Scientific Case Against Evolution
A Review of Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis &
Michael J. Behe's Darwin's Black Box
by Robert Locke
I AM NOT A CREATIONIST, and must confess that until recently, I treated people who questioned evolution with polite dismissal. But there has recently emerged a major trend in biology that has been suppressed in the mainstream media: evolution is in trouble. More importantly, this has absolutely nothing to do with religion but is due to the fact that the ongoing growth of biological knowledge keeps producing facts that contradict rather than confirm evolution. These two books—Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and Michael J. Behe's Darwin's Black Box—describe this phenomenon.
The first surprising thing Denton points out is that there has always been a dissident faction of highly distinguished scientists, of impeccable credentials and no religious motivations, who have declined to concede that evolution has been proved. This is inconvenient for evolutionists who would like to dismiss their opponents as Bible-thumping hicks and claim that questioning evolution is tantamount to questioning the value or validity of science. He also points out biologists like Richard Owen, who were prepared to allow that evolution had taken place but thought that other causes were involved in bringing about the origin of species.
The first big problem with evolution is that the fossil record increasingly does not, honestly viewed, support it, a fact that famous Prof. Steven Jay Gould of Harvard has described as "the trade secret of paleontology." Evolutionary theory claims that there once existed a whole series of successive forms of the various organisms alive today. These supposedly changed by infinitesimal amounts with each generation as they evolved into the present varieties, so the fossil record should show these gradual changes. But it doesn�t. Instead, it shows the sudden emergence of new species out of nowhere, fully complete with all their characteristics and not changing over time. It is almost entirely devoid of forms that can plausibly be identified as intermediates between older and newer ones. This is popularly known as the "missing link" problem, and it is massively systematic across different species and time periods. Worse, this problem is getting worse, not better, as more fossils are discovered, as the new fossils just resemble those already found and don�t fill in the gaps. In Darwin's day, it was easy to claim that the fossils were there but had not been discovered. Problem is, we now have hundreds of thousands of well-catalogued fossils, from all continents and geologic eras, and we still haven't found these intermediate forms. As Denton puts it,
"Despite the tremendous increase in geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been discovered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as it was when Darwin was writing the Origin."
The quantity, quality, and range of the recovered fossils is impeccable. But the more we dig, the more we keep finding the same forms over and over again, never the intermediates. Various ad hoc explanations for the gaps in the fossil record, like a temporary dearth in the environment of the chemicals needed for organisms to produce the hard body parts that fossilize well, do not stand scrutiny.
The usual response of evolutionists at this stage in the argument is a theory they call punctuated equilibrium, Gould's great contribution, which basically says that evolution occurs not gradually but in spurts. This would explain why there are gaps and not continuity in the fossil record. The problem with this theory, which is too complex to go into in detail here, is that while it explains away the non-existence of small gradations, it still requires there to be large ones (the individual spurts) and even these aren't in the record. Furthermore, for punctuated equilibrium to have occurred, a very precise set of conditions have to have obtained throughout the entire past period represented in the fossils, and this is unlikely.
Another development that has undermined evolution is the spread of computers into evolutionary biology. Basically, computers have shown that the neat evolutionary trees that get drawn up are in fact based on imaginary relations of similarity and difference that owe more to the human mind's tendency to perceive patterns than to the raw biological data. Computers have shown that when the characteristics of different living things are encoded in numerical form and the computer is asked to sort them into The order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA molecule, or the order of amino acids in a protein molecule.sequences based on their similarities and differences, the computer can find any number of ways of doing so that have just as much support in the data as those drawn up by humans to fit an evolutionary tree. The data say "no evolution" just as loudly as they say "evolution"; it's just the pattern-craving human mind that gives prominence to the former way of viewing it. This is known as phenetic analysis. When the computer is constrained to push the data into an evolutionary tree, (this is called cladistic analysis) it tends to generate trees with all species as individual twigs and no species forming the crucial lower branches of the tree that evolution demands. As a result of this, many biologists have in practice stopped using the idea of ancestors and descendants when classifying new species. When the British Museum of Natural History did this a few years ago, they started a small war in scientific circles.
Evolution also suffers from the problem that many putative The order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA molecule, or the order of amino acids in a protein molecule.sequences which look logical based on the progression of one set of anatomical characteristics suddenly look illogical when attention is switched to another set. For example, the lungfish superficially seems to make a good intermediate between fish and amphibian, until one examines the rest of its internal organs, which are not intermediate in character, nor are the ways in which its eggs develop. And if different species have common ancestors, it would be reasonable to expect that similar structures in the different species be specified in similar ways in their Deoxyribonucleic acid: the chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.DNA and develop in similar ways in their embryos; this is frequently not so. So evolutionary relationships depend upon an arbitrary choice of which characteristics of the organisms in question are considered most important, and different relationships can be "proved" at will.
Furthermore, Denton argues, the classic cases printed in biology textbooks to show the evolution of present-day organisms from their supposed ancestors are in fact highly conjectural if not downright false. We read the same examples coming up again and again in textbook after textbook because there are only a few species for which an even remotely plausible fossil genealogy can be propounded out of the 100,000 fossil species known to paleontology. He takes the horse as an example and points out that several of the standard claims about the pattern of equine evolution, such as the gradual reduction of the side toes, are extremely questionable and that the morphological distance covered from the earliest horse to the present horses is so small, compared with the vast changes that evolution must encompass, that it is questionable whether the series, even if true, proves much at all. And even the emergence of one species from another has never been directly observed by science.
Another problem with evolution that continues to worsen is that it remains incapable of explaining how anything could evolve that doesn't make biological sense when incomplete. The wings of birds are the classic example: what good is half of one? Other examples abound. This is a problem that evolutionary theory has promised a solution to for a long time and not delivered. Worse even than visible examples like wings are the complex chemical reactions and molecular structures that living things are made of. This is the principal point of Darwin's Black Box (these micro-processes are the black boxes), a book too technical to be satisfying reading for the layman but that convincingly argues that many of these micro-processes make sense either complete or not at all. There are no plausible accounts of how they could have evolved from other simpler processes because as one hypothesizes back down the hypothetical chain of complexity, one comes to a point at which the process simply won�t work if it gets any simpler. At this stage, the process couldn�t have evolved from anything else because there is nothing simpler for it to have evolved from. And at this stage, the process is still far too complex to have been thrown together by any known non-living chemical event. At one time, knowledge of the complex processes of living things was limited enough, and hopes for the discovery of intermediate processes that they could have evolved from wide-open enough, that evolutionists could ignore this problem. But as biological research has progressed, this gap too has been filled with more and more inconvenient facts. As in the case of the other problems challenging evolution, the key thing here is the intellectual direction: research is consistently making the problem worse, not better.
Another similar example: one of the things that has happened since evolution was first proposed is that biology has achieved a precise cataloging of the thousands of different Organic compounds made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain, joined together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of the adjacent amino acid residues.proteins that make up organisms. It was hoped that a thorough cross-species comparison of these would reveal the kinds of relationships of graded similarity that evolution implies. But it hasn�t. Instead, it has given the same picture of distinct species that examination of gross anatomy does. It's the same old story of a tree with all twigs and no branches! Worse, analysis of the closeness and distance between different species reveals bizarre results. For example, according to the The order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA molecule, or the order of amino acids in a protein molecule.sequence difference matrix of vertebrate hemoglobins in the standard Dayhoff Atlas of An organic compound made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain, joined together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of the adjacent amino acid residues.Protein Structure and Function, man is as close to a lamprey as are fish! This problem repeats itself with other characteristics of organisms that have been brought within the scope of evolutionary comparison since Darwin's day.
Another problem with evolution that has only gotten worse with increasing biological knowledge is the question of how life initially emerged from dead matter. As recently as the early 50's, it was still possible to hypothesize that discoveries would reveal the existence of entities intermediate between single-celled organisms and complex lifeless molecules. The existence of these intermediates (certain kinds of viruses were candidates for the role) would imply the possibility of an evolutionary transition from dead chemicals to intermediates to life. Unfortunately, the discovery of Deoxyribonucleic acid: the chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.DNA in 1953 killed this hypothesis in its simplest form, and subsequent discoveries have only made the matter worse. Vast numbers of microorganisms are now known, as are vast numbers of complex molecules, but nothing in between. Furthermore, even the simplest possible cell imaginable within the limits of biology, let alone the simplest actually existing cell, is far too complex to have been thrown together by any known non-living chemical event. So even if evolution has an explanation of how species evolve from one to another, it has no way to "get the ball rolling" by producing the first species from something that is not a species.
There are even distinguished philosophers of science, like Sir Karl Popper, a man of impeccable credentials and no religious ax to grind, who have openly questioned whether evolution is a science at all, in principle and not just in practice, because its assertions are not potentially falsifiable. A true science, like physics, makes claims that can be tested and thus potentially falsified; this vulnerability is what makes it worthy of belief when despite this, the falsification does not happen. But evolution does not make claims of this kind. Furthermore, it is one of the touchstones of science that it is based on repeatable experiments. The data used to support evolution are neither experiments nor repeatable, nor can they be, since the origin of species on earth was a unique event. This doesn�t necessarily make evolution nonsense, but it strongly suggests it doesn�t have the right to demand the kind of acquiescence that physics demands on the strength of its being straightforwardly a science. What exactly evolution is, if Popper is right and it is not quite a science in the conventional sense, is an open question. It is probably not without significance that what is now called biology used to be called natural history, an older and perhaps more appropriate concept.
Anyone who doubts that the bulk of the scientific community could be wrong about a fundamental question like this should consider the case of Newtonian physics, which was thought to be unshakable until Einstein disproved it. (Lest anybody quibble about the approximate validity of Newtonian physics at non-relativistic speeds, may I point out that Newtonian physics was formerly thought to be valid at all speeds, throughout the universe, and this Einstein refuted.) Evolution is not a fraud being perpetrated upon the public, but it is a theory that has far too many problems to be treated as something that everyone is obliged to believe in on pain of being classified as a fool, as if it were the claim that the earth goes around the sun. Its credibility will continue to wane (or wax) with additional developments in biology over the coming years, but the absolute prerequisite for solving this intellectual puzzle is for free debate on the issue to be permitted again. I am quite happy to change my position if new facts come out, and I urge my readers that this is the only rational view.
Copyright © 2001 by Robert Locke. Reproduced with permission.
Robert Locke resides in New York City. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.
Reasons To Believe's third in a series of books proposing a testable creation model takes on the origin and design of the universe. Previous books, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off and Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man, examined the origin of life on earth and the origin of mankind, respectively. Creation As Science develops a biblical creation model and compares the predictions of this model compared to a naturalistic model, young earth creationism, and theistic evolution. This biblical creation model is divided into four main areas, the origin of the universe, the origin of the Solar System, the history of life on earth, and the origin and history of mankind.
The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael Behe
Darwin's Black Box author Michael Behe takes on the limits of evolution through an examination of specific genetic examples. Behe finds that mutation and natural selection is capable of generating trivial examples of evolutionary change. Although he concludes that descent with modification has occurred throughout biological history, the molecular devices found throughout nature cannot be accounted for through natural selection and mutation. Behe's book claims to develop a framework for testing intelligent design by defining the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design.
Today's New Reason to Believe
Integrating Science and Faith
- 07/30/2015 02:12 AM
Fine-Tuning the Ratio of Small to Large Stars
For decades, astronomers have assumed that the ratio of small-mass stars to high-mass stars observed in our Milky Way Galaxy (MWG) is a universal constant for all galaxies. A growing body of data, however, now challenges that assumption. Astronomers refer to this ratio as the stellar initial mass function (IMF). The IMF is important for … Continue reading
- 07/27/2015 10:59 AM
Weird Life: Is Ammonia-Based Life Possible?
In classic science fiction serials, such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Stargate SG-1, intrepid heroes regularly travel to other worlds. These planets are almost always depicted as being fundamentally similar to our own with the same gravity, the same breathable atmosphere, and frequently even the same plants and trees. Of course, that is fiction. … Continue reading
- 07/23/2015 02:36 AM
Can We Verify Carbon Dating’s Reliability?
In the presentation speech for the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one scientist described the work by honoree Willard Libby with these words: “Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking of so many fields of human endeavour. Seldom has a single discovery generated such wide public interest.”1 Libby’s … Continue reading
- 07/20/2015 02:20 AM
Quantum Mechanics and the Nature of Reality
As Erwin Schrödinger cruises down the highway, a patrol officer pulls him over for a suspicious-looking car. The officer strolls up to Schrödinger’s open window and asks for his license and registration and whether the Nobel laureate will allow a search of his trunk. Schrödinger pops the trunk and the officer looks around. Approaching the … Continue reading
- 07/16/2015 11:16 AM
Can Science Identify the Intelligent Designer?
We live in a world that values tolerance and religious pluralism. Because of this widespread attitude, perhaps it’s not surprising that one of the questions I’m most often asked by non-Christian academics relates to the identity of the Designer. They want to know, how does the scientific case for intelligent design specifically identify the God … Continue reading
- 07/13/2015 11:06 AM
Engineers’ Muse: The Design of Biochemical Systems
The identity of the woman in Johannes Vermeer’s most famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, is unclear, but it is certain that her beauty inspired Vermeer as he attempted to capture her magnetism. All artists, musicians, and writers have their muse—people, places, or things so meaningful that they instigate bursts of creativity. It might … Continue reading
- 07/09/2015 06:47 PM
Does Astronomy Reveal Joshua’s Long Day?
Since 1970 various versions of an exciting “science apologetics” story have appeared in books, newspapers, and magazines across the United States and beyond. Many people have read the story or heard it and passed it along to others, thinking it a credible account. As a Christian and a scientist, I felt an obligation to check … Continue reading
- 07/06/2015 02:35 AM
Can Chimpanzees Cook?
Internet science discussions are abuzz about experiments showing that chimpanzees have the cognitive capacities for cooking. Scientists and laypeople alike are citing these discoveries as confirmation that chimps and humans are descended from a common ancestor. The discoveries also are fueling the growing legal movement to grant chimps and other large apes personhood status.1 However, … Continue reading
- 07/02/2015 12:57 PM
Weird Life: Could Life Be Based on Another Liquid?
The science-fiction television show Babylon 5 featured a giant space station where humans and aliens could meet in peace. The eponymous station’s design had to be able to support alien races whose natural habitat was drastically different from humans’. Some of the aliens breathed gases other than oxygen, others needed hotter or colder temperatures, and … Continue reading
- 06/29/2015 02:31 AM
Search for Earth Analogues Reveals Design
Does life exist beyond Earth? Not surprisingly, searches of the solar system yield no evidence because the only planet (or moon) located in the right place is Earth. However, the discovery of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) boosted researcher’s enthusiasm for finding life beyond Earth. Thus far, our technology lacks the sensitivity to detect … Continue reading
Last Modified April 16, 2002