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Bechly: Why the Phenomenon of Living Fossils Is Under “Massive Attack”

Living Fossils

If you ever encounter a horseshoe crab on the beach, you are a looking at a creature that would not have appeared out of place hundreds of millions of years ago. Arthropods breathtakingly similar to this, says paleontologist Günter Bechly, go back “almost a half billion years without significant morphological change. And you really have to let this number sink in.”

Yes, you do. On a new ID the Future episode, host Sarah Chaffee talks with Dr. Bechly about the challenge posed to Darwinian gradualism by animals that manifestly don’t change – aka, “living fossils,” a phenomenon that Darwin himself grappled with. Listen to the podcast or download it here.

Says Bechly, living fossils stand as “empirical refutations” of traditional evolutionary theory. That is one reason their very existence is coming under a “massive attack” by Darwinian evolutionists accompanied by headlines like, “Let’s make living fossils extinct” (The Guardian).

Some are in denial, while others equivocate. The latter try to explain that “these living fossils do evolve but they evolve toward keeping their particular form, which is optimized.” In other words, they evolve toward not evolving. 

It’s another case, according to Bechly, where evolution acts as a “magic wand,” wondrously encompassing all evidence however plainly contradictory of its expectation. Under the theory, things evolve when they evolve and do not evolve when they do not evolve. Can you beat that? No, you can’t beat it. An idea like that that can never be falsified. 

On the other hand, groups of creatures that slip into existence and remain in stasis for long periods fits well with the theory of intelligent design. ID predicts discontinuities in the fossil record in keeping with deliberate infusions of information. Species might go extinct, as trilobites, for one, did. What they don’t do, not through random, unguided processes, is gradually transform into totally different species. 

Photo: An Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus), by James St. John, via Flickr.