Honest creationist Kurt Wise on transitional fossils

I rediscovered a 1995 article by creationist paleontologist Kurt Wise in response to a question I got this morning. I discovered to my surprise that the article is online, but, probably because almost no one reads creationist articles, no one had commented on it.

Wise basically gives away the whole game by conceding that the fossil record does contain numerous examples of transitional series bridging major transitions. His only qualm is in the very small species-to-species transitions where (like Gould, his PhD advisor) he says the fossil record has a more punctuated pattern. (As far as I’ve heard, scientific meta-analyses are about split 50-50 across various groups about whether the fossil record is punctuated or smooth at this level; at any rate, these small differences between species should be irrelevant to creationists, since this level of change is well within the “microevolution within a kind” (usually a taxonomic family or so) which creationists readily accept.)

A scanned PDF of the article is online here. Click the “Ape-men, bird-lizards, and walking whales” circle and a link to the article comes up. After reading the article, one can’t help saying, “Why don’t you just GIVE UP already!!” Of course, we know the reason why: Kurt Wise has forthrightly stated that his adherence to Biblical literalism comes first, and if the physical evidence is against creationism, so much the worse for the evidence. This is why Richard Dawkins dubbed Wise “an honest creationist.”

A passage from the article below the fold:

[p. 218]

In various macroevolutionary models, stratomorphic intermediates might be expected to be any one or more of several different forms: –

(a) inter-specific stratomorphic intermediates;

(b) stratomorphic intermediate species;

(c} higher-taxon stratomorphic intermediates; and

(d) stratomorphic [intermediate] series.

As an example (and to provide informal definitions), if predictions from Darwin’s theory were re-stated in these terms, one would expect to find: –

(a) numerous stratomorphic intermediates between any ancestor-descendent species pair (numerous interspecific stratomorphic intermediates);

(b) species which were stratomorphic intermediates between larger groups (stratomorphic intermediate species);

(c} taxonomic groups above the level of species which were stratomorphic intermediates between other pairs of groups (higher-taxon stratomorphic intermediates); and

(d) a sequence of species or higher taxa in a sequence where each taxon is a stratomorphic intermediate between the taxa stratigraphically below and above it (stratomorphic series).

With this vocabulary as a beginning, the traditional transitional forms issue can be gradually transformed into a non-traditional form, more suitable to the creationist researcher.

It is a Very Good Evolutionary Argument

Of Darwinism’s four stratomorphic intermediate expectations, that of the commonness of inter-specific stratomorphic intermediates has been the most disappointing for classical Darwinists. The current lack of any certain inter-specific stratomorphic intermediates has, of course, led to the development and increased acceptance of punctuated equilibrium theory. Evidences for Darwin’s second expectation - of stratomorphic intermediate species - include such species as Baragwanathia27 (between rhyniophytes and lycopods), Pikaia28 (between echinoderms and chordates), Purgatorius29 (between the tree shrews and the primates), and Proconsul30 (between the non-hominoid primates and the hominoids). Darwin’s third expectation - of higher-taxon stratomorphic intermediates - has been confirmed by such examples as the mammal-like reptile groups31 between the reptiles and the mammals, and the phenacdontids32 between the horses and their presumed ancestors. Darwin’s fourth expectation - of stratomorphic series - has been confirmed by such examples as the early bird series,33 the tetrapod series,34,35 the whale series,36 the various mammal series of the Cenozoic37 (for example, the horse series, the camel series, the elephant series, the pig series, the titanothere series, etc.), the Cantius and

[p. 219]

Plesiadapus primate series,38 and the hominid series.39 Evidence for not just one but for all three of the species level and above types of stratomorphic intermediates expected by macroevolutionary theory is surely strong evidence for macroevolutionary theory. Creationists therefore need to accept this fact. It certainly CANNOT said that traditional creation theory expected (predicted) any of these fossil finds.

[p. 221]


  1. Wise, K. P., 1994. Australopithecus ramidus and the fossil record. CEN Tech. J., 8(2):160-165.


  1. Stewart, W. N. and Rothwell, G. W., 1993. Paleobotany and the Evolution of Plants, Second Edition, Cambridge Universily Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 114-115.

  2. Gould, S. J., 1989. Wonderful Ufe: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, Norton, New York, pp. 321-323.

  3. Carroll, R. L., 1988. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, Freeman, New York, p. 467.

  4. Carroll, Ref. 29, p. 473.

  5. Hopson, J. A,, 1994. Synapsid evolution and the radiation of noneutherian mammals. In: Major Features of Vertebrate Evolution [Short Courses in Paleontology Number 71, D. R. Porthero [sic] and R. M. Schoch (eds), Paleontological Society, Knoxville, Tennasee, pp. 190-219.

  6. Carroll, Ref. 29, pp. 527-530.

  7. Ostrom, 1. H., 1994. On the origin of birds and of avian flight. In: Major Features of Vertebrate Evolution [Short Courses in Paleonlology Number 71, D. R. Prothero and R. M. Schoch (eds), Paleontological Society. Knoxville, Tennessee, pp. 160-177.

  8. Thomson, K. S., 1994. The origin of the tetrapods. In: Major Features of Vertebrate Evolution [Short Courses in Paleontology Number 71, D. R. Prothero and R. M. Schoch (eds), Paleontological Society, Knoxville, Tennessee, pp. 85-107.

  9. Ahlberg, P. E. and Milner, A. R., 1994. Theorigin and early diversification of tetrapods. Nature, 368: 507-514.

  10. Gingerich, Ref. 1; Could, Ref. 2; Zimmer. Ref. 3.

  11. Carroll, Ref. 29, pp. 527-549.

  12. Gingerich, P. D., 1983. Evidence for evolution from the vertebrate fossil record. Journal of Geological Education, 31:140-144.

  13. For example, as listed in Wise, Ref. 5.

[source: pp. 218-219 of: Kurt P. Wise (1995). “Towards a Creationist Understanding of ‘Transitional Forms.’” Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, 9(2), 216-222. (caps original)

The full article is online here under the “Ape-men…” circle: http://www.bryancore.org/anniversary/building.html ]

In fairness, Wise goes on to claim that this evidence is “explainable” under the creation model, postulating as an alternative the scientific model that “God created organisms according to His nature” (p. 219), which apparently leads to the expectation of “high homoplasy” – because God, I assume, likes homoplasy.