“To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not
scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that
carries the same validity as a bedtime story—amusing,
perhaps even instructive, but not scientific.” 1
Despite the limitations of 19th century technology, Darwin recognized his theory teetered in serious jeopardy unless an “inconceivably great” quantity of transitional links surfaced in the fossil record.
“If my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed” 2 He imagined “The number of intermediate and transitional links between all living and extinct species must have been inconceivably great.” 3
Millions of fossil finds later, the cupboard of transitional links remains embarrassingly bare. Applying Darwin’s own rules, the game should be over—unless prolonged by bias.
Devout diehards haven’t given up; the goal posts keep being moved.
With hardly a hint of persuasive evidence, Darwin spun a tale of a “finely graduated organic chain” 4 evolving slowly from that first spark of life, blossoming into a plethora of diversified complexity in a grandly conjectured “tree of life.” He set the bar high, putting all his cards on the table with one giant leap of faith: “If my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed” 5
The paucity of fossil linkage corroborating his theory troubled the naturalist. He recognized fossils found during his lifetime revealed few viable connections, if any. Frustrated, he bemoaned the glaring gaps between theory and fact.
“Geological research…does not yield the infinitely many fine gradations between past and present species required on the theory…Why do we not find beneath this system great piles of strata stored with the remains of the progenitors of the Cambrian fossils?” 6
The shortfall nagged at Darwin’s mind, leading him to admit he recognized the missing chain of transitional links was “the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.” 7
Since the publication of Origin, millions of fossils have been rescued from rocky hiding places. But the multi-millions of missing organic chains of transitional links the naturalist longed for, continue AWOL.
Beyond defining “the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory” he acknowledged that “if it could demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modification, my theory would absolutely break down.” 8
Intensive quests have turned up little but frustration’s heat. In some cases, the search for old bones found nothing vindicating Darwinian theory but only whetted cynical appetites for a taste of international attention and the big bucks that could follow.
Paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh squandered personal reputations competing for fame and fortune in a “Bone Wars” vendetta, late in the 19th century.
Their efforts harvested tons of dinosaur remains, strewn in fossil cemeteries across the high prairies of Colorado and Wyoming. A bitter rivalry raged between the two adversaries from 1877 to 1892. Multi-ton finds of gigantic dinosaur bones did confirm extinction of a once monstrous species, but the petty dispute between the two competitors tainted professional careers and depleted personal fortunes.
This is an excerpt from a chapter of the 2016 Edition
of “Three Days Before the Sun”, now available
from leading online retailers.