THE HORSE SERIES
Most people living during the past 100 years have seen the horse series, which depicts the supposed “evolution” of the horse from a small dog-like creature with four toes to a larger three-toed “horse” to the modern one-toed creature that cowboys and Indians ride in western movies. It must be true, because the chart says so!
But as we have seen in this series on “Lying Evolutionary Art,” iconic evolutionary charts often tell lies, and this one tells a whopper.
The horse series was developed by Othniel Marsh who discovered 30 different kinds of supposed fossil horses in Wyoming and Nebraska in the 1870s. In 1879, he arranged these in an evolutionary sequence and put them on display at Yale University’s Peabody Museum.
The exhibit has been duplicated in countless museums and books.
The horse series was a perfect evolutionary propaganda tool. Horses are interesting, and the display was easy to comprehend and dramatic in its presentation.
The horse chart was given new lease on life in a popular 1951 textbook by George Simpson. He wrote, “The history of the horse family is still one of the clearest and most convincing for showing that organisms really have evolved. ... There really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question has been decisively answered in the affirmative” (Horses, Oxford University Press, 1951).
1. A major problem with all of this is that evolutionists themselves know and admit that the horse chart is not accurate.
Joseph Birdsell, in his 1975 book Human Evolution, said that “much of this story is incorrect” (p. 169).
Francis Hitching observes, “Once portrayed as simple and direct, it is now so complicated that accepting one version rather than another is more a matter of faith than rational choice” (The Neck of the Giraffe, p. 19).
George Simpson, who was so dogmatic about horse evolution in 1951, had changed his tune by 1953, claiming that generations of students had been misinformed about the real meaning of the evolution of the horse (The Major Features of Evolution, 1953, p. 259). That same year, Simpson wrote, “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equuus, so dear to the heart of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature” (Life of the Past, pp. 125, 127).
In 1954, Swedish geneticist N. Heribert-Nilsson wrote, “The family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous only in the textbooks. ... The construction of the whole Cenozoic family tree of the horse is a very artificial one, since it was put together from non-equivalent parts, and cannot therefore be a continuous transformation” (Synthetische Artbildung, Gleerup, Sweden: Lund University, cited from White and Comninellis, Darwin’s Demise, p. 85).
In 1979 Dr. Niles Eldredge, curator of the American Museum of Natural History, made the following admission to Luther Sunderland in a taped interview for the New York State Education Department:
“I admit that an awful lot of that has gotten into the textbooks as though it were true. For instance, the most famous example still on exhibit downstairs [in the Natural History Museum] is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps 50 years ago. That has been presented as literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that that is lamentable, particularly because the people who propose these kind of stories themselves may be aware of the speculative nature of the stuff. But by the time it filters down to the textbooks, we’ve got science as truth and we’ve got a problem” (Darwin’s Enigma, pp. 90, 91; Sunderland was commissioned by the New York State Education Department to interview influential scientists at five natural history museums for a revision of the state’s Regents Biology Syllabus).
Ten years later, Eldredge held the same opinion, calling the standard horse chart “lamentable” and “a classical case of paleontologic museology” (Life Pulse: Episodes from the Story of the Fossil Record, 1989, p. 222).
In 1980, David Raup, curator of Geology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, stated categorically that the horse chart is wrong.
“We have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information” (Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, 50:22, 1979).
In 1980, Colin Patterson had the horse series removed from the British Natural History Museum in London because he questioned its authenticity, but an outcry from evolutionists forced its reinstatement.
In October 1980, the inaccuracy of the horse chart was admitted by the roughly 160 evolutionists that met at the Chicago Field Museum. In a report on that four-day meeting, Boyce Rensberger said:
“The popularly told example of horse evolution, suggesting a gradual sequence of changes from four-toed fox-sized creatures living nearly 50 million years ago to today’s much larger one-toed horse, has long been known to be wrong. Instead of gradual change, fossils of each intermediate species appear fully distinct, persist unchanged, and then become extinct. Transitional forms are unknown” (Houston Chronicle, Nov. 5, 1980, sec. 4, p. 15).
That is a bold admission!
As we will see, the Field Museum continues to present the old horse evolution series as established fact in spite of the great controversy that surrounds it.
2. It is known by evolutionists that the various types of horses co-exist in the fossil record.
In one fossil graveyard in northeastern Nebraska they found five species of horses, including three-toed and one-toed (Bruce MacFadden, Fossil Horses, 1992, p. 255).
3. There is no scientific reason to consider the Hyracotherium any type of horse.
The Hyracotherium fossil was discovered by prominent British paleontologist Richard Owen in in 1841 and he thought it was a creature similar to the rock badger. This is why he named it Hyracotherium, which means hyrax-like animal.
It was evolutionist Othniel Marsh in America who changed the Hyracotherium into the Eohippus or “dawn horse,” because he and Thomas Huxley, who visited him in ----, determined that it should be the evolutionary predecessor of the horse. There was no scientific reason to believe that the Hyracotherium ever evolved into anything else. The decision was based strictly on evolutionary assumptions and objectives. They were desperate to find some missing links. (They still are.)
The reconstructions of Hyracotherium in textbooks and museums are designed to make the creature look as horse-like as possible, but this is not science; it is myth-making. Some of the models even depict the creature galloping or pawing the ground or congregating in herds.
4. To arrange horses in an evolutionary order according to size ignores the fact that “modern” horses come in a wide variety.
“One modern breed of horse in Argentina averages only 43 centimeters (17 inches) in height. Shire horses weigh up to a ton, while Shetland ponies weigh only 400 pounds. If all three types were to be found fossilized, they could easily be arranged to claim that they have evolved over millions of years to show gradually increasing size” (David Watson, Myths and Miracles).
There are also extant three-toed horses and horses with 17, 18, or 19 pairs of ribs (Jonathan Sarfati, “The Non Evolution of the Horse”).
5. Fossils can never prove evolutionary descent.
We should also recall that fossils are dead. It is impossible to prove scientifically that one fossilized creature descended from another. To make such a claim is speculation at best. Remove the evolutionary assumption, and the “evidence” disappears. It can as easily be said that each of the fossilized creatures was created by God. The bones themselves simply don’t provide this information!
In spite of the highly questionable nature of the horse series, it is still used widely today as an icon of evolution.
It was used as a major icon to prove evolution in the special report “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” in Scientific American, July 2002.
It is still featured in the Field Museum in Chicago. On a visit there in August 2010, I saw a display of fossils ranging from a small dog-like creature to the “modern” horse. This is accompanied by the following statement:
“... these three horses illustrate a general trend to longer legs with fewer toes. The earliest horses were small and multi-toed. But as grasslands spread, longer legs with lighter single-toed feet allowed horses to run faster and travel farther.”
The three “horses” are as follows:
hyracotherium (56 million years ago), which had multiple small hooves
misohippus (33 million years ago), with longer legs and a bigger central toe
pliohippus (15 million years ago), with even longer legs and a bigger toe
The horse series is also still promoted by Yale’s Peabody Museum. On a visit there in November 2010, I saw the large display devoted to this myth. In one section of the display, the heads of the “horses” are arranged in six supposed evolutionary steps from small to large: hyracotherium, misohippus, miohippus, merychippus, pliohippus, equus.
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