the dilemma of transitional fossils
Has there ever been a more tortured topic in biology than transitional fossils? Despite museum collections overflowing with countless remains, creationists have developed the uncanny ability to either ignore a transitional remnant of an ancient creature or to start debating that the fossil is the wrong kind, it’s for the wrong animal and it’s likely a hoax by desperate “evolutionists” to prove their theory despite a total lack of solid evidence.
It’s exasperating. As in tear your hair out and slam your head against the nearest hard surface frustrating. How do you please people who are dead set in their idea that evolution is like some sort of gateway drug to atheism, who don’t even want to hear about any proof and if they stick around to hear you out, it’s only to find a way to discredit your evidence? Even if they need to alter the definition of evolution or resurrect its long discredited predecessor. You see, the real reason why creationists are dissatisfied with the transitional fossils we have is because they’re not the fossils they believe should be found according to their version of evolution.
Creationists have pretty much discarded modern evolutionary biology and Darwin’s core ideas (unless they hold something to use as ammo in disparaging the naturalist) and breathed new life into Lamarckian evolution, a backwards model of what really happens in the natural world. An important part of this outdated and incorrect idea is that evolution is about complexity and “lower forms of life” mysteriously adapt to their environment to become more complex. If you want to prove that a transitional fossil is truly what it is to a creationist, you need to be able to trace it back to primordial times and show step by step how it changed over millions of years.
And here’s where we have a problem. In reality, every organism is a living experiment that can fail in a dozen different ways. We see those failures in the fossil record as extinctions. For every evolutionary success story, there are a hundred failures which put the extinction rate at over 99%. How does one find transitional fossils and trace their lineage from an amoeba to modern day, step by step when 99 times out of 100, the species no longer exists? Extinctions weren’t a part of Lamarck’s idea which is one of the reasons why Darwin and his contemporaries shelved it almost immediately after it was suggested. But since creationists rely on Lamarck for attacks on evolution, they ignore extinctions and demand that paleontology traces lineages that don’t exist, then gleefully say: “see, those evolutionists are just making it up as they go.”
Theres also the rarity of fossils. For things to become fossilized, they need to have perfect soil and perfect weather conditions until theyre so far underground that neither scavengers or the elements can damage them. They also need to be resting somewhere they wouldn’t be affected by tectonic shift or earthquakes. Because fossils are so difficult to make, we know many species by just a few preserved remains. To specifically target and find a transitional fossil is a long and difficult task as the search for Tiktaalik illustrates. The transitional fossil was found in the exact sediment layers where it was predicted to be found and it looked like the scientists expected it to look. The search took five years and even that is amazingly fast.
For the last 150 plus years, creationists and their supporters announced that “Darwinism” was a dead end, that scientists refused to acknowledge it and evolution was on its deathbed. After they’ve spent so much time denying the theory despite growing evidence for it, the finding of Tiktaalik in accordance with how and where the theory of evolution would predict it to be found, became a case study in of how they’ve honed their ability to deny any proof to an art form.
Apparently someone called a Darwinist and identified only by his last name said that the fossil was of “poor quality,” it means that scientists touting the discovery of Tiktaalik lied. When you compare the remains of a 375 million year animal to an idealized chart of a tetra pod from 20 million years in the future, it’s paw-like fin looks incomplete. Oh and the citation for the quote on which they based their entire argument is on a password protected website which doesn’t actually show you the quote. So they ignore that part of the theory was confirmed by the find, compare it to the creature that was its descendant in the far future and they won’t let you see the quote on which they base their dismissal and its context. Yeah, that’s honest and objective.
Then, the same people have the gall to call scientists and evolutionary biologists dishonest and intellectually corrupt. Somebody call Dr. Freud, we’ve got a textbook case of projection here.