I’ve been reading blogs over the last couple of days and making comments on a few written by evolution deniers. Normally I don’t do that kind of thing. People can believe what they want. But when outright lies are being propagated, I draw the line. Such people have put the crosshairs on themselves and I have no problems taking the shot.
One blog I commented on claimed that there is no evidence for evolution.
Horse feathers.! I blogged yesterday on upcoming books on evolution that I’m looking forward to, and included a list of books already out there that present such evidence. The amazing thing is that there is so much evidence out there that these books don’t even overlap! Books on evolutionary development (Sean B. Carroll), molecular biological evidence for human evolution (Daniel Fairbanks), paleontological evidence (Donald R. Prothero), anatomical evidence (Neil Shubin, along with a bit of the importance of the transitional fossil find Tiktaalik.
These books are written with the general public in mind, not those occupying the ivory tower, so there is no excuse for the laziness of such nay-sayers to bother to see what evidence for evolution is out there. Saying that there is no evidence for evolution doesn’t make it so; the fruits of labor from tireless researchers in these fields of science presenting the evidence makes it not so. Evolution occurred and is still occurring. Deal.
Then there was another blog, which brought out the usual anti-evolution tactic of saying that there are no transitional fossils. This person even brought out the quote from Darwin in Origin of Species that this was a problem for him:
Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.
Okay, there are a couple of things wrong with this (at least it’s not a total quote mine, as is so often the case…). First, the obvious – paleontology was in its infancy in Darwin’s time and it’s been 150 years. Things have changed drastically. We have thousands of fossils demonstrating many different ‘transitions’. Amniote-synapsid-mammals, fish-amphibian, dinosaur-bird (birds are really feathered dinosaurs), land mammal-whale – you name it, we got it. For a beautiful overview of many of these fossils, obtain a copy of Donald R. Prothero’s Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters.
To get an idea of how silly this argument is, imagine that after quoting Lord Kelvin (ca. 1985):
Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
the author of the blog then makes the claim that airplanes don’t exist because he/she has never been near an airport (or never looked up, for that matter)!
The second thing wrong with this quote is that even without any fossils whatsoever, Darwin would still have arrived at the answer to how life evolves. In Origin of Species Darwin presented a tidal wave of evidence presented so clearly and logically that no room for doubt remained. All anyone has to do is find a copy and read it. The transitional fossils that paleontologists find only strengthen the case for evolution.
I’ve heard others claim that evolution can not be falsified. This is nonsense. I will give one important example where falsification of evolution could have occurred. In developing the molecular clock (the hypothesis that molecular evolution occurs at an approximately uniform rate over time), Pauling and Zuckerkandl1 proposed that if a superposition of molecular phylogenetic tree onto that obtained from comparative morphology showed a close match, then the book could be closed on the validity of evolution. An excellent review of the molecular clock, its uses and limitations has been written by Kumar2. Yet time and again molecular phylogenetic trees and trees developed from cladistic analyses match.
This reminds me of another silly argument. Anyone ever see the claim that a clam was dated using radiocarbon dating to over 1600 years of age? This is actually true. Radiocarbon dating depends on the carbon in the organism being dated having been in equilibrium with atmospheric carbon, which contains radioactive 14C generated by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere. Clams are not and the purpose of the study was to show why radiocarbon dating is not to be done on such organisms. Does this invalidate radiocarbon dating? Not hardly. It just demonstrates a limitation. Besides, radiocarbon dating is not useful on geological timescales. But since when do IDiots and ‘cdesign proponentsists’ bother with fact?
If evolution deniers prefer ignorance to knowledge, fine. But don’t go spreading it like the disease it is.
- Zuckerkandl E and Pauling L, Molecules as documents of evolutionary history. J Theor Biol 8:357-66 (1965)
- Kumar S. Molecular clocks: four decades of evolution. Nature Rev 6:654-64 (2005)