Being an honest man, Charles Darwin made no bones (pardon the pun) about predicting that the forensic fossil evidence would ultimately prove his theory right or wrong. The controversy surrounding Darwinian evolution is over his general theory of macroevolution. It states that over eons of time, all life evolved by the same process of natural selection. If true, then human beings are merely the end product of a long evolutionary chain.
An increasing number of scientists are looking at the evidence from a common sense point of view. If macroevolution is right, then it makes sense that the fossil record would prove Darwin right. So they begin by looking at the evidence that Darwin predicted would substantiate his claims. Darwin predicted that transitional fossil discoveries would eventually prove his theory right. According to Darwin, these transitional fossils would provide ample evidence of gradual changes brought about by chance mutations.
We have observed examples of microevolution in which variations exist within a species. But there is little or no empirical evidence supporting Darwin’s claim of macroevolution—one species evolving into another species.¹
Why are the missing links essential to Darwin’s theory? Couldn’t gradual macroevolution have occurred without producing transitional fossils? Not according to Darwin. And certainly if countless species had undergone very gradual transitions from one category to another (for example, cats into dogs or fish into birds), then, according to Darwin, there should be countless fossils.
For 150 years, paleontologists have been busy digging, classifying, and looking for these transitional fossils in a worldwide hunt. Billions of fossils representing about 250,000 species have been scrutinized. What have the scientists discovered? Does the fossil evidence support Darwin’s theory of macroevolution? If it does, the missing links Darwin predicted should no longer be missing.
We commence our fossil search with the mysterious Cambrian period, an era geologists date at around 530 million years ago. Seemingly out of the blue, complex life-forms with fully developed eyes appeared during the Cambrian period. It has been called by some “biology’s big bang.”
Only fossils for simple life-forms have been discovered from the time prior to the Cambrian period. Then, suddenly, the fossil record is shown to be teeming with more complex life-forms than exist today. It is called the “Cambrian Explosion.”
Explosion is an apt term in this case. We see the period’s importance, for example, in the appearance of new phyla. Phyla are the broadest category of animals that exist. According to biologists, you are a member of a phylum that also includes gerbils and trout. The differences between phyla are even more extreme than the differences within them. For example, the slug family falls into a separate phylum from that of humans. In fact, organisms in different phyla are built according to entirely different body plans.
What paleontologists find in the Cambrian explosion is not simply the appearance of a few new animals but the appearance of 50 completely different body types without prior transitions or predecessors.
Darwin staked his entire theory on the belief that a species could never suddenly appear. He said, “If numerous species, belonging to the same … families, have really started into life at once, that fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution through natural selection.”²
Yet complex body organs such as eyes suddenly appeared during the Cambrian period. The trilobite eye has dozens of complex tubes, each with its own intricate lens. Darwinian gradualism cannot account for the sudden development of complex organs such as the fully formed eye.³ Evolutionists are stumped because Darwin theorized that complex organs like the eye could only develop gradually over enormous periods of time, traceable to a common ancestor. Yet five totally different phyla with no hint of a common ancestor all suddenly popped into existence during the Cambrian period, each with fully developed eyes.4
T. S. Kemp, curator of the zoological collections at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, is one of the world’s foremost experts on Cambrian fossils. When discussing the sudden appearances of new species, Kemp declares, “With few exceptions, radically new kinds of organisms appear for the first time in the fossil record already fully evolved. … It is not at all what might have been expected.”5
Certainly new organisms with eyes developing quickly is not what Darwin had in mind when his theory defined natural selection as gradual changes over vast amounts of time. Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins—no friend to a belief in creation—affirms, “Without gradualness …we are back to a miracle.”6
Stephen Gould, a staunch advocate of materialistic evolution, sums up the problem for Darwinists: “We do not know why the Cambrian explosion could establish all major anatomical designs so quickly. … The Cambrian explosion was the most remarkable and puzzling event in the history of life.”7
Although the Cambrian explosion doesn’t disprove Darwin’s theory, it certainly does raise a huge question mark, and it has been a source of great frustration to materialists. But is the Cambrian explosion of suddenly appearing new species the only contradiction to Darwin’s theory of macroevolution?
The best examples evolutionists offer in defense of macroevolution are the Archaeopteryx (a bird with reptilian features), and the Tiktaalik roseae (a fish that appears to have been developing limbs). But these two debatable examples don’t explain the enormous gaps in the fossil record. Molecular biologist Michael Denton remarks, “Archaeopteryx was probably the best intermediate that Darwin was able to name, yet between reptiles and Archaeopteryx there was still a very obvious gap.”8 Darwin expected much more evidence to support macroevolution. This has led even the most ardent materialists to question Darwin’s prediction.
Gould’s colleague, Eldredge, frankly admits the failure of the fossil record to provide evidence for macroevolution, stating, “No one has found any such in-between creatures … and there is a growing conviction among many scientists that these transitional forms never existed.”9
The above article was excerpted from the Y-Origins article “Where Are Darwin’s Predicted Fossils?”
¹ Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 6th ed. (New York: University Press, 1988), 413.
² Darwin, 344.
4 Behe, 22.
5 T. S. Kemp, Fossils and Evolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 253.
6 Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic, 1995), 83.
7 Stephen Jay Gould, “The Evolution of Life,” Scientific American, October 1994.
8 Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Chevy Chase MD: Alder & Alder, 1986), 46-56.
9 George Alexander, “Alternative Theory of Evolution Considered,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1978.