There Are Not Enough Transitional Fossils

Whenever we see creationists complaining that there are no transitional fossils to support the idea of evolution, we always link to this Wikipedia article: List of transitional fossils. And more are found all the time — for example, this appeared yesterday at the PhysOrg website: Newly described fossil whale represents intermediate stage between foot-powered and tail-powered swimming.

As a result of all the fossil evidence that keeps piling up, sophisticated creationists have been forced to take a different approach. We see that today in the latest effort from the Discovery Institute. This just appeared at their creationist blog: Paleontologist Günter Bechly: What We Mean by the Missing Transitional Fossil Forms. It was written by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

The thing begins with an embedded podcast — which we haven’t looked at — beneath which Klinghoffer says:

It’s from a Polish group, the En Arche Foundation, which has done fine translating of work by proponents of intelligent design.

With a pedigree like that, it’s gotta be good. Klinghoffer tells us:

Dr. Bechly makes some very helpful points.

Ooooooooooooh! He’s talking about Discoveroid “senior fellow” Günter Bechly, one of our favorite Discoveroids. What does his podcast say? Klinghoffer continues:

For one, he distinguishes between two meanings of “transitional” fossil forms and identifies the problem these forms pose for Darwinism.

There are “two meanings”? We didn’t know that. Klinghoffer explains:

Certainly, we find organisms that are “morphologically intermediate,” bearing resemblances to organisms that came before and others that came later. [Those are transitionals!] What we don’t find is the smooth curve of change expected by Darwinian theory, a “fossil lineage that shows a gradual transition from one form into the other.”

Aha –although we do have some so-called transitionals, we don’t have a fossil from every generation that ever existed. What about the gaps between the transitionals? Günter has a good point! And you know what’s in those gaps, don’t you? That’s right — it’s the God of the gaps. Or as the Discoveroids say, the designer of the gaps.

Klinghoffer finishes with this:

The record of abrupt appearances, “explosions” (not just the famous Cambrian explosion), “revolutions,” etc., is not the exception but the rule. [Gasp!] Given conventional evolutionary assumptions, this should not be the case!

Once again, dear reader, the Discoveroids have utterly crushed your Darwinist illusions. How much longer will it be before you abandon evolution and succumb to the logic of intelligent design?

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27 responses to “There Are Not Enough Transitional Fossils

  1. Michael Fugate

    Günter is just lying; given his background he can’t not know that a “smooth” transition is not expected – that organisms are a mix of ancestral and derived characters.

  2. I’d suggest that even one transitional form is enough. Let’s just mention the diversity among the order Carnivora, or among the class of birds.

  3. I am currently reading “Evolution’s Slam Dunk” about the Reptile to Mammal transition. Plenty of transitionals in there!

  4. He is st00pidly catering to his base of dim ones. Anyone who as looked into the process of fossilization would know the chances of making any particular fossil are huge against it, then there are the odds of finding it!! The fact there are any is awesome.

  5. I agree with @TomS. However spotty, and uncertain in position relative to the line of descent, under separate creation none of the more or less intermediate forms what have any reason for existing.

  6. Michael Fugate

    One wonders, what do most of the DI staffers think of Behe’s “God of the Gaps” beneficial mutations? He seems to claim that everything fits with descent with modification, but only that anything “new” requires God’s hand.

  7. @PaulB uncharistically doesn’t get creacrap today: “under separate creation …..”
    How do you mean? Intermediate forms were separatedly created as well. As for the reason, there is always god’s mysterious ways.

  8. I always thought that a lack of intermediate species was only a problem for YE creationists. Since ID does accept the hundreds of millions of years, they shouldn’t have any problem with intermediate lifeforms. In their mind evolution just needs divine help on a molecular level.
    Am I wrong? Or is this another example for ID moving ever closer to the world of Ken Ham?

  9. It isn’t just a question of fossils.
    There are plenty of intermediate species of extant animals and plants to pose a problem for anti-evolution.
    Taxonomy presents a very complex pattern to life. The only known explanation for the “tree of life” is descent with modification.

  10. I just remembered, Behe accepts common descend. So he would expect to find intermediate species, whereas the Meyers, Klinghoffers and Bechlys have to deny them.

  11. They are still playing this game.

    They say you don’t have any transitional fossils. You show a lot of transitional fossils. Instead of admiting they are wrong, they say “no, I was saying that you don’t have ENOUGHT transitional fossils.”

    Unless you present the fossils of all animals that ever existed, they would never admit they are wrong. They will never admit they are wrong. Never.

    What is the name of this game, again?

  12. @HANS435, Behe is unusual among ID proponents in accepting (at least I think he does) overall common descent. Event reserves for God the role of making constructive mutations happen, since he maintains that all naturally occurring mutations are destructive. The rest of them believe in separate creation of different taxa (which can then evolve further), but are completely vague as to how different taxa ought to be, in order for us to infer that they had been created separately. In the US, ID proponents are generally Old Earth creationists, although creationists of all kinds use their work for intellectual cover. In the UK, ID seems to be a busted flush, but those who did for a while promote ID over here were biblical literalist YEC.

  13. @HANS435, Meyer makes great play of what he misrepresents as the sudden appearance of phyla in the Cambrian explosion. But there is no reason why this should even be a specially big deal, unless the phyla are allowed to radiate. I’m beginning to think that attempting to construct a coherent accountof what Meyer calls the “orchard” or “polyphyletic” alternative to universal common descent is a fool’s errand

  14. Michael Fugate

    Two predictions Meyer made:
    If a designing intelligence acted discretely in the history of life, the various subdisciplines of biology should show evidence of polyphyly.

    Maybe; Maybe not.
    Anyway there is no evidence against monophyly.

    The fossil record, in particular, should show evidence of discrete infusions of information into the biosphere at episodic intervals as well as a top-down, rather than bottom-up, pattern of appearance of new fossil forms.

    What like new genes?
    We discussed the whole issue of why phyla can be traced back in time. They would have been “buds” on the “sapling” of life in the Cambrian and are major, lower branches on the “tree” of life today.

  15. @Michael Fugate
    As I understand Meyer, he misunderstands the explanation by descent with modification for the pattern of a nested hierarchy.
    I gather that there is a widespread acceptance of the descent with modification for the Indo-European languages. That is, a lot of people understand that the Italic languages were distinguished from the Indo-Iranian languages (Latin is attested as being different from Sanskrit more than 2000 years ago) before the Romance languages and modern Indic languages (Bengali, HIndi, etc.) made their apearances.

  16. Although I suppose all extant species are transitional, my favorite is the mudskipper.

  17. @Hans is puzzled: “Am I wrong?”
    No, but you’re not right either. Concerning IDiocy there is nothing to be wrong or right about. IDiot minds have problems with intermediate lifeforms when it suits them. PaulB is a bit late at this party when he describes IDiocy as “attempting to construct a coherent account ….. is a fool’s errand”. These guys don’t care about coherence anymore than a cat cares about the well being of the mouse he/she has caught. Take this quote MichaelF provides:

    “a top-down, rather than bottom-up, pattern of appearance of new fossil forms.”
    What does this even mean?

  18. Michael Fugate

    What Meyer wants one to believe from that quote is that God created all the phyla first and then phyla diversified later, but within limits of the original phyla. It is almost exactly Ham’s view (except the total time involved) that a limited number of specially-created “kinds” were on the Ark and after the flood the kinds diversified, but once again with limits.

  19. @FrankB
    I think that they mean that the fossil record shows that the top-most taxa appear first. First the Domains, then the Kingdoms, and the last taxa to appear are Species.
    They think that evolution says that Species appear first, bottom up.

  20. Stephen Kennedy

    It is impossible to argue with creationists about transitional fossils. Each time you show them something like Tiktaalik or Archeopteryx or the Therapsids and explain that these are transitional fossils between fish and amphibians, reptiles and birds and reptiles and mammals they will respond that you have just created two more gaps in the fossil record for each fossil that you have found..

  21. Klinghoffer spins:
    “The record of abrupt appearances, “explosions” (not just the famous Cambrian explosion), “revolutions,” etc., is not the exception but the rule.”

    That could well be the case. A logical explanation is that rapid speciation would follow a mass extinction event. This would also answer the (bogus) question concerning “the missing transitional fossils”. Since speciation would occur rapidly after an extinction event, there would be relatively few individual organisms of any given species, so the odds of any paleontologist getting his or her hands on one of these species would be slim indeed.

    Regardless of what happens after an extinction event, just the regular ho-hum of eons of stable environmental conditions producing vast multitudes of fossils of every species yield very few found, studied, and named species. For a fossil to be found, it has to be exposed at the surface (except for drill cores). And at that, only a tiny percentage of found fossils get to a paleontologist. Think of all the millions of fossils sitting in shoe boxes in kids’ bedrooms, basements and garages. Kid grows up, moves out, mom cleans house, and the fossils get buried again for a few million years — this time, in a landfill. No wonder there are few fossils identified as “transitional”. I put the quote marks there because I agree with Douglas E above that all fossils are transitional.

    So, Klinghoffer and Bechly, if you think there are too few transitional fossils, do something about it! Get out there and do some discovering! After all, don’t you call yourselves the Discovery Institute?

  22. @TomS: “They think that evolution says that Species appear first, bottom up.”
    Wow, and I thought I’d seen it all.

    @StephenK: “It is impossible to argue with creationists about transitional fossils. ”
    Yeah, that’s my experience too. They always find excuses for “separate creation”.

    @RSG: “That could well be the case.”
    Exactly in the case of the Cambrian Non-Explosion it isn’t – the period lasted 20 million years at the least and perhaps even 50.

  23. Richard Staller

    The record of abrupt appearances, “explosions” (not just the famous Cambrian explosion), “revolutions,” etc., is not the exception but the rule. Given conventional evolutionary assumptions, this should not be the case!

    Prest-o chang-o, we therefore now have proof of a magic creator. I love how a creationist’s thinking always works backwards to get to the same result.

  24. Karl Goldsmith

    We have been here before where whales, turtles, ash trees just popped into existence fron nowhere.

  25. @Douglas E, thanks for posting the link to Attenborough’s too-cool mudskipper video (including the burp at 1:11, lol). Very transitional, absolutely.

  26. Douglas Swartzendruber

    @TSH – de nada

  27. Michael Fugate

    Another transitional whale fossil
    The pelvis and hindlimbs are disconnected from the sacrum and the posterior thoracic and lumbar vertebrae are elongated