STUDY Naturalism received a new birth when Santayana, Dewey, Singer, Morris, R. Cohen and others repudiated all apologetics and asserted the supreme claim of reason in judging all cherished beliefs. Today, for various social and economic reasons, we are witnessing in philosophy and science an unfortunate return to mysticism and supernaturalism. The defenders of naturalism in philosophy are facing a situation very similar to that which Chauncey Wright encountered in the 1870s. The progress of civilization in America will depend on a reassertion of scientific method as the only sound means of attaining a solid basis for security and happiness. All other methods are a snare and a delusion. (Sidney Ratner, Rutgers University, "Evolution And The Rise Of The Scientific Spirit in America," p. 415 in Ashley Montagu, (Ed.), Science And Creationism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). Thus again the paradigm prevails and the holistic illusion is created that every single fact of biology irrefutably supports the Darwinian thesis. Hence, even evidence that is to all common sense hostile to the traditional picture is rendered invisible by unjustified assumptions. Of course, the triumph is only psychological and subjective. The rationalizations are unconvincing to anyone not emotionally committed to the defense of Darwinian belief, they merely tend to emphasize the metaphysical nature of evolutionary claims and the lack of any sort of rational or empirical basis. (Michael Denton, Australian Scientist , Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1985). In an early article in the first book mentioned above, Kenneth R. Miller of BrownUniversity explains that creationists are not really interested in a scientific forum. Thereason for this strategy he suggests is exceedingly obvious: " no scientific case can be madefor the theories they advance ." He continues, " Therefore, rather than present these ideasto an audience of specialists (geologists, geneticists, molecular biologists, biochemists, andpaleontologists) who would at once point out the factual contradictions of their ideas, theyhave chosen instead the general audience of interested public."1 Later, after severelyfaulting the creationists on the matter of radiometric dating (at least to his satisfaction), he
3makes this carte blanche assertion: The fact of the matter is that the fossil record not only documents evolution , but that it was the fossil record itself which forced natural scientists to abandon their idea of the fixity of species and look instead for a plausible mechanism of change, a mechanism of evolution. The fossil record not only demonstrates evolution in extravagant detail, but it dashes all claims of the scientific creationists concerning the origin of living organisms.2 Actually, in much of the volume above, the largest portions of the articles arededicated to an argumentum ad hominem against the religious convictions of creationistsrather than a strict presentation of the latest scientific case for evolutionary theory, with afew exceptions. One article on fossils, however, by Roger J. Cuffey entitled "PaleontologicEvidence and Organic Evolution," does contain a sophisticated objective presentation offossil support for Neo-Darwinian models.3 We shall return to this later, but suffice for nowto say that it looks at fossil sequences, examples of transitional types, potentialcomplications, effects on taxonomic nomenclature, and chronological and morphologicalimplications of these observations. Cuffey, who is professor at Pennsylvania StateUniversity, makes these two opening remarks: firstly, "Practicing paleontologists today,regardless of personal philosophical outlook, unanimously agree that the variedorganisms inhabiting the earth originated by a process of gradual, continuousdevelopment or evolution over long periods of prehistoric time"; and secondly, "Becausethe case for organic evolution had been adequately demonstrated in the late 1800s(principally by paleontologic evidence), scientists in the century turned their attention tomany other important subjects." 4 Yet, this sublime confidence in the monolithic factuality of the fossil data is notshared by all, for there are creationist scientists who practice in this field and other relatedbiological sciences that do not concur. A few years ago, for instance, Bolton Davidheiser, acapable zoologist (trained at John Hopkins) strongly disagreed.5 He stated:" The textbookspresent the fossils in sequence which gives a rather convincing picture of an evolutionarysequence. It does not take a great deal of investigation, however, to discover that the allegedancestries of animals and plants begin with hypotheses instead of with fossils."[emphasis ours]6Lest one get the impression, moreover, that "practicing paleontologists" do not exist in thecreationists ranks, one should deal with the anomaly of Dr. Kurt Wise, honor graduate ofthe University of Chicago and Harvard.7 There are, of course, others who could benamed, some of whom I suppose have sufficient scientific intelligence and for variousreasons interpret the fossil record differently than Cuffey or Miller (or Halstead). Recently,I was privileged to attend a lecture of Dr. Wise at a local church and have an abstract of hismain points, which deal with the examination of the fossil record. After noting that thepaleontologic column is the single most important issue between the two models ofbiological origins, Dr. Wise made five important predications of young earth creationism
4(contrasted with conventional evolutionism-uniformitarianism): 1) Barriers to biological change are considered penetrable in CM[conventional evolution model], whereas they are considered impenetrable in YEC[young-earth creationism]. Physical, experimental, and theoretical evidence shows no evidence that the barriers have been penetrated. 2) Interspecific transitional forms are considered rare or non-existent and likely only in short generation-time, catastrophe-resistant marine species in YEC. Although no definite transitional forms have been found, the best claims are marine organisms with generation times of days to weeks. 3) Transitional forms between higher taxa would be common in CM, but very rare in YEC. Claimed transitional forms between higher taxa are very rare. 4) The order of first appearance of higher taxa should correspond with macroevolution in CM, but be random with respect to it in YEC, except where macroevolution coincides with order of inundation. The order of first appearance of kingdoms, phyla, and classes is random with respect to evolution. 5) The percent of preservation of fossil species should be less than 15% in CM, but greater than about 60% in YEC. The few cases where this has been tested the percent of preservation is 80% or more. In short, the young-earth creation model tends to be more successful at explaining the major features of the fossil record than is the conventional models.8 Lest we be accused of "stacking" the evidential deck by quoting only creationistsenslaved to their metaphysical presuppositions (as if evolutionists anti-creationpresuppositions are not that binding), let us hear the testimony of a current paleobiologist,Steven Stanley. In a fairly recent book he reminds his readers that if scientific knowledgeof biology was restricted to those species presently existing on Earth, "we might wonderwhether the doctrine of evolution would qualify as anything more than an outrageoushypothesis."9 Michael Denton, an Australian medical doctor and biological researcher inSydney has recently written a devastating critique of evolution generally, and in hisreview of Eldridge and Goulds "punctuated equilibria" explanation formacroevolutionary transmutation, he makes this crucial point: "While Eldridge andGoulds model is a perfectly reasonable explanation of the gaps between species (and, inmy view, correct) it is doubtful if it can be extended to explain the larger systematicgaps."10 Denton goes on to state: The gaps which separate species: dog/fox, rat/mouse etc. are utterly trivial compared with, say, that between a primitive terrestrial mammal and a whale or a primitive terrestrial reptile and an Ichthyosaur; and even these relatively major discontinuities are trivial alongside those which divide major phyla such as molluscs and arthropods. Such major discontinuities simply could not, unless we are to believe in miracles, have been crossed in geologically short periods of time through one or two transitional species occupying restricted geographical areas. Surely, such transitions must have involved long lineages including many collateral lines of hundreds or probably thousands of transitional species. To suggest that hundreds, thousands or possibly even millions of transitional species which must have existed in the interval between vastly dissimilar types were all unsuccessful species occupying isolated areas and having very small population numbers is verging on the incredible!11 We do not necessarily wish to give the impression that the evolutionist side of theargument is fundamentally weak, but only point out that actual state of the evidenceremains ambiguous and open to systematic reinterpretation. If rational explanation andimaginative models are valid in scientific theorizing, then the creationist has as much rightas his evolutionistic protagonist to marshall the present data in favor of his theory.
5Moreover, it is not necessarily philosophically vacuous or scientifically worthless to pointout the apparent inconsistency and incoherence-and even the empirical lacunae-of theofficial model. Numerous learned philosophers and cosmologists might be cited whowould argue that ultimately there are only a few, if not two final rational alternativeoptions for defining and explaining reality-including biological and physical existence.Thus, we agree with wise approach of one creationist professor: Careful study suggests that the evidence from the fossil record is not so overwhelmingly in favor of evolution as it first appears. To be sure, the fossils do present a difficulty for creationists to which in the present state of knowledge there is no complete answer. There is no doubt that there were a great many climatic changes both before the flood and after it, and these made it impossible for many animals to survive in the post-diluvian world. But there are puzzles also for the evolutionist, some of which we have outlined. He has real difficulty in explaining the extinction of large numbers of animals. For instance, there has been no reasonable explanation of the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Mesozoic period....12 Dr. Duane Gish, whose book, Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record, is likely tobecome a creationist classic, draws out a substantive admission from a former world-renown evolutionary paleontologist, Professor George Gaylord Simpson: In his book, Tempo and Mode in Evolution under the section entitled, "Major Systematic discontinuities of Record," he states that nowhere in the world is there any trace of a fossil that would close the considerable gap between Hyracotherium, which most evolutionists assume was the first horse, and its supposed ancestral order Condylarthra. He goes on to say: `This is true of all thirty-two orders of mammals . . . . The earliest and most primitive known members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters, and in no case is an approximately continuous sequence from one order to another known. In most cases the break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculative and much disputed.13 Another citation of Simpson from Gish follows and is well worth pondering: This regular absence of transitional forms is not confined to mammals, but is an almost universal phenomenon, as has long been noted by paleontologists. It is true of almost all orders of all classes of animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate. A fortiori, it is also true of the classes, and of the major animal phyla, and it is apparently also true of analogous categories of plants.14 Finally, while we certainly do not wish to completely belabor the point, it seemsamazing that contemporary evolutionary paleontologists are not as forthright as Simpsonwas in 1944 unless there has been an incredible change in the basic evidence (which doesnot seem to be the case). Naturally, then, one finds such dogmatically negative statementsas the following quite hard to understand (if evolution scientists are truly open-minded oncosmology and origins): " So, the study of paleontology, initiated in the midst of ignoranceof natural processes and nurtured by medieval superstition, has emerged in the twentiethcentury as the champion of evolutionary theory and as a skeleton key to the interpretationof the sedimentary rocks of the Earth. "15 If science were truly "neutral" and scientists reallyhad not any metaphysical agenda (which is virtually impossible), then paleontological
6facts, as well as any biological or historical facts, could be used by all with equalapprobation, provided the use was consistent and honest. It does not necessarily followthat the facts would be equally supportive or usable by all, however. Nevertheless, thereshould be no a priori objection to creationists like Gish, Morris, or Wilder-Smithendeavoring to show that some facts may support creation. That is, unless it is thephilosophy of Naturalism and not merely the process of biological change that is theorthodox scientific communitys real agenda! Now, we may return to Roger J. Cuffeys article previously cited. It is importantthat we limit our discussion to his presentation of the fossil evidence and sequences; inthis short study we can not deal with the related aspects of the various radiometric andgeological dating methods which are used to provide a chronological framework for therock layers in the earths crust. Thus, we will assume the standard evolutionary(geological) time framework of 4.5 Billion years is correct, although serious and reasonablealternatives have been offered in its place.16 What we wish to deal with is the propositionput forth by Cuffey . Examining the history of geologic intervals he comes to thisconclusion: "When we do this, we find that the fossils naturally form sequences showing gradualand continuous morphologic changes from earlier to later forms of life, sequences which makeevolutionary interpretations ultimately inescapable."[emphasis ours]17 Because Cuffeys article is an important point of departure for our paper, we wouldlike to call attention to his explanation of the method paleontologists like himself use.Obviously, the description given here is simplified for the laymen (which we appreciate!),but he does provide a key issue and principle subject for reflective analysis. Thus, we shallquote at length here: As working paleontologists interested in the history of particular organisms, we locate for detailed study a relatively thick succession of fossil-bearing rock layers whose observable physical features indicate continuous and uninterrupted deposition over a comparatively long time interval. We next examine those layers for the fossils in which we are interested. We initially find a few fossils, scattered widely among the different layers. Studying these specimens usually shows noticeable morphological differences between ones from various geologic ages, differences which we recognize formally in progress reports by referring the specimens to different species, genera, etc., depending upon the magnitude of those differences. Continued field collecting from the rock strata intervening between any two successive forms thus described frequently produces a series of fossils which begin with the earlier form, change in morphology gradually and continuously as we proceed upward, and end up with the later form. Because these new fossils demonstrate a morphological and parallel chronological transition from the earlier form to the later form, they are termed "transitional fossils."18 Dr. Cuffeys presentation of paleontological methodology seems quite objective andstraightforward. Yet, lest one get the impression that this method is logically andscientifically foolproof, it needs to be remembered that circumstantial connection andchronological transition of forms does not necessitate their ontogenic biologicalrelationship. Indeed, it is precisely the relationship of consequent forms having evolving
7from precedent forms that is in question. Other considerations and factors enter into theevaluation of this data, including the assumptions of definitive phylogentic direction andthe irreversibility of evolution ("devolution"). Basically, then, professional paleontologists of the evolutionary persuasion arguethat, contra creationists, the fossil record contains numerous examples of the transitionalfossils which connect both low-rank taxa (i.e.,species and genera) and high-rank taxa (i.e.,classes and orders). Cuffey notes because of the critical role which transitional fossils playin establishing scientifically the process of organic evolution, "paleontologists have beenappalled that many otherwise well-informed persons have repeated the grosslymisinformed assertion that transitional fossils do not exist."19 Therefore, Cuffey hasprepared a list of examples of transitional fossils in tabular form, citing the individualstudies which document them, and he states that these "comprise a massive body ofevidence which cannot be ignored or explained away." We have included pp. 257-263 inan appendix to our study so that we fairly recognize the abundance of the allegedevidences. Here, however, we simply will summarize the main points of his essay: (1) First, some groups have been so thoroughly studied that we know sequences of transitional fossils which grade continuously from one species to another without break (Table 1), sometimes linking several successive species which cross from one higher taxon into another (Table 2). We can say that situations of this kind display transitional individuals.... (2) Second, other fossil groups have been well enough studied that we know sequences of transitional fossils com- prising a series of chronologically successive species grading from an early form to a later form (Table 3), again sometimes crossing boundaries separating higher taxa (Table 4). This type of situation can be termed successive species.... (3) In many fossil groups, our understanding is relatively less complete, thus giving rise to a third type of situation which we can label successive higher taxa. Here, we may not have complete series of transitional individuals or successive species, but the genera (or other higher taxa) represented in our collections form a continuous series grading from an earlier to a later form, sometimes crossing from one higher-rank taxon into another (Table 5).... (4) Finally, in some fossil groups, our knowledge is quite fragmentary and sparse. We then may know of particular fossils which are strikingly intermediate between two relatively high-rank higher taxa, but which are not yet connected to either by a more continuous series of successive species or transitional individuals. We refer to these as isolated intermediates, a fourth type of situation involving transitional fossils, a type which represents our least- complete state of knowledge.... (5) Isolated intermediates include some of the most famous and spectacular transitional fossils known, such as Archaeopteryx (Colbert, 1969, p. 186-189; Romer, 1966, p. 166-167). This form is almost exactly intermediate between the classes Reptilia and Aves (Cuffey, 1971a, p. 159; Cuffey, 1972, p.36), so much so that "the question of whether Archaeopteryx is a bird or a reptile is unimportant. Both viewpoints can be defended with equal justification" (Brouwer, 1967, p.161).... (6) Finally, because of widespread interest in questions of mans origins, it is well worth emphasizing that a rather complete series of transitional fossils links modern man continuously and gradationally back to mid-Cenozoic, generalized pongids (see references in Table 2)....20 One has to be impressed somewhat by this marshalling of the evidence and thecalm interpretation that Cuffey attaches to it later on. Yet, it is well worth mentioning atthis time that Michael Denton, Duane Gish, Klotz, Morris, et al. look at the same or similar
8evidence and reach fundamentally antithetical conclusions. Let me cite a particularlyintriguing instance from Gish. In his recent book , The Challenge of the Fossil Record, he hasas an early chapter the creationists analysis of the "gap" between microorganisms to fish.And, after discussing the apparent lack of evidence for unequivocal Metazoa in thePrecambrian rocks (meticulously observing the discovery of the supposed metazoa in theAustralian Ediacaran Fauna), he makes a startling point: the creatures in the Pre-Cambrian strata are either unknown fossil forms or else highly complex invertebrateswhich could not have possibly been the ancestors to the Cambrian invertebrates. Indeed,Gish cites no less of an authority than Stephen J. Gould to back up his claim.21 He says,"Thus,the mystery of the Cambrian explosion remains [ Gish dates the Cambrian at about600 million years ago].It is an interesting exercise to observe how evolutionists strugglewith this contradiction to evolution theory."22 Immediately afterwards he examines N.Eldredges possible solutions to the problem of evolutionary sequence including hisproposal of varying levels of atmospheric oxygen over the last two billion years, hispostulation of rapid episodes of organic development, and his use of the "absence oftransitional forms" as evidence for "explosive evolution". Then, he makes a profoundlogical and philosophical observation: What is predicted on the basis of evolution--namely, the presence of transitional forms--is not forthcoming, so rather than admitting that the evidence falsifies their theory, the new scenario predicts just the opposite--the absence of transitional forms. Furthermore, the science of genetics is solidly against the notion of rapid outburst of evolution. As a matter of fact, evolutionists argue that the reason we have never witnessed any really significant evolutionary changes in all of human observation is because evolution moves so slowly.23 It certainly is not our intention to demean the scientific integrity of a Cuffey or anEldredge, yet it seems to be almost a common sense judgment that when thepaleontological facts do not line up with the grand theory, certain brilliant adjustments aremade. There is no way that we could possibly compare all of the tabulated examples ofCuffey with those of Gish (at least not in this class paper!), but it is interesting that in thisone case Gishs analysis of a key transition point is rather formidable. Gish also faces up tothe defense of the pre-Cambrian animals (Eldredges "intermediates in the EarlyCambrian") as being soft-bodied, hence leaving no fossilized trace: Surely, if paleontologists are able to find numerous fossils of microscopic, single-celled, soft-bodied bacteria and algae, as Eldredge does not doubt they have, then they could easily find fossils of all the stages intermediate between these microscopic organisms and the complex invertebrates of the Cambrian. Furthermore, in addition to the many reported findings of fossil bacteria and algae, there must be many hundreds of finds of soft-bodied multi-cellular creatures, such as worms and jellyfish, in the scientific literature. The creatures of the Edicaran Fauna finds, which have been reported from five continents, are soft-bodied.24 Gish further asks that if the vast array of invertebrates represented in the Cambrianevolved from common ancestors where are the substantial fossils to document it?
9Probably billions would have lived (at least millions) over long ages, but none can befound in the paleontologist collections. Vast unbridged gaps separate coelenterates,enchinoderms, trilobites, brachiopods, etc. Thus Gish, echoing G.G.Simpson, documents amajor source of mystery in the fossil record, noting that the abundance of paleontologicaldata in the Cambrian (and provocative hints in the Pre-Cambrian) are given littleillumination from the evolution model.25 At this point, it may be profitable to list some tabular highlights from Gishs work(which certainly are representative of the creationist critique of evolution). Essentially, theenumeration and elucidation of "gaps" and anomalies in the schema of Evolution arecategorized under three headings: (1) From Microorganisms To Fish; (2) From Fish ToMammals; and (3) From Mammals To Man. Below we give an abstract summary of themain points that Gish makes which may be contrasted with Cuffey and others who defendevolution by means of fossils: 1.Life appears abruptly in the Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian in highly diverse forms (E.g., Brachiopods, Crustaceans, Jellyfish, Sea Cucumbers and Sea Lilies, Trilobites, Worms, etc.) 2.The fossil record of insects (phylum Insecta, subphylum of the Arthropoda) have multitudinous missing "lines"- hypothetically connected in the evolutionary phylogeny. 3.There is a great and significant gulf between the invertebrates and vertebrates, and no fossil record of the transition from non-chordate to chordate exists. This gap between the Cambrian and the Ordovician is approximately 100 million years. 4. Even evolutionists like A.S. Romer (Vertebrate Paleontology, Chicago, 1966) admit that all the major fish classes are clearly distinct and set apart from each other and lack transitional forms leading into them and between them (late Silurian and early Devonian ages). For example there are unique features and patterns in the orders Osteostraci and Heterostraci, the class Agnatha, the Placoderms, and the two "orthodox" types: the Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fishes) and the Osteichthyes (higher bony fishes). 5.There is a tremendous gap between the crossopterygian fishes and the ichthyostegid anphibians. Not only is the anatomy of the bony structures (i.e., pectorial and pelvic fins vs. legs and feet) presently unbridged in the transitional forms, but the extreme transmutations require a multitude of mutational episodes. Moreover species of the crossopterygian fish (genus Latmeria) have been found deep off the coast of Africa. 6.The known forms of Seymouria and Diadectes, which are said to stand on the dividing line between amphibians and reptiles, are from the early Permian. This is at least twenty million years too late, according to the evolutionary time scale, to be the ancestors of the reptiles. ( The "stem reptiles", order Cotylosauria are found in the preceding Pennsylvanian period). 7. The thirty-two orders of mammals (placental, the Monotremata, and the Marsupialia) are admitted to be a true evolutionary puzzle by George Gaylord Simpson. Paleontologist Romer, on the other hand, notes the abrupt appearance of the marine mammals is a problem-a classic example being the sub-ungulates (conies, proboscideans, and sirenians). Colbert readily observes the gap between the order Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and any supposed ancestral Cretaceous placentals. 8. The famous "horse series" (starting with the dog-like Hyracotherium (Eohippus) and ending with the modern one-
10 toed Equus) has been severely questioned by evolutionisitic paleontologists like Birdsell, Nilsson, Romer, et al. and Kerkut questions whether the Hyracotherium was the ancestral horse. Gish observes that the reconstruction of the phylogentic tree of the horse was of questionable objectivity from the outset and "appears to be merely a scenario put together from non-equivalent parts." The evolution of the horse, if true, may be more like a series of bushes, than a tree. 9. No significant transitional forms are known for the order Rodentia, the superfamily Theridomyoidea, and the order Lagomorpha (Cf. the studies of Romer cited by Gish). 10. The mammal-like reptiles, placed in the sub-class Synapsida, supposedly originated about 180 million years ago in the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. The two orders of these creatures, the earlier Pelycosauria and the later advanced Therapsida occur rather randomly in the stratigraphic record (during the Permian period), and their strange mosaic of mixed characteristics , analogous to the living duck-billed platypus, make it impossible to select nay one as the actual ancestor of mammalia.( Specialists like Colbert and Kemp willingly admit this and Gish supplies valid documentation.) 11. Almost no fossil remains of mammals occur in the levels dated from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous Periods-a gap of over 120 million years. Then, at the end of the Mesozoic Era, dinosaurs mysteriously disappear and highly specialized mammals abruptly appear (e.g., primates, whales, bats, rodents, ungulates, etc.). Simpson, noted by Gish, call this "the most puzzling event in earth history". Fundamentally significant is the fact no real functional transitional forms are found. Gish concludes: " All reptiles, whether Morganucodon, Kuehneotherium or whatever, had a full complement of reptilian bones in the jaw and all mammals, fossil or living, have a single bone on each side of the lower jaw. No intermediates have been found." 12. The origin of the “Corti” (the mammalian ear) from the quadrate and articular bones of the reptilian class is a crucial problem for evolutionary theorists, because it is an example of marvelously complex anatomical structure and function. 13. The internal physiological structures of organs and life-support systems are not truly homologous between mammals and reptiles, making their evolutionary connection highly problematic. 14. The origin of flight is admitted to be a geniune evolutionary enigma, and not only are the transitions between the nonflying and flying reptiles dramatic (e.g., the theodonts like Saltposuchus vs. pterosaurs like Rhamphorhynchus and the pterodactyloid Pteranodon), but each imagined stage must be fully functional and superior to incipient preceding stages to work. Gish observes "How could these strange creatures have evolved through innumerable intermediate forms over millions of years of time without leaving a single such intermediate in the fossil record?" 15. Flying mammals, like the fossil bat, Paleochiropteryx, appear in the fossil record about fifty million years ago without any intermediate forms. 16. The origin of birds, and the evolutionary classic example of the Archaeopteryx (found in the Upper Jurassic of about 150 million years ago) does not actually support gradual development in the Neo-Darwinian sense. Gish cites the evidence of several specialist to show that this creature was truly a bird (Avian) and provides a thorough critique of detractors who claim it as mostly reptilian, noting, however, that like some modern mammals, it had "primitive" features. After several important elucidations, he notes that Gould and Eldredge specifically excludes the Archaeopteryx as a transitional form (agreeing with Romer who said that this Jurassic bird stands in "splendid isolation." Gish also makes the important caveat: "Reptiles and birds are thus separated by a large gap, just as predicated on the basis of creation."26 We have deliberately not summarized chapters six and seven of Gishs volumewhich analyze the paleontological case for mans evolution and offer a critical overview of
11the support of the fossil record for creation. Because I (to return to the first personal)intend to do a more indepth critique of this for a later paper, I will not go into great detailin this preliminary study. However, I will try to offer some tentative conclusions about thestrength of the creationist and evolutionist arguments from the fossil record shortly.27 In evaluating the nature and power of Cuffeys argument it should be immediatelypointed out that the evidence sequentially gets weaker when one moves from the fossilsupport for species transmutations to the higher taxa evolution. Moreover, it is hard toargue with a table without checking the empirical support and logical cogency of eachevidential item and author. Gish, I think, shows his greatest strength in that he quotesfrom primary paleontological studies and demonstrates particularly significantcontradictions and uncertainties. It must be remembered too, that almost universially theprinciple of homology is assumed to illustrate or prove progresssion in morphology-otherwise circumstantial succession would not necessitate a linking of ancestors anddescendents. One is struck by Dentons defense of typological patterns in nature overevolving hierarchial sequences: The reason for the distinctness of each class and the absence of sequential arrangements, whereby classes can be approached gradually through a series of transitional forms, is precisely as typology implied because each class of organism (just like a class of geometric figures) possesses a number of unique defining characteristics which occur in fundamentally invariant form in all the species of that class but which are not found even in rudimentary form in any species outside that class....28 This makes us considerably uneasy with Dr. Cuffey appealing the argument thatresemblance to a different or higher taxon justifies classifying certain fossils as geniunetransitions. He, of course, names Achaeopteryx, Diarthrognathus, the seymouriamorphs, andElpistostege as examples. Given the analyses of Gish, Denton, Klotz, and Wysong, it is hardto accept that "major kinds" are mere "mental constructs" rather than "basic facts ofnature."29 Even harder to accept are the supposed inevitable evolutionary implications ofthe transitional fossils. His conclusions are: (1) that "special creations" of species and other taxa are clearly implausible (although the revelance of this is diminished when one realizes it has never been the position of intelligent creationists!); (2) that in the fossil record " the entire series represents a chain of reproductive processes, uninterrupted by an special creative acts from without" (here an evident barb at teleology); (3) " a new species results from the operations of a population without the intervention of special creative acts, i.e., through what the scientist terms `evolutionary processes.; (4) "...higher taxa are no more than aggregations of species, transitional fossils between higher taxa indicate simply that , in time, the same natural ancestor-descendent process producing new species eventually produces a chain of successive and progressively more different species, whose final member will be drastically different in morphology from its initial member and will therefore be classified by taxonomists in a different higher-rank taxon."; (5) "Moreover, it also is apparent that the amount of morphologic change producible by evolutionary processes is essentially unlimited given the context of vast eons of geologic time."; (6) "...we can define `evolution as the gradual and permanent change in form and function of adult living organisms, of successive generations, over a long period of geologic time."; (7)"...evolution is a scientific (rather than, say, philosophical) concept; (8)"... we define `science simply as the attempt
12 to understand natural phenomena more completely by means of repeatable or verifiable observations of natural phenomena.... Failure to understand this has made extensive, philosophically based discussions-by anti-evolutionists, among others-irrelevant...."; (9)" Still further, we need to realize that there is no fundamental difference between what is termed `historical science and `empirical science." [Cuffey emphasizes that both deal with logical probability rather than pure conjecture - we most certainly agree!]; (10)"...the many transitional fossils known render evolution already so highly probable that presentation of it as scientific fact is quite justified."; (11) " ...Christians - especially theologians - will need to integrate evolutionary process into their views as being the proximate means which God uses to create various forms of life, just as He uses other scientifically demonstratable processes to maintain the natural universe."; (12) "...These sequences quite overwhelmingly support an evolutionary, rather than a fiat- creationist, view of the history of life."30 It may be recalled than Dr. Wise, referred to very early in this study, found thegeological and paleontological evidence more generally in harmony with the predictionsof the Creation model than the Evolution model. Obviously, like Cuffey or Montague oranyone, his reading of the scientific evidence is influenced by the presuppositions of histotal world-view, in this case, his Christian faith in God as Creator. Now discussion ofworld-views may be taboo, but really in matters as far reaching as those discussed above-particularly in the last three points (but also in number seven), philosophical debate isunavoidable. In one respect, Cuffeys naivety about the philosophical aspects of his owndenials is incredibly amusing-but in an existentially sober way! Since this is only a preliminary study and not even remotely a serious analysis ofevolutionary claims or an attempt at refutation I will only comment on the claims aboveby saying that when two sets of authorities such as the ICR creationists and the Montaguesymposium evolutionists exemplify such profound antithetical certainties, it is obviousthat more than fossil "facts" are at issue. Indeed, what is at issue is the whole system ofevolutionist philosophy and methodology fairly challenged in the realm of intellectualand spiritual methodology. I wish to conclude (tentatively) with some pertinentobservations from Michael Denton (who represents himself as a non-creationist): Now of course such claims are simply nonsense. For Darwins model of evolution is still very much a theory and still very much in doubt when it comes to macroevolutionary phenomena. Furthermore being basically a theory of historical reconstruction, it is impossible to verify by experiment or direct observation as is normal in science. Recently the philosophical status of evolutionary claims has been the subject of considerable debate. Philosophers such as Sir Karl Popper have raised doubts as to whether evolutionary claims, by their very nature incapable of falsification, can properly be classed as truly scientific hypotheses. Moreover, the theory of evolution deals with a series of unique events, the origins of life, the origin of intelligence and so on. Unique events are unrepeatable and cannot be subjected to any sort of experimental investigation. Such events, whether they be the origin of the universe or the origin of life, may be the subject of much fascinating and controversial speculation, but their causation can, strictly speaking, never be subject to scientific validation. Furthermore, not only is the theory incapable of proof by normal scientific means, the evidence is, as we shall see the next few chapters, far from compelling.... The transformation of Darwinian theory into dogma is evidenced also by the hostility that is directed towards the dissidents from orthodoxy such as Klammerer in the 1920s and recently the Australian geneticist Steel for raising the possibility of Lamarckianism, and towards authorities such as the geneticist Goldschmidt and the paleontologist Schindewolf for rejecting natural selection as the major agency in macroevolution. Such hostility is readily understandable in terms of the sociology of knowledge because, as the biological community considers
13 Darwinian theory to be established beyond doubt "like the earth goes round the sun", then dissent becomes by definition irrational and hence especially irritating if the dissenters claim to be presenting a rational critique. It is ironic to reflect that while Darwin once considered it heretical to question the immutability of species, nowadays it is heretical to question the idea of evolution."31 Indeed, what we make of the fossil record probably depends upon what we makeof the existence of planet Earth itself and the Universe as a whole. The inevitability andnecessity of ultimate philosophical, yes, metaphysical , presuppositions was pointed out byProfessor Robert Jastrow in his recent book, God and the Astronomers (New York: Harperand Row, 1978) where he stated that astrophysicists have reached what they believed thepinnacle of scientific cosmology, only to find that theologians (and philosophers) had beensitting there for centuries. I cannot resist one final quotation from Christian biologist andpracticing veterinarian Randy L. Wysong: Hesitancy to decide on the issue of origins can be only a reaction , emotionally, against the implications of believing either creation or evolution. After putting two and two together, we may wish we had kept them apart. This common reaction proves the thesis we made in the early chapters of this book, i.e., origins is not a bland , isolated academic matter. It has profound effects upon each of us personally.32 ENDNOTES:
141 "Scientific Creationism Versus Evolution: The Mislabeled Debate," pp. 18-63 in Ashley Montagu, (ed.), Science andCreationism , London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. Curiously, on p. 19 he observes: "Science dependson the freedom to criticize the currently accepted theory, to test it by experimentation, and to propose a new theory, notwithout criticism, but without hinderance." Why then, we ask, are the hindrances of scholarly innuendo andmisrepresentation constantly used against the creationist-the book in hand being a classic example?2 Ibid., pp. 48-49. Later on, L. Beverly Halstead ( Reading University, U.K.), in her bombastic article , "Evolution--TheFossils Says Yes!", pp. 240-255, challenges creationist Gish on the matter on the preservation of Pre-Cambrian fossils,transitional links between the phyla, etc. but agrees in principle with Miller (and Gish) that the critical evidence forEvolution is the fossil record (particularly as interpreted in the context of geological uniformitarianism).3 Ibid., pp. 255-281. Ironically, this was reprinted from the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Vol 24: No. 4, 1972.The other article in this symposium that actually gets down to comparing concrete empirical data with the creationistposition is that of Sidney W. Fox (University of Miami, Florida), "Creationism and Evolutionary Protobiogenesis" , pp.194-239 which fairly endeavors, I think, to present the case for a purely naturalistic "molecular determinism" whichinitiated the evolutionary process.4 Ibid., p. 255.5 Dr. Davidheiser had a Ph.D. with distinction from John Hopkins .6 Evolution And Christian Faith (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969), p. 282. Dr. Davidheiser was both acompetent practicing scientist and a committed Christian and his book offers some very incisive general philosophicaland scientific rebuttals to the crassly exaggerated claims of evolutionary theorists. It is somewhat dated and limited indetail however. An excellent recent work is that of Professor John W. Klotz, Studies In Creation: A General Introduction tothe Creation/Evolution Debate (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1985). Dr. Klotz is a qualified biologist (Ph.D,University of Pittsburgh) and a theologian (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis), and during the intense summer session of1991 he gave me new respect for interdisciplinary scholarship.7 Dr. Wise holds a B.A.(Hons.) from the University of Chicago and the M.A. and Ph.D. in Geology from Harvard;Stephen J. Gould was his advisor at Harvard. He is currently Assistant Professor of Science and Director of OriginsResearch at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee.8 This quotation is taken from ORIGINS TALK Newsletter, Missouri Association For Creation, Inc., July 22, 1991.9 Macroevolution (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Co., 1979), p.2 cited by Michael Denton in Evolution: A Theory InCrisis (Bethesda,Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1985), pp. 157-158. Denton perceives the most obvious flaw in evolutionarydoctrine: "Without intermediates or transitional forms to bridge the enormous gaps which separate existing species andgroups of organisms, the concept of evolution could never be taken seriously as a scientific hypothesis." (Ibid.)10 Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, p. 193.11 Ibid., pp. 193-194. I would be very interested to know how Professor Halstead, mentioned in Montagus symposiumanthology above, would respond to this. She gives the impression on pp. 250ff. that Gish and other creationists caveathere is inconsequential because after one-celled organisms "evolution proceeded along different pathways" and that theabsence of intermediates between the major phyla may be accounted for having "existed only in the early stages ofembryological development." (Op. Cit.) A dumb question from a lay person - would not the resulting adults leavetransitional records? Am I misunderstanding the ordinary meaning of English here?
1512 Klotz, Studies In Creation , p. 131. Dr. Klotzs older creationist text is quite excellent also, because it contains variouscharts and illustrations which document the issues here discussed in a concrete and visible manner (Cf. Genes, Genesis,and Evolution. 2nd and revised edition; St. Louis,Mo.: Concordia Publishing House, 1972).13 Gishs book is published by Creation-Life Master Books (El Cajon, Calf.: 1985). Quote, Ibid., pp.229-230. Simpsons bookwas published by Columbia University Press (New York: 1944). Quote, Ibid., p. 105.14 Gish, Evolution: Challenge Of The Fossil Record , Ibid., citation from Simpson Ibid., p. 107.15 David L. Clark, Fossils, Paleontology, and Evolution (2nd Edition; Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Co. Publishers, 1976),p. 6. Professor Clark is at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.16 Kenneth Miller in his article, "Scientific Creationism Versus Evolution," , pp. 24-48 provides an excellent defense of thecurrent theory of the age of the earth and discusses the interrelationships of radioisotope dating. He insists, on the basisof Dr. Donald Eichers work ( Geologic Time, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1976) and others that theknown magnetic reversals of the earths magnetic fields over the last 85 million years contradict the creationistarguments for the young age of the earth (pp.32-36). At present, I do not know what creationist geologist orastrophysicist who has dealt with this presentation of the evidence. For the moment, the thesis of God creating the earthwith an "apparent age" appeals to me, but I realize that this presupposition has some important problems and can bephilosophically challenged.17 "Paleontologic Evidence And Organic Evolution," in Ashley Montague (ed.), Science and Creationism, Ibid. For a balancethis evidence should be compared with that of Denton, Op. Cit., pp. 157-195, Gish, Op. Cit., pp. 54-127 (Chaps. IV and V),and the careful analysis of creationist biologist R.L Wysong, The Creation-Evolution Controversy (Midland, Michigan:Inquiry Press, 1976), Chaps. 17 and 20, pp. 264-311 and 348-392. Wysong also has a formidable analysis of the age of theearth question, Ibid., pp. 145-179 (Chap. 10: "Youth Or Antiquity").18 "Paleontologic Evidence And Organic Evolution," in Ashley Montagu, Ibid.19 Ibid., p. 257.20 Ibid., pp. 257-263.21 (El Cajon, Calf.: Creation Life Publishers, Master Books, 1984), pp.56-57. Cf. pp.58-61. Klotz makes the followingimportant observation about the later Cambrian period and transitional forms: "very few of the groups we know todaywere not in existence at the time of Cambrian period. And this is one of the earliest periods in the earths history,believed to have begun about 540 million years ago; it is the first period in the Paleozoic era. All of the animal phyla areclearly represented already in the Cambrian period except two minor soft-bodied phyla, which may have been presentwithout leaving fossil evidence, and the chordates. Even the chordates are believed to have been present, since an objectwhich looks like a fish scale has been discovered in Cambrian rock and phosphatic dermal fragments of one of theheterostracan fish dating from the late Cambrian period have been discovered in northeastern Wyoming. It is quitestriking that this large number of phyla should have originated already in the Cambrian period, and it is also strikingthat no new phyla have developed since , Studies In Creation, pp. 124-5.22 Evolution: The Challenge Of The Fossil Record, Ibid. Gish is really audacious too, because in his argument here and laterhe quotes from N. Eldredge (American Museum of Natural History paleontologist) using his recent anti-creationistbook, The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism (New York: Washington Square Press, 1982). One has to agreewith Gish, however, that it is the special pleading and the fundamental incongruities of the Neo-Darwininian evolution
16model that is the best evidence against its close correspondence with the facts.23 Ibid., p. 59.24 Ibid., pp. 60-61.25 Evolution: The Challenge Of The Fossil Record, pp. 54-117. It should be noted that Gish does endeavor to employ theexceptions and weaknesses of the evolutionary testimony as positive evidence for creation as pointed out by someevolutionist apologists. However, if it is the case that neither the creation nor the evolution models are ultimatelydemonstratable by experimental or direct empirical means, then the logic of indirect prediction and parsimoniouscoherence applies. Evolution, as both Michael Denton and Theodosius Dobzhansky (among a score of others!) is aphilosophy-thus it can be subjected to philosophical analysis as to the basis of its conceptual framework and itsimplications. Cf. Michael Dentons chapter, "From Darwin to Dogma," in Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, pp. 69-78 and"Philosophical Issues," (Chap. 16) in Theodosius Dobzhansky, Fransciso J. Ayala, et al., Evolution (San Francisco: W.H.Freeman and Company, 1977), pp. 474-499.26 It is perhaps worth mentioning here that Cuffey does assert on p. 263 of the article above that " a rather complete seriesof transitional fossils links modern man continuously and gradationally back to mid-Cenozoic, genralized pongids." Hequotes the comments of Uzzell & Pilbeam (1971, p. 615): "In spite of statements to the contrary. . ., the fossil record of theHominoidea, the superfamily containing man and the apes, is quite well known, and it is therefore posssible to outline atentative evolutionary scheme for this group." One need only reply that Gish spends nearly a hundred pages and citesabout fifty expert testimonies to the contrary, Op.Cit.,pp. 130-221. Michael Denton finds such "logical sequences"unconvincing also, Op.Cit., p.116.27 Cf. his chapter, "The Typological Perception of Nature, " p. 105 in Evolution: A Theory In Crisis. Cf. also pp. 93-118 forthe context of this valuable point. See also his chapter seven, "The Failure of Homology," pp. 142-156.28 Cuffey, Op. Cit., pp. 265-266.29 Ibid.,pp. 266-270. We certainly admire Dr. Cuffeys candor and in one respect, appreciate his endeavor to retainreligious faith (Christian belief) along with scientific integrity. However, his arguments are seriously flawed both in hisdependence on empirical "examples" from fellow evolutionists and his failure to realize that Charles Darwins originalmotivation in proposing the macroevolutionary theory was profoundly philosophical. Cf. the documented analysis ofR.L. Wysong in The Creation-Evolution Controversy , Op.Cit., pp. 1-68. See also the remarks of qualified scientist-philosopher A.E. Wilder-Smith in Mans Origin, Mans Destiny (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1975). One can notethat Darwins biggest defenders in the 19th century (T.H. Huxley, G.F. Romanes, Herbert Spencer, et al.) were agnostic,naturalistic philosophers. The same is essentially true today with Ashley Montagu, Julian Huxley, Richard Dawkins,D.L. Hull, Michael Ruse, Carl Sagan, etc. Christian critics are only being truthful when they point this out!30 Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, pp. 75-76.3 The Creation-Evolution Controversy , p. 425.
1Appendix: Transitional Fossils and Darwinian Theory23 As Dr. Colin Patterson, a senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, putit:I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If Iknew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be used tovisualise such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it…Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwins authority, but because my understanding ofgenetics seems to demand it. Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they saythere are no transitional fossils… It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, andto find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science,for there is no way of putting them to the test. (correspondence w. Sunderland)A1 The previous graphic helps explain why scientists say the number of transition forms rangesfrom few to none, yet Darwinists claim to have many transition forms. In evolutionary theory anancestral species may give rise to numerous living species (different branches of the evolutionary true)as well as numerous species that have since gone extinct. A true transition form would be on thecentral branch of this evolutionary lineage, between the presumed ancestral species and modern life.If extinct life is highly specialized and distinct experts believe the fossils in question are a side branchand not the transitions they are seeking. This is particularly true when it has different features from
those shared by all purported descendants of the proposed ancestor. It is dishonest to "fudge" thesepurported side branches and present them to the public as if they were true transition forms when theexperts believe otherwise. From a creationary perspective such distinct extinct life forms were unique,unrelated creatures.A24A1Sunderland, Luther, Darwin’s Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems (El Cajon, CA: Master Books, 1988), p.88-89. See also Raup, D.M., Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology, Field Museum of Natural HistoryBulletin 50:22, 1979, and Sarfati, Jonathan, "The non-evolution of the horse," Creation Ex Nihilo, 21(3):28-31.(www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4117.asp). Cited in “Creation Resource Sheet: Transition Fossils,” athttp://www.rae.org/FAQ01.html.A2Gould, S.J., "Evolutions Erratic Pace" Natural History, (May, 1977) vol. 86, and Wesson, R., Beyond NaturalSelection (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991) p. 45 offer some honest data for a creation analysis.567891011121314151617181920212223242526.2728293031