A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course
Unless the horse is Eohippus

One of the stumbling blocks to a critical view of evolutionary theory comes from the public understanding that we have transitory forms for a number of species showing their slow rise up the evolutionary ladder from early rat- or dog-like creature to the fully grown species that we have today. One such animal is the horse. If you had a biology textbook in school, you probably saw the same chart I did. It shows the evolution of the horse from a small mammal about the size of a dog to the Kentucky Derby winning Thoroughbreds we have today. But is this chart an accurate picture of what science can show? Consider the following from Neo-Darwinism: time to reconsider, by Richard Milton:

Anyone educated in a western country in the last forty years will recall being shown a chart of the evolution of the horse from "Eohippus", a small dog-like creature in the Eocene period 50 million years ago, to "Mesohippus", a sheep-sized animal of 30 million years ago, eventually to "Dinohippus", the size of a Shetland pony. This chart was drawn in 1950 by Harvard's professor of palaeontology George Simpson, to accompany his standard text book, "Horses", which encapsulated all the research done by the American Museum of Natural History in the previous half century.

Simpson plainly believed that his evidence was incontrovertible because he wrote, 'The history of the horse family is still one of the clearest and most convincing for showing that organisms really have evolved. . . There really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question has been decisively answered in the affirmative.'

Yet shortly after this affirmation, Simpson admits in passing that the chart he has drawn contains major gaps that he has not included: a gap before "Eohippus" and its unknown ancestors, for example, and another gap after "Eohippus" and before its supposed descendant "Mesohippus". What is it, scientifically, that connects these isolated species on the famous chart if it is not fossil remains? And how could such unconnected examples demonstrate either genetic mutation or natural selection? Even though, today, the bones themselves have been relegated to the basement, the famous chart with its unproven continuity still appears in museum displays and handbooks, text books, encyclopaedias and lectures.

In other words: sure we have fossil records of animals that appear to be connected. There is at least some reason to believe that Eohippus led to Mesohippus which, alternatively, led to Dinohippus, and so on. But what if the connections between each of these creatures has not been scientifically established? What if the connection is there only because someone so badly wants them to be there that they see connections which would otherwise not exist?

It's something to think about, anyway.


Anonymous said…
the mind's natural tendency is to see patterns. not that i reject or accept evolution. just a comment.

Anonymous said…
the mind's natural tendency is to see patterns. not that i reject or accept evolution. just a comment.
BK said…
Thank you for your comment, Jason. A couple of brief comments in reply:

1. I am not certain that it is natural for the brain to see patterns. I remember taking a test where a pattern was hidden among a grouping of numbers, and only two of us were able to see the pattern.

2. Assuming that it is natural, why do we have that ability?

Just questions for thinking about.

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