Thursday, September 01, 2011
Wait Til She Gores Your Ox
I was stunned by Ann Coulter's attack on evolution in her earlier book, Godless. My faith in Darwin's general rightness abides. She repeats the attack in her most recent column here. She goes a bridge too far here and there.
Darwin's theory was that a process of random mutation, sex and death, allowing the "fittest" to survive and reproduce, and the less fit to die without reproducing, would, over the course of billions of years, produce millions of species out of inert, primordial goo.No, not from goo but from other plants and animals. Darwin, like Ann Coulter, believed that God created all life, and his theory merely sought to explain the origin of the species, not the origin of life. This is a lazy conflation on her part.
Only if you still believe in gradualism would you expect to find a 'colossal' number of transitional fossils. If you believe, as I do, in punctuated equilibrium, then the number of expected transitional fossils falls to a much lower level. Is it one that paleontologists are meeting with discoveries? I don't know. But to attack Darwinism in the 21st Century for problems with gradualist theory is again a rhetorical sleight-of-hand unworthy of someone as intellectually rigorous as Ms. Coulter. Just as plants and animals are capable of evolving, so too can theories evolve and Darwin's have. It's in all the books.
We also ought to find a colossal number of transitional organisms in the fossil record -- for example, a squirrel on its way to becoming a bat, or a bear becoming a whale. (Those are actual Darwinian claims.)But that's not what the fossil record shows. We don't have fossils for any intermediate creatures in the process of evolving into something better.
There is a fairly good fossil record of the evolution of whales from terrestrial mammals contained in the Tethys Sea floor, which includes intermediate or transitional species. There is still the singularly good refutation to Intelligent Design contained in the Panda's Thumb.
I'll give Ann, whom I really like and admire, more credit here when she takes on these two examples. I'm not actually holding my breath.
Labels: Ann Coulter; Evolution