Thank God for science, which came up with Prozac. I’m going to need a prescription soon if anti-science zealots keep getting me so anxious about where this country is heading. Three disturbing news items bit into my brain in the past 24 hours:
(1) Last night “60 Minutes” had a segment on the FDA’s religiously-based decision to reject an application to let Plan B, the morning after pill, be dispensed without a prescription. Scientific experts overwhelmingly voted to make Plan B over-the-counter. The religious right objected. Guess who won?
(2) On CNN this morning I read “Priests urge stem cell opposition.” Missouri Catholic dioceses are sermonizing against stem cell research that promises to find cures for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other life-threatening diseases. And these supposedly are advocates for a “culture of life”?
(3) Then I saw several anti-evolution letters to the editor in our local newspaper that pushed my crankiness quotient into the Needs Medication danger zone. It’s one thing to express your personal opinion on the Opinion page. It’s another thing to make factually false statements that many readers will take as the gospel truth.
To wit, Salem resident Arthur Birkby’s absurd contention that “Even Darwin's former advocates admit that there is no evidence of even a single transitional life form from one to another.”
Arthur, I wish that before you’d written your ill-informed letter to the editor, you’d gotten on a computer and done a Google search on “evolution transitional forms.” It took me just a minute or two to find a Transitional Forms page on the University of California Museum of Paleontology Understanding Evolution web site.
That page has photos of three related creatures: a land mammal with nostrils near the front of its skull, a beluga whale (alive today) that has its nostrils at the top of its skull, and the transitional Aetiocetus that had its nostrils at the middle of its skull.
That demolishes Mr. Birby’s “no evidence” line. Of course, this is just the University of California’s fossil experts speaking. Believers in creationism probably consider that the devil is using the Museum of Paleontology as his mouthpiece and the Christian Discovery Institute deserves to be trusted instead.
It’s amazing that creationist crazies can suspend their rational faculties to such a degree that they can say things like this statement I found on a Creation Science site:
There are no transitional links and intermediate forms in either the fossil record or the modern world. Therefore, there is no actual evidence that evolution has occurred either in the past or the present.
Aaaaaaggghhhhh! Just look at this guy’s references that he’s using to support blather like that. The pro-theory of evolution references come from publishers like the Smithsonian Institution, Time-Life Books, Simon and Schuster. The anti-theory of evolution references come from places like the Institute for Creation Research, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., and such.
Who you gonna believe? I know what my answer is.
People like zoologist Kathleen Hunt who wrote a seriously researched Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ that crushes the “there aren’t any transitional fossils” statement that, she says, keeps popping up in creationist propaganda.
In a “conclusions” section she summarizes her main point:
Creationists often state categorically that "there are no transitional fossils". As this FAQ shows, this is simply not true. That is the main point of this FAQ. There are abundant transitional fossils of both the "chain of genera" type and the "species-to-species transition" type. There are documented speciations that cross genus lines and family lines.
The interpretation of that fact I leave up to you. I have outlined five possible models above, and have explained why I think some of them are better than others. You might disagree with my conclusions, and you can choose the one you think is best, (or even develop another one). But you cannot simply say that there are no transitional fossils, because there are.
No, you can’t say that, Mr. Birkby. But you did. And you won’t be the last to speak the untruth. The truth will win out in the end, though.