‘Missing link’ misconceptions
Published: 27 October 2013 (GMT+10)
What does the term ‘missing link’ mean? Is it helpful, or misleading? Do evolutionists need to find multiple fossils of both sexes to establish an evolutionary link? What about ‘minimum breeding sizes’? CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland clears up these and other questions in today’s feedback.
Peter L. from Canada writes:
Firstly, I want to say that I love Creation Magazine. But I am curious about this whole “missing link” thing. Shouldn’t they be talking about the missing links? After all, don’t they need one male and one female? And not only just two but, if I recall my old biology, isn’t the minimum breeding group 12 pairs? So we are really talking about 24 “missing links”?
Yours in. Christ
CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland responds:
Dear Mr L.
Thanks for your email and the opportunity to clear up what seem to be some misunderstandings/misconceptions. First, it is in any case a lay/journalistic term that has just ‘developed’ to have certain connotations. Some leading evolutionists themselves often decry others, including other evolutionists, for using the term ‘missing link’ in any case; and for a number of reasons.
One is that there are many links in a chain, so to imply that only one is missing means that once one is found between A and B, call it C, now there is a ‘missing link’ between A and C, and another between C and B.
In any case, what we are talking about is usually fossil evidence. And when such a fossil is found, even though it might only be one fossil, it is reasonable to assume that it represents a whole population. So just because a specimen is labelled e.g. ‘Java Man’, and might be hailed as the (or a) ‘missing link’, it would not be fair to evolutionists, really, to say that their use of the singular means that they believe or are implying that there was only the one, let alone only that gender. Far from it. So I trust that you can see from this that the whole question your email raises about one male and female is, really, beside the point, as is the question of a minimum breeding population.
While on the issue of a minimum breeding population, however, note that this can be a bit misleading too without further explanation. One can start a population with a male and female of any animal or human group today, so the minimum breeding population is two, regardless. How many problems that population encounters due to the close inbreeding in the first few generations, giving rise to many recessive mutations matching up, depends on such things as the mutational load in that population (which increases with time the further one gets from creation, hence the reason why Adam and Eve’s offspring would not have that problem in those early generations, despite the inevitable intermarriage of close relatives—see our Creation Answers Book chapter on Cain’s Wife (from creation.com/store) or see the Free Resources section on the front page of creation.com for free chapter downloads). Note also that the genetic flexibility/resilience of any population, (i.e. its ability to adapt to changing conditions and hence to resist or forestall extinction in the face of environmental challenges) will be decreased by a decrease in the variability contained in its gene pool. Thus mongrel dogs, compared to the varieties which have been bred from them, are more genetically diverse and more flexible/resilient. Thus, taking two of any animal population X today and breeding a new population from them means one is starting with a subset of that gene pool of X (call it X’) and so the new population X’ will be less flexible/resilient than its ancestors. And remember that X itself may already be a genetically thinned out version of some earlier group. For example, dingoes, coyotes, wolves etc. would have descended from a more genetically rich ancestral group on the Ark. They are the same created kind, as can easily be shown by the fact that they still interbreed today.
I hope this has been helpful. Thank you for your kind comment about the magazine.
Sincerely in Christ,