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Texas Mandates Teaching “The Trade Secret of Paleontology”

Stephen J. Gould, perhaps the most famous paleontologist of the 20th century, wrote:

The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches … in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed.

Lest I be accused of quote mining you can find Gould discussing it in more detail in Gould’s book The Richness of Life, pages 263 and 264, found in its entirety on Google Books.

So what did Texas mandate? The following is to be included in the evolution section of biology textbooks beginning this year. Since Texas is the second largest purchaser of textbooks in the nation what it buys usually becomes what all the other states buy too because mass production makes the Texas selection the least expensive one.

7B: Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.

This is one small step for honest teaching of evolutionary theory and one giant leap for intelligent design.

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18 Responses to Texas Mandates Teaching “The Trade Secret of Paleontology”

  1. That paleontology has a “trade secret” at all is tantamount to a confession on Gould’s part that the data making it into general textbooks has been carefully and selectively cherry-picked to support an already-arrived-at conclusion–and that disconfirming evidence has been suppressed.
    This is just the right approach, in my opinion: not to try to teach ID, but to honestly present and evaluate the data which allegedly supports NDE.

    Nice post Dave.

  2. Nice!

    Good to see some progress.

  3. Dave, first, these “mandates” have not seen their final vote and will prob be removed before then. second, this clause actually questions common descent, for which there is ridiculous amounts of evidence and which many ID people (including yourself) accept. third, the sweetest plum for your side, a clause about teaching “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory was removed, but I guess you saw no need to mention that.

  4. I am happy but sad, happy that finally the fossil record will be presented as it truly is (how well remains to be seen?), but I am really sad that it took the sacrifice of so many reputations, careers, not to mention a nationwide movie, to expose the fact that the scientific truth of the matter is blatantly suppressed and indoctrination into materialism is the norm in our public schools. As well I have to admit that this will stimulate critical thinking, I know of nothing else in my life that has made me dig so down deep into the facts to see if I was being fooled or whether what I was being told what was actually true. And the wake call I got as to how much evolution/materialism gets away with scientifically absolutely blew me away, in the end I have found that some people, no matter what true scientific evidence they are presented with, will choose to believe in a lie anyway just because they have a some type of problem with the most rational explanation of this universe and life in it, which is of course God. Maybe they need a new conception of God!

  5. Speaking of transitional forms, can anybody reply on this?

    http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....al-fo.html

    It’s videos of supposed transitional fossils. I found it kind of disturbing, but I don’t know a ton on the fossil record. I think it also says in the video that IDists quote mine Stephen Gould when they quote him talking about the lack of transitional forms. (Not saying you did DaveScot. They’re probably talking about another quote, or if they aren’t, perhaps they don’t know what they’re talking about.)

    If anybody could comment on the videos, that’d be awesome! Thanks!

  6. In this case wouldn’t it technically be “Gould mining?” He was a great hedger don’t you know.

    On: sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent…

    Begs the question. Legislature should change it to “of point mutations,” “of random variation,” “of randomly generated adaptive value” or somesuch.

    That said, may the eyes of Texas be on us.

  7. Khan

    If the final vote can remove that amendment then I guess it can also retain the “strengths and weaknesses” clause too, right?

    I’m not sure what your objection is to this clause. It says to describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the saltational nature of the fossil record. Are you afraid its sufficiency can’t be described?

  8. Khan3,

    Aren’t you confusing “common descent” with “common cellular architecture,” “common molecular architecture, etc.?”

    Evidence suggests that such things have been introduced wholesale rather than generated piecemeal.

  9. Dave,
    you and I both know that strengths and weaknesses won’t be put back in w the current board makeup. although I would love for you to make a prediction to the contrary.. then I would feel even more certain it won’t be :).

    My objection is that common descent is v well supported by mountains of evidence, including the fossil record. Gould argues the same in that v same 30 yr old article you quoted for the millionth time (when are you guys going to find some different quotations?). and since then we’ve found an abundance of transitional forms. so why even suggest that it’s insufficient? I’ve never heard anyone outside of straight-up creationists argue against common descent. and i’ve def never read anyone make that argument in the scientific literature, which is what we’re supposed to teach in science class.

    now tell me what, exactly, do you like about the clause? your objection to the fossil record is that it isn’t as gradual as you’d like. but does that argue against common descent in your mind?

  10. Looking at the Google Books link Dave provided, it appears there is no preview available. Am I missing something?

  11. Khan

    My objection is that common descent is v well supported by mountains of evidence, including the fossil record. Gould argues the same in that v same 30 yr old article you quoted for the millionth time (when are you guys going to find some different quotations?). and since then we’ve found an abundance of transitional forms. so why even suggest that it’s insufficient?

    Part of the issue is defining precisely what constitutes a “transitional” form. Precisely what characteristics make a particular fossil transitional and how are they differentiated from non-transitional forms? If life is contantly evolving, then why aren’t all fossil forms considered transitional in some sense?

    Precisely how would the “mountains of evidence” for common ancestry be different if it was the result of common design instead?

    It seems to me that the whole concept of transitional forms is imposing the hyothesis back onto the data. With respect to fossil sequences, in many, if not all, cases, there’s potentially more than one possible sequence and there’s nothing in the data to tell which sequence is the correct one or if there is a sequence at all.
    Consider Laurie Godfrey (from Scientists Confront Creationism:

    We have found clear evidence of transitional links between major vertebrate groups. [There are so many links that]in many cases, the problem is not a lack of intermediates but the existence of so many closely related intermediate forms that it is notorioulsy difficult to decipher true ancestral-descendant realtionships.”

    Or Dougls Futuyama (From his Science on Trial:

    The gradual transition from therapsid reptiles to mammals is so abundantly documented by scores of species in every stage of transition that it is impossible to tell which therapsid species were the actual ancestors of modern mammals.

    As Cornelius G. Hunter writes in his book Darwin’s God:

    If it is ‘notoriously difficult to decipher true ancestral-descendant relationships”, then how can evolutionists be so sure there is one? Certainly we can select our favorite sequence, but the fossils cannot tell us which is the corret sequence, or even whether there is a correct sequence at all.

    If we pick and choose from the abundant pool of available fossils to synthesize a sequence, we may be creating our own reality instead of reconstructing the true history of life. In fact, with evolution we must believe that across the reptile-mammal transition organisms evolved so rapidly that they appear fully formed and diverse in the fossil record, and that there are large gaps between the reptiles and mammals, and that convergent evolution must have occurred many times.

    Hunter’s point here is well taken. Based on the actual scientific data there should be little objection from scientists to “Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common descent to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of the fossil record.” That there is a controversy here speaks volumes about preserving the dogma and little about the actual science.

  12. A few dates of different kinds are in order here.

    The Richness of Life is a posthumous collection of essays written during Gould’s life. This particular quote is from an essay called:

    The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change

    which was written in 1980.


    This 1994 essay
    explains what he meant. He was of course defending his theory of punctuated equilibrium. This is the theory that large evolutionary change mostly takes place among relatively small geographically isolated communities which would account for the relative paucity of fossils of transitional forms. To quote:

    Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.

    Since then we have had some 30 years of additional fossils including many transitional forms.

  13. DonaldM,

    Part of the issue is defining precisely what constitutes a “transitional” form. Precisely what characteristics make a particular fossil transitional and how are they differentiated from non-transitional forms?

    having some characteristics of one group but some characteristics of another, and in a sequence between the groups in the fossil record. think of archaeopteryx- feathers like a bird, solid bones like a reptile, etc. found before primitive birds like Confuciornis and concurrently w feathered theropods.

    If life is contantly evolving, then why aren’t all fossil forms considered transitional in some sense?

    not everything is evolving all the time, or at least not in ways that would show up in the fossil record.

    Precisely how would the “mountains of evidence” for common ancestry be different if it was the result of common design instead?

    without common descent, we would not expect to see ERVs and SINEs and LINES inserted in the same place in genomes of closely related organisms. that’s one of many pieces of evidence.

    as for the quotations, the first two just say that it’s hard to figure out the precise sequence of fossils. of course it’s hard, but phylogenetic hypotheses can be made and tested. neither of them actually say that this difficulty calls common descent into question. and again, no one has questioned common descent in the scientific literature for years, so there is no reason to question it in a science class in the school curriculum.

  14. I wonder if holding back on popping the champagne cork is in order:

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/ne.....99699.html

    From this article, it appears that Texas teaching standards won’t include the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.

  15. Barb14,

    Why should secondary schools focus on unproven speculations at the margin of science? That’s ridiculous.

    Secondary schools are for teaching the basic skills that might equip one for such, not for indoctrination into “consensus science” and other B.S.

    When you get to college or, indeed, to the speculative research level, you can bother yourself with the far edges of theory.

    Re: champaign:

    Pop!!!!

    Here’s to Texas and a Geisha-step toward common sense.

  16. Khan9,

    Darwin’s theory was one of long chains of accidentally adaptive variations leading to speciation. Some posit 500 such changes as a ballpark minimum for this kind of “unintelligent” speciation.

    Could you please provide, for the assembled forum, a typical 500-link chain, including specific genetic (and therefore morphological) changes at each link, together with the relative adaptive values of each, given conditions at the time?

    You intimate that millions of examples are readily available so I hesitate to ask you such a simpleton question.

    One 500-link chain would do.

  17. pmob1,

    Don’t forget David Berlinski’s estimate that the transition from mammal to whale would at the minimum need 50,000 changes. At the time he said that, evolutionists had possibly found two transitional forms.

    Where’s the 49,998 other transitional forms?

    When you consider all of the animals (in that species) that would be around at that time, taking the transitional steps towards being a whale, there should be thousands upon thousands, if not millions of missing links! Too bad they only found two… xD lol

    It could always be, granting (for the sake of argument) some things could evolve in a macro-evolutionary fashion, that they would reach biological dead ends. This could explain supposed missing-links. But then again, perhaps they aren’t missing-links in the first place. We can’t exactly go back in time to find out.

  18. Yes, and I suspect even those two would fail to qualify since either must report 1) a specific mutation 2) it’s causal link to a morphological change and 3) a convincing account of the adaptive value of the latter.

    No offense to Darwin: he bit off more than anyone could chew; the combined production of thousands of excellent Darwinian biologists is unable to supply a single, typical example of his long-chain hypothesis; thus, they disprove it.
    ID has its own “intractability problems” but the structure of its inquiry provides slightly better prospects of confirmation (IMHO).

    In any event, the battle is now against “policed science,” ergo the significance of Texas.

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