Science in Christian Persapective

Letter to the editor


Evidence for Evolution from the Fossil Record
Roger J. Cuffey 
Department of Geosciences
Pennsylvania State University 
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802

From: JASA 23 (December 1971): 158-159.    Reply by Moore  and Lowell  Cuffey's reply to Lowell

(For background on this exchange of comments by Cuffey and Moore, see Journal ASA 22, 82 (1970) and 23, 38 (1971). Watch for the Moore-Cuffey Dialogue an "Scientific Evidence For and Against Evolution" to be published next year in the Journal ASA.)

The general acceptance of the idea of organic evolution by the scientific comunity today rests upon evidence derived principally from the fossil record. The evidence which has been of primary importance in this regard consists of sequences of transitional fossils, found in the rocks of the earth's crust, between earlier simpler forms of life and later more complex forms of life. These transitional fossils have been found between different organic groups, some at relatively low taxonomic levels (such as species) and others at relatively high taxonomic levels (such as classes)

Many examples of evolution at lower taxonomic levels can he cited. For example, as one examines successively younger populations of tabuhipnrid bryoznans in the late Palcozoic rocks of the North American Midcontinent, he finds that the animals change gradually and continuously from forms which are clearly the species Tabuliporo rarnosa, through intermediates, to forms which are clearly the species Tabulipora carbonaria. (University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Brjvnzoa, Article 1, 1967.) Other examples in clude brachiopod lineages (described by Boucot and Johnson), graptolite lineages (described by Berry). lineages among the eribrimorph bryozoans (described by Lang), hoes among the echinoid Micraster species (noted in several elementary textbooks), lineages among the plectogyrd foraminifers (described by Zeller), and lineages among Eocene gastropods of the Texas coast (also described in elementary textbooks). 

Because there are far fewer higher-level taxa than lower-level ones, the number of transitions which we can study is much more limited; however-particularly among the vertebratesseveral good examples exist. First, note the large number of synapsid reptile forms which bridge the gap between typical reptiles and typical mammals over a long period from the Permian into the Triassic (described by Bomer in his vertebrate paleontology textbook). Also, note that the fossil Archaeopteryx sits squarely on the dividing line between the class Reptilia and the class Ayes (birds), as is shown by its morphology being a complete mixture of traits which are still typically reptilian, others intermediate, and still others being already typically avian, as again Romer's text points out.

The evidence from the fossil record is to be found in several sources. A number of elementary textbooks are available-such as those by Weller, Eastnn, Jones, and Beerbower. Advanced texts and references are also readily available in most university libraries; books such as those by Romer, Moore Lalicker and Ficher, Shrock and Twenhnfel, and the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology are examples.. In addition, the ongoing research projects of actively working paleontologists are reported in several journals, of which the most widely circulated are the journal of Paleontology, Palaeontology, and Micropaleontology. These journals are also found in most major university libraries, I would urge and encourage anyone interested in questions concerning evolution and the scientific evidence for it to examine the articles in these journals particularly; lie will be impressed, I believe, with the great weight of evidence favoring the conclusion that evolution has indeed been God's means of creation.

Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Reply by Moore to Cuffey
John N. Moore 
Department of Natural Science 
Michigan State University 
East Lansing, Michigan 48823

From: JASA 23 (December 1971):

May I comment on each paragraph of the preceding letter by Professor Roger Cuffey?

In paragraph 1, Cuffey does not point out that the "evidence derived from the fossil record" (and as well the points about comparative morphology, geographical distribution, rudimentaryvestigial-organs, developmental anatomy, and blond or protein analyses), are purely circumstantial, as far as primary importance to acceptance of the idea of organic evolution is concerned. Not one of these groups of data afford any scientist one iota of empirical evidences of the change of one animal type into another animal type (which is the necessary degree of change required or involved in the amoeba-or molecules-to man thesis that truly subsums the theory of organic evolution). Not one of these groups of data can be used to establish any genetic connections (these alone are subject to empirical test) between or across phyla lines or basic types (i.e., bats, snails, roses, or birds per Ernst Mayr, 1963, Animal Species and Evolution, p. 

In paragraph 2, when Cuffey refers to "many examples of evolution at lower taxonomic levels," he commits a basic confusion of terminology because the changes in Tahnlipora mentioned are nothing more than speeiation or variational changes within limits of the type organism called Tahulipora, and not evolution in the degree of major changes in phylogeny. This is true of all the other types of organisms (brachiopod, graptohite, crihimorph bryozoan, eehinoid Micraster, etc.) mentioned. These organisms can properly be said to have varied within limits of type, but not to have evolved, or changed into another type of organism which is necessarily the degree of change involved in the "idea of organic evolution".

With regard to higher taxonomic levels mentioned in paragraph 3, interpretations of the synapsid forms depend completely upon imagined transitions of skeletal remains. It is very difficult to tell a reptile from a mammal from the skeleton alone, but all ideas of transitional forms are imagined. Some writers mention the "gray area" of transition. Yet, no researcher has ever demonstrated a genetic connection, and thus all imagined transitions are the results of post ergo pro pter hoc reasoning. Concerning Archaeopteryx (paragraph 3), in not a single case of the four supposed independent evolutions of the ability to fly (insects, birds, bats, pterasaurs or flying reptiles) are any intermediate forms found in the fossil record-no transitional forms going back to non-flying forms are available. (See E. C. Olson, 1965, The Evolution of Life, Mentor Book MT 648, pp. 180-182.)

Summation: The point that needs to be emphasized is that minor changes can and do occur in living organisms, but the changes are always within bounds of a certain type, form, or kind. This is in exact agreement with the pattern we read about in Genesis 1: "after their kind", "after his kind". All of the known evidences can be fitted into the Genesis account in great consistency with all the best scholarship. The theory of natural selection relates to supposed "means" whereby the presumed "ends" of evolutionary change of one form or kind into another kind supposedly occurred. (Note that leaders of evolutionary thought offer natural selection as the supposed means in contrast to the last sentence of paragraph 4.) It is intellectually desirable to avoid mixture of means and ends. On the basis of the most rigorous scholarship the conclusion is inescapable that no transitional forms of true genetic relationship or connection can be established in the fossil record; hence, evidences from the fossil record can better he fitted into the Genesis account.

Science in Christian Perspective



Disagrees with Cuffey
J. Lowell 
Butler Route 3, Box 995 
Greshoso, Oregon 97030

From: JASA 23 (December 1971): 159-160

In the Journal ASA September 1970, are several valuable articles that were written by honest scholars with differing and conflicting conclusions. Some of these different views can be the result of chosen preferred evidences that leave out the unwanted; while other views may he more inclusive and more valuable. It is helpful to compare them. I am glad this issue of the Journal ASA contains a good assortment of these differing and opposing views. Otherwise my opinion of the basic purpose of the American Scientific Affiliation at the present time would be restricted to the label "Clever Propaganda by Theistic Evolutionists."

The article on "The Dying of the Giants", written by William A Springstead, and the accompanying "Critique" by Roger J. Cuffey show the need for more information by both writers; especially by the geologist who said "I think it needs to be pointed out there is no physical or geomorphologic evidence for a world-wide deluge," (page 96). Dr. Cuffey would not make a statement like that if he had read my concluding article of a new series of four, whose titles are: "Our Moon Was a Hot and Brilliant Midget Sun," "The Earth Enjoyed an Ideal Climate," "Our Moon's Extinction and the Great Dinosaur Disaster," "The Earth Is Another Asteroid Battered Planet."

(Mr. Butler was kind enough to include a copy of his last-mentioned article. Dr. Coffey's reply follows.)

Science in Christian Perspective



Reply by Cuffey to Butler
Roger J, Cuffey 
Department of Geosciences
The Pennsylvania State University 
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802

From: JASA 23 (December 1971): 160

Remarking upon my critique, Butler suggests that I chose favorable and ignored unfavorable evidences; however, he proceeds throughout his paper to do just that, continually and grossly. For example, he completely ignores the tremendous quantities (literally mountains) of geological material which clearly indicate that the building of mountain systems like the Appalachians and Rockies occupied very long periods of time, and thus could not have been the result of one or two pulses of up-heaving as a side effect of asteroid impact. Also, Butler (like so many others with his ideas) does not realize that the early geologists too thought that mountain-building was a rapid violent process, but that the continued accumulation of evidence (evidence which was undeniable and could be observed by anyone regardless of their religious orientations) forced abandonment of such ideas-for scientific, not philosophical, reasons-by about 1840.

Butler states that there "is now good evidence" for believing that all the various kinds of fossil organisms were living simultaneously on the earth right up until a recent catastrophic deluge. Nothing could be farther from the truth; unpleasant though it may be for some to contemplate, my impression is that it is as certain as any scientific conclusion can ever be that the overall picture of different forms of life at different times in the past history of the earth is essentially correct as the modem historical geologists have portrayed it. Again, historically, it has been verifiable observations of phenomena in nature, rather than potentially debatable religiophilosophical considerations, which have undergirded our certainty concerning this conclusion.

Like so many, Butler too fails to realize that, had a world-wide deluge actually occurred, it would have left unmistakable signs. For example, in desert regions, soils develop which are extremely sensitive to alterations in the moisture content of their environment over time. Such soils record minor events like small variations in the annual rainfall of some regions through time, but nothing like a major submergence in recent times. Similarily, many terrestrial regions exhibit various deposits (such as bess) which would be extremely susceptible to disturbance by even a tranquil submergence, let alone a violent flood. It is highly note-worthy that features of such deposits do not suggest such disturbances. The biogeographic distribution of fossil spores and pollen, as well as of other types of organisms, also shows none of the effects which would be expected from a universal deluge. (Advocates of "Flood Geology" sometimes attribute to a single flood formation of the entire stratigraphic sequence, rather than merely the last formed or uppermost layers; but, doing so is not legitimate, for the reasons already noted above in discussing mountainbuilding. Moreover, historically, scientific evidence forced the early geologists to abandon this idea too as more was learned about the earth.)

Still another point betraying the pseudo-scientific character of Butler's paper is a complete lack of understanding of the vast amount of evidence which shows that ice sheets waxed and waned several times during the last million years of earth history. In undisturbed deposits in which the order of deposition can be clearly determined without any possibility of doubt, we find that as time passed, as the ice sheet grew and approached the locality of study more closely, warmerweather plants and animals gradually disappeared and are replaced first by cooltemperate, then sub-polar, and finally polar-climate species. The same sequence is repeated in reverse above the glacial till deposit, reflecting the receding off into the distance of the ice front.
Butler tries to set up an artificial conflict between geologists on the one hand and astronomers no the other, suggesting perhaps that as someone dealing with astronomical events, he can explain geological phenomena better than can all geologists. Having myself received training as an astronomer as well as a geologist, I know that much professional interchange goes on between these two disciplines. Moreover, it seems to me that Butler's use of astronomical data is as suspect as is his geological reasoning.