Thursday, September 24, 2009

Darwin and the Fossil Record.

I don't see many people calling "bullshit" properly on the apologetic that the fossil record is some kind of Achilles heel to the theory of evolution. The fossil record is actually great evidence for Darwin's theory and the objection he rendered to his own theory actually implies something vastly different than we are lead to suppose.

But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.
- Chapter 9, On the Origin of Species

He says that if his theory is true there should be a lot of previous life forms that aren't found in the fossil record. To explain why geology does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chains, he suggests that the fossil record is extremely imperfect. He's right. We understand the processes involved and have a better view of the fossil record and significantly more fossils than we did in Darwin's time. He was specifically saying that his theory calls for a lot more organisms than we're finding in the fossil record and the explanation for this is that the fossil record is much much worse than many people of the day were advocating.

Rather than an Achilles heel to his argument, this would seem to be a remarkable prediction of his theory. That his theory predicts that there were massive numbers of gradually changing ancestors to all the species on the planet and the reason we didn't find them in the fossil record is that fossil folk are grossly wrong about how very very few fossils we have. We have good areas of fossils and a lot of really good fossils, but Darwin never suggested that we needed all these fossil but rather suggested that there were massive gaps in the fossil record, a fact we know to be true. If life forms don't evolve than one could be sated to believe that a new fossil represented a new species that was created by God wholecloth out of nothing. There's no reason to think anything is missing.

Darwin said we were missing large tracts of fossils.
Today we understand that we are missing large tracts of fossils.

Darwin was right. It's not a condemnation of his theory it's yet another example of Darwin making an amazing prediction by using his theory that we later confirmed to be absolutely right. Next time a creationists gabs on about how there are massive gaps in the fossil record, you can understand that this fact was *PREDICTED* by Darwin. You could tell them, but it might be akin to talking to a coffee cup.

It's just something to think about.

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