The Fossil Horses
Three years before Charles Darwin’s death in 1882, Yale University paleontologist Othniel Marsh published a drawing of horse fossils. Marsh’s drawing, which included only leg bones and teeth, was soon supplemented by an artist’s “slight of hand” with skulls; and illustrations of horse fossils quickly found their way into museum exhibits and biology textbooks as evidence of evolution. The drawings showed evolution proceeding in a straight-line form from the small primitive ancestor through a series of intermediates to the large modern horse.
These drawing drew criticism from two sides – from neo-Darwinists and from scientists who knew the picture of horse evolution was very different from the neat, straight-line picture. Neo-Darwinism is the modern synthesis of the process of evolution (formulated between 1920 and 1950) that combines the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection with the modern version of random genetic mutations.
Most evolutionists who were Darwin’s contemporaries believed that evolution was directed. Since direction implies a director, this notion was rejected by neo-Darwinists such as Gould, Dawkins, and others. Gould and Dawkins have openly assailed the horse icon, because it’s neat, straight-line drawings might indicate a pre-ordained goal. Dawkins says, “Evolution is blind, unconscious and has no purpose in mind.”
Stephen J. Gould writes, “George Gaylord Simpson was the greatest and most biologically astute paleontologist of the 20th century”. In 1944, Simpson wrote, “the trend toward larger size (in the horse) was not seen in all the extinct side-branches, some of which actually reversed direction and became smaller.” He also verified that fossils that appear in the early horse drawings actually persist in later fossils. Many other scientists confirmed Simpson’s research. It turned out that the drawings were taken out of context from vastly different times and even different continents and were assembled to conform to someone’s predetermined idea of evolution. Now, most scientists agree with Stephen J. Gould’s words about the horse drawings as being an “incarnation of concepts masquerading as neutral descriptions of nature.”
Not everyone has heeded Gould’s warnings. Francisco J. Ayala, a prominent evolutionary geneticist and professor at the University of California at Irvine, has been named the recipient of the 2010 Templeton Prize in science. I received his latest book, Darwin’s Gift, as a Christmas present and found that he mindlessly recycles the trite, horse fossil drawings on page 83 of his book along with hackneyed, over-used examples of evolution that have been debunked even by Darwinists. This experience reinforced my belief to not confuse a drawing-room accent with actual intelligence and to not confuse a Darwinian pronouncement with actual/verified, empirical evidence. Always look for details, the more details, the better – in the form of fossils, experiments, measurement, research, and observation.
The horse drawings have been removed from most high school and college biology text books. Because Darwinists are very fond of their favorite symbols of evolution, they recently removed them only after evidence against them became overwhelming. However, does this help people far-removed from high school who still remember the horse fossils as their favorite “Darwinian moment”?