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Fossils, Fishnets, Fine-tuning...and Flaws in Elliott Sober's Defense of Common Ancestry

In a recent, widely celebrated article, Elliott Sober has taken up the difficult task of assessing the case for common ancestry despite difficult gaps in the fossil record. Sober urges that he defender of (gradualistic) common ancestry should argue that discoveries of intermediates, when they occur, offer far stronger support to their own view than persisting gaps offer to their opponents. Despite being an advocate of common ancestry, in this exclusive web article Troy Nunley argues that Sober’s arguments are deeply flawed. First, they do not address the most serious challenge that the fossil record presents to common ancestry, particularly to gradualistic versions of that hypothesis which Sober wishes to defend. Second, Sober’s general account of how to assess relative degree of evidence offered by discoveries or absence thereof is flawed and seemingly inconsistent.

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