Monday, January 31, 2011

Monkeys in Government: Congressman Jack Kingston

Just saw Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) repeatedly deny that his ancestors included some in common with monkeys. He tried several gambits which are popular with “creationists.” One gambit was that if evolution took place over the millions of years claimed by the theory of evolution then there would be a lot more fossils. Jack thinks there should be more fossils. This demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of the natural sciences and the “big picture.” First of all the entire world economy is fueled by the fossil record. Every bit of coal and every drop of petroleum extracted from the planet was once part of a living plant or animal. There is a reason why coal and oil are called “fossil fuels.” The fossil record is huge. Now in fairness Jack was probably referring only to bones. But if one wishes to consider only bones then they must consider the odds against any particular specimen being preserved. The odds are overwhelmingly against it. Most carcasses are destroyed by scavengers. The relative few carcasses which get buried quickly enough to be preserved are then subject to destruction by massive recycling processes which constantly reshaped the continents. Land is uplifted at the edges of continents by the movements of tectonic plates which form the planet’s crust. Then erosion breaks down the resulting mountains and carries the sediment to the sea. These processes efficiently erase huge amounts of the geological record and any fossils contained therein. One must also consider that fossils which remain buried are also effectively out of reach of scientists. Fossils only become available to scientists when erosion removes most or all of the overlying layers. If erosion exposes fossils and scientists do not quickly find and recover the fossils then those fossils are lost to scientific cataloging and study. When one considers all these factors it is clear that the fossil record which we have collected is actually amazingly large and complete.

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