By Lalitanatha Dasa
Scientists refer to evolution as established fact, but how good is their evidence?
Darwin’s greatest accomplishment was to show that the complex order and function in living creatures can be explained as a result of a natural process—natural selection—without having to refer to a Creator or some other external factor.1 (Dr. Francisco Ayala, evolutionary biologist, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Evolutionists such as Ayala consider evolution, as Darwin saw it—evolution without a Creator or any other external factor—to be a solidly established fact. But what evidence establishes this fact? Let’s look at some of the proofs that to evolutionists, from Darwin onwards, establish the fact of evolution.
In his theory, Darwin proposed a plausible natural mechanism that could account for how all living forms could have originated from the simplest of microbes through natural evolution over hundreds of millions of years: Darwin claimed that species are infinitely mutable and can change unlimitedly through the interplay of natural variation sifted by natural selection.
By “species” Darwin meant that members of the same species must be able to procreate fertile offspring; if they cannot, they belong to different species. Species can again be divided into varieties, also known as races or sorts. Unlike species, however, there are no strong demarcations between varieties; they can crossbreed freely and produce fertile offspring and new varieties that are still within the same species.
The crux of Darwin’s argument was that varieties can gradually become species through breeding:
Nevertheless, according to my view, varieties are species in the process of formation, or are, as I have called them, incipient species. How, then, does the lesser difference between varieties become augmented into the greater difference between species? That this does habitually happen, we must infer from most of the innumerable species throughout nature presenting well-marked differences; whereas varieties, the supposed prototypes and parents of future well-marked species, present slight and ill-defined differences.2 (emphasis added)
Please note that Darwin “inferred.” Why only inferred? Because he had never observed varieties become species. Thus he had to settle with something less: he pointed to man’s artificial breeding of plants and animals and inferred that if artificial selection can cause sweeping changes in a species after only a few generations, conceivably nature could have accomplished incredible feats after eons of natural selection. Darwin spent the two first chapters in his book making this argument.
Yet Darwin’s pleading is unconvincing. All research, both before and after his time, points to nature having limits on how far a species can change. Breeding can mix only preexisting characteristics. Breeding dogs can produce dogs of different sizes and color. Still, they remain dogs and never become cats, no matter for how long we try. Breeding simply shuffles and recombines already existing traits.
According to zoologist Pierre Grasse,
In spite of the intense pressure generated by artificial selection over whole millennia, no new species are born. A comparative study of sera, hemoglobins, blood proteins, interfertility, etc., proves that the strains remain within the same specific definition. This is not a matter of opinion or subjective classification, but a measurable reality. The fact is that selection gives tangible form to and gathers together all the varieties a genome is capable of producing, but does not constitute an innovative evolutionary process.3
In other words, breeding is not evidence of evolution, and no one has ever observed that varieties can become new species; in fact, all observations point to the opposite.
It is important to remember that natural selection is not a creative process. It can only eliminate and not create new variations in a species. Darwin noted, “Unless profitable variations do occur, natural selection can do nothing.”4
Besides natural selection, Darwin needed a new source of variations. He believed this source to be external influences, such as food and environment. Or how organs are used or not used could cause changes in an organism that are passed on to the next generations. He wrote:
From the facts alluded to in the first chapter, I think there can be little doubt that use in our domestic animals strengthens and enlarges certain parts, and disuse diminishes them; and that such modifications are inherited.5
Darwin had this idea from Lamarck, a French naturalist who had suggested that giraffes had evolved when their ancestors had gotten longer necks by stretching to eat the leaves other animals could not reach and, as a result, had produced calves with longer necks.
But all evidence has shown that “pangenesis” doesn’t happen. Acquired traits are not inherited. We may lift weights until we develop muscles like steel, but our children will not be born with larger muscles. In some cultures women enhance their beauty by enlarging their lips or earlobes, yet their newborn daughters look like girls in any other culture. A light-skinned person who always gets tanned in the sun does not give birth to darker babies. A species exposed to the cold doesn’t develop fur, fat layers, and a higher metabolism and pass on these traits to its offspring. Natural selection simply eliminates those individuals that don’t already have the favorable traits.
In other words, Darwin was completely mistaken about inheritance. The actual laws of inheritance, which were discovered around Darwin’s time by an Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel, turned out to be completely contrary to what Darwin had wanted them to be. Mendel showed that inheritance involves only the passing of constant factors from one generation to the next, and that external factors do not affect inheritance.
A process of inheritance that doesn’t happen is not, of course, evidence of evolution.
With the ideas of mutable species and pangenesis disproved, Darwin’s proposed mechanism was shown wrong, a fact generally accepted by the end of the nineteenth century. Paradoxically, however, at this time evolution had become so much a part of their mindset that scientists still considered evolution a fact. Under the name of neo-Darwinism, it was subsequently suggested that random mutations are the source of the favorable heritable variations required for evolution to occur.
Although inherited characteristics generally remain stable and unchanging, it was observed that on rare occasions there are still genetic changes. First called “freaks of nature,” these later become known as “mutations.” Much later, with the discovery of the DNA double helix, it turned out that mutations are random errors taking place when the genetic code stored on the DNA is copied.
This neo-Darwinian mechanism is unfortunately much weaker than Darwin’s original mechanism. His was almost deterministic in nature; if food is scarce for long enough, and the only way to survive is to stretch your neck and consume what no other member of your species can reach, your descendents will almost certainly develop longer necks and eventually become giraffes. The only problem with this was that it was wrong. But to achieve the same result through random mutations is a different story. The number of random mutations required to evolve a long neck does not occur simply because long necks happen to be advantageous at a given time. Being random, the mutations may or may not occur, and since each particular mutation is highly improbable, it most likely won’t occur at the time when it would be favorable.
What’s more, genetic mutations have never been shown to create new organs but only changes to existing ones. There are also very few examples of beneficial mutations; most mutations are either neutral or harmful. Thus although neo-Darwinism has been in vogue for more than a century, it is still uncertain whether it has ever proposed a mechanism to account for how evolution occurs. This was seen when, in 2008, the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Austria invited the world’s leading theoretical biologists to a conference called “Toward an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis.” The organizers explained themselves in their invitation:
The challenge seems clear to us: how do we make sense, conceptually, of the astounding advances in biology since the 1940s, when the MS [“The Modern Synthesis,” another name for neo-Darwinism] was taking shape? Not only have we witnessed the molecular revolution, from the discovery of the structure of DNA to the genomic era, we are also grappling with the increasing feeling that we just don’t have the theoretical and analytical tools necessary to make sense of the bewildering diversity and complexity of living organisms.6
Could it be more clear? “We don’t have the theoretical … tools” to explain “the bewildering diversity and complexity of living organisms.”
The Fact of Evolution?
If the evidence goes against Darwin’s original theory, and modern evolutionary biologists don’t even have a theory, why then are evolutionists still convinced that evolution is a fact? Good question. A possible answer was given at the Wistar conference.
In 1967, the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia hosted the conference “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.” Arguing against leading evolutionary biologists, leading mathematicians stated the statistical impossibility that complex organs, such as the eye, could have evolved by a series of thousands upon thousands of small random mutations; the number of mutations needed to create a complex eye is simply too large, and there hasn’t been enough time in the world’s history for these random mutations to have occurred. Instead of acknowledging the problem, however, the biologists accused the mathematicians of “doing science backwards.” Evolution, they said, was an established fact; the eye had evolved. Thus the mathematics problems could not be reflecting reality. Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr reassured, “Somehow or other by adjusting these figures we will come out all right. We are comforted by the fact that evolution has occured.”7
But what precisely made Mayr so sure that evolution had occurred? He didn’t say.
Perhaps it was the fossils. But Darwin didn’t think so:
The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.8
Darwin considered the fossil record and the absence of intermediate forms between species “perhaps the most serious obejection” to his theory. Has that changed? In 1954, Professor Heribert Nilsson from Lund’s University, Sweden, wrote:
The fossil material is now so complete that . . . the lack of transitional series cannot be explained as due to the scarcity of the material. The deficiencies are real; they will never be filled.9
As recent as 2008, prominent palaeontologist Niles Eldridge wrote:
Patterns in evolutionary history characteristically repeat themselves regardless of position in time, place, or clade. The pattern [is one of] rapid-seeming appearance of higher taxa with their defining adaptations/synapomorphies already well in place in the earliest known fossils—implying … a very rapid evolutionary origin, often leaving no trace of intermediates.”10
Despite claims to the contrary, apparently fossils don’t provide more evidence for evolution today than in Darwin’s time. Only by assuming evolution in the first place are palaeontologists able to fit fossils into what seem like neat evolutionary lineages.
What about molecular evidence? Today, many scientists believe that comparative study of the detailed structure of proteins, RNA, and DNA in different species provides evidence for evolution. But does it? On closer inspection it is found that molecular evidence often challenges evolution. In many cases molecular analyses have either failed to establish relationships between species or indicated relationships different from those established by anatomical comparisons and fossil studies. Different molecular studies may also give inconsistent results, and some broad molecular comparisons across the entire living kingdom point to no evolutionary relationships at all. According to molecular biologist Michael Lynch:
Clarification of the phylogenetic relationships of the major animal phyla has been an elusive problem, with analyses based on different genes and even different analyses based on the same genes yielding a diversity of phylogenetic trees.11
It is also worth remembering that similarities—which is what molecular analysis is all about—whether anatomical or molecular, aren’t necessarily evidence of evolution. Almost a hundred years before Darwin, Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus invented the classification system still used by biologists today and classified animals and plants into categories based on anatomical similarities. Did Linnaeus see this as evidence of evolution? No, he considered it an overall divine design uncovered. How similarity can also be due to design can be seen from the example of cars. Different cars, such as a Volkswagen and a Rolls-Royce, share many “anatomical” similarities; yet not only are cars a result of design and not of natural evolution, but each car is separately manufactured. Similarity in itself cannot tell whether it is due to natural evolution or design.
The Ultimate Evidence
How do evolutionists respond when confronted with the possibility of design? Harvard zoologist Stephen Gould wrote: “Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread.”12
Douglas J. Futuyma wrote similarly in his college textbook Evolution: “There are many examples [of traits in living organisms] … inconsistent with the notion that an omnipotent Creator, who should be able to adhere to an optimal design, provided them.”13
Apparently evolutionists use as evidence for evolution their own judgments on how God would have created.
Even Darwin argued,
I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [wasps] with the express intention of their [larva] feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.14
Unfortunately, neither Darwin nor his adherents specify where they got their information about how God would or would not create or His motives for doing so. But they still often argue, “God would never have done it like that. Therefore it must be the result of random and mindless evolution.”
Some even go so far as to claim that because God cannot possibly exist, evolution, by default, must have occurred. For instance, British zoologist Richard Dawkins claims that since God most likely, or even definitely, doesn’t exist, life must have arisen spontaneously from dead matter, in spite of the vast improbability for this to have ever happened.
In conclusion, when talking about “the fact of evolution,” what are we really dealing with? A scientifically established fact, or just the opinion of some scientists who cannot accommodate the possibility of God in their logical structures? At least to those among us who remain unconvinced about the claims of Darwin and his modern followers, it would appear that we are mainly up against veiled materialistic and atheistic arguments posing as scientific evidence.
1. Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer, Francisco J. Ayala, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Vol. 104, May 15, 2007, p.p. 8,567-8,573.
2. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Charles Darwin, first published by John Murray in 1859 (here in the version of Penguin Books 1985), p. 155.
3. Darwin on Trial, 2nd Edition, Phillip Johnson, Inter Varsity Press, Illinois, 1993, p. 18.
4. The Origin of Species, p. 132.
5. The Origin of Species, p. 74.
6. Available online at http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0908/S00221.htm
7. Darwin on Trial, p.p. 38-39.
8. The Origin of Species, p. 292.
9. Synthetische Artbildung, N. Heribert-Nilsson, Gleerup, Sweden: Lund University, 1954, p. 1,212.
10. Paleontology and evolution, Niles Eldredge, Evolution, Vol. 62 (2008), p. 1,544-1,546.
11. The age and relationships of the major animal phyla, Michael Lynch, Evolution, Vol. 53 (1999), p.p. 319-325.
12. The Panda’s Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1980, p. 20.
13. Evolution, Douglas. J. Futuyma, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Mass., 2005, p. 49.
14. Darwin in a letter to Asa Gray, May 22, 1860.