Skeptic: The Fossil Fallacy; March 2005; Scientific American Magazine; by Michael Shermer; 1 Page(s)
Nineteenth-century English social scientist Herbert Spencer made this prescient observation: "Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all." Well over a century later nothing has changed. When I debate creationists, they present not one fact in favor of creation and instead demand "just one transitional fossil" that proves evolution. When I do offer evidence (for example, Ambulocetus natans, a transitional fossil between ancient land mammals and modern whales), they respond that there are now two gaps in the fossil record.
This is a clever debate retort, but it reveals a profound error that I call the Fossil Fallacy: the belief that a "single fossil"--one bit of data--constitutes proof of a multifarious process or historical sequence. In fact, proof is derived through a convergence of evidence from numerous lines of inquiry--multiple, independent inductions, all of which point to an unmistakable conclusion.