Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Darwin Day

If Chuck Darwin was around today, he'd be 200 years old. As it is, it's been a mere 150 years since he published Origin of the Species. Look how far we've come! Understanding where we've been helps us understand where we are and where we're going, and Darwin's research opened up that possibility for us. And, it was not without personal and professional risk to himself. So yay for courage in defense of intellectual freedom.

Regardless of whether you think Abraham used velociraptors as sheepdogs, or Jesus rode a triceratops through Jerusalem rather than a donkey, or Noah was a co-conspirator in a great fossil burying scheme, or the earth is only 6000 years old or your horoscope is true, today is a good day to learn more about a fascinating man and the theory that has done so much to improve your quality of life today.

Happy Darwin Day!


Linda said...

I tried to do my share without offending anyone at school by reading to my students about Darwin and discussing his ideas with kids in grades 3-5 this week. I think one kid--4th grade--had actually heard of Charles Darwin (or "Gas" as some of his boarding school friends supposedly called him. You see, he liked chemistry and his brother Erasmus was called "Ras", so the natural naming for the two was Ras and Gas. You know boys of a certain age liked that.) Peter Sis has a great, intensely illustrated biography of Darwin that I have shared all week. We have gotten some good discussions going after we got to evolution. Lots of misconceptions but also lots of disbelief that anyone ever thought differently about the world. Thanks for sharing. Happy Darwin Day.

Anonymous said...

I love science, but Darwin was human. All humans, including myself, are not perfect.

Darwin himself said that time will prove whether his theory on evolution holds true or not by the intermediate fossils found. The intermediate fossils connecting the species have not been found. In addition, the advancement in archeology is at the point where they should have been found by now.


If life had evolved into its wondrous profusion of creatures little by little, then one would expect to find fossils of transitional creatures which were a bit like what went before them and a bit like what came after. But no one has yet found any evidence of such transitional creatures. This oddity has been attributed to gaps in the fossil record which gradualists expected to fill when rock strata of the proper age had been found. In the last decade, however, geologists have found rock layers of all divisions … and no transitional forms were contained in them.[1]—Paleontologist Niles Eldredge

The reason for abrupt appearances and gaps can no longer be attributed to the imperfection of the fossil record as it was by Darwin when paleontology [the study of ancient life by means of the fossil record] was a young science. With over 200,000,000 catalogued specimens of about 250,000 fossil species, many evolutionist paleontologists … argue that the fossil record is sufficient.[2]—Lawyer W.R. Bird

The universal experience of paleontology is that while the rocks have continually yielded new and exciting and even bizarre forms of life … what they have never yielded is any of Darwin's myriads of transitional forms. Despite the tremendous increase in geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been discovered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as it was when Darwin was writing the Origin [of Species]. The intermediates have remained as elusive as ever and their absence remains, a century later, one of the most striking characteristics of the fossil record.[3]—Biochemist and molecular geneticist Michael Denton

First, and perhaps most important, is the first appearance of fossils. This occurs at a time called the "Cambrian." The fossils appear at that time in a pretty highly developed form. They don't start very low and evolve bit by bit over long periods of time. In the lowest fossil-bearing strata of all [the Cambrian], they are already there, and are pretty complicated in more-or-less modern form. This situation has troubled everybody from the beginning—to have everything at the very opening of the drama. The curtain goes up and you have the players on the stage already, entirely in modern costumes.[4]—Lawyer Norman Macbeth

The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches. ... A species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed.[5]—Paleontologist, evolution advocate, biologist, and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould

Intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic change, and this is perhaps the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory [of evolution].[6]—Charles Darwin

To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story—amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.[7]—Henry Gee

The creation account in Genesis and the theory of evolution could not be reconciled. One must be right and the other wrong. The story of the fossils agreed with the account of Genesis. In the oldest rocks we did not find a series of fossils covering the gradual changes from the most primitive creatures to developed forms, but rather in the oldest rocks, developed species suddenly appeared. Between every species there was a complete absence of intermediate fossils.[8]—Biochemist D.B. Gower

1 - Niles Eldredge, "Missing, Believed Nonexistent," The Manchester Guardian (November 26, 1978), 1.

2 - W.R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited (Nashville, Tn.: Thomas Nelson, Thomas Nelson Co., Nashville, 1991), 48.

3 - Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Chevy Chase, Md.: Alder and Alder, 1986), 162.

4 - Norman Macbeth, speech at Harvard University, September 24, 1983, quoted in L. D. Sunderland, Darwin's Enigma (1988), 150.

5 - Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History 86 (May 1977), 14.

6 - Charles Darwin, Origin of the Species, quoted in David Raup, "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum Bulletin (January 1979).

7 - Henry Gee, In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life (New York: The Free Press, 1999).

8 - D.B. Gower, "Scientist Rejects Evolution," Kentish Times [England] (December 11, 1975), 4.

Sorry, but I don't have a Blogger account. This is Julie Huey posting under "Anonymous."

SWE said...

Thank you, Aunt Linda! I am going to have to get my hands on that biography! The people at Charlie's Playhouse have a bibliography of books explaining evolution for kids, but I haven't had a good look at it yet. I do have their timeline, though, and will haul it out on a rainy day. Maybe tomorrow...

SWE said...

Thank you for checking in, Julie. There is a fair amount of research that directly addresses concerns about the fossil record. I will work on compiling some sources and annotating them for posting here.