Statesboro, GA, USA
The point is the importance of the fossils that we do have, not the fossils we don't have ... In Darwin's time, there weren't any transitions (if I understand correctly) beyond Archaeopteryx. Today however, there are many transitions.
"The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory" (Darwin, The Origin of Species)
Are the so-called transitions you mentioned "truly enormous"? I don't think what was anticipated by Darwin is what we've seen. Of course paleontology is slow business, but what has been found (by way of possible transitions) is still very little and plauged by subjectivity and limited analysis. More about that in a bit ...
""Forms transitional between species can be observed today, and can be inferred to have existed in the past. Nevertheless, the net result is very far from a seamless tapestry of form that would allow an investigator to read the Tree of Life simply by finding the intermediates- living and extinct- that in principle connect all species. On the contrary, biologists are much more impressed by the discreteness of organic form, and the general absence of intermediates." (paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, The Crucible of Creation, 1998)
From these quotes, and others like them, my case is made that inconclusivity is still a live option scientifically speaking, regarding the fossil record. I'm not saying you can't believe what you do. I am saying that you can't pretend its a slam dunk.
Archaeopteryx is one of the most important fossils that marks the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. It was strong evidence on its own. But it is no longer on its own.
In addition to the "jerky" and sparse appearance of fossils that could be called transitional, when a much more robust demonstration of common ancestry should have been expected according to Darwin himself ... you have the problem of subjectivity and limited analysis. If the Duck-billed Platypus can have both mammalian and bird-like features, and yet be no transition between mammals and birds (which, according to evolutionary theory did not come through the same lineage), how can we be sure ancient "transitionals" are not also mere oddities of anatomy? There are more than a handful of examples where similar homology has been shown to be genetically disparate (both genes and geology have shown very striking likenesses to be quite unrelated). Consider the following clip about homology, and what it can and cannot conclude ...
NeoDarwinism's Homology Problem
Jonathan Wells also wrote the following about homology:
"The concept of homology can thus function in several ways, which can be brought into sharper focus by placing them in the context of syllogisms:
A. Classical (morphological) view:
Premise 1 (Definition). Features are homologous if and only if they have similar structures.
Premise 2 (Empirical observation). A bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper have similar structures.
Conclusion. Therefore, a bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are homologous features.
A'. Darwin’s extension of the morphological view:
Premise 1 (Conclusion from classical view). A bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are homologous features.
Premise 2 (Proposed explanation). Features are homologous because they are inherited from a common ancestor.
Conclusion. Therefore, a bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are inherited from a common ancestor.
B. Post-Darwinian (phylogenetic) view:
Premise 1 (Definition). Features are homologous if and only if they are inherited from a common ancestor.
Premise 2 (Assumption? Empirical inference?). A bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are inherited from a common ancestor.
Conclusion. Therefore, a bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are homologous features.
Ironically, the post-Darwinian (phylogenetic) definition of homology undercuts one of Darwin’s own arguments for evolution, since it requires that common ancestry be established (or assumed) before features can be called homologous. Logically speaking, it is a fallacy to infer evolution from phylogenetic homology: once one determines (or assumes) that features are homologous because of common ancestry, it would be circular reasoning to claim that homology demonstrates common ancestry."
No, he was not correct. Whales are only related to cows, not descended from them. A hippopotomus is a much closer relation to a whale, and is big and watery
Big and "watery"??
but whales are not descended from hippos either. Whales are not descended from any modern animal.
Okay, well then Berlinski was basically correct to assume that a cow might be a good analagy of a land dweller that had to take on all the morphological changes necessary to evolve into a whale. Take a hippo if you wish, I don't think the differences are any less staggering.
That is why the fossil record is the only true evidence about the lineage from which whales come.
And the fossil record is precisely where there is next to nothing reflecting the kinds of radical changes necessary throughout a common line of descent.
Why didn't you say anything about those leftover leg parts in whales?
Because a few disconnected bones that are presumed to be the remnant of "legs" have been sadly subjected to the same kind of fallacious subjectivism as much of homology has been in the history of Darwinism.
About Ambulocetus ... like the Duck billed platypus ... mere subjective intuitive connection cannot establish that a whale evolved from it. It is still in many regards light-years away, and doesn't look a darned thing like a whale. The fact that a mammal travels in water and on land does not make it a transition. It may be, but there's much more work to be done, if the inconclusivity of homology has taught us anything.
The other mistake is speaking in terms of "a whale and a cow (even though cow is incorrect to begin with). It gives the impression that a given "cow" would be experiencing massive change, which is not true. Evolution is small-scale change. Little changes over generations and generations make their difference, and added up over millions and millions of years, they make a big difference.
Bingo, I never said otherwise. What I am saying is that the fossil record does not reflect anywhere near most of, or even one percent of one percent of all the "little changes". We have a grossly different image here, and a grossly different snap-shot there with some similarities. But similarities are nothing new even among genetically disparate creatures. Some foot prints in Atlanta and some in Beijing do not prove a walking visit. (I have been there though, twice. )
Unfortunately you’re absolutely wrong.
Everything I’ve written in this thread is 100% compatible with Darwin’s mechanism – natural selection. In that regard I agree completely with Dawkins and Gould. Where I part company with Dawkins, and to a lesser degree Gould is with regard to the mechanism of change.
Sorry, I misunderstood you. It wasn't clear what you had in mind. It still isn't really. What other mechanisms of change, than genetic mutations, have been scientifically tested?
The actual mechanics – the nuts and bolts of how the changes occurred are a minor part of Darwin’s theory.
Speaking of sheer hypotheses that have been offered, your statement might be true. But the established aspect of the scientific theory, ie that genetic mutation can produce small-scale biological change, seems to rely soley on this 'minor' part. As scientifically established mechanisms, I don't believe what you're saying is true. I am hitherto unaware of any. And so I have opportunity to learn something. Let me hear it.
It’s not a crude relativity Stephen, it’s an absolutely valid comparison, life on earth went from dinosaurs and no primates to no dinosaurs and oodles of primates in the same length of time that it went from soft bodied organisms to the forefathers of the major animal groups.
Grinch, the difference is, one involved the emergency of all the major phyla, the other didn't. Presumably mammals existed alongside these dinosaurs, if not primates. You seem to be overstating the similarity of evolutionary accomplishment in my opinion, though admittedly both examples of evolution are quite incredible to me.
Bologna – Sorry Stephen but that’s just plain wrong. The oldest fossil bi-valve organism was discovered in rocks dating back 542 million years, very early in the Cambrian. The Emu bay shale and Burgess shale both contain evidence of more advanced organisms and proof that the “explosion” was still in full flow, the latter being some 37 million years older than the first fossils. Even latter fossil evidence shows a continuation of diversity and the “explosion” throughout the Cambrian period and beyond. Where did you get the 10 million year figure from?
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very busy 70 million years or so in evolutionary terms but there are simple reasons for that, and more than enough time for the changes in flora and fauna to occur.
Most references to the "explosion" say around 30 million years, though Samuel A. Bowring wrote that the appearance of all the major phyla was "unlikely to have exceeded 10 million years" in his "Calibrating Rates of Early Cambrian Evolution," Science 261 (1993).
At any rate when the history of multicellular organisms is some 600 million years, and considering the diversity that appeared at the CE, even this would be somewhat small.
OK, let’s set aside evolution for a second. Where do you believe that the organisms in the late Cambrian came from?
If you're asking for a mechanism I can't say. If you're asking for a reasonable explanation (evolution or no), it is Intelligent Design, and in some fashion or another the interposition of miraculous creation. It probably bristles with your scientism; But still I spy how a naturalistic philosophy must dictate biological grandualism, no matter how unlikely it might look. In that regard alone, like religion, it stems from other than scientific proof. Naturalism is a faith-in-something, even if that something happens to be nothing.
But as I've stated from the beginning of this thread, the lack of a specific scientific theory (I personally believe bilogical origins to be somewhat inscrutable due to our limitations and time), does not make the criticsm of an existing one invalid. My wife doesn't have to have the perfect slipper, in order to know that another one doesn't fit.
Don’t worry about explaining it scientifically – a simple explanation will do, just the barebones mechanics – we can get to the scientific validity of evolutionary theory and Intelligent Design theory later.
In this case, I don't think the mechanic has revealed his mechanics. We only hear the distant roar of the engine, smell the fumes, and see a few tracks most of which have faded away. I really couldn't tell you how those guys down at the Honda dealership put in my new transmission, but I can tell you it wasn't by throwing in random pieces of scrap metal.