Studying layers of sedimentary rocks reveals that some species appeared on earth later than others, such as multi-celled organisms after single-celled, amphibians after fish, and Homo sapiens after apes.

Mills argues that “the geologic column is a fortunate coincidence of Nature that attests biological evolution.” (119)

I don’t follow. Suppose it’s true that “amphibians first appear in the geologic column in layers 405 million years old” and further that reptiles can be found in layers “approximately 310 million years” old. What do these manifestly innocuous facts have to do with a vastly different claim that “amphibious creatures evolved into reptiles” (emphasis mine)? (117) How is the Darwinian process according to which Y descended from X established from the mere fact that Y came after X?

I’m sure Mills is familiar with the ad hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) fallacy. The fallacy he is committing in his book is even more preposterous: as far as he is concerned, from the fact that amphibians preceded the reptiles in time, it allegedly follows not only that reptiles came from amphibians but even that reptiles evolved from amphibians, i.e., came from them via a highly specific and peculiar process!

Mills might try to argue this way:

The small mammals, however, continue to develop, both in size and complexity. A very primitive form of ape first appears in rock layers dating 40 million years. Ape evolution progresses to Australopithecus (southern ape) still higher on the column, [etc.] (117)

I reply that first, the fossil record does not by itself illustrate the increasing “complexity” of later species. It may be true that existing mammals are more complex than existing reptiles. But fossilized bones are not complex at all.

(For example, nothing whatever can be asserted about the relative complexity of the Archaeopteryx.)

Second, even granting Mills this point, the theory of evolution does not predict that increasingly greater complexity must arise out of simpler or more “primitive” organisms. If primitiveness is more conducive to survival and reproduction, then it will be selected for. Proving that complex biological structures are as a rule superior — in this instrumental sense as means to success in adaptation — to more simple structures requires a separate argument. Therefore, the geologic column does not confirm evolution.

(My guess as to such an argument is that greater complexity permits surprising new functionality through novel biological structures and organs, which in turn allows the newly mutated creature to claim a hitherto unoccupied niche within the circle of life, even if the mutant species is less successful than its parents’ species in sheer numbers.

Thus, it might seem strange that tigers evolved from bacteria, given that tigers are seriously endangered, and there are many orders of magnitude more bacteria than tigers (indicating that bacteria seem more “fit” or successful than tigers: “99% of all animals species… have… fallen victim to extinction,” Mills himself writes (113). But one species that has never gone extinct is precisely bacteria.) But perhaps tigers have surprisingly mutated to thrive within a tiny but unique niche of the biosphere.)

So, no, the fossil record generates no insights into the origin of species.


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