Fossil Record Against Darwinian Evolution

on November 13, 2010

The fossil record doesn’t agree with Darwinian evolution: are evolutionists finally catching up to this long-time creationist claim?

Not quite, we’re afraid; in this case scientist Michael Rampino, a geologist at New York University, has argued that the fossil record is more compatible with a history of evolution punctuated by rapid post-catastrophe evolution rather than Darwin’s slow-and-gradual version. The argument is presented in the journal Historical Biology.

The idea was not widely publicized and Matthew’s contribution to the development of the idea was never widely known.

Rampino argues that the importance of extinctions in (evolutionary interpretations of) the fossil record shows that the process of evolution was more similar to that described by Patrick Matthew. Matthew, a Scottish horticulturalist who was a contemporary of Darwin, published the idea of evolution by means of natural selection nearly thirty years earlier than Darwin did; however, the idea was not widely publicized and Matthew’s contribution to the development of the idea was never widely known.

What makes Matthew’s ideas distinct from Darwin’s is the role of “catastrophic mass extinctions followed by relatively rapid adaptations,” explains Rampino. “In light of the recent acceptance of the importance of catastrophic mass extinctions in the history of life, it may be time to reconsider the evolutionary views of Patrick Matthew as much more in line with present ideas regarding biological evolution than the Darwin view.” (In some ways, this is similar to the more modern evolutionary idea of punctuated equilibrium.)

For creationists, Rampino’s conclusion is interesting for two key reasons. First, it deals yet another blow to the widely dismissed idea of millions of years of slow, steady, gradual evolution. Of course, this evolutionary perspective leaves less room for evidence of evolution in the fossil record, since it suggests that biological development happens rapidly—“faster” than can be captured by a supposedly slowly forming fossil record. Second, Rampino’s work reminds us that even most evolutionists now recognize the fossil record as primarily a record of catastrophes, both local and global—quite similar to creationists’ views chalking most of the fossil record up to the work of the global Flood.

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