by Jon Gary Williams
The idea of an evolving scale of life has been around for more than two thousand years -- from the time of Thales, Anaximander, and Empedocles. Yet it was not until the days of Charles Darwin that the idea began to take on any essence of science. Men such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Herbert Spencer laid the groundwork for this theory, but it was Darwin who was given credit for announcing it to the world.
Until the mid-19th century, practically all men of science were creationists. However, with the rise of the so-called "age of reason," when intellectualism and natural philosophy were becoming popular, the time was right for the idea of organic evolution to be received.
Darwin's concept of evolution was summarized thusly: Millions of years ago lifeless matter, acted upon by natural forces, gave rise to minute living organisms, and from this, over time, all forms of life emerged.
Crucial to Darwin's theory was that extremely long periods of time were required. Time was a key factor. Darwin reasoned that for all the earth's expansive forms of life to have evolved, multiplied millions upon millions of years were necessary. This slow process of evolving life eventually came to be known by Darwin's namesake - Darwinism.
Also crucial to his theory was the notion that during these eons of time fossils of many millions of intermediate life, forms would be deposited into the earth's geologic strata. Though Darwin failed to locate any such fossils, he reasoned that the fossil record was merely "incomplete," and that in time these fossils would be discovered. So, through the years men scoured the earth searching for fossils showing links between the different species of life.
At times claims were made that "missing links" had been found. One classic example is the archeopteryx, which was claimed to be a link between reptiles and birds. However, it was later proven to be nothing more than an extinct bird. There were no fossils to support Darwinism, but since the theory required them, promoters of evolution continued to leave the impression that they did indeed exist. After all, this was the only place to find hard evidence for evolution.
The time came, however, when several well-known evolutionists began emphasizing the lack of transitional fossils. After all, if all life did evolve there should be millions of such fossils to confirm it, but there were none. The question remained: why were there none? So, instead of questioning the idea of evolution itself, some began proposing a radical solution to the problem. Evolutionists could not abandon evolution, for this would leave the only alternative concept -- special creation, but that conclusion was not acceptable in the minds of these men. They claimed that evolution did not happen slowly, but rather that the changes between different species occurred suddenly, thus leaving no long trail of intermediate fossils.
One of the first men to reject the gradual, Darwinian concept was G. G. Simpson. In the 1950s he taught that due to the lack of intermediate fossils, evolution could not have happened slowly, but rather by sudden "leaps." He was criticized and tagged with the "sudden leap" theory. Then, in the 1960s the esteemed Richard Goldschmidt also rejected Darwinism and promoted a rapid-type evolution. He too was chastised and labeled with what was called the "hopeful monster" theory.
By the 1970s the trend to doubt gradual Darwinism was expanding. The lack of intermediate fossils was so obvious it could no longer be ignored; it was impossible to defend this type of evolution. In their attempt to salvage any belief in evolution, three leading evolutionists, Steve J. Gould, Niles Eldridge, and Derek Ager, following the lead of Simpson and Goldschmidt, published their view of a rapid-type evolution. They labeled it Punctuated Equilibrium, which is now the accepted view of practically all evolutionists.
What is Punctuated Equilibrium? To put it simply, this means that forms of life suddenly evolved into different forms. "Equilibrium" means that which remains uniform (without change) over long periods of time. "Punctuated" refers to a sudden interruption in that uniform state, creating something new and different. Life forms continue in a steady, uniform state for long periods. Then at times, abrupt, punctuated changes take place and new life forms appear -- it is the process by which one species rapidly explodes into a new, distinct species rather than gradually transforming into another species.
Supposedly, this theory removes the Darwinian problem of why there is no trail of transitional fossils. Rather than evolution happening slowly over eons of time, the claim is that it happened rapidly at different punctuated moments. The claim is that these changes occur so swiftly over such short periods of time that fossils do not accumulate. (Note: Some say these punctuated periods of time may be only 50,000 to 100,000 years. Not much time for millions upon millions of transitions to take place.)
Promoters of the punctuated equilibrium theory believe this explains how evolution must have happened; it was a convenient way to deal with the lack of transitional fossils. However, this view is even more preposterous than the original Darwinian theory. In either case, transitional fossils are missing. Why? Simply because they never existed.