All over the net I see people trying to defend evolution from the attacks of antievolutionists which is good. However when they do so using false or inaccurate arguments that is not so good. For example one of my pet peeves is a particular argument that I’ve seen commonly used to rebut antievolutionist claims that there is a lack of “transitional” forms in the fossil record which often goes something like this:
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, all fossils are transitional.”
Unfortunately this is simply not true. Not all individuals reproduce; nor do all species give rise to new species. In fact many (if not most) lineages in the history of life have led to dead ends. Think about it, if a fossil represents a species which did not give rise to new species, what is it transitioning to?
Of course part of the problem is the use of term “transitional fossil” since the word transitional implies that there is some certainty about specific lineages which is actually rarely the case in paleontology.
It is better to talk about “intermediate fossils” since this refers to morphological characters (facts) rather than hypothetical lineages.
For example Archaeopteryx is undeniably intermediate in form between dinosaurs and birds being a mixture of both dinosaurian and avian (and some in between) characters, this is a fact. The question as to whether or not the genus Archaeopteryx is itself ancestral to later birds would be a hypothesis which is 1) very difficult to test and 2) not one that all paleontologists who work on dinosaurs/birds necessarily agree upon.
So please, for the sake of my sanity (and for scientific accuracy), spread the word to stop claiming that all fossils are “transitional” and maybe encourage the use of the term “intermediate” instead.