Evidence for evolution

If Darwin’s theory is correct, the fossil record should show innumerable slight gradations between earlier species and later ones. Darwin was aware, however, that the fossil record of his day showed nothing of the sort. There were enormous discontinuities between forms. He accordingly entitled his chapter on the subject, “On the Imperfection of the Geological Record.” He hoped that future digging would fill in the gaps, which he admitted to be the “gravest” objection to his theory. Plenty of fossils have been dug up since, and they do not support gradual evolution. Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard biologist, calls this the great “trade secret” of modern paleontology.

The fossil record shows exactly what it showed in Darwin’s day — that species appear suddenly in a fully developed state and change little or not at all before disappearing (99 out of 100 species are extinct.) About 600 million years ago there was a sudden explosion of highly organized life-forms such as mollusks and jellyfish. Not a single ancestral multi-cellular fossil is to be found in earlier rocks. Niles Eldredge, head of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, writes that the theory of gradual evolution “is out of phase” with the fossil record: “We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not.” Admits Gould, “Phyletic gradualism [i.e., gradual evolution] … was never seen in the rocks.”