I’m reading a grand little book entitled, “Evolution: the triumph of an idea,” by Carl Zimmer (2001). Before his death in 2002, Stephen Gould wrote the introduction to the book. As much as I am overwhelmed by the exuberance of his tenacious verbosity, his introduction forewarns the reader of the bait and switch tactics and weak arguments that will be presented by Carl Zimmer’s understanding of the evolutionary theory. Gould, as most good materialists do, simply assumes evolution as a fact, one to be distinctly separate from the mode by which it might have occurred.
Unfortunately, evolution has trumped both intelligence and empirical science in Western Civilization – for the time being.
As many know, Darwinian evolution was not Gould’s favorite method of getting things done. He preferred the monster theories of evolution. The very nature of his theory was based on the fact that the fossil record and life itself was void of real lineages of in-between life forms. The lack of transitional forms was evidence of the means by which evolution occurred. This being true some mechanism other than the tedious mutational theory of development had to be secured that was much faster at reaching some stationary trans-mutational form. Thus the birth of punctuated equilibrium. But, this is another story.
Gould mentions four proofs of the fact of evolution. Direct evidence being the first of his proposals he points to artificial selection such as dog, horse and pigeon breeding; an intelligent intervention in life having nothing to do with Darwinian forms of evolution. Unless however, you imagine great ages of unrecorded time left to do the dirty work of mystical evolution that you cannot prove or see otherwise. This is not direct evidence.
He notes the experimentation of pigmented moths in industrial England as the second evidence of fact for evolution. The moth publication has been for some time fully discredited as a fraudulent portrayal of a hoped-for result. Gould recounts the beak shapes of the Galapagos Island finches. Again the minor variability’s found among the finches have always been inborn to the breed; the result of Mendelian genetics and not a visible sign or fact of evolution at work. Today it is understood that the 14 different finches fall into one of 6 closely related subspecies, all of which interbreed freely. No speciation to be found here. No facts of evolution to discuss.
Sadly, he presents the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as undeniable proof that even creationists cannot refuse as evidence for evolution. He does not note that the two forms of resistance in bacteria are either mutation of some gene vital to normal metabolism that, so altered, is no longer the target of the antibiotic and hence the crippled form is “resistant” to the drug. The other resistance is gained from genes through conjugation (a form of bacterial “sex”) by bacterial strains capable of passing DNA to another cell. This form of resistance is conferred by the expression of proteins from pre-existing genetic elements that specifically neutralize the antibiotic through an enzymatic pathway. Either by degeneration of one gene or by the gain of pre-existing genes, antibiotic resistance occurs in bacteria. What has this to do with witnessing the fact of evolution?
Gould turns to a second category of ‘direct evidence’ looking to the fossil record. Though it may be spotty in places (Wow!! Spotty?), of the apparent abundance of transitional forms to be found in the rock layers three are named: The evolution of the whale from terrestrial mammals, The evolution of birds from small running dinosaurs, The transmutation of mammals from reptiles and finally the 3 fold increase in brain size of the human being from its ape-like ancestor.
Ambulocetus is mentioned by name in the introduction. It is a fragmentary skeleton with many fossil bones associated by vertical location and not by the burial site itself. The animal was supposed to be an intermediate between a land animal returning to the sea and the permanent sea dwelling whale. Only 7 feet long the most important features needed to determine its position in relation to anything aquatic let alone a whale were not recovered.
The pelvis, scapula, caudal processes on the vertebrae, missing humorous and forearm and the list goes on. This critter walked on all fours and had little in the way of swimming equipment. Yet it was given a tail for lack thereof and its fossil location near an ancient seashore made it a target of speculation for explaining the mystery of the return of mammals to the water from which it once arose. Verdict!? All quite unconvincing evidence for evolution, especially since the dating of the fossil, has changed to a more recent time and a better candidate for whale evolution (actual whales) have been found in supposedly more ancient stone.