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Evolution/is there still a missing link?

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Question
I would like to know if there is still an outstanding argument for there being a missing link in human evolution...or as I was reading at Wikipedia..transitional evolution...? Is Java man conclusive? Or has so much happened since that time that %100 a fully fledged chart exists that shows skeletal remains directly linking homo sapien to it's last known predecessor..?  Or does the Christian fundamentalist claim of there being a missing link have some substance.? 

Answer
Dear Simon,

The Christian fundamentalist claim of a "missing link" is completely without substance, and shows their complete lack of understanding of evolutionary theory.  Unfortuantely, few creationists are willing to learn how evolution actually works, so there's little hope of changing that.  

The "missing link" argument presupposes that fossils is the most powerful evidence for evolution.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The physical conditions necessary for a living thing to become a fossil are extremely rare.  Think about what happens to that opossum road kill you pass on the street for days on end.  It gradually decomposes and is eaten by scavengers until it's little more than a grease spot on the road.  That's basically what happens to the vast majority of things that die, especially animals.  

To become a fossil, a recently dead organism must be protected from oxygen and/or moisture, which fosters the growth of bacteria and fungi.  Those decomposers are possibly the main reason so few things ever become fossils.  In fact, it's surprising we've found as many good fossils as we have.  And just because we have not yet found a "transitional form" of any given lineage does not mean that form never existed.  It may be there as a fossil, yet to be discovered.  Or it may simply have gone the way of most living things:  complete decay.  There's a reason that certain regions on earth are rich in fossils:  they had the right conditions for fossilization.  But it's not reasonable to assume that the only living things that evolved happened to live in those fossil-fostering areas.

The most powerful evidence for the common ancestry of living things lies not in fossils, but in the living things themselves.  The homologies we see in DNA, proteins, embryo development, and adult morphology are the best evidence that we all share a common origin.  

The evidence supporting evolution is vast, and takes a great deal of study and reading to completely comprehend.  However, the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology has a fantastic web site that covers just about every aspect of evolutionary theory, and is fun and easy to navigate.  You can start here with a site listing links to various types of evidence for evolution:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/search/topicbrowse2.php?topic_id=46

Or start at the top, and work your way through:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_01

It's addicting!  :)

I hope this helps.  

Sincerely,

Dana  

Evolution

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Dana Krempels

Expertise

I can answer questions about evolutionary mechanisms and theory, including genetic drift, mutation, natural selection, etc. I also can clear up misconceptions about evolution as it's sometimes talked about by those not well-versed in the subject (e.g., some politicians and many religious fundamentalists).

Experience

I have a Ph.D. in Biology, and presently teach Evolution and Biodiversity, Genetics, Botany, and Zoology at the University of Miami.

Organizations
House Rabbit Society Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society

Publications
Exotic DVM Magazine (veterinary journal)

Education/Credentials
B.S. in Biology B.A. in English Ph.D. in Biology

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