Monday, September 05, 2005

Dawkins and Coyne in The Guardian

Somehow I never got around to linking to this excellent op-ed, by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, published in the British newspaper The Guardian last week:

What, after all, is a gap in the fossil record? It is simply the absence of a fossil which would otherwise have documented a particular evolutionary transition. The gap means that we lack a complete cinematic record of every step in the evolutionary process. But how incredibly presumptuous to demand a complete record, given that only a minuscule proportion of deaths result in a fossil anyway.

The equivalent evidential demand of creationism would be a complete cinematic record of God's behaviour on the day that he went to work on, say, the mammalian ear bones or the bacterial flagellum - the small, hair-like organ that propels mobile bacteria. Not even the most ardent advocate of intelligent design claims that any such divine videotape will ever become available.

Biologists, on the other hand, can confidently claim the equivalent “cinematic” sequence of fossils for a very large number of evolutionary transitions. Not all, but very many, including our own descent from the bipedal ape Australopithecus. And - far more telling - not a single authentic fossil has ever been found in the “wrong” place in the evolutionary sequence. Such an anachronistic fossil, if one were ever unearthed, would blow evolution out of the water.

I have often commented that that you can arrange some of the better preserved fossil series into one of those flip-cartoons and watch major evolutionary change take place. Nice to receive validation from biologists of the calibre of Dawkins and Coyne.

Go read the whole thing.


Post a Comment

<< Home