Refuting Evolution 2—Appendix 1
A sequel to Refuting Evolution that refutes the latest arguments to support evolution (as presented by PBS and Scientific American).
Common arguments for evolution that have been rejected
First published in Refuting Evolution 2, Appendix 1
This book has been organized around the most powerful arguments that evolutionists can muster (quoting the salient points of PBS and Scientific American) against the best arguments of creationists. Too often, both sides get sidetracked on bad arguments. We believe that all Bible-believers should have solid answers about the real issues of the debate (e.g., two worldviews are in conflict; we disagree about interpretation, not the facts themselves).
This doesn’t mean that Christians should ignore the weak arguments or the potshots. We have added an appendix to address some of these arguments.
Rejected argument 1: Similarities between embryos1
Most people have heard that the human embryo goes through various evolutionary stages, such as having gill slits like a fish, a tail like a monkey, etc. This concept, pretentiously called the ‘biogenetic law,’ was popularized by the German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel in the late 1860s. It is also known as ‘embryonic recapitulation’ or ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,’ meaning that during an organism’s early development it supposedly re-traces its evolutionary history.
Although this idea was based on a fraud and has been debunked by many high-profile scientists, the idea persists. Even textbooks in the 1990s were still using Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings.2
Haeckel’s fraud exposed
Within months of the publication of Haeckel’s work in 1868, L. Rütimeyer, professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at the University of Basel, showed it to be fraudulent. William His Sr, professor of anatomy at the University of Leipzig, and a famous comparative embryologist, corroborated Rütimeyer’s criticisms.3 These scientists showed that Haeckel fraudulently modified his drawings of embryos to make them look more alike. Haeckel even reprinted some woodcuts and then claimed they were embryos of different species!
Has the ‘biogenetic law’ any merit? In 1965, evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson said, ‘It is now firmly established that ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny.’4 Prof. Keith Thompson (biology, Yale) said:
Surely the biogenetic law is as dead as a doornail. It was finally exorcised from biology textbooks in the fifties. As a topic of serious theoretical inquiry, it was extinct in the twenties.5
Despite the evidence of fraud, Haeckel’s drawings are still widely believed to bear some resemblance to reality. But a recent investigation, published in 1997, has revealed that Haeckel’s fraud was far worse than anyone realized. An embryologist, Dr Michael Richardson, with the co-operation of biologists around the world, collected and photographed the types of embryos Haeckel supposedly drew.6 Dr Richardson found that Haeckel’s drawings bore little resemblance to the embryos.7 The Times (London) quotes Richardson:
This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud. It’s shocking to find that somebody one thought was a great scientist was deliberately misleading. It makes me angry. What he [Haeckel] did was to take a human embryo and copy it, pretending that the salamander and the pig and all the others looked the same at the same stage of development. They don’t. These are fakes.8
A human embryo never looks reptilian or pig-like. A human embryo is always a human embryo, from the moment of conception; it is never anything else. It does not become human sometime after eight weeks. This is what the Bible says—the unborn baby is a tiny human child (Gen. 25:21–22, Ps. 139:13–16, Jer. 1:5, Luke 1:41–44).
Similarities in early embryos are inevitable
Admittedly, the embryos of animals bear some resemblance in their early stages of development. But this makes perfect sense from a design standpoint. To construct anything, you begin with something without shape, or with a basic form, and then you add increasingly specialized details.
An illustration from pottery may help. A potter starts with a lump of clay. Whether he wants to make a goblet or a slender vase, the potter shapes the clay initially into a cylinder. At this stage both the goblet and the vase look similar—they have the same basic plan. Further work results in the goblet and vase looking more and more different. (The analogy with embryos breaks down in that the potter could change his mind and make either a vase or goblet at the completion of the basic plan. A fish embryo, however, could never become a human embryo [or vice versa] because a fish embryo has the coded instructions only for making a fish.)
Some principles known as von Baer’s laws express this concept in regard to embryo development. Namely, the general features of animals appear earlier in the embryo’s development than the specialized features. Each embryo of a given species, instead of passing through the stages of other animals, departs more and more from them as it develops.
Von Baer’s laws indicate that the younger the embryonic stage, the more closely organisms tend to resemble each other.
Rejected argument 2: Peppered moths
The ‘textbook story’ of England’s famous peppered moths (Biston betularia) goes like this. The moth comes in light and dark (melanic) forms. Pollution from the Industrial Revolution darkened the tree trunks, mostly by killing the light-colored covering lichen (plus soot).
The lighter forms, which had been well camouflaged against the light background, now ‘stood out,’ and so birds more readily ate them. Therefore, the proportion of dark moths increased dramatically. Later, as pollution was cleaned up, the light moth became predominant again.
The shift in moth numbers was carefully documented through catching them in traps. Release-recapture experiments confirmed that in polluted forests, more of the dark form survived for recapture, and vice versa. In addition, birds were filmed preferentially eating the less camouflaged moths off tree trunks.9
The story has generated boundless evolutionary enthusiasm. H.B. Kettlewell, who performed most of the classic experiments, said that if Darwin had seen this, ‘He would have witnessed the consummation and confirmation of his life’s work.’10
Actually, even as it stands, the textbook story demonstrates nothing more than gene frequencies shifting back and forth, by natural selection, within one created kind. It offers nothing which, even given millions of years, could add the sort of complex design information needed for amoeba-to-man evolution.
Even L. Harrison Matthews, a biologist so distinguished he was asked to write the foreword for the 1971 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, said therein that the peppered moth example showed natural selection, but not ‘evolution in action.’
However, it turns out that this classic story is full of holes anyway. Peppered moths don’t even rest on tree trunks during the day.
Kettlewell and others attracted the moths into traps in the forest either with light, or by releasing female pheromones—in each case, they only flew in at night. So where do they spend the day? British scientist Cyril Clarke, who investigated the peppered moth extensively, wrote:
But the problem is that we do not know the resting sites of the moth during the day time … . In 25 years we have found only two betularia on the tree trunks or walls adjacent to our traps (one on an appropriate background and one not), and none elsewhere.11
The moths filmed being eaten by the birds were laboratory-bred ones placed onto tree trunks by Kettlewell; they were so languid that he once had to warm them up on his car hood.12
And all those still photos of moths on tree trunks? One paper described how it was done—dead moths were glued to the tree.13 University of Massachusetts biologist Theodore Sargent helped glue moths onto trees for a NOVA documentary. He says textbooks and films have featured ‘a lot of fraudulent photographs.’14
Other studies have shown a very poor correlation between the lichen covering and the respective moth populations. And when one group of researchers glued dead moths onto trunks in an unpolluted forest, the birds took more of the dark (less camouflaged) ones, as expected. But their traps captured four times as many dark moths as light ones—the opposite of textbook predictions!15
The University of Chicago’s Jerry Coyne said that such painful revelations about the moth story (‘the prize horse in our stable’) was like finding out that Santa Claus was not real. Quoted by creationists, he now insists the peppered moths do somehow demonstrate ‘evolution’ after all.
Regrettably, hundreds of millions of students have once more been indoctrinated with a ‘proof’ of evolution which is riddled with error, fraud and half-truths.16
Rejected argument 3: Vestigial organs
Evolutionists often argue that such things as flightless birds’ small wings, pigs’ toes, male nipples, legless lizards, the rabbit’s digestive system, the human appendix, and hip bones and teeth in whales are useless and have no function. They claim these features are ‘leftovers of evolution’ and evidence for evolution.
The ‘vestigial’ organ argument17 for evolution is an old chestnut, but it is not valid.
First, it is impossible to prove that an organ is useless. The function may simply be unknown and its use may be discovered in the future. This has happened with more than 100 formerly alleged useless vestigial organs in humans, that are now known to be essential.
Second, even if the alleged vestigial organ were no longer needed, it would prove ‘devolution’ not evolution. The creation model allows for deterioration of a perfect creation since the Fall. However, the particles-to-people evolution model needs to find examples of nascent organs, i.e., those which are increasing in complexity.
Wings on birds that do not fly?
There are at least two possibilities as to why flightless birds such as ostriches and emus have wings:
The wings are indeed ‘useless’ and derived from birds that once could fly. This is possible in the creationist model. Loss of features is relatively easy by natural processes, whereas acquisition of new characters, requiring specific new DNA information, is impossible. Loss of wings most probably occurred in a beetle species that colonized a windy island. Again, this is loss of genetic information, so it is not evidence for microbe-to-man evolution, which requires masses of new genetic information.18
The wings have a function. Some possible functions, depending on the species of flightless bird, are: balance while running, cooling in hot weather, warmth in cold weather, protection of the rib cage in falls, mating rituals, scaring predators (emus will run at perceived enemies of their chicks, mouth open and wings flapping), sheltering of chicks, etc. If the wings are useless, why are the muscles functional, allowing these birds to move their wings?
Pigs with two toes that do not reach the ground?
Does this mean that the shorter toes have no function? Not at all. Pigs spend a lot of time in water and muddy conditions for cooling purposes. The extra toes probably make it easier to walk in mud (a bit like the rider wheels on some long trucks that only touch the road when the truck is heavily loaded). Perhaps the muscles attached to the extra toes give strength to the ‘ankle’ of the pig.
Why do males have nipples?
Males have nipples because of the common plan followed during early embryo development. Embryos start out producing features common to male and female—again an example of ‘design economy.’ Nipples are a part of this design economy. However, as Bergman and Howe point out, the claim that they are useless is debatable.19
What is the evolutionist’s explanation for male nipples? Did males evolve (devolve) from females? Or did ancestral males suckle the young? No evolutionist would propose this. Male nipples are neither evidence for evolution nor evidence against creation.
Why do rabbits have digestive systems that function ‘so poorly that they must eat their own feces’?
This is an incredible proposition. One of the most successful species on earth would have to be the rabbit! The rabbit’s mode of existence is obviously very efficient (what about the saying ‘to breed like rabbits’?) Just because eating feces may be abhorrent to humans, it does not mean it is inefficient for the rabbit! Rabbits have a special pouch called the caecum, containing bacteria, at the beginning of the large intestine. These bacteria aid digestion, just as bacteria in the rumen of cattle and sheep aid digestion. Indeed, rabbits ‘chew the cud’ in a manner that parallels sheep and cattle.
The rabbit produces two types of fecal pellet—a hard one and a special soft one coming from the caecum. It is only the latter that is eaten to enrich the diet with the nutrients produced by the bacteria in the caecum. In other words, this ability of rabbits is a design feature; it is not something they have learned to do because they have ‘digestive systems that function so poorly.’ It is part of the variety of design, which speaks of creation, not evolution.
Skeptics have claimed the Bible is in error in saying that the rabbit ‘chews the cud’ (Lev. 11:6). The Hebrew literally reads, ‘raises up what has been swallowed.’ The rabbit does re-eat what has been swallowed—its partly digested fecal pellets. The skeptics are wrong again.
It is quite likely that legless lizards could have arisen through loss of genetic information from an original created kind, and the structures are consistent with this. ‘Loss’ of a structure is of no comfort to evolutionists, as they have to find a mechanism for creating new structures, not losing them. Loss of information cannot explain how evolution ‘from amoeba to man’ could occur. Genesis 3:14 suggests that snakes may have once had legs.20
Adaptation and natural selection are biological facts; amoeba-to-man evolution is not. Natural selection can only work on the genetic information present in a population of organisms—it cannot create new information. For example, since no known reptiles have genes for feathers, no amount of selection will produce a feathered reptile. Mutations in genes can only modify or eliminate existing structures, not create new ones. If in a certain environment a lizard survives better with smaller legs, or no legs, then varieties with this trait will be selected for. This might more accurately be called devolution, not evolution.
Rapid minor changes in limb length can occur in lizards, as demonstrated on Bahamian islands by Losos and others.21 The changes occurred much faster than evolutionists thought they could. Such changes do not involve new genetic information and so give no support to microbe-to-man evolution. They do illustrate how quickly animals could have adapted to different environments after the Flood.
The human appendix
It is now known that the human appendix contains lymphatic tissue and helps control bacteria entering the intestines. It functions in a similar way to the tonsils at the upper end of the alimentary canal, which are known to fight throat infections. Tonsils also were once thought to be useless organs.22
Hip bones in whales
Some evolutionists claim that these bones show that whales evolved from land animals. However, Bergman and Howe point out that they are different in male and female whales. They are not useless at all, but help with reproduction (copulation).23
Teeth in embryonic baleen whales
Evolutionists claim that these teeth show that baleen whales evolved from toothed whales. However, they have not provided an adequate mechanism for scrapping one perfectly good system (teeth) and replacing it with a very different system (baleen or whalebone). Also, the teeth in the embryo function as guides for the correct formation of the massive jaws.
As Scadding, an evolutionist, said, ‘… vestigial organs provide no evidence for evolutionary theory.’24
References and notes
- Adapted with permission from chapter 7, Don Batten (ed.), David Catchpoole, Jonathan Sarfati, and Carl Wieland, The Creation Answers Book (Creation Book Publishers, Brisbane, Australia: Creation Ministries International, 2006).
- P.H. Raven and G.B. Johnson, Biology (3rd edition) (St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book, 1992), p. 396. For example, S. Gilbert, Developmental Biology (5th edition) (MA: Sinauer Associates, 1997), p. 254, 900. Gilbert wrongly credits the drawings to ‘Romanes, 1901’.
- W.H. Rusch Sr., Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny, Creation Research Society Quarterly 6(1):27–34, 1969.
- Simpson and Beck, An Introduction to Biology, p. 241, 1965.
- K. Thompson, Ontogeny and Phylogeny Recapitulated, American Scientist 76:273, 1988.
- The embryo photos used in this article were kindly supplied by Dr Michael K. Richardson. They originally appeared in M.K. Richardson et al., ©Springer-Verlag GmbH & Co., Tiergartenstrasse, 69121 Heidelberg, Germany, 1997. There is no highly conserved stage in the vertebrates: implications for current theories of evolution and development, Anatomy and Embryology 196(2):91–106.
- R. Grigg, Fraud rediscovered, Creation 20(2):49–51, 1998; also Richardson et al., reference 6.
- N. Hawkes, The Times (London), 11 August 1997, p. 14.
- Reproduced by permission. C. Wieland, Goodbye, peppered moths, Creation 21(3):56, June–August 1999.
- Evolution and the Fossil Record, Readings from Scientific American, Darwin’s Missing Evidence, H.B. Kettlewell (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman and Co., 1978), p. 23.
- C.A. Clarke, G.S. Mani, and G. Wynne, Evolution in Reverse: Clean Air and the Peppered Moth, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 26:189–199, 1985; quote on p. 197.
- Calgary Herald, 21 March 1999, p. D3.
- D.R. Lees and E.R. Creed, Industrial Melanism in Biston Betularia: The Role of Selective Predation, Journal of Animal Ecology 44:67–83, 1975.
- J.A. Coyne, Nature 396(6706):35–36; The Washington Times, p. D8, 17 January 1999.
- Lees and Creed, reference 13.
- Unfettered by evolutionary ‘just so’ stories, researchers can now look for the real causes of these population shifts. Might the dark form actually have a function, like absorbing more warmth? Could it reflect conditions in the caterpillar stage? In a different nocturnal moth species, Sargent has found that the plants eaten by the larvae may induce or repress the expression of such ‘melanism’ in adult moths (see T.R. Sargent et al. in M.K. Hecht et al., Evolutionary Biology (New York, NY: Plenum Press, 1998).
- Ref. 1
- C. Wieland, Beetle bloopers: Even a defect can be an advantage sometimes, Creation 19(3):30, 1997.
- J. Bergman and G. Howe, ‘Vestigial Organs’ are Fully Functional, Creation Research Society Monograph No. 4 (Terre Haute, IN: Creation Research Society Books, 1990).
- C. Brown, The origin of the snake (letter), Creation Research Society Quarterly 26:54, 1989. Brown suggests that monitor lizards may have been the precursors of snakes.
- J.B. Losos, K.I. Warheit, and T.W. Schoener, Adaptive Differentiation Following Experimental Island Colonization in Anolis Lizards, Nature 387:70–73, 1997. See comment by T.J. Case, Nature 387:15–16, and Fast lizard changes delight creationists, Creation 19(4):9.
- K. Ham and C. Wieland, Your appendix … it’s there for a reason, Creation 20(1):41–43, 1997; J.W. Glover, The Human Vermiform Appendix a General Surgeon’s Reflections, Journal of Creation 3:31–38, 1988.
- See C. Wieland, The strange tale of the leg on the whale, Creation 20(3):10–13, 1998.
- S.R. Scadding, Do Vestigial Organs Provide Evidence for Evolution? Evolutionary Theory 5:173–176, 1981.