Well hello fossil!

One reason science is epistemically incomatible with religion is the fact that in science it is not legitimate to form strong affirmative beliefs when the evidence is missing or thin. You see this over and over again reading Why Evolution is True – it’s full of ‘we don’t know the answer to this,’ ‘the evidence is not clear about that,’ ‘thirty years ago we had no idea but now the evidence is abundant’ – you get a sense of how cumulative it all is and how gaps remain gaps pending better evidence.

Religion is entirely unlike that – and that’s not a leap, not a worldview, not metaphysics; it’s epistemology. It’s ‘how do you know that?’

Some examples from WEIT –

But if feathers didn’t arise as adaptations for flying, what on earth were they for? Again, we don’t know. [two possibilities]…And what feathers evolved from is even more mysterious. The best guess is that they derive from the same cells that gave rise to reptilian scales, but not everyone agrees. [p 46]

We expect to find, in the genomes of many species, silence, or ‘dead’ genes: genes that were once useful but are no longer intact or expressed. In other words, there should be vestigial genes…Thirty years ago we couldn’t test this prediction because we had no way to read the DNA code. Now, however, it’s quite easy to sequence the complete genome of species…[p 67]

Now, we’re not absolutely sure why some species retain much of their evolutionary history during development. [p78]

One more, on page 44, goes like this:

All these nonflying feathered dinosaur fossils date between 135 and 110 million years ago — later than the 145-million-year old Archaeopteryx. That means that they could not be Archaeopteryx’s direct ancestors, but they could have been its cousins. Feathered dinosaurs probably continued to exist after one of their kin gave rise to birds. We should, then, be able to find even older feathered dinosaurs that were the ancestors of Archaeopteryx. The problem is that feathers are preserved only in special sediments — the fine-grained silt of quiet environments like lake beds or lagoons. And these conditions are very rare. But we can make another testable evolutionary prediction: someday we’ll find fossils of feathered dinosaurs that are older than Archaeopteryx.

And what do you know!

Beats prophesy any day.

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