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What does the fossil record say?

Discussion in 'Evolution Vs. Creationism' started by Youtellme, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. Youtellme

    Youtellme New Member

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    First, I have to say, I'm not laying a trap or having a go. This is a genuine thread.
    I've heard many conflicitng things about the fossil record. Some say it's great with most of the link/pieces there whilst others say it's, to quote wikipidia "inherently imperfect". So which is it? Also, what exactly is the fossil record? Is it the collection of all fossils ever found or is it record of fossil of one spieces? Any thoughts?
     
  2. Copernicus

    Copernicus Godless Hierophant

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    4,421
    That's a very broad question, so it is hard to give a specific answer. The best way to find out what it says is to visit the science section in your local library and pick out a good text book on Earth Science, Geology, or Archaeology. Asking people in an internet forum to tell you what it says is not likely to get you the most informative response.

    As for "gaps" in the record, it would be a miracle if there were none. Only a tiny fraction of the animals and plants that ever lived became fossilized. Nobody expects to find a fossil of the actual common ancestor between, say, humans and chimps, but we know from the record that the ancestors of the two species gradually converged. It is a connect-the-dot exercise. Scientists are paid to do that. Nobody expects the fossil record itself to connect all the dots, but the patterns are clear enough.
     
  3. jarofthoughts

    jarofthoughts Empirical Curmudgeon

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    Don't worry mate. Genuine questions deserve genuine answers.
    Now, I'm not a palaeontologist, so keep that in mind when you read my answers.

    The fossil record is far from complete nor is it ever likely to become complete.
    The reason for this is simply that whether a fossil forms or not is dependent upon several factors and considering the time-scale involved there is a huge risk that the fossil might be destroyed before it is ever found. Not all species fossilise that well either and fossils are more easily formed around hard parts of the body such as bones or shells.

    Here are a couple of links about the formation of fossils:
    Fossil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Formation of Fossils
    How are Fossils Formed?

    That being said we have hundreds of thousands of fossils of a wide range of species covering many hundreds of millions of years which gives us an astonishing peek into the evolutionary development that has taken place on Earth.

    The Online Oxford Dictionary defines the fossil record as: 'the record of the occurrence and evolution of living organisms through geological time as inferred from fossils.'
    That means that when we refer to the 'fossil record' we usually mean the complete collection of fossils we have gathered. Of course, one can also discuss the fossil record of certain species or branches of species (such as the 'Homo' branch of human evolution) and one is then referring to the fossils that are connected with that particular species or branch.

    As a pre-emptive measure I would also like to point out that fossils are far from being the best evidence in favour of the Theory of Evolution. For instance DNA sequencing is considered much more conclusive and much more accurate when determining the relatedness and development of the species that inhabit our planet. :)
     
  4. Youtellme

    Youtellme New Member

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    407
    Cheers for the nice reply. I was wating to be shot down for even asking!:p
     
  5. evolved yet?

    evolved yet? A Young Evolutionist

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    If 1% of species fossilize, I think that says something however, that doesn't reflect on evolution.
    The first one.
     
  6. jarofthoughts

    jarofthoughts Empirical Curmudgeon

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    Nah, I always do my best to answer honest questions with honest answers.
    I'm a science teacher after all. ;)
     
  7. Krok

    Krok New Member

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    The fossil record indicates that the earliest evidence for life is around 3500 million years ago, consisting of prokaryota and bacteria. Eukaryotes first appeared in the fossil record around 1850 million years ago. The first multicellular fossils appeared around 1700 million years ago. The first appearance of vertebrate fossils are found around 560 million years ago. The fossil record shows that life diversified greatly around 500 million years ago. The fossil record indicates that land plants appeared around 450 million years ago. Evidence from the fossil record indicate arthropods were present on land around 420 million years ago. Evidence from the fossil record indicate that land vertebrates first appeared around 375 million years ago. These early land animals looked nothing like modern animals. The fossil record indicates that flowering plants appear around 130 million years ago. Land life diversified with modern animals appearing later, for example modern human fossils appear for the first time around 160 000 years ago. Fossils indicate that younger the fossil, the more it resembles modern life.
     
  8. PennyKay

    PennyKay Physicist

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    174

    I agree completely, were very lucky to find the fossils that we do, it's highly unlikely that the fossil record will ever be complete. A paleontologists job is as was said before, to play a kind of dot to dot, to find out what connects to what, when it lived, when it died out, why it died out.

    The record will probably grow year after year, but we are never going to find every single animal that has ever lived and died, fossilization doesn't work like that. We are extremely fortunate that we have any fossils at all.
     
  9. painted wolf

    painted wolf Grey Muzzle

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    15,370
    It's defiantly "inherently imperfect"... the very nature of fossilization and decay means we will never find every species that ever lived.

    However, there have been enough fossils found that we can get pretty comprehensive views of certain times, places and so on. For example we know a lot about the Late Cretaceous of the Morrison Formation. We know very little about the early Triassic there.

    We know a lot about the evolution of whales... even though we don't have all the pieces, we have enough to know what the long time frame goings on were.

    All fossils ever found.

    Going back to how we know a lot about some places/times due to the fact that those places were simply better environments for preserving fossils... We have truly staggering records for a particular group called Foraminifera (forams for short). These single celled organisms are so common in nature that it's all but impossible for some of them to not be fossilized.

    Because of this, we have as near to a complete fossil record for this group as we are likely to ever get. Those that study them can trace their evolution in smooth transitions from one species to another and further to genus', families, even out to orders. Over hundreds of millions of years.

    wa:do
     
  10. Man of Faith

    Man of Faith New Member

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    3,423
    I read somewhere that we have uncovered probably 90% of the type of fossils that we will every find, not the amount of fossils, but the type of creatures. I don't remember where I saw that, probably some creationist propaganda, however I believe it to be true. We have been searching for 150 years to validate evolution in the fossil record and failed. That’s why punctuated equilibrium came on the scene and why intellectually honest evolutionary biologists have to admit that the fossil record is lacking. The fossil evidence just isn’t there.

    What we see in the fossil record is just what we see in living organisms, a mosaic of features between creatures, which does by the way validate homology. Does homology validate evolution, or can it validate creation? It depends on your world view. If you accept that evolution is true then homology validates that, if you accept that creation is true then animals could have been created similarly to live in a similar world.

    There are no fossils in the whole world that can be shown to be direct lineages to any other fossil or have any ancestor / descendant relationship to any other fossil or type of creature. The fossil record validates creation where whole creatures appear without any ancestors.

     
  11. painted wolf

    painted wolf Grey Muzzle

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    15,370
    Foraminiferida show direct lineages and so on. They are pretty cool critters, but they don't have the glitzy wow factor of multicellular critters, so you almost never hear about them.

    Speciation and structural evolution in the Palaeocene Morozovella lineage (planktonic Foraminiferida) — Journal of Micropalaeontology
    The evolution of early Foraminifera — PNAS

    a plain text site (still under construction) that discusses forams.
    Evolution, Foraminifera

    Honestly, I should take the time to learn about them more in depth... but I have a vert bias. :cool:

    wa:do
     
  12. wilsoncole

    wilsoncole New Member

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    675
    Please give me a reason why I should accept this informatrion as fact.
    How do you know that any of this is true? Have you found a way to verify any of it?
    Note these words:
    "Although the comparative study of living animals and plants may give very convincing circumstantial evidence, fossils provide the only historical documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more complex forms."—(Carl O. Dunbar, Historical Geology (1949), p. 52)

    (Now - please do not attack the writer for his thoughts. Just tell me if what he wrote is true.)

    If the fossil record is the ONLY historical documentary evidence for physical evolution of living things, gaps in the record would distort that evidence - would it not? Circumstantial evidence has often been proven wrong.
    (\__/)
    ( ‘ .‘ )
    >(^)<

    Wilson
     
  13. wilsoncole

    wilsoncole New Member

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    675
    Please give me a reason why I should accept this information as fact.
    How do you know that any of this is true? Have you found a way to verify any of it?
    Note these words:
    "Although the comparative study of living animals and plants may give very convincing circumstantial evidence, fossils provide the only historical documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more complex forms."—(Carl O. Dunbar, Historical Geology (1949), p. 52)

    (Now - please do not attack the writer for his thoughts. Just tell me if what he wrote is true.)

    If the fossil record is the ONLY historical documentary evidence for physical evolution of living things, gaps in the record would distort that evidence - would it not? Circumstantial evidence has often been proven wrong.

    (\__/)
    ( ‘ .‘ )
    >(^)<

    Wilson
     
  14. Krok

    Krok New Member

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    786
    Hi Wilson
    It’s been well documented in peer-reviewed scientific literature. That’s what publication in peer-reviewed literature is all about. It verifies research. You can also go to any good museum and see this physical evidence or casts of them yourself.
    I have stumbled across a few of these fossils myself :D You can go and have a look at it at museums. I can take you to the Barberton Mountain Land, with metamorphosed sedimentary and volcanic rocks (age from 3545 million years ago to about 3100 million years ago) and show you these rocks and fossils. If the fossil is too small to see with the naked eye, I can take a sample and show it to you under a microscope. The same applies for each of my statements. The easiest way for you to confirm it is to read scientific literature about it. (When I say scientific, I don’t mean the pseudoscience from creationist websites where thy absolutely rape science and only use sciency sounding nomenclature to mislead people).
    I don’t know whether this is an accurate quote-mine or not, because creationists love misleading quote-mining. They normally take the quotes completely out of context or just tell outright lies. If this is indeed what he said, he was mistaken. I do know that he was a great invertebrate paleontologist, but I also know that everybody can make mistakes. Furthermore, he didn’t know about DNA, because the structure of DNA was only discovered in 1953. We also have evidence like nested hierarchies, chronology of common ancestors, anatomical vestiges, atavisms, molecular vestiges and other molecular evidence, developmental biology, present and past biogeography, genetic change, morphological change, functional change and speciation events, etc.
    The fossil record is not the only historical evidence. Even if it were, gaps won’t alter the fact that the oldest fossils found so far were unicellular, fossils a bit younger than the first ones were unicellular and multicellular, fossils younger than those are unicellular, multicellular and invertebrates, fossils a bit younger than that are unicellular, multicellular, invertebrates and vertebrates, fossils a bit younger than that look more and more like modern organisms and the youngest fossils are very close to modern organisms. This pattern is what we observe with every single bit of evidence ever discovered. And we literally have millions of well-documented fossils. This, together with all the other evidence, is why there’s no debate in the scientific community on whether evolution occurred, the only debate is on exactly how it happened.
    Circumstantial evidence on its own could be wrong (not as often as eyewitness accounts are wrong, though). The advantage for the Theory of Evolution is that we have overwhelming corroborating evidence, from every scientific discipline available, all of them confirming the Theory. Not one single bit of evidence was found in any science that casts doubt on the Theory of Evolution. To falsify the Theory of Evolution, you literally have to falsify the sciences of Paleontology, Biology and Geology:biglaugh: together with falsifying large chunks of Chemistry and Physics.
     
    dust1n likes this.
  15. wilsoncole

    wilsoncole New Member

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    675
    Originally Posted by wilsoncole
    Please give me a reason why I should accept this information as fact.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wilsoncole
    How do you know that any of this is true?

    You are a person of great faith!
    Yes - FAITH!
    Why do you trust the peer-review system?
    It has been shown to be as fraudulent as any other competitive endeavor.
     
  16. jarofthoughts

    jarofthoughts Empirical Curmudgeon

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    3,756
    :facepalm: :facepalm: :facepalm:

    That's all I have to say on the subject.
     
  17. tumbleweed41

    tumbleweed41 Resident Liberal Hippie Staff Member

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    20,446
    Amazingly enough, the evidence for biological evolution has come a long way since the above quote from Carl Dunbar circa 1958.
     
  18. tumbleweed41

    tumbleweed41 Resident Liberal Hippie Staff Member

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    20,446
    All available evidence supports biological evolution and common ancestry.
    Do you have objective evidence in support of Creationism? If so, feel free to present it.
     
  19. painted wolf

    painted wolf Grey Muzzle

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    The fossil record is not the only evidence of historical evolution... your quote suffers from being pathetically out of date... in the 1940's DNA had only just been discovered let alone well studied.

    Genetics beautifully backs up the fossil record... as does molecular evidence.

    You don't need faith to accept the science, if you want to you can test it yourself. You can learn the science and get the equipment and fossils of your very own and test them.

    This isn't just a few scientists in a secret club to fool people... there are thousands of scientists around the world, many of them religious people, all checking each others work for errors and bias.

    Frauds are caught and punished faster in science than in any other endeavor and never make significant contributions to the body of knowledge.

    wa:do
     
  20. outhouse

    outhouse Atheistically

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    27,997
    I'm almost certain you read it wrong

    We have not found even %10 of the creatures that have existed.

    Look at mankinds fossil's, we dont have anywhere near a %90 picture. If I said %10 that would be a stretch.

    We have intermidiate steps in evolution so it would do you wise to not go there. [waist of time] Again look at homo sapiens for a example. If we follow the out of africa example 200,000 years ago we were all black and enviromental changes alone we have progressed to where were at today.

    we have not failed in evolution at all, not even a little.

    You dont seem to grasp how long 4.6 billion years really is. Its not like we can dig straight down and find and give you all the answers. Many continents are completely gone of vulcanized over.

    I will take what science has over one of many god myths that decided that he could create everything out of this air beings he was supposed to be made in mans image. Look we see a very clear picture of what nature did. with fossils it only gives us a better description.

    creation is a myth to explain what we do not know, the same book that claims this claimed the earth was flat and the sun revolved around the earth. Maybe you would like to go back and argue those points. youll end up in the same spot were at now. Creation can no longer be taught in public schools there is a reason.
     
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