To: John Jancewicz
From: Paul Ekdahl
The taxonimic case against Darwin
by Tom Bethell
Patterson, a paleontologist specializing in fossil fishes,...
In 1978, Patterson wrote an introductory book called Evolution, which was published by the British Museum. A year later, he received a letter from Luther Sunterland (?), an electrical engineer in upstate New York and a creationist-activist, asking why Evolution did not include any
"direct illustration of evolutionary transition."
Patterson's reply included the following:
"You say I should at least show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism was derived. I will lay it on the line- there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument. The reason is that statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil record.
Is Archaeopteryx the ancestor of all birds? Perhaps yes, perhaps no: there is no way of answering the question. It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science,for there is no way of putting them to the test." p.52....
But in nature there are no parish records: there are only fossils. And a fossil, Patterson told me once, is a "mess on a rock." Time, change, process, evolution-none of this, the cladists argue, can be read from rocks.
What can be discerned in nature, according to the cladists, are patterns-relationships between things, not between eras. There can be no absolute tracing back. There can be no certainty about parent-offspring links. There are only inferences drawn from fossils. To the cladists, the science of evolution is in large part a matter of faith ..... faith different, but not all that different, from that of the creationists.
...., and he was [Patterson] recalling the talk he had given eighteen months earlier to the systematics discussion group.
" I compared evolution and creation and made a case that the two were equivalent...."
He [Patterson] ordered something from the menu and said:
"One has to live with one's colleagues. they hold the theory very dear. I found out that what you say will be taken in political rather than rational terms."
Patterson told me that he regarded the theory of evolution as
"often unecessary" in biology.
"In fact," he said, "they could do perfectly well without it."
Nevertheless, he said, it was presented in textbooks as though it were
"the unified field theory of biology," holding the whole subject together-and binding the profession to it."
"Once something has that status," he said,
"it becomes like religion."