Creationist Wisdom #888: Missing Links

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Altoona Mirror of Altoona, Pennsylvania, and they have a comments feature. The letter is titled Theory of evolution can be denied.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a preacher. It’s Pastor John Leatherman of the curiously-named Dry Run Independent Baptist Church of Duncansville, a borough of Altoona. We’ll give you a some excerpts from the rev’s letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Here we go!

In a recent letter to the editor, it was claimed that the theory of evolution cannot be denied. [Gasp!] A big problem for evolution is that it has never been observed, which is quite devastating since observations are vital for science. No one has ever witnessed one kind of animal in the process of changing into a totally different kind.

The rev is right! No one has ever seen an alligator turn into an aardvark! He says:

Their answer for this is that evolution happens so slowly that no one can see it happening. Still, some sort of active transitioning should be visible today. But not only that, there should be an abundance of evidence for this change in the fossil record.

Yeah, what about the fossil record? The rev tells us:

Darwin couldn’t find the transitions in his day but suggested that they would soon be found throughout the fossil record to vindicate his theory. Unfortunately, the missing link is still missing.

He’s found evolution’s weak spot, and he hammers away at it:

If evolution were true, there would be billions of fossilized, transitional intermediate forms of one kind of animal changing into another. Darwin’s “innumerable” transitions should have filled every rock layer.

So where are they? Let’s read on:

Darwin openly admitted these transitions were not there and called this the “most obvious and serious objection” (“Origin of the Species”). Darwin’s answer to this problem was the “extreme imperfection of the geological record,” i.e., scientists had not dug into the dirt enough. If they kept digging, he believed they would eventually find these missing links.

That’s not at all what Darwin said in Origin of the Species, Chapter 10: On the Imperfection of the Geological Record. The Sixth Edition is online here, so you’ll have to scroll down a lot to find it. Darwin’s chapter ends with this:

For my part, following out Lyell’s metaphor, I look at the geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept and written in a changing dialect. Of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved, and of each page, only here and there a few lines. Each word of the slowly-changing language, more or less different in the successive chapters, may represent the forms of life, which are entombed in our consecutive formations, and which falsely appear to have been abruptly introduced. On this view the difficulties above discussed are greatly diminished or even disappear.

The rev continues:

About 150 years have passed. There are about 100 million fossils in museums around the world. And there are fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than in Darwin’s day. [Huh?] And Darwin didn’t have any.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! If every animal that ever lived were fossilized, and if the geological record remained undisturbed throughout time, then everywhere we dig — including your back yard — we should find a vast layer of fossils providing a perfect record of gradual transitions. It should be fossils all the way down! So where are they?

Well, we know what bears do in the woods, but they also die there. Where are the uncountable millions of bear fossils? Similarly, why don’t we find hundreds of millions of buffalo fossils in the American West? They don’t exist either. Why?

It’s not that complicated. Fossilization is rare. Almost all dead animals are quickly devoured by scavengers, and whatever remains will be consumed by worms and then bacteria To be preserved, an animal needs to conveniently die in a bog, or a glacier, or maybe an avalanche. Such events are rare. And even if it were frequent, the geology must remain stable for millennia — but this doesn’t happen either.

At the end of his letter, the rev switches to a young-Earth argument, which he probably found at a creationist website like ICR — see 30 Years Later, the Lessons from Mount St. Helens . He says:

Evolution cannot correctly date the earth. [Hee hee!] In the early 1980s, a volcano erupted on Mount St. Helens. The lava dome expanded and finally cooled and solidified into rock in 1986 (starting the radiometric dating “clock”). But when these rocks were dated early in the year of 2000, they were dated as high as 2.8 million years old. The theory of evolution certainly can be denied.

That old clunker is discussed in the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims here.

So there you are, dear reader. Yet another preacher is convinced that the Earth is young and evolution never happened. He’s happy, we assume his flock are happy, and we’re happy too because we found his letter. Everybody wins!

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #888: Missing Links

  1. Steven Thompson

    “Run” is a dialectical word meaning “creek;” Rev. Leatherman is most likely pastor of a church near a dried-up creek, not a church that does a lot of dry runs. But I am curious about how evolutionists ended up with fewer than zero transitional fossils.

  2. I wish I could say this dimwitted idiot is really st00pid! But that is not true, it takes intelligence to invent class-A BS!!

  3. Or perhaps it’s a church of dry runts.

  4. In 1852, Herbert Spencer wrote an essay, “the Development Hypothesis”, beginning:
    “In a debate upon the development hypothesis, lately narrated to me by a friend, one of the disputants was described as arguing that, as in all our experience we know of no such phenomenon as the transmutation of species, it is unphilosophical to assume that transmutation of species ever takes place. Had I been present, I think that, passing over his assertion, which is open to criticism, I should have replied that, as in all our experience we have never known a species created, it was, by his own showing, unphilosophical to assume that any species ever had been created.”
    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Development_Hypothesis

    There is this recent book by Menno Schilthuizen,
    “Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution”
    Picador: New York, 2018
    which is about how studies in cities show evolution happening before our eyes.

  5. The incapability of the Leatherman to google “observed speciation” is remarkable. Also he apparently is not familiar with Canis Lupus Familiaris.

  6. And there is Wikipedia, which apparently has escaped his notice.

  7. And nearly every encyclopedia in existence for that last century.

    Of course Letherman could not be bothered to actually read a biology book since those were most likely printed by demons.

  8. It seems to me that there is an obligate for those who speak with the trappings of authority to take care about what they say.

  9. Zetopan is right. No biology book or evolution text would convince the fundie creationists (or the IDiots). Nor would a visit to a real museum that exhibits horse, human or whale evolution, or displays Tiktaalik. They want to see the fossil that looks both like a frog and monkey, and those magnificent dinosaur fossils were put there by the flood. Amusing for us on one level, frustrating on the political level. Ascendancy of science denial may well cause our own extinction as a species.

  10. We don’t need a Leatherman to know which way the wind blows.

    Since the pastor’s cognitive issues with understanding what a transitional fossil or species might actually look like are so wide of the mark, his objections to the fossil record barely warrant refute.

    But it’s worth pointing out that 6-year old kids can recognise a transitional fossil. Neil Shubin demonstrated as much when he showed a fossil cast of Tiktaalik to a bunch of first-graders, and got them to describe the various features. There’s a Youtube video of it, somewhere.

    So it’s official: 6-year old’s are smarter than creationists. Feel free to rub that in their faces!

    In the old days, before I heeded the Curmudgeon’s wisdom about not engaging with creationists, I used to invite plenty of them to Melbourne Museum to look at transitional fossils. Not a single one took me up on it.

    Just as an aside: if man evolved from leather, why is there still leather?

  11. @ChrisS is lazy: “There’s a Youtube video of it, somewhere.”
    He’s also nice and funny plus I slept well tonight, so here it is.

    Now compare this with some random creacrap textbook written for the same kids.

  12. bewilderbeast

    Hilarious how the old codger doesn’t realise he himself is transitional. And I would argue he’s also a fossil. There’s one in your mirror, your holiness!

  13. 8 replies, all hostile to him. And now 9, with mine: Perhaps Pastor Leatherman is confused as to what an evolutionary transition looks like. Each transitional species is viable in its own right, otherwise it could not have evolved, but by comparison with earlier and later species we can see the progressive adoption of new features.

    Go to the Smithsonian website, and you will see a magnificent array of fossils intermediate between prehuman apes and humans. Go to https://evolution-outreach.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s12052-009-0135-2 (free download) and you will see an array of some of the many intermediate fossils between Eocene land animals and today’s whales, as presented by .one of the world’s leading experts.

    As for the allegedly discordant Mount St Helens date, that has been discussed at length elsewhere, and I enncourage anyoneinterested to go to http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD013_1.html and links therein.

  14. Desnes Diev

    “There are about 100 million fossils in museums around the world. And there are fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than in Darwin’s day. [Huh?]”

    The clueless reasonning of this pastor could be: “if you have two fossils you have one gap, with three fossils you have two gaps, with four fossils three gaps… with 100 million fossils then you have 99 999 999 gaps. Checkmate evilutionists!”
    More probably, he read that on a(nother) creationist website and repeats it. Why try to think when you could save intellectual energy by parroting?

  15. fewer examples of evolutionary transitions
    It’s difficult to make sense olf this. In Darwin’s day, let’s say the 19th century, perhaps the only transitonal fossis were Archaeopteryx and “Java man”.
    I sometimes get the impression that the creationists think of a transitional as a creature which does not have standing on its own, but only has its existence as a transition. But every living thing lives its own life, coping with its environment, belonging to a species of its own. This is what evoltionary theory said in Darwin’s day, and says today, and I don’t know of any scientist who suggested anything else.
    Of course, we are all familiar with the response from creationists to clarify what they’re talking about; silence.

  16. TomS, spot on. I recently watched a creationist video in which the speaker said that the fossil record disproves evolution, because every fossil discovered represents a species in its own right, and therefore it is not a transitional form. Yet the essence of evolutionary theory is that every organism, including transitional forms, should be viable and a strict Darwinian, of whom there are now very few if any, would require that it be more viable than its predecessor.

    Famously, the first full Archaeopteryx fossil (as opposed to just the odd feather) was found in between the publication of the first and the fourth editions of On the Origin of Species.

  17. Michael Fugate

    Species themselves are a mix of ancestral and derived characters; the sharing of characters both ancestral and derived is the basis for much of systematics. Unshared characters make up only a small part of the whole. Creationists, for instance, try to make hay out of the ~2% of the genome not shared with Pan and ignore the 98% shared.

  18. There is so much shared through the world of life. Every living thing is made up mostly of the CHNOPS elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Very little helium, argon, californium, nutronium. – or “dark matter”.
    As Galileo wrote:
    “Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small.” (See Wikiquote.org)