But all dinosaurs are mutants!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: yet another creationist has disproved evolution. This one has a site called creationdino.blogspot.com — he thinks dinosaurs are evidence against evolution — and calls himself “@BeholdBeast” on Twitter, and is actually named David Wilson. He thinks he has an undeniable proof that evolution did not occur. His claim is that there ought to be more fossils of failed mutations than successful ones.

For evolution to be a viable hypothesis, it must have the element of mutation playing a vast and critical role. Mutation is a chaotic – random – process. Therefore every evolutionary jump should be flanked in the fossil record by countless random mutations which did not succeed. That means billions of failed mutation fossils for 1.5 million species of life on earth, demanded statistically because we have many fossils of many particular animals which did “succeed”. Such a fossil record of countless failed mutations does not exist. That is the end of the theory of evolution. It’s over.

What the heck would a failed mutation fossil look like? Apparently, this is a question he has been asked many times, because he claims to have an answer.

Statistically, we should see an almost endless variation in the fossil record, to the point if we had more fossils of specific (supposedly evolution-successful) species (as we do), the other billions of fossils would need to be examined to see if a good guess could be made as to whether each and every single one was part of the (supposed) larger successful process, an evolutionary dead end or a failed mutation which died in its solitary statistical state, the last of which, statistically, should comprise the vast percentage of fossils found because when dealing with a truly chaotic – random – process on this staggering scale and of this complexity, there can be no question of the undeniably vast numbers involved.

No, that doesn’t answer the question at all. Claiming almost endless variation in the fossil record is false; there’s this little process called natural selection that greatly limits the range of variation to viable morphs. For someone who relies on a statistical argument, he seems to have little appreciation of the statistical properties of populations. An unsuccessful mutant would sputter out with few descendants, and would represent a minute fraction of the population, and would be far less likely to be sampled by the fossilization process than a ‘standard’ form.

He also doesn’t seem to appreciate the role mutations play in development. There are mutations of large effect — that is, single mutations that can produce dramatic differences in the form of the organism — but the overwhelming majority are going to be neutral, producing no detectable effect, or are going to produce subtle differences in morphology or physiology. What we’d expect to see is a range of variation within a species. Look at the people around you: do they all look like clones of each other? If not, that tells you that you’re seeing a population carrying mutations that produce differences in individuals.

I also have to tell him that a “mutant” is not one indivisible thing. I carry mutations. But the thing is that I reproduce sexually, so half my children are not going to inherit any one specific mutation. A species is not a group of individuals carrying a single uniform genotype — it’s a cloud of gene variants that shifts over time, generation by generation.

Wilson has a head full of misconceptions, but that doesn’t stop him from arrogantly declaring a “law” that disproves evolution.

Wilson’s Law of Evolution: The total lack of fossil evidence of the primary component of evolution, “mutation”, proves the theory of evolution to be false. The fact of many fossils of the same creatures exist but no record of the billions of mutations which did not succeed defeats evolution at the stage of primary supposition. No fossil record of the statistically-demanded billions of mutations which did not succeed proves mutation from one species into another never occurred. Period.

Except he has some unstated idea of what a “mutation” would look like. A biologist would tell you that what we ought to see in the fossil record is variation in form — that what we ought to expect in a fossil population is a lack of uniformity. Guess what we see?

Wilson likes to babble about dinosaurs, so he brings up these kinds of examples.

As far back as 1920, writing in that year’s annual report for the Smithsonian Institution (an original copy of which the author has in his hard copy collection), Charles W. Gilmore, Associate Paleontologist at the U.S. national museum, wrote, “The late J.B. Hatcher brought to light by far the greater number of the known Triceratops specimens, compromising some 40 or more skulls and partial skeletons, all from the now famous Lance Creek locality in eastern Wyoming.” So many samples of a single animal were not unusual even back then. The point, of course, is for there to be many samples of a single animal but no fossil record of the countless random mutations which did not succeed preceding it, prove statistically that evolution from one species to another never occurred, and this fossil record pattern is true for every living creature on earth.

And that, dear friends, that pretty much screws “The Theory of Evolution”. It is not that the empirical evidence does not support Creationism. In this instance the empirical evidence totally and completely defeats the supposition of evolution.

This is a remarkably common creationist refrain. Forty Triceratops? But they were all still Triceratops! I got it from Ray Comfort when I pointed out that there’s good evidence of gradual transformation of sticklebacks — “They’re still fish, are they not?”, therefore there was no change at all. It’s because they don’t bother to look past the label. Fish are fish, Triceratops are Triceratops, we say there is variation within those categories, fools like Wilson or Comfort don’t look past the name, and use the categorization to claim an absence of differences.

It’s annoying and ignorant. The problem is that scientists are actively looking at variation in fossil forms, and are fully aware of differences in morphology. It’s often a bone of contention in taxonomy: is your newly named species just a minor case of individual variation, or a case of sexual dimorphism, or a juvenile of this other form?

Here’s an example. Jordan Mallon is studying variation in the skull of a horned dinosaur, Anchiceratops, and what does he find? Continuous variation in morphology.

That’s what we expect to see from evolution. We have an understanding of what mutations will look like, as a range of forms within a species, and that’s exactly what we do see to varying degrees in different populations.

The initial premise of Wilson’s Law, that total lack of fossil evidence of the primary component of evolution, “mutation”, is false, and therefore his “law” is bunk.

Don’t expect him to recognize that, though. I browsed through his site, and it’s a whole big pile of repetitive bunk, completely uninformed by any reading of what scientists actually say. No variation in horned dinosaurs?


Nuts to that.


  1. dick says

    I imagine that David Sloan Wilson is cringing. But probably not; such stupidity couldn’t be associated with him.

  2. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    You can definitely tell that when this moron says “mutant” he is thinking of a triceratops with tentacles on its back and a tiny pair of mangled wings…
    These people know nothing about biology and the natural world…nothing, it’s pathetic… Aren’t they supossed to think that nature is god’s gift to us and that we have supreme reign over it? You’d think they’d actually be interested in nature then….but rather they know as much about it as an urbanite child that has never seen a live chicken. All their spectations are so unrealistic, so superficial, so……false…

  3. Artor says

    Maybe he’s thinking of mutant dinosaurs that can fly, shoot lasers out of their eyes, or have adamantium claws?

  4. says

    Soooo much wrong. He seems to be making the mistake of thinking that the majority of things that die are fossilized. And that most animals that bear a “failed mutation” are going to conveniently live long enough to reach maturity and become a nice, detectable fossil. *Every* fossil we find of an extinct species is an example of a kind of “failure” by evolutionary standards.

  5. says

    Artor @ 4:

    Maybe he’s thinking of mutant dinosaurs that can fly, shoot lasers out of their eyes, or have adamantium claws?

    I have a cloud of winged, blue dinosaurs* conducting raids on the dog food dishes these past few days…
    *Cyanocitta cristata

  6. Rowan vet-tech says

    I have plenty of “mutant ” cornsnakes that would most likely be unable to survive in the wild due to their coloring. They would be “failures”, but how would you tell if all you had were their skeletons? Plus what do they think every extinct species in the fossil record is?

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    He keeps saying “statistically”, “large numbers”, “proven statistically”, yet, without looking at his written testimony, I doubt there are any numbers in the argument. He likes to use all the math sounding vocabulary, yet numbers seem absent. Reminiscent of the blog “Good Math Bad Math”, who claims the worst math is no math.
    Also, he seems to think fossilization is assured for every single carcass. Simple math (even without numbers) says small probability event needs a large population to produce even a single result.
    rack this up to another Arrogant who declares himself better at analyzing the data, than the people who have the profession of analyzing the data (and who become famous for identifying the rare anomalies).

  8. Gregory Greenwood says

    *Imagine booming, epic tones*

    Dunning-Kruger, thy true name is Wilson!

    */epic tones*

  9. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Funny how creobots miss the fact that all life is mutant transitional forms. So the fossil record is replete with evidence showing how wrong creobots are with such drivel.

  10. says

    Quoth the Gumby:
    Wilson’s Law of Evolution: The total lack of fossil evidence of the primary component of evolution, “mutation”, proves the theory of evolution to be false.”

    Allow me to offer another theory, Mr. Wilson:
    Barker’s Law of Religion: The total lack of any evidence of the primary component of religion, “God(s)”, proves the religion to be false.

    I’d imagine there would be much sputtered rebuttal. But that would only prove the fallacy of the original “Law”, wouldn’t it?

  11. Scientismist says

    slithey tove @8:

    without looking at his written testimony, I doubt there are any numbers in the argument

    But he does cite numbers:

    That means billions of failed mutation fossils for 1.5 million species of life on earth

    All he’s saying is that, in order to believe that evolution is true, he expects to be able to go down to his local natural history museum (one of tens of thousands of such museums) where he can be shown about 12 acres of compact specimen cabinets with literally millions of mounted fossils preserving the record of every mutant dinosaur fetus that ever miscarried. Multiplied by the number of existing species, and extinct species. Of every critter that inhabited the earth. Now or ever.

    Or, at the very least, there should be skeletons of Godzilla monsters that clearly show evidence that the fire-breathing mechanism went critical and blew their heads off too frequently to allow the species to survive.

    No, I don’t really know what he expects.

    I seem to recall some b&w sci-fi movie from the fifties where the humanoid offspring resulting from radiation (lots of them, all identical, and yet all dying out, and all driven murderously insane by the knowledge that they were dying out) were called “mute-ants”. Maybe that’s where this guy learned his biology.

  12. ealloc says

    The idea that we would see lots of deleterious mutants scattered through the fossil record is silly. But the question of exactly what type of variation we *do* expect to see is pretty interesting.

    In particular I recently read “Reinventing Darwin” by paleontologist Niles Eldridge, and big theme of the book is how actually gradual change is in some ways *not* the rule in evolution. New species, and new body plans, arise quite suddenly in the fossil record so that often we do not get to see any “intermediate forms”. He gives bats and whales as an example. This contrasts with Darwin’s original view of pervasive gradual change.

    He also points out that most species do not change significantly over their “lifetime”. The rule seems to be that a species will “suddenly” appear in the fossil record, exist mostly unchanged for some time, and then possibly go extinct. He gives trilobites as an example of this: Although there is small gradual variation over their 300 my span, overall their morphology at the time they went extinct is quite similar to when they first appeared.

    The key caveats to this are that “suddenly” in geologic terms is actually quite long in evolutionary terms, 10s of millions of years, and second that we *do* see a lot of gradual variation within species, but it is not *big* change. The variation over time of trilobites, for example, is very precisely documented.

  13. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    The fact is that in most cases, and certainly for large bodied animals that require a number of years to reach their size, the most likely individuals to actually fossilize are adults with their well developed bones. These animals are far less likely to show any obvious skeletal “mutations” as they have been subjected to selective forces for longer than a juvenile or a newborn. Add to that an extremely low fossilization probability and what you get is a fossil record that is going to represent a tiny, little, insignificant fraction of the actual phenotypical variation for any given population or species.
    Unless you are an unbelievably ignorant and ideologically driven creationist, in which case none of this is at all relevant because it’s part of reality.

  14. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @13:
    yeah, he does “cite” numbers. Perhaps I was too hasty in my phraseology. What I was trying to imply is that throwing around a few numbers here and there is insufficient. When claiming one has mathematical proof of something, it is preferred to have equations included, with, at least,partial examples of filling in variables with actual numbers and calculating the result. The single statement “many possible mutations means fossils of the attempts would be easy to find wherever we look”, leaves out all the calculations and all the equations supporting such a statement.

    Also, my, “Rack this up to arrogant …”, is best summed up as “David Wilson. is Dunning Kruger Effect personified”.

  15. blf says

    Maybe he’s thinking of mutant dinosaurs that can fly, shoot lasers out of their eyes, or have adamantium claws?

    Sounds like the thugs’s idea of daesh: They fly! And they are coming here to shoot you!! With lasers!!! Mounted on their claws!!!! It’s the mutant moolsin massacre machine of mayhem, Obama, and of course, Benghazi!!!!!

  16. robinjohnson says

    What always galls me when some armchair philosopher comes up with a simple refutation of an entire field isn’t the ordinary ignorance, it’s the assumption that in 150 years of evolutionary biology, their idea couldn’t have crossed the mind of a single scientist.

    (Of course, in this case, maybe it didn’t, because it’s so wacky that the slightest knowledge of the subject matter puts it into Not Even Wrong territory, but that’s part of the same arrogance.)

  17. blf says

    robinjohnson@18, In one sense — a useful one grounded in maths and data — the concept did occur to someone and was (and still is) being looked into: Luis Alvarez’s jibe that “paleontologists […] are more like stamp collectors.” This point was most digs were not uniformly sampling in an unbiased manner, but instead going for the exciting bits, the T. rex‘s and whatnot. The composition and (micro-)fossils in, say, a cubic metre of substrate from the relevant time periods was not really known.

    This isn’t, of course, what this nutter is saying at all. To the extent there is any similarity, it is both are claiming — one for quite valid reasons, and one because he’s an eejit in stuck-clockcretinist mode — that we don’t have all the bits and pieces that may exist because we’ve rarely bothered to look for them.

  18. says

    Congratulations Mr. Wilson! You have overturned the fundamental theory of biology and medicine! You’ll be receiving your Nobel award for your “God dun created them there fossils as ‘kinds’, says so right there in the bible, ain’t no mutations to be seen” theory in the mail in 4-6 weeks.

  19. petesh says

    Perhaps the dinosaurs were so inherently evil that they aborted any, um, pre-borns with mutations. Oh wait, were they prelapsarian? If so, they wouldn’t have done that, obviously, but then perhaps the Lord never made mutations before the Fall. It’s so hard getting fundamentalist pre-history straight.

  20. lesherb says

    Did anyone notice there are no comments following his posts? I’m sure he interprets that fact as tacit agreement with his nonsense.

  21. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Lesherb, creationists often delete posts critical of their inane ideas. They believe in freeze peach, not free speech.

  22. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    reading a little of that site (creationdino), made my brain hurt. So much wrong, that is throwing in so much word salad as camouflage, my brain hurts from banging it on desk to prevent asplosion.
    a few posts below The Statistical Disproof Of Evolution, is a listicle of Answers To The Insults From The Deniers.
    EG using General Relativity spacetime concept to disprove Old Light, cuz Horizon Problem raises an issue from Special Relativity. Banging my head, virtually screaming, “Why mention Gr then discard it, when the problem you present was answered by GR?”
    gotta stop typing now, my brain needs some therapy…

  23. moarscienceplz says

    yet another creationist has disproved evolution.

    On the theory that massive quantity can compensate for zero quality?

    Statistically, we should see an almost endless variation in the fossil record

    It is absurdly easy to find Model T Ford motorcars. I challenge him to find examples of Model A (the first series, not the one Edsel designed) through Model S, even though they did all exist.

  24. anchor says

    Over and over again I see the same pattern: the effort expended in the attempt to refute the facts is amazing. Or rather, it is amazing that they expect anyone else OTHER than those of similar capacity to accept their arguments. One might accept that the intellectual aspect of creativity has some considerable role in it. But it is a peculiar application. How they make such a mighty effort…how they twist and mangle facts to conform to their preconceptions. Its evident the ‘creativity’ involved is seriously stunted by a certain preconceived belief. Behold: the ‘creativity’ exhibited by profound stupidity. Rampant in our culture only because we indulge it.

  25. birgerjohansson says

    Artor @ 2, I saw laser raptors going after the time traveller in that online film, so they must exist in some parallel time stream.
    BTW Every human has quite a number of mutations, most in non-coding DNA or DNA that has a weak effect on the organism. If you have the wrong kind of mutations, your mother is likely to miscarriage when you are still a fetus.
    If the advantages of the mutations outweigh the disadvantages, they will not be purged from the genome by evolutionary pressure. If a new gene or combination of new genes is very advantageous, it will quickly spread through normal sexual reproduction. Most still don’t get it is a two-stage process, they think Godzilla will just pop up and take over.

  26. mickll says

    A huge number of fossils are “failed mutations” by definition, they ain’t around anymore!

  27. Intaglio says

    In the name of Schist Almighty – do these IDiots and Creationists remember to breathe?

  28. says

    I have a confession to make. I took down my Stupid Dinosaur Lies/Paleo FairyTales Exposed website months ago because I got real bored and tired of it, spending years and years debunking creationist dinosaur claims over and over again while struggling to maintain a stable blog through WordPress and Blogger and killing a bunch of brain cell reading creationist garbage along the way that I just completely wore myself out. So I’m abandoning the whole thing to take on a much better blogging project for me that involves toy photography. After so many years of exposing all those stupid creationists, like the guy behind that despicable creationdino.blogspot site that I just got tired, bored, and abandon it altogether. But I still have my old articles and URL stored away just in case I decided to re-establish my old SDL blog sometime perhaps in the future.

  29. N. Manning says

    I note that none of his amazing posts have comments. So I tried to ask him if he was a scientists (seeing as how he derided Bill Nye for being an entertainer and an engineer, not a scientist) and I got a notice that my comment would be published after approval by the moderator. Which means that it will almost certainly never become public.

  30. jakc says

    A refutation of evolution that is so bad it can’t even be considered wrong. It’s Emily Litella going on about endangered feces: “Never mind.”

  31. dogfightwithdogma says

    Wilson’s Law of Evolution: The total lack of fossil evidence of the primary component of evolution, “mutation”, proves the theory of evolution to be false.

    Not only has he many misconceptions and misunderstandings about evolution, he does not even understand what is meant when we call something a scientific law. What he has stated here is not a law as defined in science.