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Quantifying the Statistical Challenge to Evolution2 min read

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principlesofpalientologyIn today’s response to the tiktaalik fish at the CSC, I read with interest the proposed way to calculate the number of transitional fossils we should see if evolution were true.  Check it out below.

As Stephen Meyer et. al. explain in an essay on the Cambrian explosion in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, paleontologist Michael Foote (a mainstream evolutionist, not an ID proponent) has “developed a method by which evolutionary models can be tested against several variables.” His analysis shows that

‘given estimates of [a] completeness [of the fossil record], [b] median species duration, [c] the time required for evolutionary transitions, and [d] the number of ordinal- or higher-level transitions, we could obtain an estimate of the number of major transitions we should expect to see in the fossil record.’ Michael Foote, ‘On the probability of ancestors in the fossil record,’ Paleobiology 22 (1996): 141-51

As Meyer et. al. go on to explain,

“His method provides a way to evaluate, as he puts it, ‘whether the small number of documented major transitions provides strong evidence against evolution.’ Or as Meyer explains elsewhere, “Because estimates of the completemness of the fossil record [a], median species duration [b], and the number of ordinal- or higher-level transtions [d] are reasonably well established, the time required for plausible mechanisms to produce macroevolutionary transitions, stands as the crucial variable in any such analysis. If the time required to produce major evolutionary change is high, as it is for neo-Darwinian mechanisms of change, then given current estimates of … [a, b, and d], neo-Darwinism fails to account for the data of the fossil record. (p. 343)

And as they also note, the transitional speed suggested by punctuationalists like Stephen Gould also conflicts with what a statistical analysis of the fossil record shows us.

There’s a problem with the Darwinist position that runs even deeper than this, however: If Darwinian evolution is an undisputed fact, as its chief defenders routinely claim, why is this fossil find being billed as such an crucial piece of evidence?