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Evolution and Fossils

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

If evolution is true, then why does the fossil record not support it?

What is the first thing most people view as “proof” of evolution?

Right! Fossils.

Do you know what Darwin thought presented one of the greatest difficulties with his theory of evolution?

Right again! Fossils.

A fair reading of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species leaves the reader with a sense that Darwin was an honest scientist. His careful, balanced approach to the topic he knew was controversial is refreshing to experience in light of today’s evolutionary dogmatism. In fact, much of Origin is dedicated to dealing with “difficulties” with his theory.

Today Darwin’s own book is the only place you will ever find a Darwinist express even one “difficulty” with the theory of evolution. Interestingly, the last half of Darwin’s book could not be taught in today’s public schools, as it presents many evidentiary challenges, all of which remain today. But, in today’s mainstream scientific arena no one can challenge evolution. After all, it is a fact.

Because his theory had yet to reach unchallengable consensus status, Darwin dealt head-on with the actual fact that the fossil record did not support his theory of gradual change over time. (See, Charles Darwin, On The Origin of Species, A Facsimile of the First Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 171). Darwin attributed the lack of transitional varieties to the “imperfection of the geological record.” We leave it to the reader to read Darwin’s explanation and see if it holds water today. But suffice it to say Darwin found the fossil record a difficulty and not a confirmation, much less proof, of his theory.

Do you know what natural evidence on earth remains inconsistent with the theory of evolution (and every leading evolutionist knows it)?

Right again! Fossils. The fossil record still does not support Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In fact, according to Uncommon Descent, Stephen J. Gould, perhaps the most famous paleontologist of the 20th century, wrote:

The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches … in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed. (bold emphasis added.)

Uncommon Descent continued:

Lest we be accused of quote mining you can find Gould discussing it in more detail in Gould’s book The Richness of Life, pages 263 and 264, found in its entirety on Google Books. Ibid.

And this is not an isolated idea carelessly uttered by an evolutionist and capitalized upon by creationists. Consider the view of long-time evolutionist and Harvard Professor Emeritus Ernst Mayr, billed as “one of the great shining figures of evolutionary biology.” (Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is (New York: Basic Books, 2001); back cover, quote attributed to John Maynard Smith.)

Unlike Darwin, Ernst Mayr lived and worked through most of the 20th century and published his book entitled, What Evolution Is in the 21st century.

Mayr jumps right in with Chapter 2, optimistically entitled “What is the Evidence for Evolution on Earth?” Predictably, the first example of “quite overwhelming” (Ibid, p. 13) evidence for evolution is the fossil record. According to Mayr, the fossil record is “the most convincing evidence for the occurrence of evolution.” (Ibid.)

Consider the irony of Mayr’s conclusion with respect to the “most convincing” evidence for the “fact” of evolution in light of the actual facts. Mayr must admit:

Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document a gradual steady change from ancestral forms to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series. New types appear quite suddenly, and their immediate ancestors are absent in the earlier geological strata. The discovery of unbroken series of species changing gradually into descending species is very rare. Indeed the fossil record is one of discontinuities, seemingly documenting jumps (saltations) from one type of organism to a different type. Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is (New York: Basic Books, 2001, p. 14, italics in original, bold emphasis added.

Thus, Mayr clearly recognizes what Darwin recognized, and what, unfortunately, remains the trade secret of paleontologists: the fossil record does not support Darwinian evolution, much less prove any kind of evolution!

Darwin to Mayr and everyone knowledgeable in between knows the fossil record presents a problem for evolution. Darwin had his reasons for why the fossil record fails to support his theory. Mayr goes on for many paragraphs with his reasons why, despite not finding gradual steady change, the fossil record nonetheless somehow supports evolution. And Gould? Well, he simply theorized an entirely different form of evolution altogether, as a good scientist should do.

We need not discard the evidentiary value of fossils altogether. But the fact that the fossil record requires elaborate explanation as to why it supports what it does not appear to support seems to be a problem.

Why, then, do most people think that fossils are not only evidence for evolution, but proof of evolution?

Good question. It is probably because in today’s world we are told that everything is evidence for–if not proof of–the fact of evolution.

Think about it.


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