“Documented” Transitional Forms?
The cover of the March 1-7, 2008 issue of New Scientist pictures an illustrator’s attempt at drawing a half fish, half reptilian creature. Above the illustration is the title: “Amazing Missing Links: Creatures that Reveal the Real Power of Evolution.” Allegedly, evolutionists “have abundant evidence for how all the major groups of animals are related, much of it in the form of excellent transitional fossils” (Prothero, 2008, 197:35). After his introductory comments, the author, Donald Prothero, listed several alleged transitional fossils, which supposedly “are conclusive proof that evolution has occurred, and is still occurring” (p. 41). Included in this list were a variety of animals—from velvet worms to dinosaurs, and giraffes to manatees. Readers, however, have to go no further than Prothero’s introduction to see the inaccuracy of his assertions.
Prothero introduced his list of transitional forms, that supposedly prove evolution, with two examples that science dealt a crushing blow to long ago. Prothero wrote: “Darwin’s 1859 prediction that transitional forms would be found was quickly confirmed. In 1861 the first specimen of Archaeopteryx—a classic transitional form between dinosaurs and birds—was discovered, and in the 1870s the iconic sequence of fossil horses was documented” (p. 35, emp. added). Of the alleged “numerous fossils and fossil sequences showing evolutionary change,” Prothero chose to begin his article with Archaeopteryx and the “sequence of horse fossils,” both of which are supposedly “documented” proof of evolution. In truth, Archaeopteryx and the horse family tree do not even come close to confirming evolution.
Regarding horse evolution, the fossil record simply does not bear out what New Scientist writer Prothero claimed. In fact, due to the severe lack of fossil evidence linking the various horse “family members” together, even prominent evolutionists have abandoned the “horse evolution” argument. Prothero claimed that as far back as “the 1870s the iconic sequence of fossil horses was documented” (p. 35). Since that time, however, evolutionists such as Dr. George Gaylord Simpson have admitted, “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature” (Simpson, 1953, p. 125, emp. added). In a 2000 article that appeared in the journal Natural History, Dr. Stephen Jay Gould criticized science textbooks’ use of misinformation surrounding the evolution of horses. He wrote:
Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts. (I have written two essays on this lamentable practice: one on the amusingly perennial description of the eohippus, or “dawn horse,” as the size of a fox terrier, even though most authors, including yours truly, have no idea of the dimensions or appearance of this breed...) [2000, 109:45, emp. added].
In light of such statements by renowned evolutionists, one wonders how Prothero can be so confident that the evolution of horses was documented by fossils as far back as the 1870s. Is Prothero’s article just another example of how “misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent” in many evolutionary writings?
And what about Archaeopteryx? Is it a “confirmed” transitional form, as Prothero asserted? Simply because Archaeopteryx has teeth in its beak and claws on its wings, does not prove that it was the transitional form between reptiles and birds. Consider that some modern birds have claws on their wings, and yet no one thinks of them as being missing links. The African bird known as touraco has claws on its wings, as does the hoatzin of South America when it is young. Both of these birds use their fully functional claws to grasp branches and climb trees. If you have ever seen an ostrich close up, you might have noticed that it, too, has claws on each wing and can use them if attacked. Obviously, simply because a bird in the fossil record is discovered with claws on its wings does not mean that it is a transitional fossil.
In 1993, Science News reported that an odd fossil bird had been unearthed in Mongolia. It supposedly is millions of years younger than Archaeopteryx and, interestingly, had teeth in its beak (Monasterky, 1993, 143:245). As with the claws on the wings of Archaeopteryx, evolutionists cannot prove that the presence of teeth make the animal something more than a bird. What’s more, consider that while most reptiles have teeth, turtles do not. And, some fish and amphibians have teeth, while other fish and amphibians have no teeth. How can evolutionists be so sure that Archaeopteryx’s teeth make it a dinosaur-bird link? Such an assertion is based on unprovable assumptions.
Archaeopteryx also had fully formed feathers, just like living birds. Fossils of Archaeopteryx leave no hint of the animal being a half-scaly/half-feathered creature. It was not in some kind of in-between stage. Furthermore, “[e]xperts don’t know what Archaeopteryx’s closest [alleged—EL] dinosaur ancestor looked like—fossils haven’t yet been found” (“Fossil Evidence,” 2007), i.e., evolutionists have been entirely unsuccessful in finding any actual transitional forms between dinosaurs and birds.
Finally, what makes the suggestion that Archaeopteryx was the missing link between reptiles and birds even more unbelievable is that “[a]nother bird fossil found in the desert of west Texas in 1983, Protoavis, is dated even earlier, 75 million years before Archaeopteryx” (DeYoung, 2000, p. 37, emp. added). Although some paleontologists have questions about the fossil remains of Protoavis (birds, after all, were not supposed to be around with the “earliest dinosaurs”), Dr. Chatterjee of Texas Tech University “has pointed out, the skull of Protoavis has 23 features that are fundamentally bird-like, as are the forelimbs, the shoulders, and the hip girdle” (Harrub and Thompson, 2001). In 1991, Science magazine ran a story titled, “Early Bird Threatens Archaeopteryx’s Perch,” wherein Alan Anderson wrote: “His [Chaterjee’s—EL] reconstruction also shows a flexible neck, large brain, binocular vision, and, crucially, portals running from the rear of the skull to the eye socket—a feature seen in modern birds but not dinosaurs” (253:35).
The fact is, the fossil record does not, in any way, demonstrate that dinosaurs evolved into birds or that horses evolved from little dog-like creatures. Ironically, although Prothero, writing for New Scientist, wrote that a “favourite lie” of creationists is ‘there are no transitional fossils’” (2008, 197:35), evolutionist Mark Ridley wrote an article for the same journal 27 years earlier and confessed that “no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation...” (1981, 90:832, emp. added).
Anderson, Alan (1991), “Early Bird Threatens Archaeopteryx’s Perch,” Science, 253:35, July 5.
DeYoung, Don (2000), Dinosaurs and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Fossil Evidence” (2007), NOVA, [On-line], URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/transitional.html.
Gould, Stephen Jay (2000), “Abscheulich! (Atrocious),” Natural History, 109:42-50, March.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2001), “Archaeopteryx, Archaeoraptor, and the ‘Dinosaurs-to-Birds’ Theory [Part 1],” [On-line], URL: /articles/473.
Monastersky, Richard (1993), “A Clawed Wonder Unearthed in Mongolia,” Science News, 143:245, April 17.
Prothero, Donald (2008), “What Missing Link?” New Scientist, 197:35-41, March 1-7.
Ridley, Mark (1981), “Who Doubts Evolution?” New Scientist, June 25, 90:832.
Simpson, George Gaylord (1953), Life of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).