Is Evolution True?
For many years, I accepted naturalistic evolution as a given, a proven scientific fact. Even though I knew it was called a theory, it seemed to make sense and explain the evidence. I participated in a field biology / geology class in college in which a group of students spent over a month traveling around Colorado, learning the basics of scientific thought while stopping at road cut after road cut to study rocks, dig fossils and see evidence explained in terms of evolutionary theory for ourselves.
Creationists, I used to think, were people who lacked commitment to truth and objectivity, who ignored evidence because of prejudice or a belief system they felt a need to defend. What a person wants to believe is irrelevant to what is true. My commitment was to truth, like it or not. I accepted evolution. I was unaware of any credible evidence that raised doubts. I didn't question what I'd been taught. I didn't know of any questions to ask. I don't think I ever really believed that God was just a figment of human imagination, but I didn't argue with those who did.
Almost twenty years after college, I listened to some talks by creationists and was surprised that they made some reasonable points. I decided to investigate further. I read Origin of Species and dozens of books and articles on evolution and creation (see partial reading list with annotations). I searched out criticisms each side had of the other and read responses to those criticisms. My goal was to step back, maintain an open mind and consider all arguments without prejudice. To my surprise, I became more and more convinced that, although both sides had strong and weak arguments, naturalistic evolution does not account for what exists. This does not mean the Bible is true, but it does raise that question.
According to biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box:
The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in the world, without knowing anything about the designer.
By the way, if you are reading this and would like to open a dialogue, correct facts I may have gotten wrong, or present information that's become available since I did my study, I'd love to hear from you. Some notes I've received so far with my responses are here. I'm open to new information. It's been years since I did this study.
In the course of my investigation, I asked evolutionists honest questions and was told not to be sidetracked by details. I should believe in evolution, I was told, because it is scientific. That response reminded me of my frustration in high school trying to get honest questions about Christianity answered. Back then I was summarily told I should believe the Bible because it is God's Word. In neither case was an attempt made to address my real questions. I was told to accept prevailing thought based on authority.
Details are important. In criminal investigations, a tiny detail that doesn't fit can lead to a whole new line of inquiry. A person committed to truth and objectivity cannot afford to ignore or brush over details that do not fit his preconceptions.
Many serious scientists doubted the sufficiency of Darwin's theory from the beginning, or accepted it mainly because there was no naturalistic alternative. For quotations by well-known scientists concerning origins, click here.
The evidence to support evolution is not overwhelming, as is often stated. I was surprised to find in my research that the exact examples that were cited 30 years ago when I was in school are still the best evolutionists have to offer: the peppered moth, sickle-cell anemia, etc. I had expected that by now there would be many more clear examples and much more "proof."
Below is a summary of what convinced me that natural evolution does not answer the question of origins.
Natural law. Scientists investigate the laws of nature. The very existence of law and order in the universe points to a source or lawgiver.
Law of cause and effect. All current scientific evidence indicates that the universe had a beginning. Before this evidence was available, many scientists thought that the universe had existed eternally and had no beginning. According to the law of cause and effect, every effect must have a cause. Since we see an effect (the universe and life), there must be a cause. That cause must be outside the present order of nature.
First law of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. In the current order of nature, energy is transformed from one form to another, for example from nuclear energy (sun), to light, to chemical energy (in plants), to heat (when food is eaten and the calories are used to warm the body), to motion (walking) or sound (speaking). Electricity is another form of energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. This is not a theory; it's a scientific law. Matter is related to energy (e=mc2). Energy can be transformed into matter and vice versa, but energy itself cannot be created or destroyed. Today's natural order had a beginning. It did not always exist. Since we have matter and energy in a universe that has not always existed, energy must either have existed apart from the current natural order or it originated at some time in the distant past.
Second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics concerns the natural tendency of things to progress from order to disorder. Order does not naturally or spontaneously arise from chaos. The universe is "running down." There is less usable energy in the universe now than there was in the past. The same total amount of energy exists because energy cannot be created or destroyed, but energy is degrading into ever less usable forms.
The naturalistic account of origins proposes that over millions of years, the universe and life on earth proceeded without guidance from chaos (disorder) to the amazing order we observe today. Although scientists argue that the excess energy of the sun could have powered these improvements on earth without violating the second law of thermodynamics, evolution would have required not one but hundreds of millions of "uphill" changes toward increasing order, specialization and interdependence. Even isolated incidents of order arising naturally and mindlessly from disorder are unusual!
Note that the apparent "uphill" development of a seed into a tree or a fertilized egg into an adult animal is not random. Every seed contains DNA, which is a coded blueprint for "building" the organism from available materials. The fundamental question is, can information come from nothing? Are mindless physical processes capable of bringing order from disorder?
Law of biogenesis. People once believed that maggots spontaneously came to life in the flesh of dead animals. They thought life arose from non-living matter. Louis Pasteur proved beyond doubt that life cannot arise from non-life. This is not a scientific theory. It's a law. Proponents of evolution contend that life did arise spontaneously from non-life at least once in the distant past. That means this supposedly inviolable natural law must have been broken sometime long ago.
Complexity of living cell. A single cell is far more complicated than any machine ever invented by intelligent man. A typical cell contains ten million million atoms (ten quadrillion). It would take about ten million years to construct a model of a cell, atom by atom, at the rate of one atom per second. For a cell to come together by chance would require at least 100 functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place. Even if that happened, would it be alive? A dead body (even a single dead cell) has all the proper proteins, enzymes, cell walls, and DNA in one place, yet it is not alive.
Complexity of DNA code. The capacity of DNA to store information vastly exceeds that of any known system created by intelligent man. If the information in an individual's DNA were written out in small type in books like the telephone book, it would take a stack of books 46 feet high to hold all the information. Yet DNA exists in every one of the ten trillion cells in a human body. The design information for every person who ever lived and every species of animal and plant that ever existed would fit into a cup, with room to spare.
Sexual reproduction. Evolutionists often point out that humans and chimpanzees share 99% of genetic material. Yet humans have 23 sets of chromosomes and chimps have 24. For two animals to mate, their chromosomes must match, or "zip together." The proposed divergence of chimps and humans from a common ancestor is said to have occurred after sexual reproduction began. If the theory of evolution is true, an animal must have been born at some time in the past with a different number of chromosomes than its parents. Unless that animal could mate, there would be no adaptive advantage to such a change. If the evolutionary explanation is true, two animals must have experienced the same change in number of chromosomes in the same geographic location in the same generation. Although such "coincidences" have not been observed in nature, they must have happened thousands of times in the course of history for natural evolution to explain what exists today.
People have written to me saying that Downs' Syndrome babies have a different number of chromosomes than their parents. It is not clear, however, how that is an adaptive advantage. Most people with Downs' Syndrome are unable to procreate.
Interdependence of proteins and DNA. Proteins needed for life cannot be manufactured without the design specifications in DNA. DNA cannot replicate itself without enzymes (proteins). According to atheist Richard Dawkins, "DNA and protein are two pillars of a stable and elegant arch, which persists once all its parts simultaneously exist. It is hard to imagine it arising by any step-by-step process unless some earlier scaffolding has completely disappeared." Such scaffolding is completely speculative.
Complexity of the brain. Microelectronics, created by intelligent man, pack more than a million circuits within a cubic foot. The brain, which supposedly evolved apart from intelligent input, has been estimated to pack a million million circuits per cubic foot. The human brain contains about ten billion nerve cells, each of which can extend between 10,000 and 100,000 connectors. The number of possible associations, hence the number of potential thoughts a person can think, may exceed the number of atoms in the universe. The brain is more complex by far than anything else known. It is the physical "hardware" that processes immaterial "software" (thoughts and ideas).
Probability. There are about 10 to the 70th atoms in the observable universe. There are only 10 to the 90th seconds in the 15 billion years generally cited as the age of the universe. The estimated probability of the smallest replicating protein molecule spontaneously forming by chance is 1 in 10 to the 450th. The estimated probability of proteins and DNA spontaneously forming for the smallest self-replicating entity is 1 in 10 to the 167,626th. The estimated probability of a simple living cell reassembling itself under ideal natural conditions if all components are present but chemical bonds are broken is 1 in 10 to the 100,000,000,000th. Mathematicians consider events in nature with probabilities of less than 1 in 10 to the 50th to have a zero probability, i.e. to be impossible regardless of how much time is available.
People have written to argue that although the odds of winning the lottery are very small, someone always beats those odds and wins. True, but human beings set up the lottery. A winning ticket exists. In unguided nature, it would be much more likely for nothing at all to exist than for order and complexity to exist! You can't assume a single winning ticket in nature, let alone the thousands of winning tickets that would have been necessary to bring about what exists at this time. If an airplane dropped the exact amount of confetti needed to form an American flag, would it ever fall to the ground in the shape of an American flag? Would the chance of that happening improve if the plane repeated the drop a million times, or a billion times?
Mutations. Mutations are errors in DNA copying. They are very rare and 99.99% of them are harmful or fatal. DNA has a built-in "proofreading" system so accurate that a typist would have to type 20 billion books with only a single typographical error for it to be matched. The neo-Darwinian synthesis proposes that mutations are the main source for improved genetic material.
Natural selection selects from an existing gene pool that which is "fittest" for a particular environment. Natural selection has nothing to do with the origin of material in the gene pool from which selections are made. Where did the huge variety of genetic information come from in the first place? Information has to come from somewhere. It does not arise spontaneously.
Adaptation or "fit" of organisms to their environment. In many cases, many interlocking parts would have to arise at once for a mutation to be functional enough to be naturally selected. An example is the bombardier beetle. When threatened by an enemy, it blasts boiling hot gases from two tail pipes into the face of an attacker. The explosive is made inside the beetle's body when two dangerous chemicals (hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide) come together. In addition to these two chemicals, the beetle manufactures another chemical known as an "inhibitor." The inhibitor prevents the chemicals from exploding and enables the beetle to store them in its body indefinitely. When a bombardier beetle is approached by a predator, he squirts the two stored chemicals into the combustion tubes and at precisely the right moment adds another chemical (an anti-inhibitor). This neutralizes the inhibitor so that a violent explosion occurs right in the face of the attacker. How could such a complicated system, utilizing dangerous chemicals, have evolved randomly step by tiny step? All parts are necessary for any of them to be an adaptive advantage. The probability of so many advantageous mutations occurring simultaneously in evolutionary history is vanishingly slim.
Darwin himself wrote:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
People have written to tell me I yanked that quote out of context. Darwin followed the word "down" with a comma and "but I can find no such case." My contention is that although no such case could be found by Darwin in the 1800s, such cases exist and are known presently. I invite readers to check the entire context for themselves. (It's on page 232 of my edition of The Origin of Species.)
Convergence. The eye is an example of an extremely complex organ. Yet it is said to have evolved independently numerous times. Vertebrate eyes are supposedly imperfect. They're wired backwards and have a blind spot. Evolutionists argue that God would not have designed them that way. Yet our imperfect eyes work better than any camera man has invented. The arrival of a single eye on the scene would be highly improbable due to random chance, impossible if we believe mathematicians.
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
Some scientists say that there are mistakes in the design of the eye. The wiring appears to be backwards, for example. Why would a perfect Creator create an imperfect eye? My thought is if anyone can do a better job of making an eye, they should do it! There exists a model to improve upon, which is easier than starting with just an idea. Lots of people could benefit from an improved eye. If the original human eye came about naturally and mindlessly, surely mindful improvement should be possible.
The ability to fly supposedly evolved independently at least four times: for insects, birds, mammals (bats) and reptiles. Yet intelligent man did not figure out the principles of flight until quite recently, despite natural examples that were available to investigate and copy.
Transitional species. Many of what Darwin called transitional species have been discredited. Even Archaeopteryx, once thought to be transitional between reptiles and birds, is not. Modern birds have been found deeper in the fossil record. For the most part, nature's divisions are not blurred and indistinct, currently or in the fossil record. Phyla appear in the fossil record almost instantaneously in what is known as the Cambrian explosion, with no apparent connectors.
Transitional leaps. According to evolutionists, reptiles evolved into birds. Yet the lung of a reptile is very different from the lung of a bird. How could the first design evolve into the second, step by tiny step, with each step being an adaptive improvement over the previous one? Organisms cannot survive at all without breath!
Microevolution cannot be extrapolated to explain macroevolution. Microevolution (one species of bird gradually diverging into other closely related species, for example) is a well-established natural process. But no natural mechanism has even been suggested to explain how macroevolution (reptile to bird, for example) could possibly have occurred naturally.
The Anthropic Principle. The more scientists learn, the more it appears that the universe is fitted for life. The more accurately and extensively astronomers measure the universe, the more finely tuned they find it to be. There are at least 25 characteristics of the universe which must be "just so" for life of any kind to be possible. There are more than 40 characteristics which must be "just so" for life as we know it on earth to exist. Here are some examples:
- Distance from the moon to earth. If the moon were farther away, there would not be enough mixing of ocean waters by the tides. If it were closer, the tidal effects would be too great.
- Atmospheric electric discharge rate. If there was more lightning, there would be too much destruction by fire. If less, not enough nitrogen would be fixed in the atmosphere.
- Rotational speed of the earth. If it were slower, there would be too much temperature difference between day and night. If it were faster, wind velocities would be catastrophic.
- Surface gravity. If surface gravity were greater, the atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane. If it were less, the atmosphere would lose too much water vapor.
- Tilt of axis and distance from the sun. If it were different, the temperature variations would be too great to support a stable water cycle.
- Amount of water vapor. If it were greater, there would be a runaway greenhouse effect. If less, there would not be enough rainfall.
- Amount of carbon dioxide. If it were greater, there would be a runaway greenhouse effect. If less, plants would be unable to maintain efficient photosynthesis.
If these things and many others were just slightly different, life as we know it would be impossible.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
In the science, Evolution is a theory about changes; in the Myth it is a fact about improvements. To those brought up on the Myth, nothing seems more normal, more natural, more plausible, than that chaos should turn into order, death into life, ignorance into knowledge.
Science itself proved that chaos does not naturally or normally turn into order. Life comes only from life (law of biogenesis). Things do not organize themselves naturally as a matter of course (second law of thermodynamics). The technology we enjoy in the present age is a result of human intelligence, not random chance. Science has investigated the secrets of nature, but not everything that exists can be explained scientifically. The question of the origin of life is not a scientific question. It cannot be experimentally tested. The question is historical / philosophical, not scientific.
In the words of Phillip Johnson,
What is presented to the public as scientific knowledge about evolutionary mechanisms is mostly philosophical speculation and is not even consistent with the evidence once the naturalistic spectacles are removed. If that leaves us without a known mechanism of biological creation, so be it: it is better to admit ignorance than to have confidence in an explanation that is not true.
Of course, concluding that Darwinian evolution does not answer ultimate questions of origin does not mean the Bible is true. It just mean the Bible has not been proven to be untrue.
Related articles on this web site:
- Is Evolution True?
- Is the Bible True?
- Whatsoever Thing Are True (a book I wrote a few years after the articles above)
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony