The Creation Explanation
|Beliefs and Interpretations of Evidence|
The Fossil Horses29
The most famous fossils which supposedly illustrate an evolving series of species are the fossil horses. They start with the little "dawn horse," which had three toes on its back feet and four in front. Formerly, some of these were called by the name Eohippus, but it has been decided that they are the same as the European form called Hyracotherium, and since the European candidate was named first, its name has priority.
The first fossil found was a single tooth, and it was first identified as belonging to a monkey. When more teeth were found, attached to some bone, it was seen that the first identification was in error, and it was said to be something like a coney or hyrax, and hence the name Hyracotherium, or hyrax-like beast. Later it was said to be a horse. Other fossil forms were found in Europe and America and were put together in a branching series to represent the horse family. But as more was learned about them they did not fit so well in such a series; and, as in the case of the fossil elephants, it seemed that the various forms were not connected after all. it is to be remembered that they were not found as a series, one in a layer above the next, as represented in diagrams.30 Also, as Professor Kerkut has pointed out, in many cases there is no way of knowing how much was found, and it makes a great difference whether a reconstruction is from a complete skeleton or from a single tooth or bone fragment.31
More than a dozen different evolutionary pedigrees have been proposed for the horse, a fact which illustrates the degree of disagreement among paleontologists. However, a general sequence of limited evolutionary development has been suggested: (1) an increase in size, from that of a small dog to larger than some existing horses; (2) enlargement and lengthening of the head anterior to the eyes; (3) increased length and mobility of the neck; (4) changes of the pre-molar teeth from types suited to browsing to types suited for grazing; (5) elongation of the limbs for speedy running; (6) reduction of the number of toes to one long toe.32
All of the proposed horse series are laden with difficulties. One display created over a half century ago in the American Museum of Natural History has served as the model for similar displays in other museums and for illustrations in many school and college textbooks. This display has the number of pairs of ribs evolving in order from eighteen (Eohippus) to fifteen (Orohippus) to nineteen (Pliohippus) to eighteen again (Equus Scotti). Similarly, the number of lumbar vertebrae in these fossils moves from six or seven (Eohippus) to eight (Orohippus) and back to six (Equus Scotti).33 The last fossil of the supposed horse series makes its appearance in India, whereas all of its alleged ancestors were uncovered in the United States34 Of course, such anomalies as these just cited are not mentioned when neat diagrams of the supposed horse family tree are reproduced in science textbooks or popular periodicals and television shows. The student reader or viewer is led to believe that horse evolution is a firmly established fact.
In 1985 journalist Tom Bethell published an important article, "The Taxonomic Case Against Darwin."35 He interviewed leading scientists at Harvard University and the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Niles Eldredge, a curator at the Museum and a paleontologist of international reputation, offered some frank comments about the horse display in his own institution:
...There have been an awful lot of stories, some more imaginative than others, about what the nature of that history [of life] really is. The most famous example, still on exhibit downstairs, is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps fifty years ago. That has been presented as the literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that is lamentable, particularly when the people who propose those kinds of stories may themselves be aware of the speculative nature of some of that stuff.36
Bethell added, "When I brought the subject up with Platnick[curator of entomology at the Museum], he said he thought horse fossils had not yet been properly classified, or even exhaustively studied." Bethell spoke with several other specialists at the Museum and at Harvard who likewise expressed views rather critical of the tendency of paleontologists and other biologists to draw evolutionary conclusions based on inadequate fossil data, insufficient study of the available materials, and consequent uncertainties in the classification of fossil species.
Returning to the horse evolutionary series, when we consider the difficulty of relating supposedly "late" types to "early" types, the possibility that size changes may have been due to poor feed or degree of maturity at death, the possibility that some of these fossils(especially Eohippus) may represent genera totally unrelated to the horse, and the possibility that at least some of the "developments" represent local mutations rather than a generalized mutation of a species, it becomes apparent that the horse series is hypothetical only No conclusive evidence is available to support this theory.
29. Cousins, Frank, Creation Research Soc. Quarterly, Vol. 8, Sept. 1971, pp. 99-108.
30. Kerkut, G.A., Implications of Evolution (Pergamon Press, New York, 1960), pp. 144-149.
31. Moore, John N., and Harold S. Slusher, editors, Biology: a Search for Order in Complexity (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1971), p. 420.
32. Wentworth, Baroness, Thoroughbred Racing Stock (Charles Scribners, Sons, New York, 1938), p. 379.
33. Cousins, Frank, op. cit. (ref. 29).
34. Bethell, Tom, "The Taxonomic Case Against Darwin," Harper's Magazine, Feb. 1985, pp. 49-61.
35. Ibid., p. 60.
36. Kaufmann, David A., in A Challenge to Education II-A, Walter Lang, editor (Bible-Science Association, Caldwell, ID, 1974), pp. 119-130.