Missing Links and The Fossil Record

According to the Theory of Evolution humans are descendants of bacteria. Evolution Scientists believe that the supposed bacteriatohuman transformation took place through a gradual accumulation of infinitesimally small changes. This belief was first held by Darwin:

“Natural Selection can act only by the preservation and accumulation of infinitesimally small inherited modifications, each profitable to the preserved being…” 1

Darwin realized that it would take an incredible number of such modifications for microscopic life to change into people and all other forms of life:

“…the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great. But assuredly, if this theory be true, such have lived upon this earth.” 2

Thus, Darwin was emphatic that IF Evolution is true, then an inconceivable number of transitional forms3 MUST have lived in the past.

The only way to know what life forms lived in the past is by finding fossils of them. There are many fossils in the world’s museums, and collectively they make up what is known as the Fossil Record. So how well does the Fossil Record support Evolution? Does the Fossil Record contain enough of these supposed transitional forms to confidently claim that bacteria gradually changed into people? Like other questions about origins, it depends on who you ask: All Creation Scientists say “no,” but most Evolution Scientists say “yes.” And yet every scientist has access to the SAME Fossil Record! So how can scientists come to such opposite conclusions?

Most Evolution Scientists were taught in school that evidence in favor of Evolution over Creation includes ANY example where variations have been accumulated by natural selection to cause a variant form of a species to develop. And since the Fossil Record is loaded with evidence of such examples, most Evolution Scientists believe the Fossil Record is loaded with evidence in favor of Evolution over Creation. However, as I explained in previous chapters Creation Scientists also believe that a species can be changed when selection causes variations to be accumulated. And changes that are part of both theories should not be used as evidence in favor of one theory over the other. This leads to the following question:

How large must a documented change in the Fossil Record be before it is beyond the scope of the Creation Theory, and therefore legitimate to use as evidence in favor of Evolution over Creation?

A good way to approach this question is to look at dogs, since Creation Scientists believe that all dogs are descended from the same ancestral dogs due to variations that were accumulated by selection.4

Dogs differ from each other in many ways. They obviously differ greatly in size, as readily seen when comparing Chihuahuas with Great Danes, but they also differ widely in the shapes and ratios of their snouts, ears, legs, tails, etc. Creation Scientists refer to these differences as “changes within the dog kind.” Indeed, Creation Scientists believe there can be changes within any kind, even within mankind, as seen when comparing people of different races. They believe that changes within a kind are due to the accumulation of variations that were caused by the limited factors I discussed in previous articles.5

Therefore, when looking at the Fossil Record for changes that could be legitimately used as evidence in favor of Evolution over Creation, any such changes would need to be greater than what is seen in dogs.

As mentioned above, most Evolution Scientists believe that the Fossil Record is loaded with examples that favor Evolution over Creation. But as it turns out, if you remove from this “load of examples” all the fossils that also fit the Creation Theory, there are few,6 if any, that remain. This would seem to indicate that the Fossil Record cannot be legitimately used as evidence in favor of either theory over the other. However, that is not quite true. If Evolution really took place, then an enormous number of transitional forms would have lived that could not be explained by the Creation Theory. The fact that the museums are not filled with such examples7 should be a concern for believers of Evolution, and is a problem that Darwin himself was aware of:

“…the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” 8

Even though Darwin referred to the lack of intermediate forms in the Fossil Record as the most obvious and gravest objection to his theory, he believed the objection would go away if we explored more of the Earth for fossils.9 In the decades following his prediction, fossil hunters did scour much of the Earth for fossils, but although a massive number of fossils were found, they did not remove this obvious objection to Evolution. Consider the following statement by Dr. David Raup when he was the Curator of Geology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago:

“Darwin... was embarrassed by the fossil record… we are now about 120-years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, … some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.”10

Dr. Raup was an Evolution Scientist who was surrounded by a massive display of fossils at the Chicago Museum. Yet, he made it clear that even after 120 years the “most obvious and gravest objection” to Darwin’s theory remained intact.

Evolution Scientists teach as fact that millions of undiscovered intermediate links that do not fit the Creation Theory lived in the past. But Creation Scientists point out a second possibility: Perhaps these “Missing Links” never existed. After all, they are called Missing Links because they are missing. And if they are missing, how do we know they ever existed? School textbooks do not mention this second possibility because they treat Evolution as a fact, and as Darwin wrote, “if this theory be true, such have lived upon this earth.” Thus, the reasoning in school textbooks goes like this:

Evolution IS a fact; therefore, an inconceivable number of Missing Links DID live in the past.

Finally… I am confident that if Evolution was true, I would still be a firm believer in Evolution. I would be able to walk into the fossil rooms of any museum and see Evolution unfold before my eyes. On the two ends of each shelf there would be very different types of life forms with dozens of obvious transitional forms on the shelf between them, showing how the life form on one end of the shelf gradually evolved into the life form on the other end. Evolution would be undeniable!

But that is not what is in museums. Museums only show examples of fossils that prove major types of organisms can somewhat vary, like what we see today with dogs, cats, horses, fruit flies, etc. Or they show fossils of two organisms that are totally different from each other, with the expectation that we just accept their statement that one gradually evolved into the other over millions of years.

References and Notes for Chapter 11:

1. Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, First Edition, 1859, Chapter 4.

2. Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, First Edition, 1859, Chapter 9.

3. The terms intermediate links, intermediate forms, transitional links, and transitional forms all refer to life forms that were supposedly part of an evolutionary transition between diverse life forms. The terms are mostly interchangeable, although some scientists make slight distinctions between them. The term “Missing Links” is sometimes used to refer to theoretical intermediate links that have never been found as fossils.


5. I discussed these factors in the following chapters:




6. Of the millions of true transitional forms that supposedly lived, most Evolution Scientists point to only a few that they claim have been found as fossils. Their two favorites are a supposed reptile-to-bird link called the Archaeopteryx, and a supposed land mammal-to-whale link called Pakicetus. According to Creation Scientists, to claim these as intermediate forms is fraught with dubious assumptions that have been repeatedly pointed out. Regardless, such heavy reliance on only a handful of questionable transitional forms underscores the severity of the issue for Evolution.

Stephen Gould was one of several Evolution Scientists who have admitted to the severe lack of transitional forms in the Fossil Record. In the magazine Natural History he stated, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.” (Natural History, May 1977) He felt so strongly about the issue that he co-authored a hypothesis to explain why transitional forms are hard to find. The hypothesis, called Punctuated Equilibrium, can be summarized as follows:

a) Evolution is a fact.

b) Since Evolution is a fact, an inconceivable number of transitional forms must have lived.

c) But transitional forms in the Fossil Record are extremely rare.

d) Therefore, most of the inconceivable number of transitional forms must have only lived in small geographic areas and went extinct relatively quickly after evolving into existence. Under such conditions, only a relatively small number of transitional forms would have been preserved as fossils.

e) Since only a relatively small number of transitional forms were preserved as fossils, it is extremely rare to find them today.

Note that the hypothesis does not claim Darwin was wrong about Evolution requiring an inconceivable number of transitional forms. The hypothesis simply attempts to explain why it is so hard to find fossils of them.

This ad hoc hypothesis has a wide following within the Evolution community, although some prominent Evolution Scientists have been critical of it.

Keep in mind that the parts of the Fossil Record that Gould used to support his hypothesis were primarily the missing parts.

7. If Evolution was true, any line of descent would be loaded with obvious transitional forms. For example, Evolution Scientists teach that there must have been a species of reptile that evolved into the “first” species of bird. Such an accomplishment would require a multitude of major changes, including the following:

a) Flight feathers would need to be designed. Flight feathers are an amazing engineering marvel. They are “as light as a feather” and yet strong enough to push hard against the air in one direction, but flexible enough to allow air to slip by in the other direction. As seen through a microscope, adjacent barbs in a flight feather are connected by hundreds of barbules. A “hook and catch” system allows adjacent barbs that are ripped apart to be put back together by reconnecting the barbules in “Velcro-like” fashion when a bird preens its feathers.

b) Some bones would need to be extensively redesigned to make flight possible.

c) A functional aerodynamic body structure would need to be developed. Just as an airplane must be aerodynamically designed to allow flight, a bird’s body must be aerodynamically designed to allow flight. Similarly, I would not be able to fly even if I strapped on a pair of wings.

With so much redesign needed, it is easy to see why Darwin stated that Evolution requires an inconceivable number of intermediate forms.

Each of the above redesigns would be an impressive engineering feat that would require ingenious innovations. The instructions needed for each redesign would be both immense and complex. It seems insurmountable for the required instructions to be written by random typographical errors, yet such is the belief of Evolution Scientists.

Even if one accepts such a belief, the generations through which these redesigns gradually unfolded would be enormous in number. Any life forms from these generations would be intermediate between reptiles and birds. Hence, the number of intermediate forms would dwarf the number of fully formed reptiles and birds. The fossil record should reflect this gradual transition and be absolutely dominated by obvious transitional forms. But the fossil record shows just the opposite: Plenty of fully formed reptiles and birds, but few, if any, of the multitude of intermediate forms that supposedly lived according to Evolution.

The argument made against reptile-to-bird evolution can also be made for all other Evolutionary examples of where one basic type of life supposedly evolved into a much different type.

8. Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, First Edition, 1859, Chapter 9.

9. Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, First Edition, 1859, Chapter 9. Darwin discussed this at length in Chapter 9. Among his supporting statements was the following: “Only a small portion of the Earth has been geologically explored.”

10. “Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology” Field Museum of Natural History, vol.50, no. 1, Jan 1979, p.25