But all dinosaurs are mutants!

Stop me if you've heard this one before: yet another creationist has disproved evolution. This one has a site called creationdino.blogspot.com -- he thinks dinosaurs are evidence against evolution -- and calls himself "@BeholdBeast" on Twitter, and is actually named David Wilson. He thinks he has an undeniable proof that evolution did not occur. His claim is that there ought to be more fossils of failed mutations than successful ones.

For evolution to be a viable hypothesis, it must have the element of mutation playing a vast and critical role. Mutation is a chaotic - random - process. Therefore every evolutionary jump should be flanked in the fossil record by countless random mutations which did not succeed. That means billions of failed mutation fossils for 1.5 million species of life on earth, demanded statistically because we have many fossils of many particular animals which did "succeed". Such a fossil record of countless failed mutations does not exist. That is the end of the theory of evolution. It's over.

What the heck would a failed mutation fossil look like? Apparently, this is a question he has been asked many times, because he claims to have an answer.

Statistically, we should see an almost endless variation in the fossil record, to the point if we had more fossils of specific (supposedly evolution-successful) species (as we do), the other billions of fossils would need to be examined to see if a good guess could be made as to whether each and every single one was part of the (supposed) larger successful process, an evolutionary dead end or a failed mutation which died in its solitary statistical state, the last of which, statistically, should comprise the vast percentage of fossils found because when dealing with a truly chaotic - random - process on this staggering scale and of this complexity, there can be no question of the undeniably vast numbers involved.

No, that doesn't answer the question at all. Claiming almost endless variation in the fossil record is false; there's this little process called natural selection that greatly limits the range of variation to viable morphs. For someone who relies on a statistical argument, he seems to have little appreciation of the statistical properties of populations. An unsuccessful mutant would sputter out with few descendants, and would represent a minute fraction of the population, and would be far less likely to be sampled by the fossilization process than a 'standard' form.

He also doesn't seem to appreciate the role mutations play in development. There are mutations of large effect -- that is, single mutations that can produce dramatic differences in the form of the organism -- but the overwhelming majority are going to be neutral, producing no detectable effect, or are going to produce subtle differences in morphology or physiology. What we'd expect to see is a range of variation within a species. Look at the people around you: do they all look like clones of each other? If not, that tells you that you're seeing a population carrying mutations that produce differences in individuals.

I also have to tell him that a "mutant" is not one indivisible thing. I carry mutations. But the thing is that I reproduce sexually, so half my children are not going to inherit any one specific mutation. A species is not a group of individuals carrying a single uniform genotype -- it's a cloud of gene variants that shifts over time, generation by generation.

Wilson has a head full of misconceptions, but that doesn't stop him from arrogantly declaring a "law" that disproves evolution.

Wilson's Law of Evolution: The total lack of fossil evidence of the primary component of evolution, "mutation", proves the theory of evolution to be false. The fact of many fossils of the same creatures exist but no record of the billions of mutations which did not succeed defeats evolution at the stage of primary supposition. No fossil record of the statistically-demanded billions of mutations which did not succeed proves mutation from one species into another never occurred. Period.

Except he has some unstated idea of what a "mutation" would look like. A biologist would tell you that what we ought to see in the fossil record is variation in form -- that what we ought to expect in a fossil population is a lack of uniformity. Guess what we see?

Wilson likes to babble about dinosaurs, so he brings up these kinds of examples.

As far back as 1920, writing in that year's annual report for the Smithsonian Institution (an original copy of which the author has in his hard copy collection), Charles W. Gilmore, Associate Paleontologist at the U.S. national museum, wrote, "The late J.B. Hatcher brought to light by far the greater number of the known Triceratops specimens, compromising some 40 or more skulls and partial skeletons, all from the now famous Lance Creek locality in eastern Wyoming." So many samples of a single animal were not unusual even back then. The point, of course, is for there to be many samples of a single animal but no fossil record of the countless random mutations which did not succeed preceding it, prove statistically that evolution from one species to another never occurred, and this fossil record pattern is true for every living creature on earth.

And that, dear friends, that pretty much screws "The Theory of Evolution". It is not that the empirical evidence does not support Creationism. In this instance the empirical evidence totally and completely defeats the supposition of evolution.

This is a remarkably common creationist refrain. Forty Triceratops? But they were all still Triceratops! I got it from Ray Comfort when I pointed out that there's good evidence of gradual transformation of sticklebacks -- "They're still fish, are they not?", therefore there was no change at all. It's because they don't bother to look past the label. Fish are fish, Triceratops are Triceratops, we say there is variation within those categories, fools like Wilson or Comfort don't look past the name, and use the categorization to claim an absence of differences.

It's annoying and ignorant. The problem is that scientists are actively looking at variation in fossil forms, and are fully aware of differences in morphology. It's often a bone of contention in taxonomy: is your newly named species just a minor case of individual variation, or a case of sexual dimorphism, or a juvenile of this other form?

Here's an example. Jordan Mallon is studying variation in the skull of a horned dinosaur, Anchiceratops, and what does he find? Continuous variation in morphology.

That's what we expect to see from evolution. We have an understanding of what mutations will look like, as a range of forms within a species, and that's exactly what we do see to varying degrees in different populations.

The initial premise of Wilson's Law, that total lack of fossil evidence of the primary component of evolution, "mutation", is false, and therefore his "law" is bunk.

Don't expect him to recognize that, though. I browsed through his site, and it's a whole big pile of repetitive bunk, completely uninformed by any reading of what scientists actually say. No variation in horned dinosaurs?


Nuts to that.


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I think that this is relevant to a discussion about dinosaurs and makes at least as much sense as Mr. Wilson does. Does anyone remember United Mutations, the Frank Zappa Mothers of Invention fan club? The application to the club included things like this.
"......Answer these questions briefly. Please enclose a small photo of yourself.
Are you a mutation?
What can you do to help us?
People's minds: How many do you control? Why not more?
How do you control your subjects? Do they know? Do other people know?
How do you avoid problems? Do you group-think? "

We're only in it for the money....
Riff on.

As a geologist, I can say that there are many variations of some species. For example Brachiopods ( like a clam but not, they are bivalves).I pick these because there are huge numbers of them, instead of the few fossils of larger animals. Anyone who has collected them can see the huge variation.This leads to what is called "lumpers" and "splitters") Lumpers consider slight variation to be non distinctive of a new species. Splitters will call the differences a new species.Whether they are due to environment or mutation , I don't know.My point is that if one does not "look", one will not see. Wilson's ignorance does not make him right , it make him blind to what is out there.Since he "knows" he will never learn and will remain ignorant.

By Lance Ruffel (not verified) on 03 Oct 2015 #permalink

But verbose Formicidae are not mutants.

What about rugose dormice?

I think what we have here is a misinterpretation of definitions. You use the the term "mutation" like it is something positive. In the purest sense of the word, a mutation is a change that creates a loss in genetic information, therefore, causing a change in the organism that always hinders it. If you are meaning a change of genetic information that aids in the survival of a particular species, you are talking about adaptation. Adaptation is micro-evolution (proven) not macro-evolution. (speculations) As far as Mr. Wilson's argument for "failed mutations," he is arguing for the non-viability of transitional species. Macro-evolution is looking for the elusive "missing link" between known species. There have not been any of these missing links found because they cannot exist. These transitional species would lack necessary traits for survival as they travel from one species to another. Now, scientists have claimed on many occasions to have found a missing link, but none of these discoveries have been proven to actually be the transitional species needed for macro-evolution to be proven. Also, natural selection does nothing to show the origin of a species. It, however, does account for the survival of a species. That is adaptation for survival or micro-evolution. If one were to take two dogs and breed them, the results would be more dogs. One could never breed cats or squirrels from those dogs. Now, we do have different breeds of dogs with different characteristics or adaptations. However, at the genetic level, they are still dogs. They are not entirely new species, nor will they ever be new species.

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By En İyi Vitibit… (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

I've forgotten the custom here.
Does one call "Bingo!" or "House!"?

One has to assume that David P has never heard of a ring species.