By his own admission, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution cannot be perfectly observed through the fossil record, as geological strata doesn’t show a clear transition from one species into another. (Darwin, 2008, pg. 486-488) Some fossils present themselves in relative abundance, while others only exist as bits and pieces in a slim slice of rock. Spotty timescale notwithstanding, Darwin still believed his theory held weight, and he provided many reasons as to why. For example, he pointed to similar behaviors between “allied species”. Even in the face of an alternate environment, closely related species will retain the same basic instincts. Despite the fact that South America’s climate differs greatly from that of the British Isles, the thrush still “lines her nest with mud” (pg. 496). This holds true no matter what side of the ocean she lives on. Darwin also noted the bone structure of mammals, “being the same in the hand of a man, the wing of a bat, fin of the porpoise, and leg of the horse,—the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant…” (pg. 499). As such, the preponderance of evidence suggests that all these organisms had been built off the framework of a single, shared ancestor.
I personally find Mr. Darwin’s arguments quite compelling. Isolate the wing bones from the rest of a bat, and what you’re left with essentially looks like a human hand with spindly fingers. It does seem odd that organisms as different as humans and bats should share such a striking similarity if they were supposedly created independently. But having been on the creationist side of things, I could see how some would dispute how this evidence is insufficient in proving evolution. Primarily, because it assumes that a divine creator would have created an entirely unique body structure in every animal. Perhaps, they might say, this omnipotent being saw the basic design of vertebrates to be perfectly fine as is, with no real need for innovation. Basically, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (one might also argue that this demonstrates a lack of creativity on the deity’s part, but I’m not about to get into that). Of course, there are also those that argue for a creator while still advocating for evolution, saying that this deity simply set the process of evolution in motion and let nature have at it. The tricky thing about these arguments is that I can’t exactly prove nor disprove them. I may support the theory of evolution, but I still know that certain aspects of it are disputable and will remain disputable until the last star fizzles out. How on earth is a lowly human such as myself supposed to determine what an unseen entity sees fit for its creation, or if it even exists? My agnosticism might sound like I’m being fence sitter, but I don’t see it as fence sitting as I do an admission of ignorance. As we’ve learned, that’s really what science stands for. Whenever we find an answer to something, that answer in turn births a thousand more questions. Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Humans crave novelty. Without it, we risk boredom. If we can ask an endless amount of questions, then I’d say we’re actually in a pretty good spot as far as knowledge is concerned, so long as we don’t put a cap on our learning.
At the risk of sounding foolish, can anybody tell me what Darwin means by “intermediate species”? I usually can figure out “old-timey” English, but this is stumping me.
Darwin, C. (2008). Charles Darwin on the Origin of Species. New York, NY: Sterling.