Faith and Fact in the Creation-Evolution Controversy by Dr. David N. Menton St. Louis, 198

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Faith and Fact in the Creation-Evolution Controversy by Dr. David N. Menton St. Louis, 1986 (rev. 7-17-92) (c) 1992 by the Missouri Association for Creation, Inc. It is said that Isaac Newton once challenged a friend with the claim that a working model of celestial mechanics in his lab "just came together by accident". When his friend declared this to be nonsense, Newton replied, "you believe the great universe itself had no Creator--why then should this little model need one?" [because there are known mechanisms for how the universe came to be, how Earth came to be, and how life came to be. It did -NOT- "come together by accident" as Christian idiots (Creationists) claim real scientists claim. -- david rice] This was not the beginning of the creation-evolution controversy and it certainly was not the end; today the issue is being hotly contested in the news media, the popular and professional science literature, and even in the courts. It would appear that the only place where the creation-evolution controversy is not being actively debated is in the public school science class rooms. Here it seems that the scientific evidence for purposeful design in nature recognized by such giants of science as Newton, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Dalton, Virchow, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin, Lister, and Fleming, (to name a few) must not be discussed for fear that any recognition of purposeful design in nature implies a Creator and that would not be, well, scientific. There are really only two fundamentally different kinds of explanations for the origin of the universe and living things - either they were created supernaturally by intelligent design or they arose by a materialistic evolutionary process which ultimately must depend on chance and the intrinsic properties of matter. Historically both explanations grew out of a philosophical-religious milieu and it has only been in the last hundred years that adherents of both views have sought to defend their beliefs with scientific arguments. The religious basis of creation is well known but one hears less about the religious and philosophical basis of evolution. Many fail to recognize the religious foundation of evolution simply because evolutionary scenarios generally preclude the concept of God as a causative and controlling agent in origins. A religion, however, does not necessarily entail a belief in God. Buddhism and Secular Humanism are two examples of religions that do not include a concept of God. Religion may be simply defined as a world view relating to ones concept of origins, ultimate truth, values and their implication for the meaning and purpose of existence. Whatever suggests a cosmology suggests a religion. The ancient Greek philosophers were perhaps the first to formulate an essentially evolutionary concept of origins. In the fifth century BC, Empedocles taught that all of the parts of living organisms were formed independently and were brought together in random arrangements. He proposed that those combinations which were not well suited to live perished, while the better suited combinations survived. In the third century BC, Epicurus taught that the universe is eternal and that nothing could influence it from without. The seeds of modern materialism can be seen in the Epicurean assumptions that the whole of existence is made of randomly moving elementary particles (which they called atoms!) or is void and that sensation is the sole source of all knowledge. It was inevitable, given these assumptions, that Epicurus would conclude that the physical world is a result of fortuitous combinations of atoms. Perhaps the most insightful account of the role of evolutionary concepts in Epicurean philosophy is found in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura written in the first century BC. Here Lucretius came remarkably close to Darwin's tautologous axiom of the "survival of the fittest." Like Darwin, Lucretius was not an experimentalist but rather attempted to satisfy a deep philosophical need for a self- assembling cosmos without a sovereign creator. For Lucretius, evolutionary materialism was an attempt to emancipate men from two great fears - the fear of the arbitrary interference of the gods in the affairs of men, and the fear of accountability after death (Bennett 1946). What Do Evolutionists Believe: Any rational discussion of evolution is made difficult by the great confusion that attends the word "evolution." Evolution etymologically means "unfolding," and is today typically equated with all manner of "change," whether by chance or design. Thus not only is the putative origin of all living organisms from inanimate matter by random change and natural selection considered to be evolution, but we also hear of such examples as the "evolution" of flight from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle. In the famous Scopes "monkey trial" of 1925, the lawyers representing John Scopes even attempted to defend the scientific integrity of evolution by equating it with embryology and aging The embryo becomes a human being when it is born. Evolution never stops from the beginning of the one cell until the human being returns in death to lifeless dust. We wish to set before you evidence of this character in order to stress the importance of the theory of evolution. (Anonymous 1925) One can expect this sort of confusion on scientific matters from lawyers perhaps, but even Dr. Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, stated in his expert testimony at the Scopes trial that he had "always been particularly interested in the evolution of the individual organism from the egg." (Anonymous 1925). The famous evolutionist, Julian Huxley, came much closer to the ordinary cosmological sense of the word when he defined evolution as: a directional and essentially irreversible process occurring in time, which in its course gives rise to an increase of variety and an increasingly high level of organization in its products -- The whole of reality is evolution -- a single process of self transformation.(Huxley 1955) Since to the evolutionist, "the whole of reality is evolution", it should come as no surprise that most consider it to be a "fact", not a theory. The evolutionist Richard Goldschmidt put it this way, Evolution of the animal and plant world is considered by all those entitled to judgment to be a fact for which no further proof is needed (Goldschmidt 1952). Interestingly, Goldschmidt's own ideas of how evolution occurs were rejected as outrageous by most other evolutionists, but few evolutionists ever allow themselves to ask if evolution occurs. Indeed, given the confusing and eclectic definitions of evolution the question of whether evolution occurs at all makes no sense unless we define the term to specify that process by which the cosmos and it's living inhabitants are believed to have arisen from atomic particles over time by process involving only chance and the intrinsic properties of matter and energy. Many would argue that even this more limited definition of evolution is too broad to allow rational discussion. There are many different and sometimes conflicting explanations of evolution. There must, for example, be rather different explanations for evolution among genetically reproducing living organisms than for the evolution of the earth, stars and planets. Even in biological evolution there is controversy between "neutralists" and "selectionists" and between "gradualists" and "saltationists." Some evolutionists are quite certain that life evolved on earth about 4 billion years ago while others, such as Nobel laureate Francis Crick, are equally certain that life could not have evolved on earth at all but rather arrived here ready made from somewhere else in the universe (Crick 1981). Some even declare that the origin of life has nothing whatever to do with evolution! In the famous Arkansas creation-evolution trial (McLean vs. Arkansas) Judge William Overton ruled, on the basis of testimony by evolutionists, that "the scientific community does not consider origins of life a part of evolutionary theory. The theory of evolution assumes the existence of life -" (Geisler 1982). Even such long repudiated concepts as Lamark's "inheritance of acquired characteristics", Goldschmidt's "hopeful monster" theory and occult forces are once again being proposed by some as possible mechanisms of evolution. There are even major differences of opinion on observations as well as speculations! Some evolutionists, for example, insist that those critically important transitional organisms that ought to show us at least some of the major stages of evolution do in fact occur in great abundance in the fossil record while other evolutionists insist that transitional stages are not only virtually absent in the fossil record but one shouldn't even expect to find them! The list could be greatly lengthened, but still it would not mitigate the fact that there remains a common bond of faith among all true evolutionists in the efficacy of time and chance in producing the progressive evolution of the cosmos, they concede only the mechanism is in doubt. In like manner, all the differences of opinion among true creationists regarding the time for creation, the age of the earth, the identity of the creator and the order of creation still leave intact their central belief that the cosmos shows overwhelming evidence of purposeful design by a Creator, again only the actual mechanism is unknown. The courts have thus far wisely avoided trying to judge whether either creation or evolution is true or not but rather have only attempted to determine if creation is "scientific." In theMcLean v. Arkansas case, Federal Judge Overton decided that creation "is not scientific because it depends upon supernatural intervention"(Geisler 1982). Evolution, on the other hand, was judged to be "scientific" because it does not claim to depend on supernatural intervention. This important difference should be carefully considered by those who prefer to believe that evolution is "God's way of creating." The problem with equating science with mere materialism, however, is that it seems to confer scientific legitimacy on any speculation or faith regarding origins, no matter how unsupported it might be by empirical evidence, as long as this speculation is purely materialistic in nature. Thus when scientists speculate without evidence that immensely complex living cells arose on earth by chance and the intrinsic properties of matter, it is considered "science", but if scientists speculate that living cells were designed by an intelligent creator it is not considered to be "science". There must obviously be more to true science than materialistic speculations and scenarios. Science is a way of using our physical senses in an effort to understand the world as it exists. Three basic requirements of empirical science are that the object or phenomenon under study be: 1) observable, 2) repeatable and finally 3) any hypothesis which seeks to explain these observations must be at least potentially refutable. By these standards, neither evolution nor creation can be considered a scientific explanation of origins. There were, after all, no human observers of the origin of life or the origin of any living organism, nor are these origins repeatable today. Neither evolution nor creation qualifies as a scientific theory because no one has been able to conceive of a critical experiment that is capable of disproving either of them. The evolutionists Paul Ehrlich and L.C. Birch have pointed out that: our theory of evolution has become -- one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. It is thus outside of empirical science, but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. (Ehrlich and Birch 1967) With rather remarkable candor, these authors frankly admit that evolutionary ideas "have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training." The failure of both creation and evolution to meet the standards of a scientific hypothesis or theory has led some to suggest that they be considered as models of origin rather than theories. As such, both models can be compared for their compatibility with the scientific evidence. Creationists and evolutionists must, after all, deal with the same material evidence even if their different starting assumptions often lead them to quite different conclusions. Few people, unfortunately, have had the opportunity to compare both models with the evidence because usually only evolution is presented in our schools, books, magazines, nature films and the news media, and then often in a dogmatic and uncritical way. How many of us, for example, were taught that humans and other mammals develop "gill slits" in the course of their embryological development and that this is a "recapitulation of our phylogeny" presumably "proving" that we evolved from gill breathing aquatic forms? In fact, it is universally recognized by embryologists that neither "gills" nor "slits" are found in the so called "branchial" (gill!) region of mammalian embryos. The whole idea of "recapitulation" was shown to be unsound in the early 1800's when it was first proposed by Ernst Haeckel. The embryologist, Jane Oppenheimer has lamented that "the work of Haeckel was the culmination of the extremes of exaggeration which followed Darwin" and that this mind set significantly delayed the progress in embryology (Oppenheimer 1967). Why then, is this intellectually barren concept still taught in many biology textbooks as evidence for evolution? Recently 8 biology text books out of 15 being considered for adoption in biology classes by the Indiana State Board of Education were found to mention "gill slits" as evidence for "recapitulation" and evolution. In discussing the recapitulation myth, the evolutionists Ehrlich and Holm noted that "it's shortcomings have been almost universally pointed out by modern authors, but the idea still has a prominent place in biological mythology." (Ehrlich and Holm 1963) What Do Creationists Believe?: Creationists believe that the organisms we see on earth today, as well as the extinct organisms in the fossil record, were created in their original form by a mechanism of purposeful design and could not have come into being by mere chance and the intrinsic properties of matter and energy. Creationists recognize limited variation among plants and animals and assume that a species as it exists today may not be identical in all respects to it's original ancestor. It is quite clear, for example, that considerable variation can occur within a species such as we see among the 150 varieties of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club. It is also clear that some of these variants may become reproductively isolated from one another as in the case of a 2 lb. Chihuahua and a 150 lb. St. Bernard. None the less, dogs appear to have remained dogs and the immense variation we see among them only reflects selection among the alleles of an existing gene pool of the species Canis familiaris. Selection for any particular trait will, therefore, have real limits as is recognized by all plant and animal breeders. Darwin, being unaware of the actual genetic mechanism involved, envisioned no such limitation on variation as he clearly stated in the first edition of his "Origin of Species": I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their habitats, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale. Evolutionists persist in referring to the observed variation within a species as "microevolution", suggesting that macroevolution (the formation of fundamentally different organisms) is merely microevolution writ large. Creationists, and indeed many evolutionists, argue that variations within a species are not really "micro-evolutionary" changes at all because there is no known relationship between these kinds of changes and putative macro-evolution. Reporting on a Macroevolution Conference held at the Field Museum of Natural History in 1980, Roger Lewin wrote: The central question of the Chicago Conference was whether the mechanisms of microevolution could be extrapolated to explain the phenomenon of macroevolution. At the expense of doing violence to the positions of some people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear No. (Lewin 1980) Never the less, almost every high school and college biology text book uses the same classic example of microevolution, industrial melanism in the peppered moth, as implied evidence for macroevolution. The peppered moth, Biston betularia, varies widely in it's degree of pigmentation. In the 1950s, Kittlewell provided the first experimental evidence for natural selection by counting the relative number of dark and light peppered moths eaten by birds in forests darkened by industrial pollution and in unpolluted forests. Not surprisingly, birds were shown to eat more light moths resting on dark trees and more dark moths on light trees. Industrial melanism in the peppered moth does indeed provide an obvious example of natural selection for pigment variation in the peppered moth but it tells us nothing about how these or any other moths evolved, or even if they evolved, from non-moth ancestors. The empirical evidence simply shows that variant "versions" of genes (alleles) exist in this species which influence how dark or light the moth will be and that one can indeed select for relatively darker or lighter moths (the same thing could be said of humans). Creationists would point out that there is virtually no empirical evidence that dogs and moths or even dogs and cats share a common ancestor. The important question then is not how does nature select among the existing homologous genes of a species but rather, how might an organism develop new unprecedented genes and how likely are these new genes to be helpful, rather than harmful, to the organism in its reproduction and survival? Evolutionists must look to mutations as a source of genuinely new genetic information and hence evolution. Creationists, on the other hand, see mutations as degenerative in effect. The evolutionist H. J. Muller, who won the Nobel prize for his work on mutations, said in this regard: It is entirely in line with the accidental nature of mutations that extensive tests have agreed in showing the vast majority of them detrimental to the organism in its job of surviving and reproducing -- good ones are so rare we can consider them all bad. (Muller 1955) Evolutionists assume, none the less, that all of the genes of an organism are a collective result of countless fortuitous mutations. Creationists, on the other hand, point out that many such changes are known to be responsible for cancer and other disorders and have rarely if ever proven to be beneficial. Moreover, it has been shown that the very survival of all living organisms depends on the efficient operation of a complex DNA repair mechanism in the cell which greatly minimizes the incidence of mutations. Even if the intrinsic stabilizing factors of a cell are overcome, any new proteins formed may not be "recognized" by the cell and thus are subject to automatic degradation within the cell. Clearly the faith of the evolutionist in the beneficial and constructive nature of mutations greatly exceeds that of the creationist. Chance vs. Design: The most often sighted argument in support of creation is the evidence for design in biological systems. It should be emphasized that the word design does not simply mean order but also implies purposeful intent. Most people find the evidence for design in nature intuitive and obvious. Up until at least this century, most of the great men and women who laid the ground work for all branches of modern science perceived in nature, overwhelming evidence for a designed and purposeful creation. Beginning with the latter half of the 19th century, however, it has become increasingly more common for scientists to deny apriori virtually any evidence for purposeful design in nature because they believe that such a conclusion is "religious" and not "scientific." In 1750 Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis published his "Essaie de Cosmologie" in which he attempted to refute the argument for the existence of God from the manifest evidence of design in nature, by proposing an evolutionary scenario involving chance and "blind destiny". Maupertuis' ideas anticipated the principles of "survival of the fittest" 100 years before Darwin! Chance one might say, turned out a vast number of individuals; a small proportion of these were organized in such a manner that the animals organs could satisfy their needs. A much greater number showed neither adaptation nor order; These last have all perished -- Thus the species which we see today are but a small part of all those that a blind destiny has produced. The denial of purposeful design in favor of "blind chance" has been a distinguishing feature of evolutionism up to the present day. The outspoken evolutionary apologist Julian Huxley is emphatic in his denial of design in nature, likening the evolutionary process to a "chaotic jazz dance" of molecules: Nowhere in all its vast extent is there any trace of purpose, or even of prospective significance. It is impelled from behind by blind physical forces, a gigantic chaotic jazz dance of particles and radiations, in which the only over-all tendency we have so far been able to detect is that summarized by the second Law of thermodynamics -- the tendency to run down (Huxley 1953) There are some notable exceptions among modern scientists to this materialistic and atheistic trend in our time. The late Dr. Wernher Von Braun, father and chief architect of America's spectacularly successful space program, was both one of the most distinguished scientists of our century and a firm believer in the evidence for intelligent design in the cosmos. Dr. Von Braun said: While the admission of design does ultimately raise the question of a designer, the scientific method does not allow us to exclude data simply because it leads to a conclusion that life and living organisms are based on design. To insist that science requires everything in the universe to have evolved by chance violates the very objectivity of science itself. (private correspondence) We usually have no trouble detecting evidence for intelligent design in a structure, even if we do not know it's builder or purpose. Stonehenge, for example, is a prehistoric structure in England which consists of a large circular arrangement of huge stones whose relative positions seem to be related to the point of the midsummer sunrise. We do not know who built this majestic structure nor are we certain of its function but nobody doubts that it was designed and built by intelligent beings. Why then do so many people today refuse to recognize purposeful design in infinitely more complex structures such as the eye or even a bird feather? Interestingly, any evidence for design in a structure of unknown origin, be it Stonehenge or a biological organ, really must depend in large part on essentially negative arguments. We would argue, for example, that complex and integrated machines simply do not arise spontaneously in nature, moreover, if such a complex and integrated structure were somehow to exist it would, with time, inevitably decay to a vastly more probable and less organized state. These kinds of arguments are embodied in the scientific laws of probability and thermodynamics. Thus even a simple arrowhead or stone tool is easily distinguished from a piece of flint or rock that only happens to look like a designed artifact because in the latter case, the surface relief could only result from naturally existing lines of cleavage in the grain of the rock following the most probable path, whereas in designed and worked rock, the cleavage will often follow improbable planes. It is indeed ironic that a physical anthropologist can be completely confident that a crude appearing rock is a stone tool, designed and crafted by a sapient (wise) man and yet attribute the origin of the unfathomably complex body of Homo sapiens himself to the natural properties of matter and energy over time! Even the mere stone facade of Homo sapiens on Mount Rushmore could easily be identified as a designed artifact solely on the basis of the improbable cleavage plains in its granite. We may be certain that given enough time, weathering and geophysical events will destroy the facade on Mount Rushmore - not add another president! The Law of Probability: According to the mathematician E. Borel (Borel 1965), the law of probability simply states that "events whose probabilities are extremely small never occur." This intuitive but mathematically precise law forms the statistical basis on which all empirical science rests. A simple calculation shows we could expect to succeed in randomly arranging the letters of the alphabet to spell the phrase "THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION" approximately once in 8 hundred million, trillion, trillion tries. If we make these tries at the rate of a billion a second we could expect to succeed once in 26 thousand trillion years! But even this highly improbable event is a virtual certainty compared to the probability of the chance formation of one biologically useful protein, to say nothing of the origin of life. The cyberneticist Hubert Yockey has calculated on the basis of information theory that the longest piece of DNA that might be expected to form by chance during a billion years would code for only 49 amino acids (Yockey 1977). It has been estimated that the simplest imaginable organism capable of reproducing itself would require at least 125 different kinds of proteins averaging about 400 amino acids in length. The distinguished cosmologist and astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle, in a recent address at the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory (Hoyle 1981), commented on the probability of the chance origin of a higher form of life. He estimated that the information content in such an organism would be about 1040,000 - representing the specificity with which 2000 genes, each chosen from about 1020 nucleotide sequences, might be defined. Hoyle estimated that it would require several Hubble times to yield this result by chance. He likened the probability of higher forms of life evolving in this way to the chance that "a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." Hoyle, a former atheist, has reluctantly concluded that deliberate design is a far more rational explanation for the origin of life than evolution by chance and says that he is at a loss to understand biologists widespread compulsion to deny what seems to him to be obvious. Evolutionists typically respond to the probability argument in three ways. First they insist that natural selection or "selective pressure" makes the extreme improbabilities we have discussed more probable. Natural selection by differential reproduction, however, is meaningless until there is a functional genetic mechanism in a living cell and even then it can only "select" that which the genome provides in it's germ cells. Another defense of evolution by chance is that this extremely improbable event is made probable by the great amount of available time. The science philosopher Karl Popper warns however; If our high probabilities are merely low probabilities which have become high because of the immensity of the available time, then we must not forget that in this way it is possible to 'explain' almost everything. (Popper 1976) Finally, evolutionists occasionally argue that the whole question of probability is irrelevant because evolution is utterly without purpose and so isn't really trying to make anything. In a recent lecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Steven Jay Gould, said "evolution isn't a correct, perfect set pattern, but something that just happens." The fact of the matter is that nature literally teems with "correct, perfect set patterns" and it takes an immense amount of faith to believe that they "just happen." Thermodynamics: The second law of thermodynamics comes up quite often in debates between creationists and evolutionists and serves to illustrate how the two sides are at variance over the interpretation of even one of the most fundamental laws of science. The theoretical basis of the second law was originally developed in relation to classical heat mechanics but, in it's practical sense, it has had wide applicability to areas as diverse as chemical kinetics and information theory. The evolutionist Harold Blum summed up the second law quite simply; All real processes tend to go toward a condition of greater probability -- The second law of thermodynamics predicts that a system left to itself will, in the course of time, go toward greater disorder(Blum 1968) We will recall, however, that the evolutionist Julian Huxley has defined evolution as a process that "gives rise to an increase of variety and an increasingly high level of organization of it's products (Huxley 1955)." Creationists understandably conclude that the evolution model appears to be entirely inconsistent with the second law of thermodynamics. Evolutionists, on the other hand, argue that evolution is consistent with the second law because the earth is an open system receiving energy from the sun. Somehow, they insist, this energy from the sun allows an immense increase in order and complexity to occur by chance on earth. Energy alone, however, is simply inadequate to create the order required, indeed, it is far more likely to create disorder. We could add all the energy we want to a pile of building materials and still not get a building unless we add intelligent design, a program and machines. This is true of living organisms as well. An acorn grows into an oak tree not merely because of sunshine, but rather the energy of the sun is utilized together with the aid of extraordinarily complex genetic information, programs and "machines" built into the seed itself. Finally, a point often overlooked is that the universe itself is a closed system, and thus the evolutionist must deny the second law on a very large scale or insist, without evidence, that the original "cosmic" egg which initiated the "big bang" held within it a vastly higher level of order and complexity than now exists in the cosmos! Lord Kelvin, who contributed much to our understanding of the second law, said that "the only contribution of dynamics to theoretical biology is absolute negation of automatic commencement or automatic maintenance of life (Kelvin 1889)." The Fossil Record: Since both creation and evolution are presumed by their adherents to have occurred mainly or entirely in the distant past, before there were any human observers, we might expect that the best, if not the only historical evidence in support of either model would be found in the fossil record. Most creationists believe that nearly all fossils were formed over a relatively short period of time during and after a world wide Flood and thus the fossil record reveals organisms that were contemporary. Evolutionists, on the other hand, believe that fossilized organisms were gradually deposited in sediment over millions of years and thus give us a visual record of at least some of the stages of evolution from the first simple organisms to the most complex. These beliefs are sufficiently different that it should be quite easy to determine which is more consistent with the fossil record as it appears today. To be consistent with the evolution model, the fossil record should show how organisms slowly transformed one into another through countless intermediate or transitional stages. Evolutionists claim that over one hundred million years were required for the transformation of invertebrates into vertebrates and thus it is reasonable, if not imperative, to expect that there would be at least some hint of progressive stages in the fossil record of this unambiguous and large scale transformation. To be consistent with the creation model, on the other hand, the fossil record should show no obvious transitional stages between distinctly different organisms, but rather each organism should appear all at once and fully formed. Specifically, creationists would argue that there should be no trace of transitional forms between invertebrates and vertebrates because no such transformation has ever occurred. It is now a generally recognized fact that the fossil record shows few if any organisms that represent unambiguous intermediate stages in the evolution of any organism of one taxon into an organism of a different taxon. The paleontologist David B. Kitts has said; Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of seeing evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of gaps in the fossil record -- Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them. (Kitts 1974) Evolutionists have been aware of these missing intermediates, often referred to as "missing links", since the time of Darwin and have tried to dismiss this critical problem by appealing to the "imperfection" of the fossil record. David Raup, a paleontologist at the Field Museum of Natural History, holds out no such hope and insists that, if any thing, the growth in our knowledge of the fossil record since Darwin's time provides even less support for evolutionary transformations: Darwin was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn't look the way he predicted it would -- different species usually appear and disappear from the record without showing the transitions that Darwin postulated -- we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much -- We have 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. (Raup 1979) Some evolutionists have tried to explain this problem away by arguing that the absence of transitional forms is simply an "artifact" of classification, while others argue that the gaps only occur at the higher taxonomic levels, and still others argue that the gaps only occur at the lower taxonomic levels. The distinguished evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson has conceded, however, that the gaps are a consistent feature of the whole taxonomic spectrum: -- every paleontologist knows, that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of families appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences. (Simpson 1953) This regular absence of transitional forms is not confined to mammals, but is an almost universal phenomenon, as has long been noted by paleontologists. It is true of almost all orders of all classes of animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate. A fortiori, it is also true of the classes, and of the major animal phyla. (Simpson 1944) Speaking of the highest level of animal classification, evolutionist Phillip Handler claims that: Some 25 major phyla are recognized for all the animals, and in virtually not a single case is there fossil evidence to demonstrate what the common ancestry of any two phyla looked like. (Handler 1970) At the lowest level of taxonomic classification, the problem is apparently much the same; evolutionist Steven J. Gould has pointed out that "In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed." (Gould 1977a) Some evolutionist still insist that there are at least a few examples of truly transitional forms in the fossil record while others insist that even though the fossils may not show structural evidence of evolution, there may be evolution occurring at the physiological level which of course leaves no fossil evidence. A growing number of paleontologists, however, are simply dismissing the whole idea that the fossil record provides any evidence of major morphological evolution. Evolutionist Steven M. Stanley expressed the problem in the simplest and bluntest of terms when he delclared that "the known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic evolution accomplishing a major morphologic transition- (Stanley 1975)." In commenting on the absence of transitional sequences in the fossil record the evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson admitted that "their absence is so nearly universal that it cannot, off hand, be imputed to chance, and does require some attempt at special explanation. (Simpson 1953)" There have indeed been many attempts at "special explanation" but it all gets rather confusing and the story seems to change with the telling and the audience. For example, in his testimony before Judge Overton in the recent Arkansas trial, Steven Jay Gould is reported to have said that "the theory of evolution is supported by a rather well formed sequence of intermediate stages" (Gould 1981) yet in his regular column in Natural History magazine he seems to imply that just the opposite is true! All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms. (Gould 1977b) The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. (Gould 1977a) It is important to point out that despite the "missing links" in the fossil record few evolutionists have abandoned their faith in the so called "fact" of evolution. Oxford zoologist, Mark Ridley, defiantly declared: If the creationists want to impress the Darwinian establishment, it will be no use prating on about what the fossils say. No good Darwinians belief in evolution stands on the fossil evidence for gradual evolution, so nor will his belief fall by it. (Ridley 1981) Still, evolutionists can not afford to entirely turn their backs on what is virtually the only physical historical evidence for the prehistory of our flora and fauna. Ad hoc theories and scenarios have been proposed in an effort to come to grips with the lack of fossil evidence which would support evolution. Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldridge, for example, have resurrected a long discredited evolutionary scenario called the "hopeful monster theory" and have renamed it "punctuated equilibrium." This "theory" speculates that the much sought after intermediate stages in the evolution of organisms do not in fact appear in the fossil record because these "transitional" organisms (hopeful monsters) were relatively unstable and, as luck would have it, quickly evolved into stable species that produced many offspring and thus many discrete and unchanging fossils. Some think that this idea is "monstrously hopeful" and that it really only attempts to account for missing evidence. The writer G. K. Chesterton has wisely noted that the evolutionist "seems to know everything about the missing link except that it is missing." Creationists have not found it necessary to develop ad hoc hypotheses to remain consistent with the fossil record. Most of the animals and plants living today have been found in the fossil record in essentially their present form and without known "primitive" ancestors. There are of course, a substantial number of organisms in the fossil record that have unquestionably become extinct, a process that regrettably continues today. This ongoing process of extinction, however, does not appear to be counteracted by the production of new kinds of organisms. The only encouraging fact to have emerged thus far is that occasionally fossil forms which were thought to have been extinct for millions of years turn up very much alive in the contemporary biosphere. One such "living fossil", the coelacanth, was assumed on the basis of fossil evidence to have been extinct for seventy million years! Ironically, many such living fossils have actually been used to "date" the rock strata of the geological column in which they were found. Evolutionists make much of the sequence in which fossils appear in the layers of sedimentary rock that form much of the earth's crust. There is a tendency for simpler marine organisms such as trilobites to occur in the lower strata while the fossils of more complex organisms tend to occur in more superficial strata of the geological column. This has been taken to show that, despite the missing transitional stages, there is at least a general sequence from simple to complex and that this in turn tells us something about the age of the strata. It is a well known fact of geology, however, that the layers of the geological column do not always appear in the order evolutionists expect. In every mountainous region of every continent there are examples of supposedly "old" strata containing simple organisms resting on top of "young" strata containing more complex organisms. Since evolutionists use their model to interpret the fossil record, they are obliged to dismiss virtually all of these "out of order" sequences as being a result of the lower (older) layers sliding over the upper (younger) layers of the earth's crust. In many of these out of order areas, however, there is no compelling geological evidence for such overthrusting. In the so called Lewis overthrust in Glacier National Park, pre- Cambrian limestone, assumed on the basis of its fossils to be over a billion years old, rests in apparent conformity upon Cretaceous shale beds, assumed by fossil evidence to be 135 million years old. The "thrust block" of the Lewis overthrust has been estimated to be 350 miles wide and 6 miles thick with a presumed displacement of 35-40 miles and estimated to weigh about eight hundred thousand billion tons! There is no known geophysical mechanism that can produce such an overthrust with out destroying or at least extensively distorting the thrust block itself and yet there is remarkably little evidence of even breccia or rubble in the putative fault plane. Such a slab moving over ground as is now believed to have existed should have scarred and broken the hills and have itself been broken to a greater or less extent, depending on local conditions. No evidence of either of these things has been found. (Ross and Rezak 1959) Incredibly, one of the guide books to Glacier National Park states that "the lack of distortion of the rocks makes this an excellent example of an overthrust that is often used in biology textbooks." One thing is quite clear, if the fossils were not "out of order", no one would have suspected an overthrust in Glacier. The evolutionist, however, must not allow himself to even consider the possibility that these layers are actually in the order that they were deposited - to do so would mean to call into question not only the whole theory of evolution but finally a whole world view and belief system. Conclusion: Most of us would like to believe that we bring a completely open and unbiased mind to the issue of origins. We prefer to think that we harbor no unprovable starting assumptions, and that we would not hesitate to abandon even our most fundamental beliefs about origins if the facts were to require it. There may be certain individuals and even certain fields of science where this blissful neutrality prevails but it is most unlikely when we deal with the question of our origins. Here the facts are too few and the philosophical stakes are too high. Whether one believes in creation or evolution the philosophical and religious implications are profound. Creation is the very foundational assumption of the Judeo-Christian religion and evolution is the foundational assumption of religions such as atheism, agnosticism and secular humanism. Creation implies that man is ultimately accountable to the Creator and evolution implies that man is ultimately accountable to no one save himself. It seems almost inevitable that beliefs about origins will tend to polarize people in two camps with each quite certain that the other is dead wrong. Everything seems to hinge on the existence of the Creator. If we assume there is a Creator, the origins of complex and highly integrated biological systems by intelligent design is completely reasonable and hardly incompatible with science. If, however, we assume there is no creator, nothing conceivable in nature could be taken as evidence for design and origins by chance and the intrinsic properties of nature is the only alternative open to us no matter how lacking the evidence may be. The British biologist D. M. S. Watson said: Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible. (Watson 1929) Each of us must decide for ourselves which is more incredible - evolution or special creation. Literature Cited Anonymous. The World's Most Famous Court Trial. Cincinnati, OH: National Book Company, 1925. Bennett, D. "On the Nature if Things." In On the Nature of Things, xi-xxvi. Roslyn, NY: Walter J. Black, 1946. Blum, Harold. Times Arrow and Evolution. 1968. Borel, E. Elements of the Theory of Probability. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965. Crick, Francis. Life Itself. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981. Ehrlich, Paul and L. Charles Birch. "Evolutionary history and population biology." Nature 214 (1967): 352. Ehrlich, Paul and R. W. Holm. In The Process of Evolution, 66. 1963. Geisler, Norman L. In The Creator in the Courtroom, 175. Mott Media, 1982. Goldschmidt, Richard. "Evolution as viewed by one geneticist." American Scientist 40 (1952): 84. Gould, Stephen Jay. "Evolution's erratic pace." Natural History, May 1977 1977a, 12-16. Gould, Stephen Jay. "The return of the hopeful monsters." Natural History, June-July 1977 1977b, 22-30. Gould, Steven J. The Arkansas Democrat, December 10 1981, Handler, Phillip. Biology and the Future of Man. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970. Hoyle, Sir Fred. "as quoted in 'Hoyle on Evolution'." Nat. 294 (12 November 1981): 105-106. Huxley, Julian. In Evolution In Action, 11-12. New York: New American Library, 1953. Huxley, Julian. "in:." In What Is Man, p. 278. New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 1955. Kelvin, W. T. In Popular Lectures and Addresses, p. 415. London: Macmillian, 1889. Kitts, David B. "Paleontology and evolutionary theory." Evolution 28 (September 1974): 467. Lewin, Roger. "Evolutionary theory under fire." Sci. 210 (4472 1980): 883-887. Muller, H. J. "How radiation changes the genetic constitution." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 11 (1955): 329-337. Oppenheimer, Jane. In Essays in the History of Embryology and Biology, 150. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967. Popper, Karl. Unended Quest. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1976. Raup, David M. "Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology." Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, January 1979 1979, 25. Ridley, Mark. New Scientist 90 (1981): 830-832. Ross, C. P. and R. Rezak. The Rocks and Fossils of Glacier National Park. U. S. Geological Survey, 1959. Professional Paper 294K p. 427. Simpson, George G. Tempo and Mode in Evolution. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944. Simpson, George Gaylord. "The Major Features of Evolution." In The Major Features of Evolution, 360. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953. Stanley, Steven M. "A theory of evolution above the species level." Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 72 (1975): 646. Watson, D. M. S. Nature 123 (1929): 233. Yockey, Hubert P. "A calculation of the probability of spontaneous biogenesis by information theory." J. Theor. Biol. 67 (1977): 377-398. *************************************** Origins Talk RBBS * (314) 821-1078 FidoNet 1:100/435 Christian Fellowship Net 8:3006/28 Missouri Association for Creation, Inc. 405 North Sappington Road Saint Louis, Missouri 63122-4729 (314) 821-1234

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank