We got one in the comments, a pompous ass named Darin Reisler who popped in to announce of evolution that “When the evidence is looked at beyond the surface level- it fails,” and to back this up he offered a string of quotes from “prominent evolutionists”.
Man, Darin is a contemptible liar, and incompetent on top of that. It’s one of the things that annoys me most about creationists: they are anti-scholars, people who lie and distort to reinforce prior erroneous conceptions, and they really think they’re scoring points by pretending that great minds in biology agree with them, when they don’t.
Darin begins with Darwin, of course. And of course the only part of this substantial section of the Origin of Species that he uses is the tiny fragment I’ve put in bold below.
research has undoubtedly revealed the former existence of many
links, bringing numerous forms of life much closer together, it does
not yield the infinitely many fine gradations between past and present
species required on the theory; and this is the most obvious of the
many objections which may be urged against it. Why, again, do whole
groups of allied species appear, though this appearance is often
false, to have come in suddenly on the successive geological stages?
Although we now know that organic beings appeared on this globe, at
a period incalculably remote, long before the lowest bed of the
Cambrian system was deposited, why do we not find beneath this
system great piles of strata stored with the remains of the
progenitors of the Cambrian fossils? For on the theory, such strata
must somewhere have been deposited at these ancient and utterly
unknown epochs of the world’s history.
I can answer these questions and objections only on the
supposition that the geological record is far more imperfect than most
geologists believe. The number of specimens in all our museums is
absolutely as nothing compared with the countless generations of
countless species which have certainly existed. The parent-form of any
two or more species would not be in all its characters directly
intermediate between its modified offspring, any more than the
rock-pigeon is directly intermediate in crop and tail between its
descendants, the pouter and fantail pigeons. We should not be able
to recognise a species as the parent of another and modified
species, if we were to examine the two ever so closely, unless we
possessed most of the intermediate links; and owing to the
imperfection of the geological record, we have no just right to expect
to find so many links. If two or three, or even more linking forms
were discovered, they would simply be ranked by many naturalists as so
many new species, more especially if found in different geological
sub-stages, let their differences be ever so slight. Numerous existing
doubtful forms could be named which are probably varieties; but who
will pretend that in future ages so many fossil links will be
discovered, that naturalists will be able to decide whether or not
these doubtful forms ought to be called varieties? Only a small
portion of the world has been geologically explored. Only organic
beings of certain classes can be preserved in a fossil condition, at
least in any great number. Many species when once formed never undergo
any further change but become extinct without leaving modified
descendants; and the periods, during which species have undergone
modification, though long as measured by years, have probably been
short in comparison with the periods during which they retain the same
form. It is the dominant and widely ranging species which vary most
frequently and vary most, and varieties are often at first local- both
causes rendering the discovery of intermediate links in any one
formation less likely. Local varieties will not spread into other
and distant regions until they are considerably modified and improved;
and when they have spread, and are discovered in a geological
formation, they appear as if suddenly created there, and will be
simply classed as new species. Most formations have been
intermittent in their accumulation; and their duration has probably
been shorter than the average duration of specific forms. Successive
formations are in most cases separated from each other by blank
intervals of time of great length; for fossiliferous formations
thick enough to resist future degradations can as a general rule be
accumulated only where much sediment is deposited on the subsiding bed
of the sea. During the alternate periods of elevation and of
stationary level the record will generally be blank. During these
latter periods there will probably be more variability in the forms of
life; during periods of subsidence, more extinction.
With respect to the absence of strata rich in fossils beneath the
Cambrian formation, I can recur only to the hypothesis given in the
tenth chapter; namely, that though our continents and oceans have
endured for an enormous period in nearly their present relative
positions, we have no reason to assume that this has always been the
case; consequently formations much older than any now known may lie
buried beneath the great oceans. With respect to the lapse of time not
having been sufficient since our planet was consolidated for the
assumed amount of organic change, and this objection, as urged by
Sir William Thompson, is probably one of the gravest as yet
advanced, I can only say, firstly, that we do not know at what rate
species change as measured by years, and secondly, that many
philosophers are not as yet willing to admit that we know enough of
the constitution of the universe and of the interior of our globe to
speculate with safety on its past duration.
As Darwin often did, what he was doing was bringing up an objection critics could make, that there is no perfect and complete series of transitions in the geological record, and then carefully addressing that argument with substantial discussion of the problem (which I’ve only excerpted in small part above — one of the strengths of the Origin is the way Darwin hammers down ever small, potential problem at great length.)
Then Darin “quotes” Julian Huxley.
I suppose the reason we leaped at The Origin of Species was because the
idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.
This isn’t actually a quote mine — it’s a complete fabrication from the professional liars at Coral Ridge Ministries, who are misquoting an already garbled bit of nonsense from Henry Morris. The game of telephone is so much more exciting when the players are committed to intentionally mangling the phrase being passed around!
Next, he brings up Thomas Huxley.
The primary and direct evidence in favor of evolution can be furnished
only by paleontology.
That’s another quote mine, all right. It comes from a long article by TH Huxley in which he is providing a retrospective on the state of evolutionary thinking 20 years after the publication of the Origin, and in fact what Huxley is doing is explaining the first quote from Darwin that the brainless Darin Reisler was using. I think we can trust that Darin has read neither of the documents he is quoting. Amusingly, what Huxley does right after that comment is point out that opponents of Darwin’s ideas have been quote-mining him!
Nothing could have been more useful to the opposition than this characteristically candid avowal [Darwin’s admission that the fossil record was incomplete], twisted as it immediately was into an admission that the writer’s views were contradicted by the facts of paleontology. But, in fact, Mr. Darwin made no such admission. What he says in effect is, not that paleontological evidence is against him, but that it is not distinctly in his favor; and without attempting to attenuate the fact, he accounts for it by the scantiness and the imperfection of that evidence.
And then much of Huxley’s article is precisely about the accumulation of new paleontological evidence since Darwin made that comment.
Finally, Darin offers this quote.
“The more one studies paleontology, the more certain one becomes that
evolution is based on faith alone.”
-Professor D.M.S. Watson (famous evolutionist)
Uh, who? Apparently, he’s not that famous. Interestingly, if you look up that quote, you’ll find creationists attributing it to “T.L. Moor”, “Louis T. More of Princeton”, “Louis T. Moore, Professor of Paleontology, Princeton University”, and “Prof. Louis T. Moore of the Univ. of Cincinnati speaking at Princeton Univ” — I have no idea who Moor/More/Moore is, either. Only creationist sources seem to trot out this particular mystery quote from an ambiguous source.
Names, quotes, who cares…to the creationist, you can just mix and match to get what you want. There is a different quote that is more accurately attribute to D.M.S. Watson, who was a comparative zoologist working in the 1920s. Creationists are fond of this quote from a 1929 Nature article where, again, they only quote the bits in bold:
There is no branch of zoology in which assumption has played a greater, or evidence a less, part than in the study of presumed adaptations. The implication which lies behind any statement that such and such a structure is an adaptation is that under the existing environmental conditions an individual possessing it has a greater chance of survival than one which has not.
The extraordinary lack of evidence to show that the incidence of death under natural conditions is controlled by small differences of the kind which separate species from one another or, what is the same thing from an observational point of view, by physiological differences correlated with such structural features, renders it difficult to appeal to natural selection as the main or indeed an important factor in bringing about the evolutionary changes which we know to have occurred. It may be important, it may indeed be the principle which overrides all others ; but at present its real existence as a phenomenon rests on an extremely slender basis.
The extreme difficulty of obtaining the necessary data for any quantitative estimation of the efficiency of natural selection makes it seem probable that this theory will be re-established, if it be so, by the collapse of alternative explanations which are more easily attacked by observation and experiment. If so, it will present a parallel to the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it be can proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.
What he is pointing out is that alternative theories have collapsed leaving selection the victor by default, and he’s complaining about the dearth of quantifiable observation of selection in nature … from the perspective of 80 years ago. Before the neo-Darwinian synthesis. About the time Sewall Wright, RA Fisher, and JBS Haldane were getting around to working out the predictive mathematical tools of population genetics. Dr Watson picked a really bad time to make that particular complaint!
I’m sure Darin is sitting there smugly thinking that he has shot down the case for evolution with his selection of poorly understood and dishonestly twisted quotes from sources he has not read, but he has done no such thing. He has merely exposed his own shallow thinking and lack of intellectual integrity…that he is an arrogant fraud.