Some thoughts on Evolution and Missing Links in the Fossil Record - What is Science telling us?
The Evidences for Evolution
I love science. I recall growing up and taking different science classes, and being fascinated by every one. It helps us to understand the world we live in, and keep track of what is observably true in our world. Its interesting to note that there is also a philosophy applied to science and to understand that this is the means in which the information comes to us from the scientists themselves. Science is one thing, Philosophy is quite another, when it comes to beliefs and facts. Thus, its always wise to fully understand where a given scientist or scientists is coming from when they present their scientific findings they give to us. Its fair to say, that just about all science books are not just sharing facts, but different author's own held philosophies which are applied to the facts, then relayed with that interpretation applied. You never see a pause to say, "Now here is my take on what these facts must mean to us all, after applying my own beliefs and philosophy to it."
To take a person's philosophy AS fact when it is presented as fact can easily happen. If that philosophy is not correct in its analysis of the scientific facts then what? This has led me to look at many things with new and fresh eyes, and can uncover perhaps a deeper reason why so many errors have occurred in the past regarding science, even from very brilliant people. So, what about the evidences for Evolution, the facts, and what people are referring to as missing links?
So what are Evolutionary Missing Links?
Evolutionists believe that all plants and animals come from the same ancestry, or have a common ancestry. This of course includes human beings. Many, I have found don't like the term macro evolution, but for my purposes here, I want to make clear that it only means that the higher forms life evolved from the lower forms of life and that this happened over multi-millions of years. That is basically the conclusion that Darwin came to, based on his observations. Macro evolution only means anything in this conversation, in my opinion, because it literally reflects what is meant by what Darwin talks about, vs. what we see around us everyday. I do believe in evolution, in that we see small changes taking place over time, even if some of those small changes go back and forth. There simply is no denying those changes are occurring around us. Its scientifically observable. Many evolutionists will agree and acknowledge that the fossil record (as studied by paleontology) does not reveal such a finely "graded series" of animals forms, in what would be proper time sequences. In other words, the very fossils we would expect to see if Darwin were correct in his theory, should be in the ground. Those fossils that should be in the ground but are not, are called missing links. Whether that means they are just not found yet, or not showing up because they are not there are two obvious explanations.
Charles Darwin himself, recognized this to be a problem, even a serious problem for the theory of evolution. Darwin said in On the Origin of Species, "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" (p 152). Notably, Darwin hoped that as time went by, that these missing links would surely be found to substantiate the theory. This has not been the case. One can't help but to feel badly for Darwin to some degree, but this takes me back to what I was stating earlier, that even very smart scientists apply a held philosophy, even a philosophy of science to the actual factual findings that are indisputable. Its the philosophy of science that tells us all "what the science means." Again, the only problem with that, is that it is actually science AND philosophy being taught then, and a particular philosophy at that. I am sure that if he could go back, he may not be so quick to jump the gun with what the science he observed "must mean."
A Century and a Half Later, after Darwin
As expected, millions of fossils have been found in the last century and a half. What wasn't expected, is that of those found, the missing links from back then are still missing today. Not only that, some of the fossils that were "transitional species" that had been found, have since been ruled out as being transitional species. What does this mean to us? At the very least, it means that we have even less evidence for evolution (and I will add Macro or Darwinian Evolution there) than we had previously. To those that agreed for so long with Darwin, they are having to rethink their own views now based on the latest science and facts. The scientific record is actually more bleak than a century and half ago when the theory began to become more popular. How disappointing for so many people.
What a learning experience this has been, and the more we learn and the more time that goes by, we are all the more enlightened with the truth of the world and universe we live in, whatever it may be. Some have said there is a trade secret of paleontology, and that is that there is an extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil records. Its rather persistent as well.
The examples we see in textbooks, turn out to be inferences and not due to the facts of what we see in the last century and a half of fossil finding. Is evolution a process of constant change, or is there some myth intertwined? Is science just about the facts, as many present it to be, or is there more going on, like applying one's own held beliefs and philosophies to the science and facts? If there is philosophy being applied, I wish we could all be made aware of that given scientists philosophy as it means a great deal. Some may have never really thought about this before, but it makes sense and is rather interesting if you think about it. I have to admit that I have been naïve, and always thought science was just about the facts, repeatable and observably true things. I feel fortunate to understand that it isn't always the case, and understand there are many different philosophies out there that could all be applied to the repeatably observably true facts we do see in the universe.
Having our eyes wide open to everything, helps everyone overall in their understanding of the beautiful world and universe we live in. I think that is a wonderful thing, but perhaps that is just my own philosophy talking there.
Stasis and Sudden Appearance
The two features that are inconsistent with gradualism are stasis and sudden appearance. That comment is based on what we do observe in the history of fossil species.
Stasis simply means that a given species does not seem to indicate any directional change during their time on the earth. In other words, they appear into the fossil record looking one way, and by the time we see them disappear they look very much the same as when they showed up.
Sudden appearance is referring to how a species doesn't arise gradually on the scene based on the history of fossil findings. In any given local area, you don't find that there was any kind of steady transformation of its ancestors. There is an appearance, an "all at once", as it were. Not only that, it is fully formed when we observe it based on fossil findings.
Fossils are the only kind of real evidence we have of what has actually, literally happened in the past in regards to evolution. Darwin's theory relied on this evidence, and hoped for the best. Does the facts we do have before us, have other theories that would explain those facts? Another way to put it, is there anything else that has been suggested that would allow for the facts we do observe in science up to this point and over the last century and a half? We have seen things suggested that have not been verified, and for those that want the truth of the matter, whatever it is, must take these things into consideration.
There are explanations of the missing links, and there are other responses to those explanations. I hope to share more of that in another hub in the future. The facts remain however, and I am so curious what others think of what science has found thus far.
Do you believe in Evolution as Darwin presented it?
© 2011 Paula