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'Transitional' Fossils and Eugenie Scott
7 years ago
My brother in law is not a believer in evolution.  He says that even big evolution proponents like Eugenie Scott say that there is no evidence of intermediate fossils.  Is that true?  And is she considered to be that much of an expert? 
About Eugenie Scott
7 years ago

Eugenie Carol Scott (born October 24, 1945) is an American physical anthropologist who has been the executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) since 1987. She is a leading critic of creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design.

Scott grew up in Wisconsin and first became interested in anthropology after reading her sister's anthropology textbook.[1] Scott received a BS and MS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, followed by a PhD from the University of Missouri - Columbia. She joined the University of Kentucky as a physical anthropologist in 1974 and shortly thereafter attended a debate between her mentor James A. Gavan and the young earth creationist Duane Gish which piqued her interest in the creation-evolution controversy.[2] She also taught at the University of Colorado and at California State University, Hayward. Her research work focused on medical anthropology and skeletal biology.

In 1980 Scott was at the forefront of a successful attempt to prevent creationism from being taught in the public schools of Lexington, Kentucky. From this grassroot effort in Kentucky and other states, the National Center for Science Education was formed in 1981. Scott was appointed the NCSE's executive director in 1987, the year in which teaching "creation science" in American public schools was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard.

Scott and her husband, Thomas C. Sager, a lawyer, reside in Berkeley, California. They have one daughter.

Scott was elected to the California Academy of Sciences in 1994. She served as president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists from 2000 to 2002. She was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 and was its chair. She is also a member of Sigma Xi.

7 years ago

Scott has received many awards from academic organisations. In 1999 she was awarded the Bruce Alberts Award by the American Society for Cell Biology. In 2001 she received the Geological Society of America's Public Service Award.[3] She received the 2002 Public Service Award from the National Science Board for "her promotion of public understanding of the importance of science, the scientific method, and science education and the role of evolution in science education".[4][5] In 2002 the American Institute of Biological Sciences awarded her the first Outstanding Service Award.[6] Scott also received the 2002 Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award from the California Science Teachers Association.[7] The National Association of Biology Teachers gave her honorary membership in 2005[8] In 2006 she was awarded the Anthropology in the Media Award by the American Anthropological Association for "the successful communication of anthropology to the general public through the media".[9]. In 2007 Scott and Kenneth R. Miller were jointly awarded the Outstanding Educator’s Award by the Exploratorium Museum.[10]

Scott has been awarded honorary degrees by McGill University in 2003,[11][12] by Ohio State University in 2005[13][14][15] and in 2006 by Mount Holyoke College[16][17][18] and her alma mater the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.[19][20] In 2007 she will be awarded an honorary degree by Rutgers University. In 1993 the University of Missouri honored her as a distinguished alumna.[21]

7 years ago

Scott was initially brought up in Christian Science by her mother and grandmother, but later switched to a Congregational church under the influence of her sister; she describes her background as liberal Protestant.[22] Scott is now a secular humanist and describes herself as a nontheist. In 2003 was one of the signers of the third humanist manifesto, Humanism and Its Aspirations.[23] She is also a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.[24] In 2003 she was awarded the "Defense of Science Award" from the Center for Inquiry for her "her tireless leadership in defending scientific evolution and educational freedom".[25]

In 1998 Scott received the American Humanist Association's Isaac Asimov Award in Science. In her acceptance speech she explained how a statement adopted by the National Association of Biology Teachers that evolution was "unsupervised" and "impersonal" was attacked by antievolutionists such as Phillip E. Johnson, and the initial reaction of the NABT was not to bow to pressure from creationists to change it. However, Scott agreed with theologians Huston Smith and Alvin Plantinga that "unsupervised" and "impersonal" should be dropped from the statement as they made philosophical and theological claims beyond those science could claim to make based on its principle of methodological naturalism -- and the statement was altered.[26]

The NCSE is religiously neutral and has members who hold a variety of faith-based beliefs or no beliefs at all.[27] Scott and the NCSE are respectful to people of faith who do not hold wish to evangelise their anti-scientific beliefs. Nevertheless, both Scott and the NCSE are criticized as being "atheistic" by creationist groups.[28] Scott jokes that she sometimes thinks her first name is "Atheist" for the frequency with which she is referred to as "Atheist Eugenie Scott" by creationists.

7 years ago

Scott is widely considered to be a leading expert on creationism (including intelligent design), as well as one of its strongest opponents. Her book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction was published by Greenwood Press in 2004 and then in paperback by the University of California Press in 2005. It has a foreword by Niles Eldredge.

She also co-edited with Glenn Branch the 2006 anthology Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools.

In 2006 Jon D. Miller, Scott and Shinji Okamoto had a brief article published in Science entitled "Public Acceptance of Evolution", an analysis of polling on the acceptance of evolution from the last 20 years in the United States and compare that to other countries.[29][30] The USA was beaten to the bottom of the acceptance survey only by Turkey, though the authors saw a positive in that the percentage of Americans who are unsure about evolution, and therefore reachable, increased.[31]

Less seriously she has co-authored with Glenn Branch and Nick Matzke a 2004 paper on "The Morphology of Steve" in the Annals of Improbable Research which arose from the NCSE's Project Steve.[32]

7 years ago

Creationist David Berlinski describes Scott as a "small squirrel-like creature who is often sent out to defend Darwin".[33] However, Scott prefers to see herself as "Darwin's golden retriever". Scott says that her job "requires coping with science illiteracy in the American public".

Scott has been profiled in, Scientific American,[34] The Scientist[35], the San Francisco Chronicle,[36] and the Stanford Medical Magazine.[37] She has had been interviewed for Science & Theology News,[22] CSICOP,[38] Church & State[39] and Point of Inquiry.[40][41] She has commentary published by Science & Theology News,[42] Metanexus Institute.[43].

She also acted as the education spokesperson for the 2001 PBS: Evolution TV series[44]

Scott has taken part in numerous interviews on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, debating various creationist and Intelligent Design advocates. On 29 November 2004, Scott debated astrophysicist Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis on CNN.[45][46] On May 6, 2005 Scott debated Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, on The Big Story with John Gibson.[47]

7 years ago

In 2004, the National Center for Science Education was represented by Scott on Penn and Teller's Showtime television show Bullshit!, on the episode titled "Creationism, on which Dr. Scott offered scientific views about the creationist and intelligent design movements. She noted "it would be unfair to tell students that there is a serious dispute going on among scientists whether evolution took place" because there is no such debate between scientists. She further noted that "a lot of the time the creationists... they'll search through scientific journals and try to pull out something they think demonstrates evolution doesn't work and there is a kind of interesting rationale behind it. Their theology is such that if one thing is wrong with the Bible you have to throw it all out so that's why Genesis has to be interpreted literally. They look at science the same way. If one little piece of the evolutionary puzzle doesn't fit the whole thing has to go." Scott then explained, "that's not the way science is done."

In 2005, Scott and other NCSE staff served as scientific and educational consultants for the plaintiffs in the monumental case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which originated in Dover, PA. Judge John Jones ruled strongly against teaching intelligent design or creationism in the public schools.

Scott serves on the National Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and on the National Advisory Council of Americans for Religious Liberty. In 1999 Scott was awarded the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for "for tirelessly defending the separation of church and state by ensuring that religious neutrality is maintained in the science curriculum of America's public schools",[48] and in 2006 was one of the three judges chosen to make the awards.

In 2005, Scott was party to a libel suit in which she was accused by Larry Caldwell of Quality Science Education for All of making false claims in an article published in California Wild, the magazine of the California Academy of Sciences.[49][50][51] The points alleged to be false made by Scott were details not central to the subject and conclusions of the article, but Intelligent Design proponents characterized them as a "false smear" a "campaign of disinformation" and showing a "pattern of making false claims and character attacks".[52][53] Although the suit did not name California Wild as a defendant, its editor, Keith Howell, agreed to remove the online link to Scott's article and to publish a letter from Caldwell as well as a letter from Scott containing corrections.[54][55]

Scott's letter corrected mistakes in the article, principally that it was not Caldwell but an unidentified citizen who had submitted creationist books to the Roseville school board as had been reported, and that Caldwell ally Cornelius G. Hunter was the person described in the article by a scientist as having a "gross misunderstanding of the nature of science" in analyzing the Holt textbook.[56] The letter also corrected the date of the Georgia evolution disclaimer and the spelling of Jonathan Sarfati's surname. The NCSE then published a version of the article showing the corrections.[57]

Statement by Eugenie Scott
7 years ago

Dr Eugenie C Scott
executive director of the National Centre for Science Education

What inspired me to take up science? I don’t know, maybe packs of feral dogs. When I was growing up 50 years ago in Minnesota, dogs were allowed to roam the streets, and they didn’t all act like Lassie.

In order to gauge whether a dog was friendly or was likely to attack, most of us kids picked up on canine territorial behaviour pretty quickly, as well as the meaning of signals sent through different positions of tails, ears, and body. On the whole, I think leash laws are an improvement.

I was always interested in animals, but it was a case of delayed gratification. My mother didn’t allow pets, and I quickly learned not to bring any living creature into the house. I recall being appalled when my mother casually bludgeoned a small, errant bat with a tennis racket, for the blunder of flying into the wrong window. So I was interested in biology, in spite of my upbringing.

But I do remember when I became interested in evolution. I must have been around nine or 10 years old when my older sister brought home a college-level textbook in anthropology. I was something of a compulsive reader even then, and I casually picked up one of my sister’s books and flipped through the pages.

In the middle of the book was a set of plates showing primitive-looking people with big brows, prow-like noses and receding chins. They were kind of like her boyfriend of the time actually, an observation that was not appreciated. But I was gobsmacked by the reconstructions of these early fossil humans – Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals, Peking Man and the like.

This is where we started. These were the great-great-great-umpty-ump-great grandfathers of us all. It was stunning to a 10-year-old. The title of the book was Anthropology. I decided then that I wanted to be an anthropologist when I grew up.

When I was in junior high school, the teacher gave us one of those horrid ‘write a biography of a famous scientist’ assignments. I chose Eugene Dubois, the discoverer of Peking Man. [Note from Dale H: Dubois actually discovered Java Man] My teacher, of course, had never heard of Dubois, and hadn’t a clue what Pithecanthropus erectus referred to – although in retrospect, I think the nervousness he showed at my references to P erectus in a class full of 12-year-olds might have been understandable.

Evolution was rarely taught in American high schools in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and my school was no exception. Evolution was omitted in my biology class, and wasn’t even mentioned in the textbook. One day after class, a friend and I were talking to kindly Mr Rasmussen, my biology teacher.

One of us asked him why there were so many different kinds of animals. He said: ‘Well, some people believe that some animals are better able to live in an environment than others, and they have more offspring and that kind comes to dominate in that environment, and the population gradually becomes different through time.’

My head reeled. This was such a wonderful, simple explanation, and it made so much sense. It is the essence of Darwinian natural selection, a prime mechanism of evolution.

I remember becoming terribly excited, and brimming over with questions. I wanted to know everything. Did this explain why we no longer had dinosaurs around? Did people change like this? Before I could say anything though, Mr Rasmussen quickly added: ‘Of course, some people think that God created all the animals like they look today.’ Mr Rasmussen held a finger to his lips conspiratorially, said ‘shh’, eased us out of the classroom and closed the door.

I had to wait until I got to college to study evolution, and I’ve been learning about it ever since.

On the issue of intermediate fossils.
7 years ago

Elizabeth, the claim that no transitional or intermediate fossils have been found has been made constantly since the time of Charles Darwin and becomes more and more hollow with every fossil form that is discovered.

What is a transitional form? To even define that, you must have two previously indentified forms, the features of which are already defined as being characteristic of those two forms. Reptiles have teeth, and do not have feathers. Birds have feathers and do not have teeth. So what is one to think when one finds a creature that has both teeth AND feathers? Would that not be an intermediate form between birds and reptiles?

Archaeopteryx fossil


The name Archaeopteryx means ‘ancient wing’, and this animal may be the most famous fossil find of all time. Archaeopteryx was thought to have been the first known bird until the discovery of Protoavis in 1986. [Note by Dale H: Protoavis' status is still controversial among scientists.]  It was larger than a crow and had sharp teeth, a long bony tail and three clawed fingers. Although Archaeopteryx could probably fly a few feet, it was not capable of flight like a true bird. Archaeopteryx lived in the Late Jurassic period, and specimens have been found in limestone deposits in Bavaria, West Germany. The first specimen was discovered in 1861, and since then six skeletons have been found.

Archaeopteryx is classified as a bird only in the sense that Linnean classification requires that any organism is or is not a member of a taxon. Please tell us why you don't think that these fossils should not be considered transitional? As for being being the "only" example, this web site could use additional articles on the other transitions between bird and non-bird. We do have some links and references though.

You know birds found today have tailbones, go ahead look it up, RIGHT NOW!

Guess what, the Archive has it right. Indeed our FAQ has an illustration comparing an Archaeopteryx with a modern bird:

Archaeopteryx and a modern bird

Notice there is quite a bit of difference between the pygostyle of the modern bird and the long tail of the Archaeopteryx as our article notes.

Now why dont you cut the bull and give me the evidence of species changing from one kind to the other because darwin said himself there must be numberless intermediate varieties, where are they? Not in the fossil record!

Your characterization of Darwin's position is strawman and not the real thing. But that notwithstanding why do you think that what Darwin wrote is some kind of holy writ for science? Do you attack science's acceptance of atoms and molecules because Dalton had false beliefs about atoms and molecules? Do you attack optics because Newton had false beliefs about optics?

In the end you bring up Darwin to avoid the issue: there are intermediate fossils -- period.

7 years ago

Creationists have an all-too-cute argument which I've seen, with respect to Archeaopteryx.    They claim it's not a transitional fossil because it's classed as a bird.     The evolutionist responds, "Its characteristics are such that we might just as well class it as a reptile, in fact it would have been classed as a dinosaur if the feathers weren't preserved." (And at least one Archeaopteryx was so labelled for nearly 100 years)    The creationist now believes he has won the debate, "Ha-ha.  Class it however you like, as reptile or bird, whichever one, it's not the other, so it's not transitional!"   

This demonstrates that the creationist doesn't care about understanding, but only scoring cheap rhetorical points.     It also demonstrates what Darwin knew so well, that boundaries between taxonomic groups are in fact fuzzy things, and taxonomy hasn't found simple and convenient ways of dealing with the fuzziness.    Robert Carroll, in Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, makes a similar point about apparent punctuationalism in vertebrate evolution - at some point, you have to decide to stop calling it A and start calling it B and the point (time) which is picked is somewaht arbitrary, even though we know that over a long time, A evolves into B.  

Oops, I forgot, Carroll's magnificent book shouldn't be referenced because it's twenty years old. 

Comment from Dale H
7 years ago

When Creationists claim there are no transitional forms in the fossil record, they are engaging in the sort of nitpicking that is pure semantics. They specifically ask for transitional forms BETWEEN SPECIES. But in fact, YOU CANNOT IDENTIFY A SPECIES AMONG THE FOSSILS (which is why all the different dinosaur forms that have been dug up are stated as genera, not species.) The reason, quite simply, is that the biological definition of a species is "a population of organisms that breed only among themselves and not with any other population." And there is no way to see such a thing in the fossils, because fossils are the remains of dead organisms and cannot breed among themselves! But what you CAN do, and what paleontologists have indeed done, is find numerous transitional forms between families, orders, and classes among the fossils, and Archeopterx is only the most famous example.

There are transitional organisms among living forms too. The platypus and the echidna are classed as mammals because they are warm blooded, have hair, and feed their young milk, but they also do something no other mammals do but reptiles do: LAY EGGS. Thus, they might well be considered transitional forms between the class of mammals and the class of reptiles. A Creationist would have to explain why the Creator would make any mammals that would lay eggs like reptiles if He didn't want anyone beleiving in evolution.

Oh, there are also reptiles that bear live young too, which is what you'd expect from the random element of evolution operating on that class over hundreds of millions of years. Why some reptiles would lay eggs and others bear live young is another problem that Creationists cannot answer, but evolutionists can!

7 years ago
"YOU CANNOT IDENTIFY A SPECIES AMONG THE FOSSILS" - I learned something, that is pretty self-evident - if you see the bones of a dog, all you can tell is that it is a dog and what size the pooch was when it lived - but you cant differentiate between a German Shepherd and a's really simple.

Warning attempt a joke...
7 years ago
"A Creationist would have to explain why the Creator would make any mammals that would lay eggs like reptiles if He didn't want anyone beleiving in evolution."

I always thought the platypus and the echidna were G-d's private jokes - because He could...
7 years ago

This is pretty interesting.  I only read part, but I'll be back to read the rest, and share some of this with my brother in law - Dale and others are making some pretty interesting points here.

Good night all.

6 years ago

Thank you, Anupam!


The following is a list that shows the name of the genus (or species when available, or class when a genus isn’t available)

Humans to Apes

Homo Heidelbergensis
H. antecessor
H. erectus
H. ergaster
H. habilis
Ardipithecus Garhi
Ar. Africanus
Ar. Kadabba
Ar. Afarensis
Ar. Ramidus
Orrorin Tugensis
Sahelanthropus Tchadensis

Apes to Mammals


Mammals to Reptiles


Reptiles to Amphibians


Amphibians to Bony Fish


Bony Fish to Jawless Fish


Jawless Fish to Unicellular Organisms

Ancient flatworms (have 3 germ layers, the precursors for organs, and a very simple brain)
Cnidarians (include both immobile and mobile forms, and many have both forms in one life cycle, two germ layers and simple nerves and muscles, but no brain)
Porifera, or Sponges (part of their life cycle is a larva that floats frelly in the water and resembles later species)
Choanflagellates (can live unicellular or in colonies, and can show primitive levels of cellular specialization, but best of all is that they closely resemble the individual cells of sponges)