Note: this Entry is part of a series of Entries on Evolution and Creationism, and is not intended to be read in isolation.
The first part of this article looks at the discrepancies in pre-biological evolution that are often highlighted by supporters of Creationist Theory, and takes an in-depth look at the fossil record and the lack of 'transition species'.
Even in the present, many organisms and parts of organisms do not appear to have evolved from lesser things. This is because they are 'irreducibly compex' lifeforms. Irreducible complexity is a concept that biochemistry professor Michael Behe developed in his book, Darwin's Black Box. If something is made of interacting parts that all work together, then it is referred to as irreducibly complex. Behe uses a mousetrap as his example. A mousetrap cannot be assembled through gradual improvement. You cannot start with a wooden base, catching a few mice, then add a hammer, and catch more, then add a spring, improving it further. To even begin catching mice one must assemble all the components completely with design and intent. Furthermore, if one of these parts changes or evolves independently, the entire thing will stop working. The mousetrap, for instance, will become useless if even one part malfunctions.
Likewise, many biological structures are irreducibly complex. Bats are a well known example. They are said to have evolved from a small rodent whose front toes became wings. This presents a multitude of problems. As the front toes grow skin between them, the creature has limbs that are too long to run, or even walk well, yet too short to help it fly. There is no plausible way that a bat wing can evolve from a rodent's front toes. The fossil record supports this, because the first time bats are seen in the fossil record, they have completely developed wings and are virtually identical to modern bats.
Now consider the eye. Suppose that before animals had sight, one species decided it would be advantageous to be able to decrypt light rays. So, what do they evolve first? The retina? The iris? The eye is made of many tiny parts, each totally useless without the others. The probability that a genetic mutation that would create each of these at the same time in the same organism is zero. If, however one organism evolved just a retina, then the logic of Darwin suggests that the only solution is to rid oneself of useless traits replacing them with beneficial ones, so the idea of the eye evolving one segment at a time is bogus also.
Richard Dawkins gives the explanation that some one-celled protozoa have a light sensitive spot with a pigment screen behind it, and some multi-celled organisms have the same thing with cup-shaped cells. Then there is the nautilus which, has a pinhole eye with no lens, and the squid eye, which incorporates the lens.
But these types of eye involve different types of structures rather than a series of similar structures becoming improved, and are thus not thought to have evolved from each other. Besides, even the first step, a light-sensitive spot, is considered irreducibly complex. This apparatus can only detect some shadows, but it requires a multitude of inter-related, complex chemical reactions to work. This excerpt from a book describes it: 'A photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which changes to trans-retinal, which forces a change in the shape of a protein called rhodopsin, which sticks to another protein called transductin, which binds with another molecule...' As for those cup-shaped cells, there are dozens of proteins controlling cell structure and shape. All these would have to be spontaneously created for flat sensory cells to become cup-shaped. Even if the eye did evolve, so many different kind of species have eyes, that according to evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, the eye would have had to evolve over 40 times to achieve its current popularity, an incredibly implausible idea.
A bird is another perfect example. A bird's entire body is built for flight. If even the slightest major mutation occurs, a bird becomes incapable of flight. If some prehistoric reptile felt the urge to fly, evolving something even as complex as wings would do no good. In fact, it would be a disadvantage to lug those wings around.
The only plausible explanation for irreducibly complex biological tissue is an intelligent creator.
So Why is the Theory of Evolution so Popular?
Richard Dawkins once said that 'Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled athiest.' Perhaps that is why Creationists are stereotyped as a group of Bible thumpers and scientifically-ignorant backwater folk. Evolution is taught in schools all over the world, not as a theory, but a fact.
Genetic variation is often mistaken as proof of evolution. These are often referred to as examples of 'evolution in action'. Let us examine some of these.
Evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyama has put together a summary of examples of evolution in action in one of his books:
- Some bacteria develop resistance to certain antibiotics. Likewise, many insects resist pesticides.
- After a massive storm in Massachusetts, hundreds of dead birds littered the countryside. A scientist named Bumpus collected the survivors and killed them, then compared their skeletons with the birds that had died in the storm. He found that, though the size difference was minute, larger birds survived more frequently than smaller ones.
- Scientists have observed that some mice will stop reproducing when their local population is 'flooded' with a gene that causes their males to be sterile.
- In 1977, a drought on the Galapagos Islands forced Darwin's famous finches to eat larger seeds. For a while, many smaller finches died because they had trouble eating the bigger seeds.
There is no reason to doubt that the strongest organisms prosper, nor that certain circumstances make drug-resistant bacteria more prolific. The problem here is, none of these explain how organisms become other organisms, how organs become other organs, or even how the most minor changes in an organism can become permanent. All of these examples are isolated, special circumstances. Philip Johnson comments, 'That larger birds have an advantage over smaller birds in high winds or droughts has no tendency whatever to prove that similar factors caused birds to come into existence in the first place.' French zoologist Pierre Grasse says, 'The 'evolution in action' of J Huxley and other biologists is simply the observation of demographic facts, local fluctuations of genotypes, geographical distributions. Often the species concerned have remained practically unchanged for hundreds of centuries! Fluctuation as a result of circumstances, with prior modification of the genome, does not imply evolution...'
Indeed, science itself does not imply evolution. Life is far too complex to have been created by a natural force, and natural history contradicts the necessary timeline of evolution. Much of the basis for the theory of evolution is based on false or exaggerated information.
Other Entries in this Project
A reply to the arguments in this Entry can be found here.
Many Christians take a more moderate view of the creation vs evolution argument - read about it 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 - Part II
- Human Evolution - the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
- Creationism and Creation Science - A Perspective
- Creationism in the UK