Subject: FAQ: Fossil and creation Date: 30 Oct 91 00:05:05 GMT Topics: }There are gaps in

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From: Jim Meritt Subject: FAQ: Fossil and creation From: jwm@STDB.JHUAPL.EDU (Jim Meritt) Date: 30 Oct 91 00:05:05 GMT Message-ID: <9110300005.AA03792@stdb.jhuapl.edu> Newsgroups: talk.origins Topics: }There are gaps in fossil record } Oldest living things }Man and dinosaurs coexisted. }The suddenness with which major changes }Many extinctions lack obvious reasons. }"carcasses deposited in icy mucky dumps" }evidence of rapid removal and deposition of soil, forest in arctic. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- }- There are gaps in fossil record where you'd expect intermediate forms. There are more fossils than Creationists will admit. Many intermediate forms are known--for example, the development of the mammal skull characteristics from the therapsida of Permian time. What gaps remain can be explained by erosion, lack of proper conditions for fossilization, the punctuated equilibrium model, or simply not looking in the right places yet. } - Oldest living things, bristlecone pines, are younger than 5000 years. Sure. In fact, if you go for grove instead of individual tree and match similiar growth rigns (similiar events in overlapping lifespans) it goes well over 11,000 years. }- Man and dinosaurs coexisted. (Creationist Institute of California). Refuted. Institute discredited and licence (to grant science degrees) recently revoked. BTW: Those "footprints" in the Paluxy river bed are NOT human. A simple observation of the tracks reveal that while an arch is present forward of the heel, there are only three toes. If a track is observed which is uneroded, webbing is visible between the toes. A special on NOVA allowed these tracks to be visible to millions. Dr. Walter Brown, now director of the Center for Scientific Creation in Phoenix, AZ. Brown, may fall back on a rather novel technique that he has employed in the past -- denying having ever supported the idea. Brown first used this tactic not long after the Paluxy River tracks were shown conclusively to be either dinosaur tracks or erosion marks. When asked for his opinion, Brown claimed that he had NEVER supported the Paluxy River tracks. However, he was forced to 'fess up when shown the transcript of a local Ontario TV program, "Speaking Out," when he stated that Paluxy River was very good evidence for creationism. }1) The suddenness with which major changes in pattern occurred and the } virtual absence of any fossil remains from the period in which they } were alleged to be evolving. This can be explained by punctuated evolution, in this regard it is important to note that not all suggested lineages in the fossil record have such abrupt changes and gaps. There are several fossil sucessions that record critical evolutionary steps and at a fine taxinomic resolution. The development of the modern horse is a fairly complete sucession, as is the development of mammal skull characteristics from the therapsida of Permean time. Other examples of pretty gradual evolution? Instantaneous changes of taxa, on a geologic time scale, between long periods of stability does not pose insurmountable problems for neo-evolution since it is genetic equillibrium that allows long stable periods and stressing the gene pool into metastable states that allows for punctuated evolution. }- Many extinctions lack obvious reasons. The "obvious reasons" are obvious to him, and do not necessarily have anything to do with reality (i.e. 'cause he don't see it don't make it gone) This may be a problem for compiling a history of life, but the existence of extinctions at all poses problems for anyone claiming life has teleology. If a divine creator is calling the shots then finding extinctions casts doubt on the perfection of his plan, or even the existance of a plan. As for finding causes for extinctions, this is going to be an area of some debate for years to come. The ideas that have been advanced find some common collapse of habitat that is consistant with evolutionary biology. The suddeness, or seeming catastrophe of proposed events do not really threaten uniformatarianism because they are changes of rate, but not of process. The "Lack of Obvious Reasons", may overstate the problem, for a series of events such as asteriod impact, continental colissions, destruction of barriers between habitats, all have been advanced and all point to the destruction of habitat and with it mass extinctions. } - "carcasses deposited in icy mucky dumps" } - evidence of rapid removal and deposition of soil, forest in arctic. }No, the evidence plainly points to the removal of large areas of soil and }forest along with their rapid deposition and freezing in the artic... now }what besides a tidal surge of immense proportions would do that... and if }such a surge wiped the face of Asia and Alaska, why is it unlikely to extend }it to Mesopotania, where it would have depositied it's debris in the vicinity }of Ararat! Severe temperature changes are known to be responsible for great catastrophic mortalities. Such mortalities are typically associated with unusually cold spells or severe winters. Severe storms are also responsible for catastrophic kills and quick seimentary deposition. During hurricanes and other severe stormes, bottom sediment can be stirred up to a considerable depth and easily bury animals. There is absolutely no question that modern day catastrophes are constantly occuring and that many of these can result in catastrophic kills and rapid deposition of sediment. In short, fossils and fossil graveyards are being formed today. You may be correct in assuming that the evidence of rapid deposition you cite is generally evidence for some catastrophic mode of formation, but you are incorrect in assuming that only the Genesis Flood can account for such deposits. Especially in the face of the great amount of other evidence in direct conflict with the Genesis Flood hypothesis, evidence of slow deposition, evidence in coral reef formations, evaporite deposits, fossil lake deposits, glacial deposits, and desert deposits. When we look at the sedimentary rock record we find some deposits that bear evidence of having been formed by moving water and could have been formed in flood water, but by no means are all rocks like that, in fact there are a considerable number of formations that could not have formed in surging flood waters at all. }Creationism deserves equal time }Evolutionists themselves admit they have no proof }evolutionists themselves have admitted to flaws in their arguement. }some scientists don't agree }Evolution isn't a science }Life is too complex to have happened by chance. }Evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. }Methods of dating the earth are inaccurate. }Radioactive dating can't be calibrated. }radioactive decay rates did not remain constant }the creation of matter or energy is not now taking place, _______________________________________________________________________ }- Creationism deserves equal time because evolution is only a theory. But a theory in the scientific sense of the word, meaning that it explains a wide range of phenomena and that there's lots of data to back it up. Creationism, on the other hand, isn't even a theory; it's an assertion. "Equal time" in what? In schools in general, or in science classes? Science classes are suppose to teach science. There are two criteria for this: 1. It must be falsifiable i.e. there must be some way to show that the theory is incorrect. The theory must be testable. Evolution is, in that there can be things specified which, if they can be verified, would disprove evolution. Creationism allows no such test. 2. It must be able to make predictions i.e. it must be able to tell you how something WILL occur (and then you must be able to verify the accuracy of the prediction). The theories which compose evolution are useful in this regard in that they have made predictions concerning population densities, physiologies, chemistries, fossil find forecasts,... Creationism does none of this. At best, its "predictions" are either in the past (already happened) or unverifiable. }- Evolutionists themselves admit they have no proof. That is because science doesn't "prove": it shows possibilities and disproves things and makes predictions. Science doesn't deal in proof. It deals in evidence. Evolution has LOTS of evidence. } Twenty objections admitted: evolutionists themselves have admitted } to flaws in their arguement. Isn't it nice to have a system that you can critize and test? The only system which has no flaws is one in which those flaws are either defined away or ignored. We call this "dogma". The presence of these flaws reveils the presence of active investigation into the limits. We call this "science". } Scientists condemn evolution: some scientists don't agree etc. .... Then the same argument disproves Creationism, too, since many (most?) theologians don't agree with it. What else has 100% concurrence? Gravity is not 100% concurred with, either. }- Evolution isn't a science because you can't observe things that happened } millions of years ago. Buy you can observe the RESULTS of things that happened millions of years ago. And then, by using basic scientific knowledge, extrapolate back. And by observing trends within the period you can derive general rules which may then be used for predictions into the future. Just the historical observation is not evolution. }Evolution is not so much a science as it is a philosophy or an attitude }of mind... it is manifestly impossible to prove they (evolutionary }changes of the past) actually did take place. I suppose that, if he saw a open square in the wall and pieces of glass by it and a rock sitting amongst the glass that he could draw no conclusions about the possible presence in the past of a window... }- Life is too complex to have happened by chance. Another is the "randomness argument". What is "random", anyway? We are never told. It says that self organization cannot occur because the process is "blind" and "random" that is supposed to drive it. Never mind that the system has a finite number of states it can occupy and its history can constrain its future states. This borrows from the thermodynamic argument the confusion over entropy and open system states. The theory of evolution doesn't say it did happen by chance. This argument completely ignores natural selection. Please read: Life in Darwin's Universe G. Bylinsky, Omni Sept 79 The Evolution of Ecological Systems May, Scientific American, Sept 1978 Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life Dickerson, Scientific American, Sept 1978 The Evolution of the Earliest Cells Schopf, Scientific American, Sept 1978 The Evolution of Multicellular Plants and Animals Valentine, Scientific American, Sept 1978 It is easy to get VERY complicated systems containing a tremendous amount of information starting from very simple, low information systems. Two methods: 1. fractal structures - start with a very simple rule and repeat it over and over and over. The resulting structure can be (usually is) VERY complicated, but the formation equations can be very, very simple. And the universe has had a long time to do so. Example: Look at a snowflake. 2. chaos - You can get very, very complicated systems if you use nonlinearities in the progression. That is why weather forecasting doesn't work. Complexity does not imply design. Recursion or nonlinearity work quite well. And the word is recursive and very non-linear. }- Evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Not true. The 2nd law of thermodynamics applies only to closed systems. The Earth is not a closed system. That if thermo could somehow forbid evolution, then it would also forbid babies from growing to be adults, and parents from having children. In fact, we are agents of entropy: we organize our bodies at the expense of the organization of our environment, which we digest and burn. Creationists often (ab)use the Second Law of Thermodynamics, apparently not realizing that it explicitly states, "...in a closed system...". By definition, a closed system cannot contain anything external to itself. A Creator who is entirely bounded by His own creation seems non-sensical, and I can't imagine that many creationists would accept such a limited God anyway. Thus, God and Thermodynamics are mutually exclusive; to invoke the Second Law is to claim that God left!!!!! A subsequent portion of the outline again invokes entropy, stating that "all species are degenerating, since disorder must increase". Ignoring the Theological arguments for the moment, we reiterate, "...in a CLOSED system...". Earth is hardly a closed system. To find a *LARGE* source of negative entropy, one need only look upward on a clear day. The sun delivers approximately 1 horse-power per square meter (sorry for the mixed units, I don't recall the conversion factor to joules/sec) of free energy to the biosphere. Likewise, meteors shower us with several tonnes per day of extra mass, some of it in pre-biotic form - i.e. complex carbon molecules such as formaldehyde and others. Larger objects such as comets and Icarus class asteroid strikes transfer huge amounts of mass, energy, and momentum to the earth. Orbital perturbations and decay, friction from the moon's gravity, and radioactive decay, all add to the total. Sorry, entropy as a disproof of cosmological and biological evolution simply won't wash. Spread the word. [It appears that, more recently, the creationists have been hammered enough with the inapplicability of the Second Law of Theormdynamics that they have modified it slightly -- the reference is now to a closed *universe*, not a closed Earth; the rest of the argument remains essentially unchanged.] Creationists say that systems cannot self-organize because that would violate the second law of thermodynamics, never mind that such systems are not at equillibrium and are open systems. }- Methods of dating the earth are inaccurate. Exactly what is meant by "inaccurate" leaves much to be desired. Please see the August 1989 Scientific American article on the Age of the Earth. (page 90, by Lawrence Badash, "The Age-of-the-Earth Debate") } - Radioactive dating can't be calibrated. You are in this case Dead Wrong. Dating of ancient rocks by radiometric methods (e.g., Uranium-Lead, Potassium-Argon, Rubidium- Strontium) does NOT, repeat NOT depend upon our having available a sample of known age to calibrate the method. Indeed, this is PRECISELY WHY these methods are so useful. The only calibration required is the measurement of decay rates, which can be done IN THE LABORATORY. Furthermore, these methods can be used in ways that do NOT, repeat NOT depend on any assumptions about the initial amounts of the various isotopes involved. Please read the section in Chapter 17 of Strahler's book, _Science and Earth History_. It is true that Carbon-14 dates must be calibrated for variations in the amount of 14C produced in the atmosphere; however, the corrections are small (~10%) and affect only recent ages (~50,000 years). This method is not used to date rocks. - The guy who thought that radioactive dating required knowing the initial amount of lead. He apparently had never heard of isotopes, either. He made a big thing about a science he was a master of: he wrote its name on the blackboard: "numerical analysis". He indicated how this allowed him to "proved" that radiodating was wildly inaccurate. No mention of the fact that the earth was still real old. He encouraged people to go buy a book on numerical analysis: he gave its name. He didn't bother to encourage people to buy a book on dating, perhaps because he hadn't read one himself ? } radioactive decay rates did not remain constant, so you can't }accurately date things If radioactive decay rates were to change, the structure of stars would be affected. But even very distant stars (whose light has been travelling towards us for very long times) have the structure that is predicted by theory assuming present decay rates. They do not have the structure that would be predicted for them if the decay rates were many orders of magnitude larger. There are two major kinds of radioactive decay, alpha decay and beta decay. They are due to different physical processes and are governed by different natural constants. If the decay rates were to change in time, this would produce discrepant dates in rocks that can be dated independently by several different decay series. These discrepancies are not observed. If the decay rates were large enough to produce 4.5 billion years' of apparent ageing in only 6000 years of wall-clock time, the decay rates would have had to have been millions to billions of times as large when Adam and Eve were around as now. The heat generated would have melted the earth, which would still be molten. Furthermore, the earth would have been too radioactive to support life then. Adam and Eve would have glowed for other reasons than their nearness to God. }These laws affirm the fact that the creation of matter or energy is not }know taking place, and, in fact, that the available energy of the universe }as a whole is continually running down rather than building up. Point of fact, matter IS being created currently. Also destroyed. See "virtual particles". And the "available energy of the universe as a whole" says nothing about localities within it... } the evidence from the fossil record to support evolution is largely } missing and that critical gaps indicate a single creation of life } as it is today. }The fossil record is incomplete and there are no transitions evident Such a prediction by creationists is rare. The implication of this is that if gaps in the fossil record are ever filled, creationism is falsified. Those outside professional paleontology often find it difficult to access what the fossil record does and does not show. As someone who works within the field of human paleontology and human evolution, I often find it odd when I am told that the number of human fossils is much too meager to allow the sort of extrapolation claimed by biologists for human ancestry. This may have been true 20 years ago, but it certain is not the case now. This might lead one to wonder if the fossil record is not also underrated in the are of other organisms as well. An article in the book _Science and Creationism_, edited by Ashley Montague, addresses this point. The article is by noted paleontologist Roger J. Cuffey, one of the witnesses called to testify in the now famous Arkansas creation science case in 1982. Allow me to quote form the article, entitled "Paleontological Evidence and Organic Evolution,": "If we read the paleontologic literature (especially if with the background of professional paleontologic training and experience) we find that the fossil record contains many examples of such transitional fossils. These connect both low-rank taxa (like different species) and high-rank taxa (like different classes), inspite of the records imperfections and in spite of the relatively small number of practicing paleontologists. Because of the critical role which transitional fossils played in convincing scientists of the occurrence of organic evolution, paleontologists have been appalled that many otherwise well- informed persons have repeated the grossly misinformed assertion that transitional fossils do not exist." Cuffey the goes on to list no fewer than 185 references in the paleontologic literature documenting such transitional forms. One of my favorites is the fossil Therapsid, Diarthognathus. In the fossil record, reptiles are distinguished from mammals by the number of bones that form the lower jaw. This is not a trival distinction, since the musculature of the reptilian jaw is different from that of mammals and would require such a re-design. Essential, reptiles have a lower jaw made of three bones (dentary, articular and quadrate) while mammals have only a single bone (the dentary), with the articular and quadrate relocated to the middle-ear (reptiles have only one ear ossicle, mammals have three. The relocation of this bones is observable embryologically in modern mammals). Therapsids are "mammal-like reptiles" and have a number of traits that put them midway between mammals and reptiles. The skull is larely reptilian but the dentary is much larger than in modern reptiles and other fossil reptil groups. Also, the therapsids have heterdont teeth (different shapes for different functions as in mammals) and limbs located underneath the body, rather than out to the side (not as far underneath as in mammals, however). Diarthrognathus is a therapsid with both a mammalian and reptilian jaw joint. Both are functional, but the mammal-like joint seems to have been the most functional. The quadrate and articular bones are very reduced. The animal is literally hafe-way between a mammal and a reptile. One more thing. I think it unfair to list Denton with other respected biologists. Denton is not a biologists and, while not religious either, had his own philosophical axe to grind against what he felt are the dehumanizing implications of evolution. A recent review of Denton's book appears in the July-August Issue of the NCSE Reports (published by the national center for science education ). The review, by biologists William M. Thwaites, points out the numerous errors, misintepretations and misrepresentations in Denton's book. Denton, as do many religious creationists, relies on outdated material often quoted out of context, and does not seem to understand the implications of the examples he uses, especially those using biochemical evidence. Thwaite concludes: "...Denton's book is just another typical anti-evolution tract. It shows that Dento is motivated, not by a desire to understand the workings of nature, but by apparent fear of "agnostic," "materialistic," and "skeptical outlook of the twentieth centure." }The fossil record is incomplete and there are no transitions evident The fossil record will never be complete, but it is certainly more complete than it was in Darwin's day. Darwin`s prediction that the "holes" would be filled has come true. Transitional fossils now exist for all vertebrate groups. Transitional forms also exist for most major invertebrate groups and for most groups of plants. For those of you without the fortitude to wade through the paleontological literature, a wonder source of information is an article by Roger J. Cuffey in the book _Science and Creationism_ (edited by Ashley Montague). This book should be fairly easy to obtain. In the article, entitled "Paleontologic Evidence and Organic Evolution" Cuffey lists no less than 220 references from various scientific journals documenting these transitional fossils. These transitions include connections between low rank taxa (like species) as well as high-rank taxa (like classes). It is interesting that much is made of the "evolution should not be treated as a fact" when the same people often talk about a lack of transitional forms between various taxa. Taxonomic groups are not facts. Taxonomy is an order imposed on the living world by scientists to make the diversity of life easier to deal with. Nonetheless, creationists and fellow travellers refer to it like it is written in in stone. From stassen@netcom.UUCP (Chris Stassen): For those interested in evaluating "intermediate forms", I'd recommend Chris McGowan's _In The Beginning_ (Prometheus). It's a "good place to start" for the layman (but by no means sufficient all by itself). He devotes two chapters (pp. 110-141) on detailed study of Archaeopteryx and the Cynodonts, comparing their features to those of the two groups which they fall between. While Archaeopteryx appears too late to itself be the transitional form between reptiles and birds, it does fall between the two categories. The Creationists contend that it is a bird - but a detailed study of features shows that it has less in common with birds (feathers, wishbone) than it does with Theropod dinosaurs (pubic peduncle, bony tail, no pygostyle, no bony sternum, three well-developed fingers, three well-developed metacarpal bones, metacarpal bones unfused, metatarsal bones separate, no hypotarsus, abdominal ribs). The first specimen found was accidentally classified as a reptile because the feather impressions were too faint to discern (until the fossil was specifically examined for them). I'll deal with Cynodonts more briefly, but when evaluated in 14 main areas where reptiles and mammals differ skeletally, they are clearly intermediates. They share five of the features with reptiles, five with mammals, and are somewhere in between on the other four. Since they appear in the fossil record at the proper time, and are connected by many other "transitional" fossils in a very detailed sequence, they represent one of the most well-documented transitional forms. (It should be no surprise that more recent transitions are better documented. More fossils are available, and more complex creatures probably change more slowly.)

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