This post is based on an ABC news report. The reason it is important, at least to me, is not because of the find but because of what it says about scientific reasoning.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, fish known as Placoderms had armoured plates and dominated the oceans. For years, the world’s top evolutionary scientists thought Placoderms died out and then somehow modern fish evolved.
That’s not a very satisfying answer, is it? “… and then somehow modern fish evolved.”
Scientists get accused of a conspiracy to foist evolution on us all the time, and usually by people with a profound ignorance of science and evolution both. They wish there was a conspiracy, but they’ve put no effort into finding out.
Science is a lot more honest than its slanderers. It settles for “somehow” when somehow is all it has.
How easy would it be for this supposed conspiracy to lie to its purposely uneducated opponents and say that Placoderms are the obvious ancestors of modern fish? That’s what the opposers of evolution accuse them of doing.
They aren’t, however. Instead, they are looking at the evidence and saying, “Geez, Louise, I can’t find anything that links Placoderms to modern fish. There are just not enough similarities. It looks like this class went extinct.”
Their honesty and patience have now been rewarded by the 419-million-year-old Entelognathus, a candidate for the ancestor of modern fish AND Placoderms. Very cool.
Missing Links/Transitional Forms
An oft-repeated attack on evolution is that there are no transitional forms.
That has never been true, ever at any time. Charles Darwin came up with his theory because of transitional forms currently living. He did say that he expected the fossil record to become more complete and turn up more transitional forms, but the very basis of his “dangerous idea” was the continuity of life that he saw as a naturalist.
Here we have one more transitional form to add to the thousands that have turned up in the 154 years since On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection was published. In fact, it is likely that the transitional forms, the “missing links,” that have been found in the last 10 years number in the thousands. They are certainly in the hundreds.
Some of the most exciting have been fossils understood to be ancestors of birds, called Maniraptorans. New classes, orders, and families are constantly being discovered, and this is an exciting time to be a scientist. The more information we have on fossils and on their ancestry and geography, the better we know where to look. Tiktaalik, for example, an incredible fish-to-amphibian find, was the result of precision focusing on a time period and location based on previously accumulated knowledge.
Okay, my next post, which I will write now for publishing tomorrow, will touch on another scientific discovery which will help explain why a radical, committed Christian teacher like me would be willing to embrace evolution with all the Bible controversies it raises.