I have some questions! Okay, background: I'm taking the complaints about my geology class to people who can do something about it, per yours and a trusted professor's advice. the last thing I want is to be dismissed as a silly girl because I didn't do my research. So I'm doing research, and I thought it would also be good to ask for help here, since there are a lot of people here who know a lot about science and evolution.
Okay, most of what he's said I've found easy enough to disprove in the notes I'm taking to the meeting. Just a couple of questions here (and I apologize if this is the wrong place for it). One, what's the deal with the "missing links"? He said that Darwin himself said that if we don't fill in the gaps, then the theory is wrong. I've not read "Origin of Species" and I don't have time to read it before the meeting, so I don't know if that quote is taken out of context or if it's even true. But there are missing links in the fossil records, no? If so, how is that explained?
At the time Darwin published, they had no transitional fossils and a prediction of his theory is their would be some discovered. Shortly afterwards (two years later) there was a major discovery, Archaeopteryx.
Archaeopteryx has characteristics of both modern day birds and modern day reptiles. Actually, without the feathers its skeleton looks like that of a reptile. More recently, another major fossil has been found, Tiktaalik.
Tiktaalik is between a fish and an amphibian. It has some fish anatomy like scales and gills, but also some amphibian anatomy like a neck and a flat snout. Its forelimbs are also a cross between the fins of a fish and forelimbs of a terrestrial animal.
There have been a plethora of other transitional fossils discovered, but there are still gaps (and will always be gaps). Part of the reason is due to the rarity of fossilization. Fossilization requires extraordinary events, one of which is that the body of the organism is not consumed by another organism. This is why most fossils are of sea life, they fall in the sediment and are quickly buried. Soft tissue also does not fossilize, which is why most of the fossils discovered are things like vertebrates and trees. Another reason is more abstract. When Archaeopteryx was found, there was a gap between birds and reptiles, but after its discovery we have two gaps; one between birds and Archaeopteryx and one between reptiles and Archaeopteryx. But, this is okay as far as the theory is concerned as even the existence of a single transitional fossil validates the theory.
Two, what's up with Gould's hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium? I had never heard of it before (not saying much) but it seems like conjecture rather than science, based on what the dude said in class.
Gould was a paleontologist, so he worked with geologic time scales. As a result, it looked like new forms of species appeared very rapidly after a significant period of not change. As such, this theory on evolution was that species were stable for a long period of time, but changed very rapidly when the environment shifts. But, this is not the case if we look at genes. Looking at genes shows a regular and slow rate of change, in other words gradualism. In reality, both are useful theories and which one is appropriate depends on the time scale in question.
Three, he claims there was more oxygen in the atmosphere way back when, and that's why dinosaurs got so big. That sounds very Hovind-esque to me, but I have no idea whether it's true and what the evidence is.
This is a Hovindism and incredibly stupid, in part because there were still very many small animals at the time (including dinosaurs). If this was the case, we'd see a much greater range of sizes for the dinosaurs discovered. This claim is used to suggest dinosaurs were nothing more than big lizards, but this fails even if the oxygen thing was legit. We can look at the anatomy of both dinosaurs and modern lizards (as well as fossilized lizards) and see some major differences. One such difference is their legs and hips. Lizards
walk with their legs splayed out past their sides. Dinosaurs
walked much more like us with their legs directly underneath their bodies. The pictures I linked to should help illustrate the difference. As a result, the idea is incoherent.