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Article 0126 - Drastic Change
A Drastic Change in Evolutionary Thinking
Jon Gary Williams
From the beginning of Charles Darwin's theory, promoters of evolution claimed that over multiplied millions of years, life on earth slowly evolved through small, intermediate stages - - that over eons of time and through billions of tiny transitions, the complex forms we see today are a result of this slow change. Early on, evolutionists offered various arguments in defense of the theory, one of the first of which was to consider the earth's fossil record. Evolutionists claimed the fossil record as proof, under the assumption that if direct evidence for evolution were to be found anywhere, the fossil record would certainly be the place to locate that evidence and confirm the theory.
Of a certainty, the fossil record does contain literally billions of animal specimens. The question is, what does the fossil record actually tell us? For more than one hundred years evolutionists appealed to the fossils to support their theory - - guessing, labeling, comparing, arranging and rearranging in an attempt to make the fossils conform to an evolutionary view. Through the years informed creationists have pointed out that the fossil record does not support evolution, that no traces of intermediate fossils have been unearthed and that every animal and plant in the geologic record can be identified and classified in the groups to which they belong. The evolutionists' response? A common retort was that there are simply "missing links" in the "chain" of evolution - - an absurd idea, for, as was clearly established, there is more missing than links; the entire chain is missing from the fossil record.
The Need for a New Look at Evolution
Inevitably, awareness of the lack of any fossil evidence had to at some point emerge within the evolutionary camp; sooner or later there had to be a negative reaction to using this as support for evolution! A candid appraisal of the fossils finally came to light in the works of several prominent evolutionists, one of which was the renowned paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson. As early as 1944 Simpson declared: "...continuous transitional sequences are not merely rare, but are virtually absent... their absence is so nearly universal that it cannot, offhand, be imputed entirely to chance, and does require some attempt at special explanation, as has been felt by most paleontologists." (Tempo and Mode in Evolution, New York: Columbia University Press, 1944, p. 105)
As Simpson acknowledged, the lack of intermediate fossils cannot be attributed to imperfection in the geologic record (i. e. missing links). But if small, transitional steps did not exist, where would evolutionists turn for evidence?
What was Simpson's explanation? Twelve years later he stated, "It is thus possible to claim that such transitions are not recorded because they did not exist, that the changes were not by transition but by sudden leaps in evolution. There is much diversity of opinion about just how such leaps are supposed to happen." (The Meaning of Evolution, New York: Mentor, 1956, pp. 102, 103) So, Simpson's special explanation was that evolutionary changes came about abruptly by "sudden leaps."
While Simpson felt his explanation was a solution to the problem, mainstream evolutionists continued to hold fast to the gradual, Darwinian concept. In fact he was scoffed at by his evolutionary peers and labeled with holding a "sudden leap" theory. After all, his new view struck at the heart of the old Darwinian philosophy which had been accepted for more than a century.
Also, in the 1950s geneticist Richard Goldschmidt made the same claim. He said the fossils provided no evidence that life evolved slowly, but that it occurred rapidly with sudden changes between major biological groupings. Goldschmidt was also ridiculed and labeled with holding what was coined, "the hopeful monster" theory. Through the years this imaginary view of evolution eventually came to be the accepted norm.
A New View of Evolution Develops
By the 1970s and 1980s a major shift was taking place within the ranks of prominent Darwinists. Slowly but surely they were recognizing that Simpson and Goldschmidt were correct all along and they began to affirm the absence of transitional fossils in the geologic record. What creationists had been saying for years evolutionists were now accepting as fact.
In 1976 geologist Derek Ager, president of the British Geological Association, wrote: "The point emerges that if we examine the fossil record in detail, whether at the level of orders or of species, we find, over and over again, not gradual evolution, but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another." (Presidential Address, British Geological Association, Vol. 87, No. 2, 1976, p. 133)
In 1977 renowned Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote, "All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt." ("The Return of Hopeful Monsters," Natural History, Vol. LXXXVI, June-July, 1970)
So a consensus and a new claim was developing - - in the mind of the evolutionists, the fossils were showing that evolution could not have happened slowly but rather could have only happened rapidly during relatively short periods of time. Dr. Henry Morris, formerly of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and head of the Institute for Creation Research, in exposing the flaws of this new theory, said: "The amazing aspect of this emerging consensus is that it is not based on any direct scientific evidence, but only on lack of evidence! Since there are no intermediate forms, the reasoning goes, evolution must occur rapidly." (Institute for Creation Research, Impact Series, No. 77, p. 1)
What were evolutionists to do? Could they acknowledge that evolution was a false theory? Of course not, such an idea was out of the question because it would bring them dangerously close to acknowledging the existence of the God they had denied. Their denial of God motivated them to protect the evolutionary theory at all cost and thus adopt their only remaining alternative: rapid "explosive" transitions. So, the notion of evolution occurring by sudden leaps, as proposed by Simpson and Goldschmidt, was now to become the accepted view.
Explaining the Sudden Leap Theory
How could such a far-flung idea for evolution be made believable? Three distinguished evolutionists, Stephen Jay Gould, Derek Ager and Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History, took the lead with a proposed solution. What was their alternative explanation regarding this rapid type of evolution? They called it punctuated equilibrium, which has now become the standard persuasion among leading evolutionists.
What does punctuated equilibrium mean? As used here, "equilibrium" means an ongoing, unchanging state, while "punctuated" means an abrupt ending to that state. Presumably then, all biological forms of life remain unchanged over eons, but at periodic times sudden, drastic biological "leaps" occur, out of which entirely new forms of life emerge. As Derek Ager described it, these leaps were sudden "explosions" occasionally taking place along the trail of evolution.
In attempting to comprehend and rationalize this new concept of evolution, an obvious question emerges: how could abrupt leaps between radically different biological groups occur in the first place? By what logic could new and distinct life forms spontaneously emerge? On the surface, this view appears even more difficult to accept than the old Darwinian perception of evolution.
However, there is yet another very important question: Where is the direct, tangible evidence supporting this theory? The fact is there is none! As Dr. Henry Morris pointed out, this theory is not based on evidence, but rather on a lack of evidence. When evolutionists who adhere to the punctuated equilibrium concept are asked to show scientific proof for the theory, they are compelled to admit there is none. Actually, this theory is nothing more than an idea - - a concept - - a belief! And though they realize this view is not supported by even their interpretation of the fossil record, they still claim the theory to be valid. Why? Because to them evolution itself is a fact.
Let it be noted that a great many evolutionists still follow the original theory of slow transitions with no sudden changes. Many cannot accept the idea that Darwin's original premise could be wrong, although Darwin himself based his entire theory on the idea that the fossils would eventually prove him to be right.
The Case for Creation
What a dramatic shift in thinking this is for evolutionists, calling for the scrapping of what was supposedly the foundation of their theory - - that the fossils would confirm the idea of evolution. On the other hand, to Christians this shows that evolutionists have no claim on the fossil record for the promotion of their cause. Rather, the fossil record continues to display evidence of fully formed animals, such as is observed today and such as was intended in the mind of a Creator.
Indeed, there is a force (a law) which keeps the seed within its bounds - - a force which existed from the beginning when God placed barriers between plants and animals in the form of "kinds." (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) Obviously, these barriers are still at work in the organic world and will continue until the earth is no more.