Transitional fossils and observed evolution


#1

I know, there are hundreds of threads on evolution. And if someone can point me to one of them with an answer to my specific question, please let this thread die, but I’ve searched through a few and haven’t seen much more than bickering on this subject. So, unless I’m referred elsewhere, please give a charitable answer here as I’m asking for clarification, but do not want to start another fight between the two sides on this debate.

As I look through sites from critics of evolution, I keep seeing the claim that there is not one single example of a transitional fossil between species. Advocates of evolution claim there are plenty of examples. Take this post from the thread “Is Evolution a fact?” where someone made the claim of no transitional fossils:

Would you like to explain Acanthostega, Icthyostega, Pederpes finneyae, Tiktaalik, Tulerpeton, Greererpeton, Pandericthys, Gogonasus?

How about Caudipteryx, Byronosaurus, Microraptor gui, Sinornithosaurus, Protarchaeopteryx, ConfuciusornisWhat about Eomaia scansoria? Carsonella rudii? Ambolecetus? Durodon?

Castorocauda lutrasimilis? Cynognathus crateronotus?, Traversodontidae?

Australopithecus anamensis? Homo habilis? Homo erectus?

No transitionals? You are joking, aren’t you?

Alec

So, in layman’s terms, can someone explain how each side feels it is credibly making its claim, which completely contradicts the other? Please no answers such as “by ignoring science” or “acting on presumptions”. How is the same evidence interpreted in two different ways?

On a similar note, the same debate comes up over the claim that there are no observed examples of evolution. I get the idea that the distinction comes between micro and macro evolution and the evolutionists’ claim that there is no distinction between the two - that micro is just building up to macro by the teaspoon. So, in refutation of the claim that there is no observed evolution, groups such as “Talk Origin” provide proofs such as this, which by the way, claims to show speciation, not just variation within a species. Groups such as “Answers in Genesis” refute with articles such as this.

One answer or the other won’t affect my faith. I believe that God created everything, even if he used the mechanism of evolution to do so. And I’m not interested in that debate (there are plenty of threads for that), but just an analysis of the two claims on each of these issues from a fair and “nice” point of view.

God bless


#2

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

* Nautiloids to Ammonoids
      o Bactritids

* Fish to Amphibians
      o Tiktaalik roseae
      o Osteolepis
      o Eusthenopteron
      o Panderichthys
      o Elginerpeton
      o Obruchevichthys
      o Hynerpeton
      o Tulerpeton
      o Acanthostega
      o Ichthyostega
      o Pederpes finneyae
      o Eryops

* Amphibians to Amniotes (early reptiles)
      o Proterogyrinus
      o Limnoscelis
      o Tseajaia
      o Solenodonsaurus
      o Hylonomus
      o Paleothyris

* Synapsid (mammal-like "reptiles") to mammals
      o Protoclepsydrops
      o Clepsydrops
      o Dimetrodon
      o Procynosuchus
      o Thrinaxodon
      o Yanoconodon

* Diapsid reptiles to birds
      o Yixianosaurus
      o Pedopenna
      o Archaeopteryx
      o Changchengornis
      o Confuciusornis
      o Ichthyornis

* Evolution of whales
      o Pakicetus
      o Ambulocetus
      o Kutchicetus
      o Artiocetus
      o Aetiocetus
      o Dorudon
      o Basilosaurus
      o Eurhinodelphis
      o Mammalodon

* Evolution of the horse
      o Hyracotherium
      o Mesohippus
      o Parahippus
      o Merychippus
      o Pliohippus
      o Equus

* Non-human apes to modern humans
      o Pierolapithecus catalaunicus
      o Ardipithecus
      o Australopithecus
      o Homo rudolfensis
      o Homo habilis
      o Homo erectus

[edit] See also


#3

One of the best convincers has to be the evolutionary series of horses that leads to modern horses (there are several different branches, only one of which has survived)

If you take a look here:
flmnh.ufl.edu/natsci/vertpaleo/fhc/firstCM.htm

You can compare the transitionals one by one and ask yourself if any two adjacent ones in the record differ by more than some living species do today.

Horses are a particularly good one for two reasons:

  1. Everyone knows about horses

  2. There were so many of them, living in wide areas where fossilzation was relatively common, that we have lots of fossils, and so the transitionals are usually found in the fossil record.


#4

Krew,

Thank you for adding to the examples I already listed, but that doesn’t answer my questions about interpretation.


#5

Is this species to species?


#6

Some places, a bit hard to tell. The call on whether or not it amounts to a new genus is based on judgement as to whether or not there’s enough variation.

That’s why I suggested that you use normal variation within a species of animal as your guide. If the variation from animal to animal is less than the variation found in living species today, that would demonstrate a complete series.

In reality, to get a truly complete series, you’d need a fossil of every single animal that existed. Some creationists try that ploy, for reasons that are obvious to everyone. Science works by making inferences from the evidence.

In the case of horse transitionals, it is compelling, because the transitions represent such tiny steps.


#7

The reason I ask is that I suspect the creationist or ID response would be to say that this is variation within a species - that there is slight variation in things like ear size or length of legs, for instance, but that we don’t see new genetic information - new features or loss of features - occuring.

Any creationists or ID proponents care to share?


#8

Correct me if I’m wrong, but why would an ID proponent claim there’s no new “genetic information”? ID people don’t claim evolution is false, do they? I thought they just claim the purported mechanisms don’t account for it.


#9

Hi, I am interested in this discussion, but I am open to wherever the truth leads, since I ultimately believe God is in charge either way. Thus I have no “horse in the race”, no pun intended. But this horse story did cause me to do a little research on what some have said against the horse evolutionary chain being solid proof of evolution:

*David Raup, formerly Curator of Geology at the Field Muse
um of Natural History in Chicago, and now Professor of Geology at the University of Chicago, is a foremost expert in fossil study. He made this statement:
"Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time.
“By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information. What appeared to be a nice, simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin’s problem [with the fossil record] has not been alleviated.”—**David M. Raup, in Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 50 (1979), p. 29.
*“It was widely assumed that [Eohippus] had slowly but persistently turned into a more fully equine animal . . [but] the fossil species of Eohippus show little evidence of evolutionary modification . . [The fossil record] fails to document the full history of the horse family.”—**The New Evolutionary Timetable, pp. 4, 96.
*Interesting topic.:wink:


#10

Ah, the quote-mining game. Let’s take the first one:

"By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.

What he means is that instead of a nice neat ladder, the record of horse evolution is more like a bush, with branches in all directions. Fortunately, the particular twig that represents modern horses can be traced gradually all the way back to Hyracotherium. Go to the link I posted and you can see for yourself.

*What appeared to be a nice, simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin’s problem [with the fossil record] has not been alleviated."—David M. Raup, in Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 50 (1979), p. 29

Darwin’s “problem” was the idea of gradualism. Raup is pointing out that punctuated equillibrium is the more normal case. However, the quote is about 30 years old, and as you can see by the link, gradual evolution is the case with horses. To be fair to Raup, not all of this was available 30 years ago.

Go take a look at the actual specimens. Than ask yourself if adjacent fossils have more variation than within many mammalian species today. And yet, if you move higher and higher in the geologic column, major changes occur in horses.

A bit at a time. Reality trumps anyone’s reasoning.


#11

Thank you, Barbarian. For the record, I’m still waiting for a strong critic of evolution to jump in - maybe I’ll have to go someplace like CARM to get that (no insult intended to those folks or the ones over here), but the fundamentalists Evangelicals seem to have a greater number of creationists, I guess.

Anyway, Barbarian, what is your honest assessment of what is going on in the creationist camp since it appears that you are a supporter of evolutionist theory? Is it outright dishonesty? Ignorance of the record? A matter of semantics?

And do you have thoughts about the “observed evolution” portion of my original post?


#12

And just as a reference point from the other side of the fence, I looked up the hyracotherium to horse transition at Answer in Geneis, probably the most persistent critic of evolution, and here’s what they had:

One of the most commonly presented ‘proofs’ of evolution is the horse series. It is claimed that the evolution of the horse can be traced from the tiny, four-toed Hyracotherium—sometimes called Eohippus, which supposedly lived about 50 million years ago—to Equus, the single-toed horse of today. But this is a gross over-simplification and ignores some facts.
Eohippus (Hyracotherium) was most likely not related to horses at all, but to modern conies (creatures like rabbits). Indeed, the first specimen was named Hyracotherium by its discoverer, Robert Owen, because of its resemblance to the genus Hyrax (cony). Later specimens, found in North America, were named Eohippus (‘dawn horse’), but there is no sound reason for linking it with horses. So the horse family tree has a false origin.
http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v14/i1/horse.gifThe horse series was constructed from fossils found in many different parts of the world, and nowhere does this succession occur in one location. The series is formulated on the assumption of evolutionary progression, and then used to ‘prove’ evolution!
The number of ribs varies within the series, up and down, between 15, 19, and 18. The number of lumbar vertebrae also changes from six to eight and then back to six.
There is no consensus on horse ancestry among palaeontologists, and more than a dozen different family trees have been proposed, indicating that the whole thing is only guesswork.
Fossils of the three-toed and one-toed species are preserved in the same rock formation in Nebraska USA1, proving that both lived at the same time, strongly suggesting that one did not evolve into the other.
Modern horses come in a wide variety of sizes. There is a great difference between the Fallabella horse of Argentina—fully grown at 43 centimetres (17 inches) high—and the massive Clydesdale. Both are horses, and the larger has not evolved from the smaller, nor the smaller from the larger.
In view of the above facts, it is amazing that evolutionists continue to present the horse series as one of their ‘best proofs of evolution’.

Just for the record, I tend to be a bit more on the evolution side of things, but wanted to create a thread specifically for this discussion, which bothers me considerably since I hear the claim “there are no transitional fossils” and “there have been no observed cases of evolution” so often, right along with rebutals from the evolution side of things.

Incidentally, the one glaring flaw I think I see in the above quote is this:

Fossils of the three-toed and one-toed species are preserved in the same rock formation in Nebraska USA1, proving that both lived at the same time, strongly suggesting that one did not evolve into the other.

I don’t think that evolutionists state that one species must necessarily die out for another to evolve from it. One may find an evolved species living harmoniously with its predecesor, either because natural selection hasn’t been completed yet, or because the distinction (such as number of toes) is not one that quickly establishes superiority to the extent of dominating the area and wiping out an inferior species.


#13


:eek:


#14

I hate to post so much at once, but it was very helpful for me to look at a specific case study, such as the one you presented, Barbarian. Aside from the evolution of the horse, what would you consider the three “best” examples of transitional fossils (or sequences of fossils) for me to look at more closely to see what each side has to say about them?


#15

Eohippus (Hyracotherium) was most likely not related to horses at all, but to modern conies (creatures like rabbits). Indeed, the first specimen was named Hyracotherium by its discoverer, Robert Owen, because of its resemblance to the genus Hyrax (cony). Later specimens, found in North America, were named Eohippus (‘dawn horse’), but there is no sound reason for linking it with horses. So the horse family tree has a false origin.

Let’s see… here’s the skeleton of Hyracotherium:
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fhc/FHCimages/hyracoskel.jpeg

Here’s the skeleton of a hyrax:
http://www.nhc.ed.ac.uk/images/collections/mammals/ungulata/hyraxskeleton.jpg

Nuff said? Some yokel got the story wrong, and it’s been making the rounds of the net ever since. BTW, hyraxes are not “like rabbits”. They are hoofed mammals, and their skeletons and DNA indicate that they are most closely related to elephants.

BTW, rabbit skeleton:
http://www.dundee.ac.uk/museum/zoology/skeletons/2013small.jpg

The horse series was constructed from fossils found in many different parts of the world, and nowhere does this succession occur in one location.

North America. All of the horses in the line that led to Equus (modern horses) are found there.

The series is formulated on the assumption of evolutionary progression, and then used to ‘prove’ evolution!
The number of ribs varies within the series, up and down, between 15, 19, and 18. The number of lumbar vertebrae also changes from six to eight and then back to six.

Did you know that they vary in the modern species of horse as well? If they vary within a species, why would it be impossible that they would vary over time as species evolved?

There is no consensus on horse ancestry among alaeontologists, and more than a dozen different family trees have been proposed, indicating that the whole thing is only guesswork.

In fact, as more and more specimens were found, we began filling in the blanks at the species level, which is where we are today. Consequently, the picture is much clearer than it was even 30 years ago. Are you beginning to suspect that these guys are deliberately trying to mislead you?

Fossils of the three-toed and one-toed species are preserved in the same rock formation in Nebraska USA1, proving that both lived at the same time, strongly suggesting that one did not evolve into the other.

Ah, this is known as the “if you’re alive, your uncle has to be dead” argument. Horse species didn’t form a straight ladder; it was more like a bush, with different lines branching off.

Modern horses come in a wide variety of sizes. There is a great difference between the Fallabella horse of Argentina—fully grown at 43 centimetres (17 inches) high—and the massive Clydesdale. Both are horses, and the larger has not evolved from the smaller, nor the smaller from the larger.

Humans can artificially change and maintain differences in sizes, but feral horses, in a few generations revert to optimal size. Evolution works pretty rapidly in that way.

In view of the above facts, it is amazing that evolutionists continue to present the horse series as one of their ‘best proofs of evolution’.

So as you look over the wreckage of this “proof against evolution”, ask yourself if these guys were really that dumb, to preach to you about things they clearly didn’t know anything about. It’s possible, but more likely, they were counting on your not checking for yourself. But you did. Good work.

I don’t think that evolutionists state that one species must necessarily die out for another to evolve from it.

Right you are. Gould, BTW, mentions horses, ammonites and forams as examples of very long-term, gradual evolution. Those would be good. Because of the large numbers, the transition from reptile to mammal is pretty good. The significant changes in the skull are very gradually shown in the fossil record.


#16

Awfulthings9 has distorted the truth by misrepresenting the content wherein Alec’s quote originated thus has implied that Alec made a ‘claim of no transitional fossils’. Awfulthings9, it is disgraceful to smear the reputation of a brilliant scientist in a public forum. Basically, Awfulthings9 you were dishonest:mad: This is what did actually appear in Alec’s message in the topic **Is Evolution a fact? **

Would you like to explain Acanthostega, Icthyostega, Pederpes finneyae, Tiktaalik, Tulerpeton, Greererpeton, Pandericthys, Gogonasus?

How about Caudipteryx, Byronosaurus, Microraptor gui, Sinornithosaurus, Protarchaeopteryx, ConfuciusornisWhat about Eomaia scansoria? Carsonella rudii? Ambolecetus? Durodon?

Castorocauda lutrasimilis? Cynognathus crateronotus?, Traversodontidae?

Australopithecus anamensis? Homo habilis? Homo erectus?

No transitionals? You are joking, aren’t you?

Alec
evolutionpages.com

[/quote]

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=1891300#post1891300
http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=1891300#post1891300

I can’t begin to tell you how disheartened I am and for good reason. Next time people please do some research to insure TRUTH and HONESTY prevails on Catholic.com. Alec has a long and impeccable history here as a scientist and we should support him.:slight_smile:

Alec’s website has some information about Recent Transitional Fossils for those who are interested:
Go here:
evolutionpages.com/Writing.htm
http://www.evolutionpages.com/Writing.htm

Thank you.
(p.s. I should be replying to several other topics but thought it best to come to the defense and aid of a friend and valuable member.:smiley: Not enough time in a day to do it all.)


#17

Slow down a bit. I wasn’t attacking Alec at all. Perhaps I should have worded more clearly, but my point was that another poster said there were no transitional fossils, and I was posting Alec’s list of examples to the contrary. I’m assuming you haven’t read the entire thread, because I made the point of going on the record as actually leaning toward Alec’s point of view. Why would I be dishonest and discredit someone with whom I agree? I personally thought his response was clever. I mean, think about it, would it really have made sense for me to state that Alec was claiming there were no transitional fossils and then quote him making a list of transitional fossils? I was referring to two different people.

In fact, invite Alec to visit this thread to see if he thought I was smearing his reputation.

Please read the whole thread and see if my intent is really what you claim it to be. If not, I hope you’ll post your thoughts on what you found and come to the defence of my reputation.


#18

Anyway, back on topic.

Barbarian,

Some critics of evolution say the problem lies in mutations for three reasons:

One, that the mathematical odds against one mutation are atronomical, not to mention enough in a row to effect an example of evolution.

Two, that mutations are generally marked by regression rather than progression, that they generally bring about disease and defect, rather than improvement.

Three, that mutation is simply a change in a gene that already exists (such as changing straight hair to curly), and that a gene cannot change from one kind to another.

I’ve enjoyed your response to other posts, so I’m hoping you can be helpful here.


#19

Some critics of evolution say the problem lies in mutations for three reasons:
One, that the mathematical odds against one mutation are atronomical,

Mutations happen constantly. Most of us have several of them. You mean “one favorable mutation?” The odds are rather high against them. Most mutations do very little. A few are harmful. A very few are useful. If evolution was totally random, it wouldn’t work. But natural selection tends to remove the bad ones from a population, and tends to increase the good ones. This is directly observable in nature.

not to mention enough in a row to effect an example of evolution.

If they all had to happen at once, yes. But we observe that one occurs, and then later, others do. So they don’t have to do that. Think of it this way:

Toss a million coins. Throw out all those that are tails. Then do it again, tossing out the tails. Repeat. You will end up after ten tries, with perhaps a thousand examples of ten heads in a row. Now, consider that each time, they get to reproduce. Mathematically, it’s very easy to show how this happens.

Two, that mutations are generally marked by regression rather than progression,

In general, this is not true. We can note back-mutation rates, but they are normally much less than the mutation rate.

that they generally bring about disease and defect, rather than improvement.

This is also wrong; most of them don’t do very much at all. It’s easy to see why; one amino acid substitution in a large protein doesn’t normally affect its function. But again, because of natural selection, we can see that this isn’t an objection. The bad ones tend to be removed and the good ones preserved. Notice that harmful recessives tend to accumulate so long as no one of them becomes very common; this is why it’s not a good idea to marry your cousin. All of us have harmful recessives, and marrying a close relative is more likely to result in a child with both genes harmful recessive, which then produces the harmful trait.

Three, that mutation is simply a change in a gene that already exists (such as changing straight hair to curly), and that a gene cannot change from one kind to another.

This is also a false argument. We can, by starting with a pure culture of bacteria, for example, show that mutation does indeed produce new genes.

I’ve enjoyed your response to other posts, so I’m hoping you can be helpful here.

My pleasure.


#20

Thanks Barbarian.

I’ll have to say that I’m really disappointed that nobody from the other side of the argument has jumped in here. That would have been most helpful as I could see a more immediate exchange of ideas and information. As it is, I can go someplace like Answers in Genesis and relay the information to you for feedback, but I don’t get to see the dialogue I had hoped for.

As it is, that makes your argument appear to be very compelling.

So let me ask this question, then.

You’ve presented a very strong case (at least in absence of an opponent in the discussion) for the transitional fossils that indicate evolutionary change, even from one kind to another.

You’ve also made a strong case (in this most recent post) for the very probable role that random mutations, along with the impersonal (though certainly not random) force of natural selection (along with other impersonal factors, I would guess, such as genetic drift) turning those random mutations into an orderly progression from simple life to human life.

So, where does this leave God? I understand that evolution explains the physical body, but not the creation of the soul, but as to how this particular body - the shape and characteristics of a human - came about, rather than having the soul of man end up in a body that looked more like an antelope?

Do you personally believe that God had a hand in guiding which mutations should arise in order to give man his final form?

Or do you believe that God knew that random mutation through natural selection would ultimately result in the most “perfect” biological form, into which he would place the soul of man (and with his omniscience, he knew from the beginning what that biological form would be)?

Or perhaps God enginered nature in such a way that the natural forces would “naturally” select the appropriate mutations to result in the first man?

Or other options???


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