We think we know that chimpanzees are higher animals and earthworms are lower, we think we've always known what that means, and we think evolution makes it even clearer. But it doesn't. It is by no means clear that it means anything at all. Or if it means anything, it means so many different things to be misleading, even pernicious.
I had learned that a dexterous, opposable thumb stood among the hallmarks of human success. We had maintained, even exaggerated, this important flexibility of our primate forebears, while most mammals had sacrificed it in specializing their digits. Carnivores run, stab, and scratch. My cat may manipulate me psychologically, but he'll never type or play the piano.
The phrase 'the fossil record' sounds impressive and authoritative. As used by some persons it becomes, as intended, intimidating, taking on the aura of esoteric truth as expounded by an elite class of specialists. But what is it, really, this fossil record? Only data in search of interpretation. All claims to the contrary that I know, and I know of several, are so much superstition.