Note: this Entry is part of a series of Entries on Evolution and Creationism, and is not intended to be read in isolation.
Many people believe that science has proven that life and all it encompasses evolved by infinitesimal gradiations, a theory we call evolution. According to creationist theory, this is simply not true. The theory of evolution has many discrepancies and often conflicts with reality. Let us take a walk down popular science's timeline of the universe, and examine it objectively and scientifically.
First let us look at the theory of evolution itself. Before life can evolve from one thing to another it must be created in its simplest form. All life undergoes something called protein 'transcription' and 'translation'.
It starts with DNA. DNA is described as a twisted ladder. Now try making a ladder with as many rungs as the Encyclopaedia Britannica has letters! Furthermore, these letters - or 'bases' - must be in a set order according to what organism they are in. In short, DNA is like a book. A book cannot be made by throwing random letters of the alphabet together. The letters must be carefully selected by an intelligent source - the author. This means DNA needs a writer, and we can certainly suppose that the being who created the universe also 'writes' DNA.
DNA must interact with mRNA1 to continue the transcription and translation. mRNA is created base by base copying the opposite of DNA. Then this mRNA goes through a ribosome (or rRNA2) and connects with tRNA3. tRNA is a smaller version of mRNA that picks up complex organic compounds called amino acids. When tRNA and mRNA meet they form a long chain of amino acids called a protein. You can see now how hard it is for these compounds to simply come together. The odds against these five compounds being randomly formed in a pool of muck just after the planet has cooled and then to have suddenly begun this cycle are astronomical, if not impossible, yet life according to evolution requires that this happen. In fact, life requires that this happen.
In 1953, a scientist named Stanley Miller mixed several chemicals is a glass tube, zapped them with electricity, and subsequently created the previously-mentioned amino acids. This, he said, was probably what happened in that pool of muck billions of years ago to create life. Newspapers cited a breakthrough and subsequent experiments popped up, some using heat instead of electricity, others ultraviolet rays to mimic the sun.
But organisms only use a specific kind of amino acids known as 'left handed'. Miller's amino acids were of both kinds. There is no natural process that creates only left-handed, life-supporting amino acids.
Five years later, a chemist named Sidney Fox boiled already existing amino acids in water, and some of them formed protein-like chains of amino acids. Again, the scientific community cited a breakthrough. But lifeforms require that proteins are linked by peptide bonds. Fox's protein-like structures had all sorts of different kinds of bonds, rendering them useless to a living organism. Also, a true protein has its amino acids linked in a particular order. Fox's protein-like structures were the equivalent of throwing Scrabble letters on the floor and calling it a sentence.
In both of these experiments, the products were immediately put in tubes in a dark place where they would be incapable of breaking down again. Why? Because as soon as these compounds are created they will fall apart unless their environment changes to a more suitable form. In short, the environment necessary for amino acids to be created is not the same as the environment that will keep them alive. This is because heat, electricity and ultraviolet rays will destroy amino acids. If one wants to create amino acids, one must remove the very things that created them after they are created! Fox and Miller have merely proved that even the tiniest organic molecules can only be created by an intelligent force.
In 1859, Charles Darwin published the first widely accepted theory of evolution in the tome The Origin of the Species, and the outcry was almost immediate. Contrary to popular belief, though, this disgruntlement came mostly from geologists, not clergymen. The fossil record back then (and still today) was nearly totally void of transitional species. If species are continually mutating, never constant, why do we continually find several of the same, certain prehistoric creatures, but never any that appear to be in transition? Why do paleontologists find lots of dinosaurs but never where dinosaurs come from, nor what they turned into?
In Darwin's own words, 'Why, if species have descended by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of species being, as we see them, well defined?' It is an excellent question, which he answers himself, 'I can give no satisfactory answer.'
So, resuming our trip through history, let us examine the most abundantly fossilised life forms: vertebrates. These are animals with backbones, including fish, reptiles, mammals, birds and so on.
Fish to Amphibians
The evolutionary thesis states that certain fish species evolved the ability to crawl out of the water and then evolved the other amphibious characteristics. There is no specific fossil fish species yet identified as an amphibian ancestor, but an extinct order known as the rhipsodians are dubbed by Darwinists as the 'ancestral group'. Their skeletal features have certain characteristics that resemble early amphibians, but according to the textbook Vertebrate History by Barbara Stahl, 'none of the known fishes is thought to be directly ancestral to the earliest land vertebrates. Most of them lived after the first amphibians appeared, and those that came before show no evidence of developing the stout limbs and ribs that characterise the primitive tetrapods.' There are other inconsistencies, such as the major differences in the reproductive systems of fish and amphibians.
In 1938, a coelacanth, a fish thought to have been extinct for 70 million years, was caught in the Indian ocean. Scientists thought that as it was a close relative of the rhipsodians it would offer new information about the soft body parts of intermediate ancestors of amphibians and fish. But, in the dissection, its internal organs showed no sign of being pre-adapted to land, nor did it give any indication of how a fish becomes an amphibian. This suggests an examination of the soft body parts of rhipsodians would be equally disappointing to the theory of evolution.
Amphibians to Reptiles
This transition is currently the least explicable. To date there is no satisfactory candidate to document it. There are fossil amphibians called seymouria that have certain reptile characteristics in their skeletal structure, but recently they have been re-labelled true amphibians. They also appear far too late in the fossil record anyway.
The most important differences between reptiles and amphibians, however, involve the soft body parts. And these, of course, cannot be fossilised. The main difficulty for Darwinists attempting to explain this transition is the vast differences in the reproductive system of these two kingdoms. Amphibian eggs are laid underwater and the hatched larvae undergo a complex metamorphosis before they become adults, whereas reptiles lay hard, shell-covered eggs on land and the young are perfect replicas of the adults. No Darwinian explanation yet exists as to how amphibians developed these reptilian reproductive processes.
Reptiles to Mammals
There are plenty of possible transitional species for this mutation, and at first a reptile to mammal transition seems quite plausible. It has even been called the 'crown jewel' of the fossil record. There is a large reptilian order called therapsida, of which some fossils have features intermediate between mammal and reptile. A fossil is considered reptilian if it has more than one bone in its jaw and if one particular jawbone, the articulator bone, connects to the skull's quadrate bone. Mammal fossils have one jawbone, the dentary bone, which connects to the squamosal bone in the skull. Assuming this criterion, some therapsids have slight mammalian characteristics, and a few could reasonably be classified as either reptiles or mammals.
Douglas Futuyuma, evolutionary biologist, writes, 'The gradual transition from therapsids to mammals is so abundantly documented by scores of species in every stage of transition that it is impossible to tell which therapsid species were actual ancestors of modern mammals.' But Darwinian transformation requires a single line of descent, so large numbers of eligible candidates prove nothing. Furthermore, the therapsids do not come in the chronological order required of them by Darwinism. What this means is, therapsid fossils do not go from most reptilian jawbone to most mammalian jawbone in chronological order. As famous Darwin critic Philip Johnson puts it, 'An artificial line of descent [between reptiles and mammals] can be constructed, but only by arbitrarily mixing species of different subgroups, and by arranging them out of chronological order. If [the evolutionary] hypothesis is that mammals evolved from therapsids only once... then most of the therapsids with mammal-like characteristics were not part of a macroevolutionary transition. If most were not, perhaps all were not.'
Besides, the only things therapsids have in common with mammals are the ear and jaw bones. One realises there is a great deal more explaining to do when one observes the vast differences in reptilian and mammalian reproductive systems and other soft body parts. If you go further, things get even trickier, especially trying to explain the mutations behind the diversity of mammals, a group that includes such varieties as monkeys, horses, platypuses, bats, whales, squirrels, polar bears, white tailed deer, etc. Again Philip Johnson is critical saying, 'If mammals are a monophyletic4 group, then the Darwinist model requires that every one of the groups have descended from a single, unidentified small land mammal. Huge numbers of intermediate species in the direct line of transition would have had to exist, but the fossil record fails to record them.'
Reptiles to Birds
Archaeopteryx is an approximately 145 million-year-old bird with skeletal features similar to a small dinosaur called compsognathus. It is birdlike in that it has wings, feathers and a wishbone, but it has a mouthful of teeth and claws on its wings. The question here is whether archaeopteyx is a direct link between reptiles and birds, or just a peculiar misfit such as the modern platypus. Until recently, it was regarded as a misfit because the next oldest birds were aquatic divers, unlikely descendants of archaeopteyx. That changed when two fossil birds with certain reptilian features, dated approximately 10 and 20 million years after archaeopteryx, were found - one in China, one in Spain. There is, however, little evidence that they are related to archaeopteryx. Now, the autheniticity of archaeopteryx has been called into question. Many scientists in good standing believe it was a hoax.
Whatever is concluded about archaeopteryx, questions still arise as to how feathered wings, the distinct avian lung, and other body parts evolved, not to mention the ability to fly. Similar to mammals, birds are a very diversified kingdom containing such species as the emu, the sparrow and the penguin, and it is difficult to explain how they evolved from a single ancestor through viable intermediate stages.
Apes to Humans
Anthropology, the study of human origins, sometimes appears to have more evidence backing it because of its nomenclature. Nebraska man and Piltdown Man were discovered to be hoaxes, Neanderthals are considered as a subspecies, not an ancestor, and Cro-Magnon man is simply modern man. That leaves us with four fossil species, Australopithecus arensis, A. africanus, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus.
The first two, known as the australopithecines, are apes no more technologically or cerebrally developed than modern gorillas or chimpanzees, but supposedly walked upright. However, one of Britain's most prestigious primate experts, Solly Zuckerman, recently performed biometric testing on them and concluded that 'the anatomical basis for the claim that [they] walked and ran upright like man is so much more flimsy than the evidence which points to the conclusions that their gait was some variant of what one sees in subhuman primates that it remains unacceptable.' Zuckerman sees the evolution of man from apes as self evident, but tends to see much of the fossil evidence as bunk. He compared it to parapsychology and claimed the amount of radical speculation 'is so astonishing that it is legitimate to ask whether much science is yet to be found in this field at all.' Other experts in good standing claim that the australopithecines were actually distinct species.
Homo habilis or 'handy man' is an ape that was given status as a human ancestor because it was found near primitive tools that it was presumed to have used. But many prestigious anthropologists now deny that he ever used tools, or even that he ever existed.
The popular current hypothesis known as the 'mitochondrial Eve' theory states that humans came from Africa less that 200,000 years ago, thus disqualifying the current Homo erectus fossils, which are older than 200,000 years. However, H. erectus is still listed as a human ancestor.
Why is there so much confusion in this field? Well, emotions often run amok in studies of one's own ancestry. Robert Lewin, in his book Human Evolution, reports numerous examples of subjectivity. He states, 'There is something inexpressibly moving about cradling in one's hands a cranium drawn from one's own ancestry.' What a way to lower objectivity!
Most Creationists do not deny the possibility that these four species might have existed, and therefore the possible transitional steps between apes and humans, but not the smooth sequence of developments proclaimed by Darwinists.
Other Entries in this Project
- The second part of this article looks at the concept of 'irreducible complexity' and asks the question, 'Why is the theory of evolution so popular?'
- Many people, scientists or otherwise, accept the theory of evolution. Read a reply to Creationist arguments here.
- Not all Christians accept the biblical creation story as the literal truth. Read a mainstream Christian viewpoint here.
- Evolution and Creation - an Introduction and Glossary
- The Tension Between Science and Religion
- The 'Genesis' Creation Account
- The Theory of Evolution - Part II
- Discrepancies in the Theory of Evolution
- Human Evolution - the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
- Creationism and Creation Science - A Perspective
- Creationism in the UK