Misinformation galore

A “your views” piece in the Tallahassee Democrat is a great example of how easily misinformation can be passed along to the general public. The man writes about supposed flaws in evolution research. The writer obviously has no idea what he is actually talking about, or else he’s purposely lying to the reading audience. He has done no research and presented no source material on which to base his assertions. It would be easy for anyone uncritically reading his garbage to think that the writer is knowledgeable and that he got in a few good zingers against those dumb evolutionists. The more likely scenario is that the writer merely parroted talking points he read in some Discovery Institute book.

The majority of his piece is muddled fluff. The only two specific points he actually makes turn out to be anything but fact.

First, he claims that the Cambrian Explosion is a problem for evolution. Supposedly, fossils of complex organisms appear fully formed with no record of anything preceding them. At least, that’s how the writer presents it. He’s wrong. Yes, the abundant fossils of the Cambrian and no discovered fossils before that time period was a puzzler for Darwin, but I’m sure his mind would be at ease with recent discoveries about life before the Cambrian. Have a look at this paper published in 2000: Solution to Darwin’s dilemma: Discovery of the missing Precambrian record of life.

Measured by virtually any criterion one might propose, studies of Precambrian life have burst forth since the mid-1960s to culminate in recent years in discovery of the oldest fossils known, petrified cellular microbes nearly 3,500 million years old, more than three-quarters the age of the Earth. Precambrian paleobiology is thriving—the vast majority of all scientists who have ever investigated the early fossil record are alive and working today; new discoveries are being made at an ever quickening clip—progress set in motion by the few bold scientists who blazed this trail in the 1950s and 1960s, just as their course was charted by the Dawsons, Walcotts, and Sewards, the pioneering pathfinders of the field. And the collective legacy of all who have played a role dates to Darwin and the dilemma of the missing Precambrian fossil record he first posed. After more than a century of trial and error, of search and final discovery, those of us who wonder about life’s early history can be thankful that what was once “inexplicable” to Darwin is no longer so to us.

And it’s important to understand that the “explosion” refers to a time period of about 30 million years, hardly a fast pop in time. Is there scientific controversy concerning the Cambrian explosion? Of course. But such debates have nothing to do with the veracity of evolution overall. For example, you and a friend might be standing in front of a big machine that is churning out widgets. You and the friend can argue about the inner workings of the machine, what makes it tick. But that doesn’t negate that fact that the machine is still producing widgets. Further reading can be found here and here.

Next, the writer moves on to the creationist standard whine about transitional fossils. He claims there are few, if any at all. The writer needs to stick with his day job, because a scientist he is not. There are transitional fossils. One that attracted a lot of attention in the news was a “fishapod,” the Tiktaalik. See more examples here and here and here.

The writer asks:

How many scientific disciplines are still struggling with problems identified in the 19th century? If I’m not mistaken, evolutionary biology is the only one.

Well, you are mistaken. You are the one stuck in the 19th century. Do some research in reliable, authoritative source materials and you may learn a thing or two.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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