The Collector’s Curve

Günter Bechly (right) is a brilliant German paleontologist. For most of his career he was an atheist and staunch supporter of Darwinism. But today he rejects naturalism and advocates for intelligent design. What changed his mind? Fossil evidence helped to give Günter a new perspective. I would like to quote from his insightful post from November 2: “Imagine you have a new hobby, beachcombing. Every day you walk along the shore and collect what the tide washes in. In the beginning you are surprised each day by new discoveries…. But after a while you are finding mostly the same stuff over and over again, and you must be lucky to find something new that you have not seen before (like a stranded whale or a message in a bottle). When you have reached this point of mostly repetition, then you know that you have sampled enough to be sure that you have not missed much that is out there to find. The same approach is used by paleontologists for a statistical test of the completeness of the fossil record; it is called the collector’s curve. In most groups of fossils, we have reached this point of demonstrable saturation, where we can be pretty confident that the distinct discontinuities that we find are data to be explained and not just sampling artifacts. There is another reason why we know this: If the gaps and discontinuities in the fossil record were just artifacts, they should more and more dissolve with our greatly increasing knowledge of the fossil record. But the opposite is the case. The more we know, the more acute these problems have become. …[If Darwin] were still alive, he would likely agree that the evidence simply does not add up, since he was much more prudent than many of his modern followers.”

Posted on December 3, 2021 by dwoetzel.

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