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We should see smooth change through the fossil record, not gaps (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (We should see smooth change through the fossil record, not gaps (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC201:

If evolution proceeds via the accumulation of small steps, we should see a smooth continuum of creatures across the fossil record. Instead, we see long periods where species do not change, and there are gaps between the changes.


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The idea that gradual change should appear throughout the fossil record is called phyletic gradualism. It is based on the following tenets: New species arise by the transformation of an ancestral population into its modified descendants.

  • The transformation is even and slow.
  • The transformation involves most or all of the ancestral population.
  • The transformation occurs over most or all of the ancestral species' geographic range.

However, all but the first of these is false far more often that not. Studies of modern populations and incipient species show that new species arise mostly from the splitting of a small part of the original species into a new geographical area. The population genetics of small populations allow this new species to evolve relatively quickly. Its evolution may allow it to spread into new geographical areas. Since the actual transitions occur relatively quickly and in a relatively small area, the transitions do not often show up in the fossil record. Sudden appearance in the fossil record often simply reflects that an existing species moved into a new region.

Once species are well adapted to an environment, selective pressures tend to keep them that way. A change in the environment that alters the selective pressure would then end the "stasis" (or lead to extinction).

It should be noted that even Darwin did not expect the rate of evolutionary change to be constant.

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2. The imperfection of the fossil record (due to erosion and periods unfavorable to fossil preservation) also causes gaps, although it probably cannot account for all of them.

Talk.Origins is missing the point. Neither source is saying that the rate of change would be absolutely constant. And neither source is saying that a perfect record would be preserved. The point is that small continual changes would have had to occur but instead at critical points we find gaps. What is particularly important is that the gaps occur where a creation model predicts that they should, while evolutionists need secondary hypotheses to explain them.

One should also remember that the biggest gaps cannot be covered by the explanations offered. The assertion is that the gaps represent short quick bursts of "evolutionary" change in a subset of a group. However the gaps in question are the giant leaps such as the supposed leap from reptiles of whatever kind to birds, between which are nothing. The whole supposed "Darwinian tree" is full of these gaps in the fossil record. The gap between amphibians and land vertebrates is another example. These are not "missing leaps" that can be covered by the fast "quick change" postulated.

There are no fossils to cover the supposed transition between the major mammalian groups either. There are varieties of felines, canines, equines, rodents, and so on, in the fossils, but nothing "in between".

Furthermore, argument from imperfection of the fossil record is invalid. The book "The Adequacy of the Fossil Record"(edited by Stephen Donovan and Christopher Paul Wiley; reviewed by Douglas Palmer in New Scientist) points out that we know most of the fossil record. Palmer commented on the book by saying:

So any palaeontologists suffering from feelings of inadequacy should seek reassurance in this stimulating collection of essays. For the price of a few tabs of Viagra, you can have a permanent reminder that the fossil record is more respectable than it might seem. For example, in groups that leave easily fossilised remains, such as mammals and molluscs, more than 60% of species, 80% of genera and 90% of families have been discovered.... So cheer up. As Chris Paul proclaims in his introductory essay, the fossil record is perfectly adequate as a record of past life on Earth."

3. Some transitional sequences exist, which, despite an uneven rate of change, still show a gradual continuum of forms.

While there are a number of examples of varieties of the same created kind forming a well-preserved sequence, most can not objectively be considered sequences. In many cases evolutionists have to ignore their own dating methods to form a "sequence", and in other cases they fill in the gap with fragments of teeth and bone.

4. The fossil record still shows a great deal of change over time. The creationists who make note of the many gaps almost never admit the logical conclusion: If they are due to creation, then there have been hundreds, perhaps even millions, of separate creation events scattered through time.

First of all in needs to be noted that progressive creationists do claim that there have been hundreds, perhaps even millions, of separate creation events scattered through time.

However with regards to young-earth creation this is a case of your theory does not work under my theory, so your theory must be wrong. The flaw in Talk.Origins' reason here is that they are assuming that their theoretical timescale is real. If instead most of the fossils were killed and buried in one year by the Genesis Flood, then only one creation event would be needed.