Are All Fossils Transitional?

Posted by Alaric on September 13, 1998 at 21:32:26:

What do you think about the following statement and why:

Every fossil is an example of a transitional form.

Feel free to expound, I'm curious about what both creationists and scientists think!

First Response


Posted by MEYER on September 13, 1998 at 21:46:58:

If evolution were true, your statement would be true. I said that a long time ago.

Second Response


Posted by The Dire Puppy on September 13, 1998 at 23:15:38:

Excavated a gator hole site a few years ago. Got to tell you more of the same. Equus (>12), Paleollama (@ 7), turtles (@ 15 w/ 1 tortoise), a smaller gator, plus the body of her, herself.

The only variant was ontogenetic, the victims were the very young and very old (as are the victims of most predators). Just a moment in time, really.

There are lots of other places like this all around the world.    Then there are the places with a slow depositional environment. Slow processes that show change over time.  The Calvert Cliffs and adjacent areas in Maryland, the extensive shell beds in Florida, the mostly uninterrupted sequences of the Cenozoic midwest, the Ashfall Fossil Beds of Nebraska.  Speaking of, there is a rather unscrupulous creationist (wish I kept a link) sight that claims that the side-toed horses found along with the 3-toed versions are in fact Equus, which they are not.   But that's their linear chain of thinking I guess.  Mention catch-words such as "Coelacanth", "Peking Man", Equoidea, Horseshoe Crabs, Opossums,... And there seems to be an instant denial of the diversity of such forms.

The many types of lobe-finned fishes, the variety of early humans, the browsing and grazing horses, and the variety of marsupials.  The fossil record may not be all that complete in many instances, however, it is in a lot.

Kind of like (who is it, Hovind?) trying to pass off a rotten basking shark as a plesiosaur, and then claiming that whales couldn't have evolved because "plesiosaurs" are still around. I think EtGD made some moronic statement in these lines.
The only advice I can give is... READ THE LITERATURE CITED!!!

Too often it seems that creationist writers pick and choose various things to their advantage.

Or go into denial.

Third Response


Posted by Paul Rothberg on September 13, 1998 at 23:31:23:

With regard to Alaric's statement:


Every fossil is an example of a transitional form.


Yes it is true, but in a trivial way. Every INDIVIDUAL that reproduces is an intermediate individual on the way to something. That something is extinction (most of the time), more of the same species or something new.

One of the interesting exercises in understanding evolution is to model a possible change. An example (which I think I read in a S.J.G. paper, but haven't been able to find again) is if an organism the size of a mouse were to evolve to become the size of an elephant in the span of a  million years. First of all this is mega-fast evolution. Second, in any human generation we would not detect a change, it would be so small. Third, it is very unlikely that intermediate forms would be found and recognized as such, unless the animals lived under circumstances that strongly   favored fossilization.

It is only because evolution is usually slow that we get a chance to see the intermediate (or transitional) forms.
Note to creationists: Intermediate forms are species and are only recognizable as a transition when we see what came before and what came after.

Fourth Response


Posted by Sumac on September 14, 1998 at 01:57:35:

My understanding of "transitional" is that it is an intermediate form between two already observed forms. There are numerous fossils that are not intermediate even though they may share characteristics with other fossils.


Response to Sumac


Posted by Alaric on September 14, 1998 at 20:12:00:

Suppose you have a transitional and the antecedent form. The difficulty then is : what is between those two?
What are the transitional forms between those transitional forms? And so on.

I guess my point is that every "transitional" form must also be an observed form ( a "regular" individual species ). If an organism is around in such number and for such a long period as to become a fossil plentiful enough to be found, it must itself be an individual species.

I'm not disagreeing with you - I just don't understand exactly what transitional means in this sense.


Response to Alarcic


Posted by Sumac on September 15, 1998 at 00:27:19:

Just because a transitional form is its own form does not mean that it isn't a transitional. What I meant was that there are fossils that do not appear to be intermediates between any two forms. I was thinking in particular of some of the large dinosaurs like T. rex or something like that. But even a human fossil would not be transitional because humans are not intermediate between two forms. The next step (if there ever is one) hasn't happened yet.

Response to Sumac


Posted by Alaric on September 15, 1998 at 15:50:55:

I see a potential for a transitional form crisis: there can't be an infifnite number of transitional forms between two forms.
Do you have the scientific definition of transitional form or is this something creationists made up like "micro" and "macro" evolution?


Response to Alaric


Posted by Sumac on September 15, 1998 at 19:15:43:

I don't know the precise definition (maybe Deb can help).
As I said, my understanding is that a transitional form is simply any form that is intermediate between two other forms.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.