Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Missing Link?

If you have ever asked that question, you have displayed your compete misunderstanding of evolutionary science. The term "missing link" is not used in science. It is a meaningless cliché typically forwarded by anti-evolutionists who quite clearly have no clue. I recall a recent seminar I was giving to a group of Christians in which evolution was one topic. One of the believers declared his staunch opposition to evolution. With an air of certainty he set forth his reasoning: "The missing link has never been found! Furthermore" he added confidently, "I believe it never will be." It seems he thought that if evolution were true, there must exist somewhere out there a smoking gun fossil which, if found, would forever lay to rest the evolution wars. It would finally prove Darwin was right! And in the absence of this fossil, "the missing link", evolution must forever remain a dubious hypothesis.

But the fact is, if evolution is true, there is no such "missing link". Instead, we should expect to find thousands upon thousands of transitional forms interconnecting all living species. If Darwin's theory is correct, we should expect to find fossil remains of every imaginable life form and species to fill in the gaps between every known species. And this is exactly what we do find! It seems that these discoveries of intermediate species, of transitional forms in the fossil record, are an almost daily occurrence! Just today, a spectacular fossil find of a 47 million year old intact early primate was announced. You can view "Ida" and read about her here or here.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that we will ever reconstruct the entire tree of life from the fossil record. It takes an unusual set of circumstances to lay down a fossil. Most organisms die and decay leaving no trace. But every now and then, some catastrophic event such as a flood will bury organisms in a watery grave which will preserve their skeletal remains. In the case of Ida, her fossil tells of an unfortunate broken wrist. Since her life consisted of swinging on branches from tree to tree, strong wrists were a must. It is theorized that she dropped from a tree into a lake, fell to the bottom where her remains were silted over, and voilà, she was nearly perfectly preserved.

If creationists truly find comfort behind a perceived castle wall of "no missing link", they should beware. That wall is coming down stone by stone. Evolutionists, on the other hand, are never surprised by finds like Ida. Thrilled, yes. But never surprised. It is exactly what they expect to find.


Psiloiordinary said...

A fantastic find and a great post - thanks Cliff



Steve Martin said...

Agreed. Thanks Cliff. Loved that video - it's time for me to get back to this stuff again (been taking a break for the last few months).

Isaac Gouy said...

Evolutionists, on the other hand, are never surprised by finds like Ida. Thrilled, yes. But never surprised. It is exactly what they expect to find.

Yes, but more powerful than not being surprised, more powerful than expect - "we look at the fossil evidence that exists today to make predictions about what we might find in the field tomorrow".

That's what makes the search for the transitional fish / land animal Tiktaalik such a great story.

Rich G. said...


I've been mulling this over for several days, and think it is not just creationists who get caught up with the "Missing Link" hype. I've seen a lot of this in the popular, consumer-oriented science magazines and TV shows where it is presented with more of a "Eureka! We've found the Missing Link" as if they need to have proven something. I don't blame the real scientists for this, but the media faces who take the science discoveries to the masses - often with 'exciting discovery' presentations, as if the discovery was totally unexpected, and will re-write all human understanding for ages to come.

I'm not disputing the evolutionary lineage of natural life, or the research into it, just the hype I see on Discovery Channel and the like.

Cliff Martin said...

Hi Rich,

Yes, I may have over-stated the case. I have tried to trace back the use of the term "missing link", but to no avail. I suspect it originated with anti-evolutionary Creationists, but I may be mistaken. It has, as you note, become a popular term in the media. But serious scientists do not use the term, at least not much.