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Re: Transitional Fossils



At 5:11 PM 9/28/95, Shaun T Cronin wrote:
>I'm at it again, battling Creationists. A Creationist has challenged me to
>name 10 transitional fossils "that cannot be alternatively explained as
>speciation, pathology problems or extinct animals.  If you do name 10, how
>can you be certain they are transitional and not simply extinct?  And,
>there should be millions, not just 10." I feel that there is a
>misunderstanding here about what a transitional fossil is. If it's a fossil
>then there is a good chance it is extinct. Anyway, if you have any
>information that can help me then it would be much appreciated.

        The explanation I generally use is that _every_ fossil represents a
transitional organism -- and that, therefore, the whole concept of a
transitional fossil is a fallacy.  Creationists perceive evolution as if it
works in a few short steps:  from, for example, dinosaur -> half-dinosaur,
half-bird -> bird.  This, of course, isn't true.  There are far more steps
in between (and, as almost any paleontologists will tell you, the harder
you look for the transitional event, the blurrier it will become!  ;-)  ).
Thus, the picture goes:  dinosaur -> vaguely bird-like dinosaurs -> yet
more bird like dinosaur -> even more bird-like dinosaurs -> ... ->
dinosaur-like bird -> even less dinosaur-like bird -> vaguely dinosaur-like
bird -> bird -- and even each one of _these_ steps is blurry and probably
impossible to identify in the fossil record.

        Every organism, therefore, is a transitional organism:
transitional between what immediately preceded it and what comes
immediately after.

        Hope that helps.



Jerry D. Harris
Shuler Museum of Paleontology
Southern Methodist University
Box 750395
Dallas  TX  75275-0395
(214) 768-2750
FAX:  (214) 768-2701
jdharris@lust.isem.smu.edu
        (Compuserve:  73132,3372)

---------/O\------*     --->|:|:|>     w___/^^^\--o

"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and
quacks like a duck, then it is the sister taxon to,
but cannot parsimoniously be, the direct ancestor
to all other ducks."

                                --  _not_ W. Hennig

---------/O\------*     --->|:|:|>     w___/^^^\--o