Students ask: “Has the ‘missing link’ been found?”

 In his book Origin of Species, Darwin wrote, “The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous…Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”1

"Lucy" as she appears on pages 14-15 of 6th grade California textbook History Alive! The Ancient World.

“Lucy” as she appears on pages 14-15 of 6th grade California textbook History Alive! The Ancient World.

Over a century after Darwin, evolutionary paleontologist David Raup wrote, “In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general, these have not been found — yet the optimism has died hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks.”2

Examples of this “pure fantasy” can be seen throughout the pages of 6th, 7th, and 10th grade California textbooks. Pages 14 to 23 of the 6th grade history textbook History Alive! The Ancient World illustrates the supposed progression from ape-like creatures to humans, claiming evidence from various fossil discoveries around the world, including “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis), Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens (Modern humans).3 Likewise, the 10th grade textbook Miller & Levine Biology teaches students that fossils linking whales to land mammals4, birds to dinosaurs5, and land-dwelling animals to fish6, have all been unearthed. Such claims are accompanied by flashy drawings fleshing out what these ‘in-betweens’ might have looked like (see picture above).  

However, all of these supposed ‘links’ have been questioned on scientific grounds by other evolutionists. As Senior Paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History, Colin Patterson, wrote, “I will lay it on the line—there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”7

Some may imagine, based on similarities between these creatures and those to which they supposedly link, that these fossilsreally are Darwin’s ‘intermediate varieties.’ “But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test,” Patterson responds.7 Just as someone could line up a fork, ‘spork’, and spoon, and claim to have found an evolutionary progression, such stories about fossils are only imaginative speculation based on a prior commitment to evolution.

So, even after 150 years of fossil discoveries since Darwin’s book, “the most obvious and gravest objection” to evolution still stands, and the ‘missing link’ is still…well, missing!

Free Resources for Further Learning: 

The Links Are Missing

Tiktaalik and the Fishy Story of Walking Fish 

Bird Evolution?

Whale Evolution? 

Are There Apemen in Your Ancestry?


1Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859; rep., New York: Avenel Books, Crown Publishers, n.d.).

2Raup, D. M. “Evolution and the Fossil Record.” Science 213.4505 (1981): 289. Print.

3Frey, Wendy, John Bergez, and Amy Joseph. History Alive!: The Ancient World. Palo Alto, CA: Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 2004. 14-23. Print.

4Miller, Kenneth R., and Joseph S. Levine. Miller & Levine Biology. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2006. 467-467. Print.

5Ibid, 762-767.

6Ibid, 760-761. 

7Colin Patterson, quoted from personal communication in Sunderland, Luther D. Darwin’s Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems. San Diego, CA: Master Book, 1984. 88-90. Print.