Superstition is not without value. Generally held beliefs give apparent order and coherence to human communities, qualities that are valued by some persons, especially those with a vested interest in the order and coherence that might prevail during a certain era of human history. Without apparent order and coherence, there would be no conventional wisdom, and no place for professors of it and the academic institutions that hire them to profess it. Whatever else they do, paradigms in Kuhn’s sense function as superstitions within the scientific community These superstitions, in their guise as conventional scientific wisdom, Singer (1959:125) recognizes, in more colorful terms, as “Idols of the Academy“: “Their worship involves the fallacy of supposing that a blind though learned rule can take the place of judgement.” Within the scientific community concerned with phylogenetic investigation the fossil record has often been, and still is, worshipped as an Idol of the Academy. But, like all Idols, it is vulnerable to criticism, falsification, and eventual demise. Before it can undergo that process, however, it must be framed in a rational form, as an “argument”; hence the “paleontological argument.”
In its most general form, the paleontological argument holds that the fossil record shows the course of evolution because it shows actual ancestor–descendant sequences (actual phylogenies). This, most general, form of the argument has been widely discussed of late, and it is generally conceded to be fallacious, that is, generally falsified.
Nelson, Gareth J. 1978. “Ontogeny, Phylogeny, Paleontology, and the Biogenetic Law.” Systematic Zoology 27: 324–345.