Fossils, Ferns, and Fairy Tales

I wonder how the evolution theory-tale explains plant life.plant fossil

While I admit that it’s possible that I was snoozing during Biology 101 (and 201 and 301…) when it was taught, I don’t recall even a single  mention of the evolution of plant life. I have heard people talk about “plant life” and the “plant kingdom” the same way “animal life” and the “animal kingdom” is often mentioned, but I don’t remember any conversations about plant evolution amidst all the talk of the evolution of animal life.

I wonder why.

Come to think of it, plant fossils are all over the place even though plants are made of a somewhat softer material than say, your ordinary Triceratops and, coal, which is essentially fossilized plants, is pretty much everywhere.  Even though it’s a little counterintuitive, turn over a rock and find a plant fossil.

Given the apparent abundance of plant fossils you would think that it would be a fairly easy task to piece together the evolutionary tree (no pun intended) of at least a Zinnia, or a fern, or the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. Not only, it seems, is the evolution of plant life missing from the science books but no one, not even evolution theory-tale proponents, seem eager to speak about it.

I wonder why.

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27 Responses to Fossils, Ferns, and Fairy Tales

  1. hokku says:

    You wrote:
    “Not only, it seems, is the evolution of plant life missing from the science books but no one, not even evolution theory-tale proponents, seem eager to speak about it.”

    I don’t know where you live, but where I am there are literally shelves of books on the evolutionary history of plants, including the eventual rise of flowering plants and the resulting effects on the ecosystem. I suspect a simple lack of a good library is the cause for much of the misunderstanding about evolution and misrepresentation of it in fundamentalist groups and communities. Either that or the lack of the will to find and read non-fundamentalist books on the subject.

  2. jerryk says:

    I’ve heard other other claims from evolutionists similar to your statement that “literally shelves of books on the evolutionary history of….” which supposedly proves evolution. Problem is, though those books may exist, the facts they are supposed to present do not exist. I couldn’t help but notice that you also failed to site a title from those “shelves of books on the evolutionary history of plants”. Interesting omission.

    I see you like using the term ‘fundamentalist’, consider this quote from an evolutionary ‘fundamentalist’:

    “Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable.”

    By the way, those words were penned by Sir Arthur Keith, author of Foreword to The Origin of Species, 100th edition.

    You may want to consider expanding your choice of reading material. Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

  3. hokku says:

    I notice you just moved the goalpost. First you raised the issue of lack of books on plant evolution. Then when it was pointed out that such books are not at all rare, you changed it to, “well, they may exist but they are not factual.”

    When someone has a religious preconception that evolution cannot be true, facts become immaterial and the will to believe takes precedence over the will to think.

  4. jerryk says:

    Thanks again for visiting hokku and for your comments.

    You misunderstood, the goalposts were not moved by me. You are the one that claimed there were shelves of books about plant evolution. Twice now you have failed to provide a title of even one of those books.

    You also failed to note that the quote about evolution being unproved and unprovable is a quote from an evolutionist not a statement I made. That evolution is unproved and unprovable requires those who maintain an evolutionary bias to promote the “will to believe” over the “will to think”. This being the case, “religious preconception” of which you accuse me is really a condition suffered by evolutionists.

  5. hokku says:

    You wrote:
    “Twice now you have failed to provide a title of even one of those books.”

    You did not ask me for titles, did you? How then can you complain? Here is a small sampling to get you started. As you can see, you were simply wrong about this, as of course you are about evolution in general, for which the evidence is overwhelming. That is why scientists regard evolution as certain as the revolution of the earth about the sun.

    Paleobotany, Paleoecology, and Evolution Vol. 1 & 2 (1 & 2) by Karl J. Niklas;

    An Introduction To Paleobotany by Chester A. Arnold;

    The Evolution of Plants by K. J. Willis and J. C. McElwain;

    The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth’s History by David Beerling;

    Paleobotany and the Evolution of Plants by Wilson N. Stewart;

    An Introduction to Paleobotany;

    The Evolutionary Biology of Plants by Karl J. Niklas;

    Plant Variation & Evolution by David Briggs and Stuart Max Walters;

    Morphology and Evolution of Vascular Plants by Ernest M. Gifford and Adriance S. Foster;

    Variation and Evolution in Plants and Microorganisms: Toward a New Synthesis 50 Years after Stebbins by National Academy of Sciences, Francisco J. Ayala, Walter M. Fitch, and Michael T. Clegg;

    Flowering Plants: Evolution above the Species Level (Belknap Press) by G. Ledyard Stebbins;

    Plant Evolution and the Origin of Crop Species by James F. Hancock;

    The Role of Chromosomal Change in Plant Evolution (Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution) by Donald A. Levin;

    Plant Diversity and Evolution: Genotypic and Phenotypic Variation in Higher Plants by Robert J. Henry;

    Atlas of Woody Plant Stems: Evolution, Structure, and Environmental Modifications by Fritz H. Schweingruber, Annett Börner, and Ernst-Detlef Schulze;

    Alien Species and Evolution: The Evolutionary Ecology of Exotic Plants, Animals, Microbes, and Interacting Native Species by George W. Cox;

    Green Plants: Their Origin and Diversity by Peter R. Bell and Alan R. Hemsley;

    The Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants by Arthur Cronquist;

    The Origin, Expansion, and Demise of Plant Species (Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution) by Donald A. Levin;

    Plant Molecular Evolution by J.J. Doyle and B.S. Gaut;

    Plants: Diversity and Evolution by Martin Ingrouille and Bill Eddie;

    The Diversity and Evolution of Plants by Lorentz C. Pearson;

    The Evolution of Plant Physiology (Linnean Society Symposium, Number 21) by Alan R. Hemsley and Imogen Poole;

    Floral Biology – Studies on Floral Evolution in Animal-pollinated Plants by David G. Lloyd and Spencer C.H. Barrett;

    Developmental Genetics and Plant Evolution by Quentin C.B. Cronk, Richard M. Bateman, and Julie A. Hawkins;

    Plant Resistance to Herbivores and Pathogens: Ecology, Evolution, and Genetics by Robert S. Fritz and Ellen L. Simms;

    Pollen and Pollination (Plant Systematics and Evolution, Volume 222, Numbers 1-4, 2000) by Amots Dafni, Michael Hesse, and Ettore Pacini;

    Plant Genome: Biodiversity And Evolution : Lower Groups by A. Sharma and A. K. Sharma;

    Molecular Systematics and Plant Evolution by Peter M. Hollingsworth, Richard M. Bateman, and Richard J. Gornall;

    Plant Evolution in the Mediterranean by John D. Thompson;

    Flowering Plant Origin, Evolution And Phylogeny by David W. Taylor and Leo Hickey;

    Plant Life Histories: Ecology, Phylogeny and Evolution by Jonathan Silvertown, Miguel Franco, and John L. Harper;

    Geological Factors and the Evolution of Plants by Bruce Tiffney;

    Morphology and evolution of fossil plants (Biology studies) by Theodore Delevoryas;

    Heredity And Evolution In Plants by C. Stuart Gager;

    Life History Evolution in Plants by Timo Olavi Vuorisalo and P. Mutikainen

  6. jerryk says:

    Hi hokku and welcome back. I applaud your industriousness in listing so many titles. I assume you are offering these as proof of evolution. I wonder if you have actually read any of these works or if you are, as the saying goes, judging a book by its cover (well, in this case, by its title). If you have read any of these books, I wonder what piece of “overwhelming” evidence presented in one of them was enough to convince you of the fact of evolution? It certainly seems strange that other evolutionists can look at the same evidence (but perhaps you have discovered something about which they are not aware) and conclude that evolution is both unproven and unprovable. Most scientists today have concluded that the universe had a beginning and most have concluded that life has at least the appearance of design. What is the “overwhelming evidence” you found in contradiction to this? If the scientific community is correct, there had to have been at least a creator and, apparently, that creator’s stamp is what we see in the design of life.

    Is this, as Sir Arthur Keith pointed out (“We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable”), really the root of your support for evolution? Hokku, IF there is a Creator, who has created all there is and ever will be, who has revealed Himself in what He has created, and who has established His laws to govern this universe, what happens when you stand before Him on the day of judgement? There is a way to find out: Have you, for example, ever said something that wasn’t true or taken something that wasn’t yours? Have you ever looked at another person with lust? If you have done these things, you have broken three of the Creator’s laws. That same Creator has declared that liars, thieves, and adulterers will suffer eternal torment in Hell. Does that concern you? It does me, I’m so concerned for you; I don’t want you or anyone else to suffer that fate.

    hokku, the Creator, God, doesn’t desire this for you either. Instead, “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, came to take upon Himself the wrath and judgment you deserve for breaking God’s Law and sinning against Him. The Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life”. He did this when He shed His innocent blood for the remission of sins as He died on the cross. Three days later, He rose from and forever defeated death. He did this for you, He did this because of Love, He did this as a free gift. To receive this free gift, you must repent (that means to confess and forsake your sins) and put your trust in Jesus. If you do this you will not have to suffer God’s justice in Hell when you stand before Him on the day of judgement.

    Please carefully consider this; there is nothing more important. It is true. I have no reason to lie to you.

  7. hokku says:

    You wrote:
    “I applaud your industriousness in listing so many titles. I assume you are offering these as proof of evolution. ”

    No, I am offering them as proof that when you wrote “Not only, it seems, is the evolution of plant life missing from the science books but no one, not even evolution theory-tale proponents, seem eager to speak about it,” you were obviously greatly mistaken. I could have listed more, but I think the point is made.

    You wrote:
    “Is this, as Sir Arthur Keith pointed out (”We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable”), really the root of your support for evolution?”

    Not at all. The root of my support for evolution is the overwhelming and obvious evidence for it. One either accepts that evidence, or else one gives personal religious beliefs preference in spite of the evidence. The same happened at the time of Galileo. One could either accept the obvious evidence about the nature of the solar system that Galileo saw through his telescope, or one could simply refuse to believe it because it did not fit one’s religious preconceptions, refusing to look through the telescope.

    It seems to me that is what you are doing. You are so intent on your religious beliefs that you have refused to even recognize the great number of texts available on plant evolution. Now if you do not even know such books are available, how can you have done the research necessary to develop an informed opinion about the evidence regarding evolution? I suspect that you have simply relied on what other fundamentalistic Christians have said about evolution, which is simply propaganda against it, and very misleading propaganda at that.

    Why do I think that? Because instead of discussing the scientific evidence for evolution, you appeal to the Bible. But the Bible is a very human and fallible collection of documents filled with discrepancies and divergences. It is not at all reliable, and it is certainly faulty when it it comes to matters of science and human and cosmic origins, as one can quickly see by the solid sky it depicts in Genesis, a solid sky above which is a vast reservoir of waters, as solid sky in which the sun, moon and stars are set like lamps hung from the roof of a tent. That is a primitive and unscientific world view which we know today was completely mistaken.

  8. jerryk says:

    Thanks again for visiting hokku. It is my sincere hope that you will one day look into these things with an open mind.

  9. hokku says:

    You wrote:
    “It is my sincere hope that you will one day look into these things with an open mind.”

    If that is the best defense you can give after your errors have been clearly demonstrated, you had better change your avatar from “Rottweilers for Christ” to “Chihuahuas for Christ.”

    Enjoy your day.

  10. jerryk says:

    Neither mind numbing rhetoric nor ad hominem abuse requires defense hokku. My hope for you remains; thanks again for visiting.

  11. Dan says:

    It seems that Jerry is claiming that “evolutionary biologists don’t understand the evolutionary history of plants,” when “Jerry doesn’t understand the evolutionary history of plants” would be a much more appropriate conclusion here.

  12. Dan says:

    More specifically, Jerry’s comment that “Problem is, though those books may exist, the facts they are supposed to present do not exist,” should be edited to “Problem is, though those books may exist, I do not know the facts they present.”

    There is an easy solution: look for and read books before claiming to know anything about them.

  13. jerryk says:

    Hi Dan, thanks for visiting and for your comments. So, where did you get your information?

  14. Dan says:

    Which information? I found all the information I needed for my comments by reading the rest of the thread.

  15. jerryk says:

    You may have missed then the information about the creator and design within the conversation threads. We can not get a poem without a poet, or a law without a lawgiver. We can not get a painting without a painter, or a musical score without a composer. And just as surely, purposeful design requires a designer. The design in the Universe—and everything contained within it—is both apparent and sufficient. Thanks again for visiting Dan.

  16. Dan says:

    Yep, read through the posts. I don’t see any evidence either here or in my studies elsewhere that “apparent and sufficient” for “purposeful design.”

    The concept of “purposeful design,” or “final cause” as Aristotle termed it, is quite ancient. These four ways at looking at causes:

    Material Cause: What the object in question is composed of (e.g. a house is composed of boards, bricks, mortar, etc.;

    Formal Cause: What formal category the object is an exemplar of (e.g. any particular house is a “house” or dwelling place for people);

    Efficient Cause: What immediate processes bring about the existence of the object (e.g. the carpenters, etc. are the efficient cause of the house); and

    Final Cause: The purpose of the object (e.g. carpenters et al build houses “in order to” provide dwelling places for people).

    Material and efficient causes are of course very relevant to modern science. But what about formal and final causes? Formal cause is rendered irrelevant, at least in biology, by what’s described as population-thinking. I.e., there is no such thing as an exemplar of anything in biology, but there is instead a spectrum of characteristics for any given species, race, or other taxa. What does this mean for evolution? Variation, as just described, is a pre-requisite for change based on natural selection. Another pre-requisite is that a population produces more progeny than can be sustained by a population, and thus not all progeny can survive to adulthood (see writings of Malthus). The result is that some members of any population will survive better than others of the population, and the population as a whole changes (that is, evolves).

    But I digress, I’m sure you know all that already, I’m just trying to clarify the role of variation in simple, easy-to-agree-on terms.

    The real issue is the concern of final cause – that the purpose of the object is sufficient to cause its existence. Well, in a sense, yes, there is purpose to my existence (for example) – my parents chose to have a child. And the purpose of their existence is that their grandparents chose to have children. And so on. Furthermore, due to sexual reproduction (i.e. meiosis), we are not identical to our forebearers. Thus, again, populations change gradually. This isn’t really a final cause though, but an efficient cause. Is there a greater cause? You believe it is, because you’ve been told that over and over by everyone that you trust and know, I imagine. But where did they acquire this knowledge? Where did the Bible itself come from? “God” told them? Where is this “God?” Is belief in God just in our heads?

  17. jerryk says:

    Very insightful comments Dan, thank you. Aristotelian teleology is usually contrasted with the philosophy that nature has neither design or purpose. It appears we both agree on this point: the universe has both design and purpose. Both those who hold to Darwinian evolution and special creation either forget or, worse, don’t know that logically this appeal is equally applicable to both views. However, necessarily both views are dependent upon presupposition and it is here that Darwinian teleology falls apart. Evolution is the only field in science where the answer is first decided, and then evidence is sought in support of that predetermined answer. The problem with the teleology you described is not circular reasoning (both evolution and ID require it), but rather that gradual variation, or microevolution, within a species has never been demonstrated to be causative of macroevolution. See the works of Michael Behe for a more detailed analysis. As Henry Schaefer, director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia and the 6th most cited chemist in the world (1981-1997), said, “Some defenders of Darwinism embrace standards of evidence for evolution that as scientists, they would never accept in other circumstances.”

    You asked if there was a greater cause — my answer: of course. Not only a greater cause, but The Cause. And the purpose of His creation is to bring glory to Him. It has.

  18. Dan says:

    I’m not sure that you read me correctly. I’m arguing explicitly against teleology, but for teleonomy. Darwinism, or the mechanisms for change of biological populations, clearly fall into the latter category. Nor is evolutionary biology, or any other branch of biology, presuppositionalist as you suggest.

    I do however agree, to a point, with your suggestion that microevolution is not sufficient to explain macroevolution. For the latter, you need to include mechanisms for isolating populations (e.g., geographic speciation, etc.).

    Moreover, I’m disappointed with the uncritical namedropping and quote-mining.

    And lastly, to you’re Greater Cause… Voltaire satirized the absurdity of the position in Candide:

    ‘It is demonstrated,’ [Pangloss] said, ‘that things cannot be otherwise: for, since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose. Note that noses were made to wear spectacles; we therefore have spectacles. Legs were clearly devised to wear breeches, and we have breeches. Stones were created to be hewn and made into castles; [the Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronkh] therefore has a very beautiful castle…’

    Or, put another way, one can look at this picture of the Earth taken from Voyager 1:

    Look back again at that pale blue dot. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn’t strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?

  19. Dan says:

    Additionally, you quote Schaefer as saying, “Some defenders of Darwinism embrace standards of evidence for evolution that as scientists, they would never accept in other circumstances.” That’s true I suppose, some people make bad arguments. What of the rest – nay, the majority – of scientists, who maintain high standards of evidence?

    And you cite Behe, despite his poor record for standards of evidence. Why is that?

  20. jerryk says:

    Hi Dan…I don’t think I inferred all branches of biology were presumptional; it cannot be argued however that the part of evolutionary biology which deals with the origins of species is not presumptional. Unfortunately, it appears we may both be guilty of ‘uncritical namedropping and quote-mining’ so, as one transgressor to another, please forgive me. I believe I also addressed the teleonomy argument (i.e., nature’s “purpose”) in the final paragraph of my last comment.

    But let’s move to that part of the conversation toward which you have been prodding but I have, so far, been hesitant to directly address – religion. The primary reason for my hesitancy is that my worldview is based on the Christian faith and necessarily any comments I make touching religion (or any other subject for that matter) will be through this prism. To add clarity, if the questions and objections you raised exclude Christianity, I do not know that we are in disagreement regarding the generalities. If your comments are about the Christian faith, I will need you to be more specific. My preference would be to enable this conversation by means of email rather than to continue this thread via this blog post but I will leave that decision to you (for now). Should you be in agreement, you may contact me using forpublic1@yahoo.com. For now however I’ll touch lightly the questions you have so far posed:

    –“You believe it is, because you’ve been told that over and over by everyone that you trust and know, I imagine.”–

    This is a partially true statement. At one time, people who I knew and trusted both taught and demonstrated the Christian faith. As a result, I “believed” in Jesus. A few years ago however I stopped “believing” when I experienced the reality of the Christ. Someone else described the difference this way: ‘Take for example the little boy who is looking at a heater. His father warns him that it’s hot. The child says, “O.K. I believe it’s hot.” At that point, he has an intellectual belief that the heater is hot. When his Dad leaves the room, he says, “I wonder if it really is hot?” He then reaches out his little hand and grabs the heater bar with his fingers. The second his flesh burns he stops believing the heater is hot. He now knows it’s hot! He has moved out of the realm of “faith” into the realm of “experience.”‘ This is, I think, a very good word picture of the difference between faith/belief and (Christian) experience.

    –“But where did they acquire this knowledge?” and ‘”God” told them?”‘–

    Sorry; Omniscience is a characteristic of God. Assuming you don’t receive a response from Him about this question, you will have to track down the “they” for an answer.

    –“Where did the Bible itself come from?”–

    Source? “All Scripture is inspired by God…”

    –“Where is this “God?”–

    Straw man

    –“Is belief in God just in our heads?”–

    Rhetorical

    Did I miss anything? By the way, you may have noticed that links and web addresses are not allowed; house rules for various reasons.

  21. Dan says:

    Look back again at that pale blue dot (Earth). Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn’t strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?

    Just think about it.

  22. jerryk says:

    Dan, that pale blue dot (and all other spots and dots and everything in between them) was not created for even one of the species or shades of species that inhabit it, nor for a gender, nor for an ethnic or religious subdivision, nor for anything else that was created. It was made not only by Him, but for Him; all of it and everything in it, including you and me. “The universe was built by the Greater to be his own property; to be the theater on which he would accomplish his purposes, and display his perfections.”

  23. Dan says:

    The universe was built by the Greater to be his own property; to be the theater on which he would accomplish his purposes, and display his perfections.

    And just how do you know that?

  24. jerryk says:

    Hi Dan, I learned about this by reading the Bible.

  25. Dan says:

    Oh ok – so you believe in the kinky, vengeful god of the old testament? Where it’s okay to murder innocents and rape women (Samuel I), stone people for the slightest offense, or yourself kill a member of another religion should you meet them (Deuteronomy)?

    Is there, at any point, where you stop and think for yourself?

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