an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist

Stormbringer Caught Quote Mining Again, With the Same Results.

He never learns. Stormbringer aka Nicky aka Piltdown Superman has quote mined many times, and has been caught out many times (most memorably by Paul Baird, who shot down quote after quote in the comments on a blog post, leaving Stormy staggering from the humiliation).

But, as I say, he never learns, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw the following on his (now unlocked) @Stormbringer_5 twitter account, and retweeted on his @PiltdownSupermn timeline, because he was obviously so pleased with himself

“Why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?” – that’s from The Origin of Species, and a quick googling of the phrase brings up (very usefully) the entire text, including the previous and subsequent context.

The text (from Chapter 6 of OoS) starts thus –

Long before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered; but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to my theory.
These difficulties and objections may be classed under the following heads:-

It is the first point of a list of four that Stormy has quoted/paraphrased in an attempt to twist Darwin’s words to his own Creationist ideals

Firstly, why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?

….the chapter continues – 

Secondly, is it possible that an animal having, for instance, the structure and habits of a bat, could have been formed by the modification of some animal with wholly different habits? Can we believe that natural selection could produce, on the one hand, organs of trifling importance, such as the tail of a giraffe, which serves as a fly-flapper, and, on the other hand, organs of such wonderful structure, as the eye, of which we hardly as yet fully understand the inimitable perfection?
Thirdly, can instincts be acquired and modified through natural selection? What shall we say to so marvellous an instinct as that which leads the bee to make cells, which have practically anticipated the discoveries of profound mathematicians?
Fourthly, how can we account for species, when crossed, being sterile and producing sterile offspring, whereas, when varieties are crossed, their fertility is unimpaired?

These are all good questions, but it’s already clear from the context that they’re not ‘oh no! My theory is shot to ribbons! Despair! Despair!’ but more designed to lead into Darwin’s following points…and sure enough –

The two first heads shall be here discussed Instinct and Hybridism in separate chapters.
On the absence or rarity of transitional varieties. As natural selection acts solely by the preservation of profitable modifications, each new form will tend in a fully-stocked country to take the place of, and finally to exterminate, its own less improved parent or other less-favoured forms with which it comes into competition. Thus extinction and natural selection will, as we have seen, go hand in hand. Hence, if we look at each species as descended from some other unknown form, both the parent and all the transitional varieties will generally have been exterminated by the very process of formation and perfection of the new form.
But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? It will be much more convenient to discuss this question in the chapter on the Imperfection of the geological record; and I will here only state that I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed; the imperfection of the record being chiefly due to organic beings not inhabiting profound depths of the sea, and to their remains being embedded and preserved to a future age only in masses of sediment sufficiently thick and extensive to withstand an enormous amount of future degradation; and such fossiliferous masses can be accumulated only where much sediment is deposited on the shallow bed of the sea, whilst it slowly subsides. These contingencies will concur only rarely, and after enormously long intervals. Whilst the bed of the sea is stationary or is rising, or when very little sediment is being deposited, there will be blanks in our geological history. The crust of the earth is a vast museum; but the natural collections have been made only at intervals of time immensely remote.

You can read the rest of the chapter here

Basically, as you can see, Darwin didn’t see this supposed paucity of transitional fossils as a major problem, and he was right not to worry, as we’ve since found a wealth of such forms, beautifully illustrating the very changes that Darwin predicted should be there. In fact there are rather a lot of them, as you can see here, here, here, here, and here (plus millions of other places)

Further more, Stormy has completely failed to appreciate that, as our understanding of evolution has increased, we’ve realised that every single living thing, and every single fossil is transitional. I am a transitional form, and my species, Homo Sapien will one day be a perfect midway point between an ancestor and descendant species, both of which I’ll be related to.

The tools I used to get this information are just as available to Stormbringer as they are to me, yet he (for reasons known only to himself) chooses over and over again not to check whether what he’s posting is saying what he wants it to say.

And over and over again he makes a fool of himself.

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