Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Evolution Without Evidence: Stahl on the Vertebrates

By Kevin Wirth

One of the things many evolutionists are fond of saying is: “Hey – we don’t know exactly HOW evolution occurred in many instances, but, we know it MUST HAVE occurred.”

What’s most amazing about all this is that so many of them seem to overlook the fact that they are putting the cart before the horse, not to mention asserting a dogmatism that they often deride the creationists for holding to. Finally, when they do this, they step outside the realm of science.

There a broad assumption in place among evolutionists that all of life evolved, and that we are now on a quest to understand how it all happened. Questions about “did life evolve” are not being asked or challenged (unless you want to ruin your career, lose your chance at grad school, or your nice professorial office) – the only really relevant avenue of inquiry left for us now (we are told) are the “how did it happen?” questions.

Speaking from a purely scientific perspective, this approach holds about as much water as a vegetable colander.

How can someone assert that all life evolved if they can’t even imagine how it even happened in most instances? It’s important to note at this point that it’s one thing to make broad, sweeping generalizations about the “fact” of evolution, but quite another to dig in and take a look at what we really know about how it occurred in specific instances.

Finally, there is the matter of historical verification. Science cannot speak authoritatively to historic, non-repeatable events any more than the Christian can scientifically prove the Bible’s claim that that the sun stood still, or that Jesus restored sight to the blind. Both are matters of faith. While many scientists claim that historic evolutionary events are scientifically verifiable while the events in the life of Christ aren’t, the fact of the matter is, neither are. But, we are told that if science can establish the evolution of life today, then that must mean that evolution is the mechanism that brought life into being in the past.

I say, not so fast.

Though it may seem logical to extrapolate from current alleged evolutionary events that evolution has always been the mechanism that created the diversity of life throughout aeons of the past, we still have a problem. And the problem is this: we are still speculating. What if evolutionary events observed today are really nothing more than just the reshuffling of information in existing gene pools? Far too many instances of ‘evolution’ are in fact nothing more than this. We have not observed the generation of multitudes of new genetic information in alleged instances of observed evolutionary events – just a re-assembly of pre-existing genetic data. Evolution, however, requires the creation of new genetic information, not just a reshuffling of old data. Even if I could take the genes from a mouse and somehow rearrange them so that I created a critter that looks like a kangaroo – it would not be evidence for evolution because a) an intelligence did the re-arranging and b) no new genetic data was introduced.

With just a little bit of research, many are surprised to learn that instead of convincing evidence for evolution, what we find instead is a super-abundance of speculation holding together one evolutionary presumption after another together. I use the word ‘presumption’ carefully, because this is what a close reading of the evidence (at least, the evidence presented by honest scientists working on the front lines) clearly demonstrates. When you get past the pontifications of modern-day philosophic defenders of the evolutionary faith such as Huxley, Gould, Dawkins and others, and look more closely at the evidence, you will see that the use of speculation, extrapolation, and assumption is consistently used to describe alleged evolutionary events. Such speculations are, as I have said elsewhere, the glue that holds evolutionary ‘evidence’ together.

Is there anything wrong with using speculation in science to help us try and understand what happened in the past? Absolutely not. Science thrives on imagination and speculation – it often leads us into a better understanding of the world we live in. Many times we can only understand the actual by first anticipating the possible. But, and this IS an important “but”, when we have no way of verifying an actual event (ie, how animals allegedly evolved in the past), science requires that we not make the jump from ‘speculation’ to ‘fact’. Unfortunately, this is precisely what acceptance of historic evolution requires.

Let there be no equivocation on this point.

If you can’t demonstrate something with a test, then it can’t be scientifically verifiable, period. Which places it outside the realm of practical science. Even if you can demonstrate that an evolutionary event might have occurred historically, this doesn’t mean that the event did occur in whatever manner you might conceive. That’s because historical events are not subject to scientific scrutiny – they can only be inferred, and such inferences hardly qualify as a 'fact' of science. This is one reason why it’s perfectly legitimate to define evolution as a hypothesis or a theory, not as a fact. Those who insist on referring to historical evolutionary events as facts are, unfortunately, sorely mistaken and uninformed. Such events can never be more than inferences, speculations, or conjecture - a far cry from 'fact'.

The fossil evidence is often assumed to have already demonstrated the evolution for so much of life that many have come to view all fossils as evidence for evolution, even before any evolutionary lineage has been established. While it’s indisputable that fossils are evidence of critters that once lived, it is another matter altogether to assume that they all point to some form of evolution. This distinction is an important one to make, especially as we take a closer look at what we really know about the evolution of almost anything vertebrate (for example). Because when we do take that closer look, what we find in one instance after another is a surprisingly consistent picture of what we don’t know, rather than what many of us may have assumed we would know by now.

For example, in the case of vertebrate evolution, we have the following comments from Barbara J. Stahl, author of Vertebrate History: Problems in Evolution. It’s important to keep in mind here that Stahl bases her comments on the work of some of the best and most respected science professionals in the various fields she has investigated.


One would think that by now, especially since most of the fossils on the planet are of marine life, we would have clearly established the forerunners of fishes. But such is not the case at all, according to Stahl (and many others).

“The origin of all these fishes is obscure. As has been shown earlier, it is not possible to demonstrate unequivocally the descent of any group of the higher fishes from a specific stock of placoderms or acanthodians.” (pg. 126)

“There seems to be as little chance of tracing the origin of the paleoniscoids as any other kind of fishes, but investigators speculate on the matter, nevertheless.” (pg. 151)

This is what we think we know about the evolution of fishes into tetrapods:

“It has long been obvious that of all the Devonian fishes the rhipidistians were the most likely most likely to have produced the first vertebrates that could live for substantial periods on land.” (pg. 147)

Well then, what about the actual evidence from the rhipidistians?

“Paleontologists are quite certain of the relationship between rhipidistians and the amphibians even though they have not discovered the animals intermediate between the finned and limbed forms. The remains of the oldest tetrapods in their collections leave no doubt about the derivation of the axial skeleton from fishes of the rhipidistian group. Since the fossil material provides no evidence of other aspects of the transformation from fish to tetrapod, paleontologists have had to speculate how legs and aerial breathing evolved and why a group of fishes produced forms that habituated themselves little by little to life on land” (pg. 194-95)

One would think that the evidence for evolution would be so overwhelming by now on this point. Stahl notes later that…

“Despite their failure to find animals with appendages of an intermediate type, investigators still believed that rhipidistian fins were the most likely precursors for the legs of land animals.”

So, is the notion of the transition of amphibians to land animals based on evidence, or speculation? Seems pretty clear to me.

There you have it – evolution without evidence. We know it happened, we just don’t know how… yet. Stay tuned – we will figure it out eventually. In the meantime – we expect you to accept our pronouncement that evolution is a fact! And if you are a student and don't agree with that view, you will most likely be 'branded' (as professors Dini and Patterson have advocated) so that your academic future can be closely scrutized and eventually derailed for not towing the evolutionary line. But that's a topic for another blog...

To make the transition from fishes to amphibians requires much more than just turning a fin into a foot. A host of other specialized changes that would be required include a) modification of sensory organs, b) mechanisms to protect the body from dessication, c) the development of lungs, etc. For these changes, paleontologists also do not have a definitive answer – just (yep – you guessed it!) more speculation.

“…determining the time and the order in which the required structural changes took place is a more speculative matter. Although many of the modifications were correlated and so must have occurred simultaneously, paleontologists are not certain of how much alteration took place… (pg. 199)

Here’s what we know about the evolution of salamanders and frogs, for example.

“Workers are aware that their picture of the ancient amphibian community is extrapolated from the small and perhaps not entirely representative sample of fossil forms they have gathered…but they feel, nevertheless, that they understand the broad trends in the history of these early tetrapods.” (pg. 228)

“The lack of fossil specimens intermediate between anurans or urodeles [i.e., salamanders and newts] and the older amphibians has forced paleontologists and students of the living animals to base their speculations about the evolution of the group upon evidence from the anatomy and embryology of modern species. This approach has presented difficulties that have so far proved insurmountable. The structure of the existing amphibians is so specialized that the more generalized condition from which it derived is almost completely obscured.” (pg. 241)

“…the history of the urodeles is even more obscure than that of the frogs” (pg. 248)

Do 'broad trends' offer the kind of evidence required to establish evolution as a 'fact'? Hardly. Note that scientists have not been able to find (or identify) the precursors to frogs, and even when they try to extrapolate backwards (or, re-engineer), what they find is that they can’t. Why? Because frogs are too “specialized”, which simply means that they are so unlike more “primitive” or so-called "early" amphibians that any honest scientist recognizes that such speculation would be challenged at every turn. And when experts have speculated on what the likely characteristics of a proto-frog would be, there are no corresponding fossils known (pg. 243). Does that mean such fossils don't exist? No - it means we don't have them yet - and until we do - then we have no business requiring others to adopt the view that amphibians evolved from anything.

Then there is the problem of the amphibian-reptile transition…

“One of the most difficult tasks faced by paleontologists who investigate reptilian history is distinguishing the first reptiles from the amphibians among which they lived…transitional forms especially constitute a problem in classification.” (pg. 258)

In fact, one of the key problems of distinguishing amphibians from reptiles (the bone structures of both amphibians transitioning into alleged reptilian critters is evidently not so easy to distinguish…but the notion that this is because there may not be any transitionals is evidently out of the question…) is determining the jump from amphibian to reptilian eggs. In fact, the evolution of the first reptilian egg has caused great consternation among evolutionists since the idea of evolution was first proposed. Yet, we are no less certain today concerning it’s origin than when we began.

“It is easier to understand the stages by which the reptiles evolved temporal fenestrae and other distinguishing skeletal characteristics than to imagine the steps that led to the development of the “land egg.” Paleontologists continue to speculate upon the way in which the enclosure of the embryo came about, however, because the matter is central to the broad question of reptilian origins. Study of the eggs laid by living reptiles has provided little insight into the evolution of the extraembryonic structures which gave protoreptiles their first advantage over other tetrapods. Rather than recapitulating the process of its evolution, the ‘land egg’ develops in a specialized manner derived, no doubt, by abbreviation and reordering of an earlier procedure” (pg. 268)

…Szarski, Romer, and many other paleontologists believe that the common possession of the “land egg” identifies reptiles as a monophyletic group. Since the development of the “land egg” involved such a long and complicated series of interdependent genetic mutations, it is highly improbable, they argue, that it evolved more than once. They find it reasonable to assume that all reptiles, despite their diversity, descended from the single amphibian line in which the “land egg” appeared.” (pg. 268, 271)

“The origin of the ichthyosaurs is a problem which remains wholly unresolved.” (pg. 297)

“Until remains of animals closer in age to Proganochelys are found, paleontologists can say nothing about the establishment of the body form which has sustained the turtles from the Triassic period to modern times.” (pg. 289)

Stahl’s comment about the ancestors of turtles bears repeating here as well…

“If sufficient fossil material were available, paleontologists think that the turtles [chelonians, generally] would be traceable …almost directly to the early cotylosaurs. Because turtles enter the record in a nearly modern state in the Triassic period, the supposition rests on inferences from the anatomy of their skull rather than on evidence of known transitional forms.” (pg. 284-85)

Need I say more? Yes? OK then…here’s more.


While many discoveries of birds (especially in China) have been made in recent years, how they allegedly evolved from reptiles continues to remain a mystery.

One of the key attributes of birds are their feathers.

Here is what Stahl has to say:

“It is not difficult to imagine how feathers, once evolved, assumed additional functions, but how they arose initially, presumably from reptilian scales, defies analysis…

The problem [ie, evolution of feathers] has been set aside, not for want of interest, but for lack of evidence. No fossil structure transitional between scale and feather is known, and recent investigators are unwilling to found a theory on pure speculation [note by KW: and why not? They freely speculate about everything else?]. Their supposition that feathers were derived from the scales of reptiles is based upon the fact that both are nonliving, keratinized structures…” (pgs. 349, 350)

She goes on to say that there are “no hint of primitive feathers” known. Yet, scientists are certain that birds evolved from reptiles. Again, it's a case of evolution without evidence.

But what about other factors? She continues with comments such as:

“How temperature control gradually manifested itself as the birds evolved remains unknown….Studying the development of temperature control in young birds just after hatching has been recommended…[however] The value of this kind of research is also questionable…because ontogeny is now recognized as an unreliable guide to phylogeny…The hope that different thermoregulative abilities would be discovered in adult birds, permitting the construction of a graded series of stages approximating the evolutionary ones, has proved unavailing” (pg. 357)

Elsewhere, she says:

“When investigators turn from the study of modern birds to the fossil record for information about avian evolution, they find their research severely limited by the scarcity of informative remains.” (pg. 362)

The bottom line here is: we don’t have enough evidence to deduce anything conclusive about the origin of birds.


I'm going to stop here... because even though Stahl continues on in this vein as she discusses the evolution of other types of critters, I think you get the idea. If you want to read more, I suggest you order a copy of her book and read it.

So the next time someone tells you that evolution is based on the "empirical evidence", you can politely correct them by saying "no, it is based on empirical evidence AND LOTS OF SPECULATION". That would be far more accurate.


Stahl, Barbara J. Vertebrate History – Problems in Evolution. Dover Books, NY (1985), 604 pp.


Blogger Dave Jackson said...

Right On! And you won't get any smarter as a couch potato! It just makes sense to treat stuff like this seriously. But hardly anyone does - mostly hobbiest involved.

I write about direct sales on my site, www.davejackson.com.

Dave Jackson, Naples, FL

4:59 AM  
Blogger Bloggers United said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:51 PM  
Blogger zipper said...

great post kevin hope you stay at it would like to recommend Cosmos and Transcendence by Wolfgang Smith. and hey im not selling anything!!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

id like to point out one thing in regards to "fact". go to 10 different doctors and ask them if you should eat red meat or not. come back and tell me the 10 different answers (i guarantee youll get at least 4 or 5 different answers, all slightly different in their approach to the subject.)

same thing with eggs- remember how they always said that eggs are okay for you and you can eat them all you want...then they changed that and said limit your egg consumption or buy those fake eggs that taste like eggs? then they changed and said, you can eat eggs, but limit it to this amt. then some others say that you shouldnt eat eggs at all.

well, think about it- these are issues that happen today in real time (people eating meat and eggs), meat and eggs exist today and we can poke it, prod it, and whatever else. yet, not all doctors and medical scientists can agree on the simple matter of whether eggs and red meat are good or bad, whether we can eat all we want of each or whether we need to limit one or both. theres no way a doctor will say 100% as a FACT that this is how it is and if you do anything else, youre wrong.

this goes for so MANY things in our world. science often disagrees on many subjects- vitamins come to mind as well...some say use them everyday, other say dont bother. some "experts" tell us that global warming is a deadly threat while other experts challenge that premise and show that some areas are cooling down (in the 70s, many scientists warned of the imminent "global cooling" to come!)

so, when someone takes events that supposedly happened millions of yrs ago and left no fossil evidence, and left no intermediate forms, let no materials to test and repeat these tests. left things you cannot observe today or poke and prod yourself, but they assert its fact and theres no debate, and that anyone who denies it is a fool- dont buy into their way of thinking.

i personally dont accept common ancestry- its absurd to think about. the fossil record doesnt show it, DNA code couldnt have come about itself (information in general couldnt have done so!) i could name a hundred items that are problems, but i wont because we already know the issues involved.

the point in the end is- science has become downright absurd in the recent past. medical experts cant agree on diet plans, yet they can agree that its plain "fact" that evolution has occurred (we just dont know when, or how, or where, or in what manner), and anyone who doesnt accept this is a fool? no way. the fool is the person who thinks he can explain events over millions of yrs when we cant even figure out half of what we need to figure out that happens EVERYDAY in all of our lives.

when scientists can all agree to tell me if eggs are good this yr or not (it changes so often, it seems its diff everyday) THEN talk to me about the origin of tens of millions of different species. youve mentioned it several times, and youre totally right- this is all a matter of putting the cart before the horse (and i mean WAY before the horse.)

2:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home