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Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

QUESTION: Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth – Do Dawkins’ claims regarding the fossil record follow logically?


In The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins spends considerable portions of his book expounding the fossil record. For example, in chapter 6 concerning the so-called missing links in the fossil record, he writes,
    Creationists are deeply enamored of the fossil record, because they have been taught (by each other) to repeat, over and over, the mantra that it is full of "gaps": "Show me your 'intermediates!'" They fondly (very fondly) imagine that these "gaps" are an embarrassment to evolutionists. Actually, we are lucky to have any fossils at all, let alone the massive numbers that we now do have to document evolutionary history—large numbers of which, by any standards, constitute beautiful "intermediates." We don't need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution would be entirely secure even if not a single corpse had ever fossilized. It is a bonus that we do actually have rich seams of fossils to mine, and more are discovered every day. The fossil evidence for evolution in many major animal groups is wonderfully strong. Nevertheless there are, of course, gaps, and creationists love them obsessively.
Richard Dawkins -- as a neo-Darwinist -- is evidently seeking to demonstrate, and thus uphold, the central tenets of Darwinism. But the central claim of neo-Darwinism is that natural selection, coupled with chance mutation, can mimic what would normally be ascribed to intelligence. The most important issue which we have at hand, therefore, is whether or not life could have evolved by natural processes. The theory of intelligent design merely claims that certain natural phenomena exhibit features which are best attributed to intelligence. The concept of common descent is crucial to the Darwinian paradigm, but its falsehood is by no means critical to the design thesis. To the design hypothesis, as a scientific model, it is a secondary issue whether the various forms of life were created independently or by modification of previously existing forms. While the latter model rejects the theory of evolution as an overall paradigm, it is nonetheless consistent with common descent. Thus, even if one were to concede that the fossil record supports common descent -- a notion which I challenge -- it would not by any means prove neo-Darwinism.

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth –The Balancing Act
A second point which is worth mentioning is that one should not be so taken with the evidence that is consistent with evolution that we think we can ignore the evidence that contradicts it. And this isn’t a balancing act -- weighing whether there is more evidence for or against the theory. We know from common experience that even a small amount of clearly contradictory evidence outweighs a large body of consistent evidence. A common thread running throughout Richard Dawkins’ book (The Greatest Show on Earth) is the analogy of weighing up incriminating evidence in a court of law. But in a court of law, no matter how much evidence appears to incriminate someone, it would be entirely outweighed by a reliable alibi that the accused was in a totally different location at the time of the crime. The same is true of science. Even a small amount of attestable data that clearly contradicts evolution is sufficient to demonstrate that it is false, despite a much larger body of evidence that is consistent with it.

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