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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

When They Claim a "Fossil Series," Is It Mainly Just Paleontology Pareidolia?

Darwin's theory of evolution consists of three parts: (1) the doctrine of common descent, that all earthly species are derived from a common ancestor; (2) the doctrine of gradualism, that all new species and biological innovations occur because of gradual changes that very slowly occur; (3) the idea that the origin of species and biological complexity can be explained as a result of merely accidental natural events: so-called "natural selection" and random changes or random mutations. Don't be fooled by the constant attempts to make such a theory sound modern by mixing it with modern data. Inconsistent with modern data such as the enormous organization and fine-tuned complexity of protein molecules and cells, Darwinism is a moldy old ideology from the nineteenth century, which echoes ideas of Epicurus and Lucretius dating from the first century BC and earlier. 

Darwinism snake oil

Some think that series of very old fossils dating back many thousands or millions of years provide proof for Darwin's theory of evolution. But I will now explain why very old fossils do not prove Darwinism as a whole, and also do not prove any one of the theory's three parts.

No Fossils Prove Common Descent

There are almost no fossils dating back earlier than about 550 million years. Then the fossil record suddenly blossoms with a huge number of fossils. This explosion of fossils (very difficult to explain under Darwinian assumptions) is called the Cambrian explosion. The fossils that appear in the Cambrian explosion are fossils of highly developed organisms such as trilobites.

But it is believed that life began more than three billion years ago. We have virtually no fossil record of the first three billion years of life's history. So it clear that fossils cannot prove any doctrine of common descent, that all life is derived from the same ancestor. In order to prove that, you would have to have a complete fossil record showing the intricate details of the first three billion years of life's history. We have no such thing. From the fossil record, we cannot tell whether all life has evolved from the same ancestor, or 12 different ancestors, or 100 different ancestors.

The major groups of animals are called phyla, and there are about 24 different animal phyla. What the first major flourish of the fossil records shows us is not one phyla appearing, and then branching out into twenty. What we see is more like phyla suddenly appearing at the same time. While this is not (strictly speaking) incompatible with the idea of common descent, it is not particularly consistent with such an idea, and almost seems to suggest a very different idea.

No Fossils Prove That Natural Selection Drives Evolution

As far as the Darwinian doctrine that natural selection is the main cause of evolution, such an idea is a speculative idea that is not proven by any fossil or any series of fossils. Fossils suggest nothing about a cause of evolution. A series of fossils no more proves that natural selection is causing species to appear than it proves that magic fairies are causing species to appear. It might be otherwise if natural selection left some kind of tell-tale mark or trace element that you could use to tell when natural selection occurred. But there is certainly no such trace or tell-tale mark in any fossil.

It Is All But Impossible to Distinguish Between the Fossils of a Real Transitional Series and a Coincidentally Similar Set of Fossils That Is Not From a Real Transitional Series

Many Darwinists naively assume that once a series of fossils has been arranged into a series suggesting a transitional series, that such an arrangement proves a line of evolution from one species to another (the idea of gradualism that is one of the three parts of Darwinism). But such an assumption is erroneous. One reason is that assuming alternate scenarios under which gradualism does not occur, and one species does not evolve into another, we would coincidentally expect to see many sequences of fossils that a gradualist might mistakenly interpret as a transitional series.

For example, let's imagine some super-advanced and very old extraterrestrial civilization that visits Earth at long intervals. Suppose that 10 million years ago they introduced monkey-like species to our planet, that 5 million years ago they introduced ape-like species, and that 100,000 years ago they cause the human species to appear on Earth. This might result in a fossil record that cannot be distinguished from a Darwinian fossil record in which apes evolve from monkeys, and men evolve from apes.

Here is a very interesting idea for a computer program, one I may one day write. The program would first generate a hypothetical history of life of an extraterrestrial planet, based not on Darwinian assumptions, but on the idea that some unknown force or power causes species to suddenly appear and then survive for a random length of geological time. Each of these hypothetical species would have a certain set of characteristics. Then in its second phase the program would search through the data generated in the first phase, looking for sequences that look rather like transitional series in which one species evolved from the next (even though no such thing had ever happened in this hypothetical history). The program would probably be able to find many such series looking like transitional series, even though they would all be false alarms resulting from coincidence.

We have no idea whether the alleged transitional series presented by Darwinists are similar false alarms, resulting from coincidental similarities rather than actual gradual evolution in which one species evolves into another species. Those alleged transitional series could be the result of a kind of “paleontology pareidolia,” in which people find a few patterns they are hoping to find after spending great lengths of time scanning a large data realm, rather like people who spend countless hours scanning Mars photos and who occasionally find things on the surface they claim are evidence of ancient Mars civilizations. Dictionary.com defines pareidolia as “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist.” The scientist who spends decades searching for transitional series of fossils (and who eventually finds one or two alleged fossil series that seem to please him) may be like some person who for 40 years carefully checks his toast for dark spots that look like the face of Jesus, and who eventually finds something that pleases him.

Below is some random text. The characters in orange accidentally happen to be sequential characters in the alphabet.

If I have the entire text to scan through, and I am free to cherry-pick  any sequential progression of characters (such as “defghijk” or “pqrstuvwx” or “ijklmnopqr”), it may be quite easy (depending on the size of the text) for me to find a sequential series of characters. I can then cherry-pick my data, and make an “evolution graphic” that looks like this:

COLUMN NUMBER 1 2 3 4 5 6
LETTER a b c d e f

I have now presented a visual that seems to tell a “tale of evolution.” By making this table I have suggested that the letter in the first column has evolved into the letter in the second column, that the letter in the second column has evolved into the letter in the third column, and so forth. But this is purely a case of finding a pattern I was hoping to find. There was no actual “evolution of characters” in this random text.

This simple example shows how easy it is easy it is to search through a large amount of data and find some “evolution series” when evolution is not actually happening.

Doing research along these lines might be less speculative if we were able to recover the DNA of presumed human ancestors. But we have very little of such DNA. Here's the oldest thing found: scientists were able to retrieve a small fragment of DNA from a 400,000-year-old hominid fossil, but only the mitochondrial DNA which accounts for only 37 genes. That's only about a five hundredth of the total human genome. This fragment told no clear tale supporting conventional theories, and confusingly resembled DNA of the Denisovans who supposedly lived about 80,000 years ago.

We may contrast the typical visual claiming a fossil series with a scientific chart such as the periodic table. One shows an extremely arbitrary and doubtful claim of a series, and the other shows a series that involves no ideology at at all.  Nature really is objectively structured in a way that matches the periodic table. For example, all carbon atoms have six protons, all nitrogen atoms have seven protons, all oxygen atoms have eight protons, and so forth. Although the arrangement of the periodic table is somewhat arbitrary, there is nothing arbitrary about the numbering found in its squares or the ordering of the squares.  We might expect to find exactly the same numbering and ordering on periodic tables drawn up by intelligent species on other planets, because the numbers and sequences match  objective facts of nature. The periodic table does not push any ideology; it tells us objective indisputable measurable facts of nature.  Charts suggesting fossil series, on the other hand, are extremely cherry-picked affairs in which someone selects fossils out of millions that a particular age may have produced, for the sake of planting in our minds some particular storyline that may or may not be true. 

The Number of Alleged Transitional Series Presented to Support Darwinian Gradualism Is Small, and Many Say It Is Much Smaller Than We Would Expect If Darwinian Gradualism Were Occurring

Under Darwinian assumptions we should expect to find innumerable transitional series, but the evidence that exists for transitional series is something much, much weaker.  Below is a quote from a leading paleontologist, the late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould:

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our text-books have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record: 'The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties,  connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory.' Darwin's argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution."

Alleged Transitional Series of Fossils Often Involve Fossils Gathered in Places So Geographically Diverse That the Claim of a Transition Is Not Credible

When we see some chart showing an alleged set of transitional fossils, we never see any identification of where the fossils were gathered. What we sometimes get is something like this:

Fossil A --> Fossil B --> Fossil C --> Fossil D

where the fossils came from different continents, or different quadrants of a the same continent.  But claims of a gradual transition in such cases are often not credible, because of the impossibility or implausibility of descendants traveling from one continent to another, or traveling from one quadrant of a continent to some other quadrant of that continent thousands of miles away.  

If you do a Google image search for "oceanic dispersal," you can find maps depicting claims that plants or animals somehow crossed oceans long before there were any boats. The page here has one of those maps, which appeared in a scientific paper.  The arrows in the map tell us a large set of vastly improbable tall tales of oceanic movements before the existence of boats, such as (1) the claim that eons ago monkeys and cotton plants traveled from Africa to South America; (2) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from South America to Africa; (3) the claim that eons ago gecko lizards traveled from Africa to Cuba; (4) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from North America and Africa to Australia; (5) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from Australia to Hawaii;  (6) the claim that eons ago chameleons and frogs traveled 200 miles between  Madagascar and Africa; (7) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from New Zealand to South America; (8) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from India to New Zealand; and (9) the claim that eons ago some trees traveled between Africa and Australia.  These are the kind of claims that paleontologists make in connection with some of their claims of transitional fossil series. The problem is that these claims are tall tales lacking in credibility, sounding like the tale of a cyclone taking Dorothy's house from Kansas to Oz.  

The Alleged Transitional Series Presented to Support Darwinian Gradualism Typically Involve Too-Fast Evolution That Darwinism Cannot Plausibly Account For

It's not enough to just have an alleged transitional series – you need to have a series with plausibility. Suppose you are a district attorney presenting a kind of transitional series as part of your case against a defendant. You maintain that the defendant left his job near Penn Station in Manhattan at 5:00, went to an apartment in eastern Brooklyn, killed the murder victim at 5:10, and then returned to his apartment in northern Manhattan by 5:20. This is a transitional series, but not a plausible one, because it happens too fast. Whether you take subway, train, car, or cab, you cannot get from Penn Station to eastern Brooklyn and back to northern Manhattan in only twenty minutes.

An equal lack of plausibility is found in most or all of the fossil transitional series alleged by Darwinists. The most famous such series is the fossils claimed to be a transitional series between 4-million-year-old primates and modern man. This series involves an explosive growth of brain power, requiring many favorable mutations. But the smaller the population, the lower the likelihood of getting favorable mutations; and it is generally held that about a million years ago the population of human ancestors was very small, only about 10,000. Given such a small population, Darwinian evolution cannot explain a rapid transition to human brains of the type that Darwinists imagine.

Four scientists (one from Cornell University) published a scientific paper entitled “The Waiting Time Problem in a Model Hominem Population,” which was published in the journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. The paper can he read here. Using a computer simulation, they “simulated a classic pre-human hominin population of at least 10,000 individuals, with a generation time of 20 years, and with very strong selection (50 % selective elimination).” They were basically trying to see how long it would take before you got a mutation consisting of two nucleotides (which is a fairly minor mutation, only some tiny fraction of the mutations needed for the evolution of human intelligence). This is called the “waiting time problem.” The authors summarize their results as follows:

"Biologically realistic numerical simulations revealed that a population of this type required inordinately long waiting times to establish even the shortest nucleotide strings. To establish a string of two nucleotides required on average 84 million years. To establish a string of five nucleotides required on average 2 billion years. We found that waiting times were reduced by higher mutation rates, stronger fitness benefits, and larger population sizes. However, even using the most generous feasible parameters settings, the waiting time required to establish any specific nucleotide string within this type of population was consistently prohibitive."

Another series of fossils that Darwinists like to discuss is one that supposedly suggests an evolution from land-based creatures to whales. But the dating of these fossils shows they were deposited over a span way too short to plausibly account for such a transition under Darwinian assumptions of mere random mutations and natural selection. When a major popular science web site gives us a headline claiming, “Whales Evolved in the Blink of an Eye,” we have a series of postulated changes occurring too fast to be accounted for under Darwinian assumptions.

What does this “too fast” problem mean? It means that the most famous series of alleged transitional fossils must be “taken off the table” as evidence for Darwinian evolution. Like a wise jury that would need to disqualify and invalidate any “transitional series” claim that a defendant got from mid-Manhattan to Brooklyn and then to northern Manhattan in 20 minutes, we must disqualify and invalidate any series of fossils used to support claims of Darwinian gradualism that appear to show transitions happening way too fast to have occurred under Darwinian assumptions.

Once we do that, Darwinism seems to be left with very little in the way of supporting fossil evidence. Such a situation could possibly be reversed if Darwinists were to revolutionize their thinking to allow for some plausible method of fast evolution. But our Darwinists keep stubbornly sticking to their same old “random mutations plus natural selection” story that is way, way too slow to produce the transitions they claim occurred.

Visuals Used to Depict the Appearance of Alleged Transitional Species Are Often Fanciful or Misleading, and Do Not Correspond to Any Fossils 

What often occurs is something like this:

(1) Some fossil will be found that slightly suggests the possibility of something a little like some transitional species that paleontologists hoped to find. 
(2) There will then be many artist depictions which depict such a species as having characteristics that are not justified by the fossil that was found. 

For example, if you do a Google image search for "tiktaalik," you will see a great number of artist depictions showing a fish-like animal with forelimbs. But if you do a Google image search for "tiktaalik fossil," you will see that the very slight fossil evidence for such a species does not correspond to the artist depictions, and merely show slight protrusions that might easily be mere fins.  

So it's kind of a "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile" situation. 

A Large Fraction of the Fossil Evidence Presented in Support of Darwinian Gradualism Involves Subjective Interpretation,  Subjective Forensics, Social Construction and Adhesive Construction

Some of the leading fossil cases involve subjective analysis. An example is the famous skeleton called Lucy, which consists of fragments of a skeleton rather than anything like a complete skeleton. We have in this case subjective analysis both in the judgment that the fragments were all originally part of the same animal skeleton, and also subjective analysis when people speculate on what this Lucy animal looked like. If any prosecutor in a court were to try to argue that scattered fragments of a skeleton were bone fragments of a particular individual who died decades ago, a defense attorney would be able to raise all kinds of objections relating to how the evidence was gathered, how the conclusions were drawn, and whether there were alternate interpretations. Medical studies are double-blinded to avoid scientist bias, but no such procedure occurs for paleontologists who are gathering fossil fragments. We typically let some paleontologist eager to support some orthodox Darwinian interpretation do the evidence gathering and interpretation, without guarding against bias that might produce “find whatever you hope to find” kind of results.

A related example of subjective interpretation may be found in rocks that are claimed to be evidence that human ancestors existed about 500,000 years ago. It has long been claimed that flaked rocks from hundreds of thousands of years ago must have be stone tools made by human ancestors. But this link says, “Recent research published in Nature by a team led by Tomos Proffitt at the University of Oxford shows that capuchin monkeys regularly produce sharp-edged flakes indistinguishable from those made by early hominins.”

Claims made about the significance of particular fossils are typically socially constructed claims. They rely on some chorus of paleontologists repeating countless times claims about fossil fragments that are of debatable or doubtful significance. Paleontologists also often rely on a literal adhesive construction of fossil fragments. In the history of paleontology what has very often occurred is that bone fragments were found scattered around some site, and paleontologists or their helpers decided to glue together fragments to make some impressive-looking find.  This often involves dubious assumptions that the fragments came from a single organism or the same species, when no such assumption is warranted.  My post "Fragment Follies of the Guessing Glue Guys" discusses how paleontologists often resort to dubious gluing efforts to make speculative constructions from fossil fragments. Often, it is not merely glue that is used, but baking soda mixed with superglue, which allows massive gaps to be filled in with some binding substance that looks like bone. 

dubious fossil

The Deliberate Faking of Fossils Has Long Been a Cloud on Paleontology Claims

A history of paleontology will tell the tale of Piltdown Man, some fossil fakery that long fooled paleontologists, who for decades cited it is as important evolution evidence. Nowadays what looks like an important fossil can be sold for large sums of money. This has given rise to a "cottage industry" in faking fossils in certain countries. A Scientific American article entitled "How Fake Fossils Pervert Paleontology" states, "A nebulous trade in forged and illegal fossils is an ever-growing headache for paleontologists." We read of "a growing and serious problem of fraudulent fossils being produced on an industrial scale in China."

Proving an Example of One Species Gradually Evolving Into Another Would Not Prove That Most Species Have Appeared Because of Gradual Evolution

Darwinists typically take a kind of “if I've moved a meter, I've moved a mile” attitude in the way they act as if proving one case of a species evolving into another would prove the general idea that all species have appeared through gradual evolution. But, to the contrary, one would have to prove that very many or most species have evolved from more primitive species to prove the gradualism claim of Darwinism.

A Marxist may dogmatically claim that class struggle is the main thing that explains historical events, and he may try to prove that by giving the example of the French Revolution, which did seem to be a case of class struggle. But proving this one example (or a few similar examples) does not prove that most historical events occur because of class struggles. Similarly, if a Darwinist were, for example, to prove some particular transition showing that one species had evolved into another millions of years ago, this would not prove that most species had appeared because of such a process, nor would it prove that the rather recent appearance of mankind had occurred because of such a process.

Darwinists Lack Any Credible Theory of Macroevolution

Darwinism can possibly explain small-scale transitions, such as a species gradually changing its color to better adapt to environmental changes. But Darwinism lacks any credible theory of how dramatic evolutionary changes could occur, such as dinosaurs evolving into birds or ape-like animals evolving into humans. The modern theory of Darwinism (called Neo-Darwinism or the Modern Synthesis) relies  on a lie: the lie that DNA is an anatomy blueprint. DNA only stores low-level chemical information, such as which amino acids make up a protein. If there is no anatomy blueprint in DNA (and there certainly is not), then Darwinists cannot explain dramatic anatomical transitions by postulating gradual DNA changes. 

Almost Any Large Group of Richly Funded Researchers Will Produce Superficially Persuasive Results for Its Favored Tenets

There is a rule that I may call the Rule of Richly Funded Researchers.  I may define this as the rule that almost any large group of richly-funded researchers will be able to produce superficially persuasive evidence for its cherished beliefs, even if those beliefs are false. So, for example, let us imagine that there were to exist tens of thousands of astrology researchers, who were given more than a billion dollars in federal funding to do research. Such researchers would probably be able to crunch data on births, illnesses and deaths to produce superficially convincing evidence in favor of astrology,  the belief that stars and planets produce a mysterious influence on humans.  Given that very many millions of dollars have been given over the past century to paleontologists very eager to prove their Darwinist beliefs, we should not be surprised if they are able to produce a few superficially persuasive cases of "transitional fossil series," even if their ideas about origins are way wrong. Similarly, if there was some community of thousands of researchers who passionately believed that the ghosts of animals live in the clouds, and were such researchers to receive many millions of dollars in funding, they would no doubt eventually be able to produce some superficially impressive photos showing clouds that looked very much like animals. 

Correcting the Most Iconic Visual of Darwinism

The most famous visual presented by Darwinists is one in which we see a series of four or five species, all shown facing the right. The visual is misleading because it typically fails to display an implausible transitional state, and also fails to mention the intellectual gulf between these species.  But the famous visual may be corrected by showing it as below:

icon of human evolution

Now we can see why it makes no sense to imagine gradual accidental changes producing such a transition: (1) the lack of any explanation for the giant leap from speechless organisms to speaking organisms; (2) the lack of an explanation for why there would have been a "survival of the fittest" transition resulting in an intermediate organism that would not be able to walk as well as its predecessor.  

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