‘How do we know that evolution is really happening?’
A biblical (‘young earth’) creationist responds to the BBC on Evolution
Published: 1 October 2015 (GMT+10)
Under the heading The Big Questions, the BBC’s website features an article with the above title, presented by Chris Baraniuk, a freelance science and technology journalist.1 His text is shown in red (with instances of bold type retained from the original) with my point-by-point responses interspersed.
The idea that species gradually change over many generations is the cornerstone of biology. This is how we know it’s true. Evolution is one of the greatest theories in all of science. It sets out to explain life: specifically, how the first simple life gave rise to all the huge diversity we see today, from bacteria to oak trees to blue whales.
A grandiose claim. But what is the evidence? All scientific claims must be judged strictly on the basis of the evidence: Is it testable? Is it repeatable? Is it falsifiable? It’s not true simply because someone says it’s true, whoever they are.
For scientists, evolution is a fact. We know that life evolved with the same certainty that we know the Earth is roughly spherical, that gravity keeps us on it, and that wasps at a picnic are annoying.
No, scientists make assumptions, see here. This claim needs to be qualified. It implies all scientists, but a vocal minority disagree. The history of science is replete with examples of where the majority, even a large majority, have eventually been proven to be wrong, so numbers can be misleading. No scientist disputes that the earth is roughly spherical or that gravity keeps us on it. These things can be verified ‘here and now’. Evolution, however, is a theory about what might have happened in the past, especially the distant past. We cannot visit the past, so we must decide what we think may have happened, then test its supporting assumptions as best we can. Inevitably, this relies very much upon how we interpret relevant facts. Believers in biblical creation see the same facts which evolutionists see, but they interpret them very differently, in support of the creationist model. The fossil record proves there were worms and dinosaurs—no-one disputes that—but not all scientists agree that they, or we humans for that matter, are related by descent from a common ancestor.
Not that you would know that from the media in some countries, where evolution is ferociously argued about—put down as “just a theory” or dismissed as a flat-out lie.
Perhaps this might just be because, under closer scrutiny, it lacks the very evidence that’s needed to prove it! But see: Argument: Evolution is true science, not ‘just a theory’. Unfortunately, there really is evidence that they are teaching lies to our kids through the school curricula and textbooks.
Why are biologists so certain about this? What is the evidence? The short answer is that there is so much it’s hard to know where to start. But here is a very cursory summary of the evidence that life has, indeed, evolved.
Err … a significant minority of biologists do question evolution. The majority are simply closed-minded to any alternative explanation on ideological grounds—see here and here. Even with ‘so much’ evidence, the validity of their explanation still depends very much upon how they interpret that evidence, in order to decide what it is actually telling us.
It might help to first spell out quickly what Darwin’s theory of evolution actually says. Most of us have the general idea: species change over time, only the fittest survive, and somehow a monkey-like creature gave rise to human beings.
Creationists, too, believe that species change over time, but life is actually going in the opposite direction to evolution: God supernaturally created all of life ‘good’, within distinctive ‘kinds’; the facts of biology and genetics increasingly refute the notion that created kinds could be bridged by mutations and natural selection. Far from evolving, life is in fact degenerating and there is good experimental evidence for this—see here. But how does the evidence stack up for these competing theories? (From here on, I use the term ‘evolution’ as follows: genetic changes that specifically code for new proteins, tissues or organs; in other words not simply ‘change’ but something which ‘engenders greater complexity’.)
Darwin’s theory of evolution says that each new organism is subtly different from its parents, and these differences can sometimes help the offspring or impede it. As organisms compete for food and mates, those with the advantageous traits produce more offspring, while those with unhelpful traits may not produce any. So within a given population, advantageous traits become common and unhelpful ones disappear.
There’s nothing here that creationists would particularly disagree with. Certain traits help organisms thrive in some environments more than others, so organisms with these traits will tend to prosper more than those which lack them. This is natural selection; but it is not evolution.
Given enough time, these changes mount up and lead to the appearance of new species and new types of organism, one small change at a time. Step by step, worms became fish, fish came onto land and developed four legs, those four-legged animals grew hair and—eventually—some of them started walking around on two legs, called themselves “humans” and discovered evolution.
This is where the facts are left behind and imagination is given free reign. No-one disputes that organisms change with each generation. However, without a mechanism to constantly generate novel proteins, tissues, organs and organisms over many generations, the limitations of change are a barrier to evolution—see here. And exactly how we define a new species is important to understand.
This can be hard to believe. It’s one thing to realise that you are not identical to our parents: perhaps your hair is a different colour, or you are taller, or have a more cheerful nature. But it is much harder to accept that you are descended, through countless generations, from a worm.
Hard to believe indeed—for a biblical creationist, it is impossible to believe, not least because upon close examination there is no real evidence to support it. It is incumbent upon those who are making these confident claims to demonstrate evolution experimentally—or, at the very least, to provide a sequence of steps by which it could conceivably occur, within their own millions-of-years time-frame. In fact, there are insuperable scientific barriers to the idea that humans have descended from some lowly ancestor, such as the problem of genetic entropy.
Plenty of people certainly don’t accept this. But forget all the drama for a moment. Instead, begin as Charles Darwin did: on your doorstep.
Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species, first published in 1859, begins by asking the reader to look around at the familiar. Not unexplored tropical islands or faraway jungles, but the farmyard and garden. There, you can easily see that organisms pass on characteristics to their offspring, changing the nature of that organism over time.
We can agree with part, but not all of this. Yes, organisms pass on their characteristics to their progeny. However, a little thought will demonstrate that, without the introduction of novelty, this would merely ensure that offspring have the same basic nature as their parents. Clearly, something additional would be required to change the nature of an organism over time.
Darwin was highlighting the process of cultivation and breeding. For generations, farmers and gardeners have purposefully bred animals to be bigger or stronger, and plants to yield more crops.
This is what we call artificial selection (human exploitation of the variation-inducing mechanisms; akin to natural selection) and it is nothing that creationists would disagree with. A simple understanding of genetics allows variation among offspring but this has its limits as Darwin knew from pigeon breeding, and anyone familiar with animal breeding discovers the truth of it; e.g. Dogs breeding dogs? That’s not evolution.
Breeders work just like Darwin imagined evolution worked. Suppose you want to breed chickens that lay more eggs. First you must find those hens that lay more eggs than the others. Then you must hatch their eggs, and ensure that the resulting chicks reproduce. These chicks should also lay more eggs.
If you repeat the process with each generation, eventually you'll have hens that lay far more eggs than wild chickens do. A female jungle fowl—the closest wild relative of the domestic chicken—might lay 30 eggs in a year, whereas farm hens may well produce ten times as many.
Correct. For clarification it should be pointed out that the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is directly descended from the jungle fowl (Gallus gallus). Chickens are merely a subspecies, one of the same ‘kind’. That is, their genetic blueprint is unique to that species, in spite of the huge diversity seen among the wild and domestic fowl.
These changes from generation to generation are called “descent with modification”.
A young chick will in many ways be similar to its parents: it will be recognisably a chicken, and definitely not an aardvark, and it will probably be more similar to its parents than it is to other chickens. But it won’t be identical.
Agreed. But it is still 100% a chicken—it still has the same basic genetic blueprint of a jungle fowl, from which it is descended.
“That’s what evolution is,” says Steve Jones of University College London in the UK. “It’s a series of mistakes that build up.”
Jones (with Baraniuk) is here conflating two separate things: 1) natural selection (or in the case of chickens, artificial selection) which highlights certain features present in the genetic make-up of the parents, which previously may have been less obvious or even dormant (‘switched off’); and 2) mutations, the DNA copying mistakes which are an inevitable result of the transfer of lots of information from one generation to the next; although there are designed DNA repair mechanisms that correct the majority of the copying mistakes.
You might think that breeding can only make a few changes, but there seems to be no end to it. “No case is on record of a variable being ceasing to be variable under cultivation,” wrote Darwin. “Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still often yield new varieties: our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.”
This is purely a reflection of the genetic diversity present in the population of that plant or animal species. There is scope for astonishing variations (just as no two people are genetically identical other than identical twins), but strictly within the limits clearly defined by the genetic code for that kind of creature. Wheat remains a variety of grass. Chickens will always be a domestic variety of jungle fowl. There is no scientific justification to extrapolate from this and propose that they could change into a completely new kind of animal over time.
Breeding, Darwin argued, is essentially evolution under human supervision. It shows us that the tiny changes from generation to generation can add up. “It’s inevitable,” says Jones. “It’s bound to happen.”
Breeding, or artificial selection, is no more than the principle of natural selection in operation, but under planned human intervention. It is certainly not evolution of the kind implied by Darwin, Baraniuk or Jones in which, allegedly, genuinely new information (specified complexity) is being added to the population that was not present originally.
Still, it’s quite a step from carefully breeding chickens that lay more eggs to the natural evolution of new species. According to evolutionary theory, those chickens are ultimately descended from dinosaurs, and if you go further back, from fish.
Right here, you see the bait-and-switch tactic, so beloved of evolution popularisers. Again, it’s important to be careful to define terms and not to make sweeping assumptions—extrapolating beyond that which can be empirically demonstrated. Creationists do not deny that a ‘new species’ can arise (speciation), though evolutionists often fail to properly define exactly what they mean by a species. Biologists have identified several ways in which this can occur as discussed here. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with new information of the kind which would be required to produce distinct, new kinds: For example, fish into dinosaurs, or dinosaurs into chickens.
The answer is simply that evolution takes a long time to make big changes. To see evidence of that, you have to look at older records. You have to look at fossils.
As evolutionists have no direct evidence or proof of this input of significant new information in living populations, they must assume that it happens very, very slowly, over millions of years. It’s a deferral to, ‘given enough time, anything can happen’, so they are forced to look for indirect ‘proof’ that this really occurred. Their main appeal is usually to the fossil record. But despite what they say, there are all sorts of problems with the idea that fossils evidence evolution. It really comes down to how they interpret the fossil record.
Fossils are the remains of long-dead organisms, preserved in rock. Because rocks are laid down in layers, one on top of the other, the fossil record is generally set out in date order: the oldest fossils are at the bottom.
Or more likely, it is because of some sort of rapid catastrophic event, actually necessary for exquisite preservation we often observe in fossils (also see here), not to mention the discovery of soft tissue inside fossils. The soon-to-be fossils and strata are generally ‘sorted’ and layered in rapid succession according to their size and density by rapid geological upheavals and flooding (catastrophism), and/or global continent-wide floodwater run-off, for which there is abundant evidence (see e.g. here and here)—the global flood of Genesis being the obvious candidate. The events following the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 provide ‘living’ proof that stratification can occur very rapidly, in days, or even hours, not millions of years; see here.
Running through the fossil record makes it clear that life has changed over time.
On the contrary, life has changed relatively little. What we do see from the fossil record is evidence of huge biological diversity and of mass burials, both of animal and plant life, victims of a global catastrophic event. Many of these have become extinct. But there are also many examples of ‘living fossils’—see here—living counterparts of plants and animals which were fossilised allegedly millions or even billions of years ago, but which are instantly recognisable by their remarkable similarity to ‘ancient’ fossils. Yet, over that same time period, according to evolutionists, some worms, through countless generations and transitions, have evolved into people.2 Other branches of worms have remained … just worms. The fact of ‘stasis’, the unchanged nature of some fossils through evolutionary deep time while others have allegedly changed (evolved) out of all recognition is a huge problem, not to say embarrassment, for evolutionists.
The oldest fossils of all are the remains of single-celled organisms like bacteria, with more complicated things like animals and plants only appearing much later. Among the animal fossils, fish appear much earlier than amphibians, birds or mammals. Our closest relatives the apes are only found in the shallowest—youngest—rocks.
This is a reflection of the hydrodynamics and geological upheavals involved in the rapid burial and fossilisation of these various creatures, as well as other factors, such as the ability, perhaps, of mammals and birds to escape to higher ground amidst rising floodwaters; see here. Note also that rock layers do not require separation by ‘millions of years’, but can form simultaneously (see above). Evolutionists ‘date’ rocks according to typical fossils found within them, and date fossils according to the rock layers they are typically found in—circular reasoning!
“I always think that the most convincing case for evolution is in the fossil record,” says Jones. “It’s noticeable that one page in every six in the Origin of Species is to do with the fossil record. [Darwin] knew that that was an irrefutable case that evolution had taken place.”
Jones is being disingenuous here, or is suffering from selective memory loss. Darwin himself was very aware that the transitional fossils available in his day, predicted and required by his theory, were conspicuously absent—and it greatly troubled him: “The number of intermediate varieties which have formally existed must have been enormous. Why then is not every geological formation full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated chain; and this, perhaps, is the most serious objection which can be urged against my theory.”3 Instead, he placed his hopes in future finds, that the so-called ‘missing links’ would be found by later generations. Millions of fossil-finds later, there exists far fewer so-called ‘missing links’ than he hoped for and most of these are hotly disputed; see here and here. Moreover, the biggest problem Darwin saw in the fossils for evolution, the so-called ‘Cambrian explosion’, is just as inexplicable for evolutionists as it was in Darwin’s day. As time goes on, invariably these become debunked, often by evolutionists themselves, such is the lack of consensus, as noted earlier—see here.
By carefully studying fossils, scientists have been able to link many extinct species with ones that survive today, sometimes indicating that one descended from another.
By assessing the similarities and variations between the diverse types of fossils known to science, palaeontologists categorise fossils into a hierarchy of various groupings and make deductions about their relationships. But this is often a very subjective matter (as this example shows). Often evolutionists cannot agree among themselves as to what is related to what, or which similarities are most relevant. For instance, some experts tend to be ‘splitters’ (tending to multiply the creation of new species) and others are ‘lumpers’ (who tend to assign many fossils within a species, allowing for variation between them). Creationists believe that commonality of various features across distinct kinds amounts to economy of design, a common feature of good manufacturing practice and indicative of a common designer—God. It’s an example of how different starting assumptions lead to very different conclusions.
For example, in 2014 researchers described the fossils of a 55-million year old carnivore called Dormaalocyon, which may be a common ancestor of all today’s lions, tigers and bears. The shapes of Dormaalocyon’s teeth gave it away.
The famous Nebraska Man, an alleged ape-man, was built around the tooth of what turned out to be an extinct pig—see here—so it’s wise to be careful about such claims and interpretations; many of these have later been debunked (usually with a good deal less publicity than their original headlining announcement). In the case of Dormaalocyon plenty of teeth of this species were unearthed but little of the rest of the skeleton—just a piece of jaw and a few ankle bones. Notice, in the above statement by Baraniuk, the subtle inclusion of the word ‘may’; this gives evolutionists the flexibility to change their minds at a later date, as experience has shown that, often, these claims simply do not stand the test of time. This ‘sensational’ fossil of a 2 pound (1 kg) animal was given a good deal of positive evolutionary publicity when it was announced in January 2014 but has attracted almost no attention since.
Still, you may not be convinced. Those animals may all have similar teeth, but lions, tigers and Dormaalocyons are still a distinct species. How do we really know that one species evolved into another?
The fossil record is only so much help here, because it is incomplete. “If you look at most fossil records, what you actually see is one form that lasts quite a long time and then the next bunch of fossils that you’ve got is quite different from what you had before,” says Jones.
A little earlier Jones was quoted as saying the fossil record is our best evidence for evolution. Now he’s admitting it is incomplete because he must presume there were transitional forms between the ones that persisted unchanged over a long time (termed stasis) and the ones that ‘suddenly’ appear which are “quite different” from them! So just where are all the ‘missing links’, if evolution is true?
But as we have dug up more and more remains, a wealth of “transitional fossils” has been discovered. These “missing links” are halfway houses between familiar species.
Ah! Baraniuk has thus far admitted the uncomfortable and undeniable truth, albeit breaking the bad news as gently as possible: The fossil record is incomplete—even despite many millions of fossils now discovered. Now he must do some special pleading to convince us that it’s not really that incomplete! He boldly asserts that there is in fact a wealth of ‘transitional fossils’. If Darwinian evolution is true, having proceeded via imperceptible progressive steps, there should be a seamless sequence of transitional fossils. In fact, they should be every bit as abundant in the fossil record as ‘familiar species’, being ‘success stories’ in their own right. But that’s simply not what we find. Either they are absent altogether, or there is a relative handful of disputed transitional fossils which display quite significant jumps in morphology from their alleged fossil forebears.
Very often, the remains of the alleged missing links are fragmentary, sometimes even hugely so, as this well-known example demonstrates. Hence a fertile imagination can be very useful here, but is often also the very reason that such ‘links’ are hotly contested amongst evolutionists themselves. Furthermore, some of the ‘half-way house’ intermediates which evolutionists propose are actually massive jumps in evolutionary terms and are not confirmation of gradualism at all. The facts refute the evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record and claims of missing links—for more see Order in the fossil record and The evolutionary parade of ‘missing links’.
For instance, earlier we said that chickens are ultimately descended from dinosaurs. In 2000 a team led by Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences described a small dinosaur called Microraptor, which had feathers similar to modern birds and may have been able to fly.
For a thorough assessment of this fossil creature, see New four-winged feathered dinosaur?
It is also possible to observe the evolution of a new species as it happens.
In 2009, Peter and Rosemary Grant of Princeton University in New Jersey described how a new species of finch came into being on one of the Galápagos Islands: the same islands visited by Darwin.
In 1981, a single medium ground finch arrived on an island called Daphne Major. He was unusually large and sang a somewhat different song to the local birds.
He managed to breed, and his offspring inherited his unusual traits. After a few generations, they were reproductively isolated: they looked different from the other birds, and sang different songs, so could only breed among themselves. This little group of birds had formed a new species: they had “speciated”.
These facts pose no problem for creationists. This is an example of natural selection in operation. Darwin’s finches happen to display a large amount of variability within a species but, at the end of the day, they are still finches. The dog ‘kind’ displays similar diversity of variation. Poodles look remarkably different from wolves, but are definitely related in a way that dogs and cats aren’t.
This new species is only subtly different from its forebears: their beaks are different and they sing an unusual song. But it is possible to watch far more dramatic changes as they happen.
The variability has nothing to do with ‘microbes to man’ evolution. Different traits can come and go, according to environmental pressures in localised environments. Smaller beaked finches may give way to larger beaked varieties as changing environmental factors (e.g. different food types available) favour the latter more. This is an example of adaption through natural selection, selecting from pre-existing and sometimes dormant genetic information. Then environmental conditions revert again, conveying a marginal advantage to finches with smaller beaks. However, this environmental adaption will never change finches into eagles, see here, and over longer time scales, as certain populations become more isolated, some traits may be lost permanently through mutations and genetic drift. This is quite the opposite of what evolution predicts.
Richard Lenski of Michigan State University is in charge of the world’s longest-running evolution experiment.
The claims that this experiment is evidence of genuine evolution have been thoroughly debunked by creationists—see here. The burden of proof rests upon those running the experiment to demonstrate that genuinely new information (specified complexity) has been created. They are unable to do so.
Since 1988, Lenski has been tracking 12 populations of Escherichia coli bacteria in his lab. The bacteria are left to their own devices in storage containers, with nutrients to feed on, and Lenski’s team regularly freezes small samples.
The E. coli are no longer the same as they were in 1988. “In all 12 populations, the bacteria have evolved to grow much faster than did their ancestor,” says Lenski. They have adapted to the specific mix of chemicals he gives them.
“It’s a very direct demonstration of Darwin’s idea of adaptation by natural selection. Now, 20-some years into the experiment, the typical lineage grows about 80% faster than did the ancestor.”
And so we’ve also seen the same kind of improvements, for example, by selectively breeding grasses to produce modern cereal plants, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with big-picture evolution as defined earlier.
In 2008, Lenski’s team reported that the bacteria had made a huge leap forward. The mixture they live in includes a chemical called citrate, which E. coli cannot digest. But 31,500 generations into the experiment, one of the 12 populations started feeding on citrate. This would be like humans suddenly developing the ability to eat tree bark.
The comparison is completely false. E. coli is already capable of utilizing citrate as an energy source under anaerobic conditions, as discussed in the article cited earlier.
The citrate was always there, says Lenski, “so all of the populations have [had] the opportunity in a sense to evolve the ability to use this. But only one of the 12 populations has found their way to do this.”
At this point, Lenski’s habit of regularly freezing samples of the bacteria proved crucial. He was able to go back through older samples, and trace the changes that led to the E. coli eating citrate.
To do this, he had to look under the hood. He used a tool that wasn’t available in Darwin’s day, but which has revolutionised our understanding of evolution as a whole: genetics.
All living things carry genes, in the form of DNA.
Genes control how an organism grows and develops, and they are passed on from parent to offspring. When a mother chicken lays lots of eggs, and passes that trait onto her offspring, she does so through her genes.
These are uncontroversial facts.
Over the last century scientists have catalogued the genes from different species. It turns out that all living things store information in their DNA in the same way: they all use the same “genetic code”.
What’s more, organisms also share many genes. Thousands of genes found in human DNA may also be found in the DNA of other creatures, including plants and even bacteria.
It may be that in a majority of cases organisms share genes, but that doesn’t mean that copying genes and letting them evolve will produce new information. Similarly, photocopying a page from a book does not create ‘new information’, and nor does copying it and pasting it into a different part of the book, which will also almost certainly result in nonsense as it does not make sense in a different part of the book. Likewise with rearranging the pages in a book.
These two facts imply that all modern life has descended from a single common ancestor, the “last universal ancestor”, which lived billions of years ago.
This is only true if one rules out the One Creator alternative. The fact that all life shares the same planet, and unrelated species have many biological systems in common to suit a particular environment, means that creationists would expect to find many similarities in the DNA of unrelated species. Chimps have more biological similarities to humans than fish, so we would expect to find a lot more similarity between the DNA of chimps and humans than between fish and humans, but it does not mean we are related to chimps by common ancestry—or that humans are ‘advanced’ chimps. The genetic differences are really what is significant—see here—and creationists maintain that these strongly indicate distinct created kinds. Moreover, it is unnecessary to invoke billions of years which is merely a faith statement. This article discusses further the claim that common design points to common ancestry.
By comparing how many genes organisms share, we can figure out how they are related. For instance, humans share more genes with apes like chimps and gorillas than other animals, as much as 96%. That suggests they are our closest relatives.
Humans share 50% of their genes with bananas, but it does not mean we are related to bananas. And, as Professor Jones once helpfully pointed out, it does not make bananas half human, or humans half banana.4 By the same criteria, sharing genes with anthropoids does not make us monkeys. The actual figure is disputable, depending also upon what is being measured and has been coming down, even to as low as around 87%—see here. The very high figure quoted by Baraniuk is clearly indicative of his evolutionary bias; he is clearly trying to urge as far as possible just how closely we are (allegedly) related to chimps.
“Try to explain that in any other way than the fact that those relationships are based on a sequence of changes through time,” says Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London. “We have a common ancestor with chimpanzees, and we and they have diverged since then from that common ancestor.”
As shown above, there is another explanation, design by a Creator, but Stringer has ruled this out of court, asserting by faith that chimps are our relatives and that we have a common ancestor (for which there is not a shred of evidence). All humans, the world over, do have common ancestry in supernaturally created Adam and Eve—see here and here. We do not share common ancestry with any other kinds of animals (or plants or bacteria for that matter).
We can also use genetics to track the detail of evolutionary changes.
Changes, not evolutionary changes—this is to assume the truth of evolution before one has even engaged with the evidence; it’s also blatant circular reasoning.
“You can compare different types of bacteria and find the genes that they share,” says Nancy Moran at the University of Texas at Austin. “Once you recognise these genes… you can look at how they have evolved in different kinds of populations.”
This is simply more evidence of a common designer and common functionality. Again, it is only evidence for common ancestry, and thus evolution, if that has been assumed already. In any case, changes within bacterial populations (bacteria ultimately remaining bacteria) is not evidence of bacteria-to-biologist evolution.
When Lenski went back through his E. coli samples, he found that the citrate-eating bacteria had several changes to their DNA that the other bacteria didn’t. These changes are called mutations.
Some of them had happened long before the bacteria developed their new ability. “In and of themselves, [these mutations] did not confer the ability to grow on citrate, but set the stage for subsequent mutations that then conferred that ability,” says Lenski.
This complex chain of events helps explain why only one population evolved the ability.
It also illustrates an important point about evolution. A particular evolutionary step may seem extremely unlikely, but if there are enough organisms being pushed to take it, one of them probably will—and it only takes one.
This is more evolutionary bluff. There is not a shred of evidence in Lenski’s experiments for a genuine increase of information in the genome of the bacteria, and for which evolutionists simply cannot provide proof—see Richard Dawkins here and Was Dawkins stumped? In addition, there is no scientific basis for the assertions that organisms may be ‘pushed to take’ an ‘evolutionary step’.
Lenski’s E. coli show us that evolution can give organisms radically new abilities. But evolution doesn’t always make things better. Its effects are often, to our eyes at least, rather random.
The mutations that lead to changes in an organism are very rarely for the better, says Moran. In fact, most mutations have either no impact, or a negative impact, on the way an organism functions.
‘Evolution can give organisms radically new abilities’? No evidence has been provided for this audacious claim. Mutation-induced changes ‘are rarely for the better’? Absolutely. So, to use an analogy, if a trader makes an average net loss of £1 a day, over a long enough period of time, it will result in certain bankruptcy, not prosperity. Why won’t evolutionists admit the startlingly obvious? Even if an occasional mutation happens to have an advantageous spin-off, it will be outnumbered by many more, as Moran herself admits, which have either no impact, or a negative impact. Generations subsequent will continue this trend in precisely the same way and quite opposite to that predicted by evolution—see The evolution train’s a goin’ in the wrong direction and Genetic entropy and simple organisms.
When bacteria are confined to isolated environments, they sometimes pick up unwelcome genetic mutations that get passed on directly to every generation. Over time, this gradually hampers the species.
“It really shows the process of evolution,” says Moran. “It’s not all just adaptation and things getting better, there’s also this big potential for things to get worse.”
What’s more, organisms sometimes lose abilities. For instance, animals that live in dark caves often lose their eyes.
See this article which discusses such losses and further links in the following paragraph.
This may seem odd. We tend to think of evolution as a process of biological betterment, of species improving and becoming less primitive. But this is not necessarily what happens.
This is tacit acknowledgement that a lot of what we actually observe is contrary to alleged onwards and upwards evolution and is a further example of bait and switch. This is simply adaption through natural selection—not evolution—which has favoured individuals in a unique ecological niche through loss of genetic information. For example, loss of wings favouring mutant beetles on a windy island because fewer will be blown out to sea. Once that information has been lost to a population, it can never regained through alleged evolutionary processes, let alone contribute to the evolution of new traits underpinned by new genetic coding—see here. But note how evolutionists misinterpret experimental results pertaining to loss of genetic information and then falsely believe it to be proof of evolution—see here and here.
The notion of betterment can be traced back to a scientist named Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who was pushing the idea that organisms evolve before Darwin was. His contributions were vital.
But unlike Darwin, Lamarck thought that organisms got better at living in their environments as a deliberate reaction to those environments, as though they inherently wanted to improve.
Lamarck’s theory would say that giraffes have long necks because their ancestors stretched to reach tall trees, and then passed their newly-acquired long necks on to their offspring.
“Darwin wrote about Lamarck privately and said his theory is complete nonsense, it’s untestable,” says Jones. “What did he mean they wanted to improve? How would you test that?”
Creationists share similar sentiments about naturalistic evolution. There’s a glaring irony here regarding the scorn of Darwin (and other evolutionists) for the lack of testability of Larmarck’s idea. The same is true of most of their own speculative ideas.
Darwin had an alternative theory: natural selection. It offers a completely different explanation for giraffes’ long necks.
But natural selection can only ever select from, or cull already existing information, by switching genes on or off, or deleting them altogether. Again, evolutionists have yet to demonstrate that it can create new information—see here.
Imagine an ancestor of modern giraffes, something a bit like a deer or antelope. If there were lots of tall trees where this animal lived, the animals with the longest necks would get more food, and do better than those with shorter necks.
After a few generations, all the animals would have slightly longer necks than their ancestors did. Again, those with the longest would do best, so over many years, giraffes’ necks would gradually get longer, because those with short necks tended not to have offspring
So the allele (gene) which produces shorter necks might eventually be lost to the population, never to be regained again. In this hypothetical example, natural selection has narrowed down the population to only those giraffes carrying the gene for longer necks, so the average length of giraffes’ necks has increased compared to the original population. But there are limitations to how far this process can go. And the animals are still, and always will be, 100% giraffes.
The mutations underlying this all happened at random, and were just as likely to produce short necks as long ones. But those short-neck mutations didn’t tend to last.
So, according to this imagined example, genetic information was lost.
Animals like giraffes are so striking because they appear so perfectly adapted. They live in areas where the trees are tall and only have leaves high off the ground, so of course they have long necks to reach them.
“That kind of image is actually what confuses people, I think, because it looks so perfect, it looks designed,” says Moran. But if you look closer, it is the result of a long chain of little changes. “You realise, oh, it’s not designed, it’s actually one odd event that might have spread and led to another odd event.”
A giraffe’s long neck and other features are designed. Nevertheless, design includes the in-built flexibility for organisms to ‘spread out’ and become better adapted to a variety of environments through natural selection. Evolutionists are compelled to deny the rather obvious evidence of design staring them in the face (‘the emperor has no clothes’), because design implies a designer. Instead, through fanciful bluff, they propose unguided naturalistic forces—evolution—to be the guiding hand behind appearances of design, which really amounts to doublespeak.
We now have all the pieces of evidence that, when put together, show that life has evolved.
Did we miss this compelling evidence somehow? Many better-informed evolutionists have become so unconvinced by the evidence that they have become creationists. World renowned plant geneticist Dr John Sanford is one of many such people—see here, or another example here.
Descent with modification, which is caused by random mutations in genes, ultimately leads to gradual changes and the formation of new species—much of it driven by natural selection, which weeds out those organisms that are less suited to their environments.
Absolutely, ‘weeds out’ being the operative term. The overall process is characterised by loss of information, not gain, so evolution doesn’t happen as evolutionists claim. What we observe points to change in the opposite direction to that required by evolution; not greater complexity but less. And there remains absolutely no proof that ‘new species’, however we might define the term, is synonymous with new genetic information.
Finally, let’s apply all this to ourselves.
Human evolution has always been a concept difficult for some to stomach, but it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to it now, says Stringer.
Evolution is the only option for those who subscribe rigidly to materialism. For informed creationists, the scientific evidence simply does not support this position, but points to a supernatural Creator—something many evolutionists will not consider, see this admission by Richard Lewontin here.
Homo sapiens is believed to have evolved in Africa before spreading all over the world.
The fossil record shows a gradual change from ape-like animals walking on all fours to bipedal creatures that gradually developed bigger brains.
A considerable amount of wishful thinking going on here and for which there is no substantive evidence. The image of ape-like creatures developing in progressive steps to a ‘modern’ Caucasian human is surely the most iconic image of evolution. Yet it known to contain false and fraudulent information—see here—not to mention racist overtones, yet it still persists as the epitome of evolutionary images in many school textbooks. For that is the ultimate idealistic goal of many grass roots evolutionists; to convince that we are really no more than advanced animals, not dignified human beings ‘made in God’s image’ (Gen. 1:27) and to whom, therefore, we are ultimately accountable. As for the fossil record, see this article for a brief overview of the better-known ape/human missing links, each of which have failed the test of time. Doubtless new ‘finds’ will fuel future attention-grabbing headlines, but see Not another (yawn) ‘ape-man’.
The first humans to leave Africa interbred with other hominin species, such as the Neanderthals. As a result, people of European and Asian descent carry Neanderthal genes in their DNA, but people of African descent don’t.
Neandertals, once believed by evolutionists to be ‘ape-men’ or sub-human, have been proven by genetic science to be fully human. Their distinctive traits and features are in essence no more different from people alive today than people in the Far East are different from those in Africa or Europe. By interbreeding, their distinctive traits have become diluted. Adam would have carried enough genetic diversity to account for all the genetic diversity spread throughout humanity today and the Neandertals of the past—see here.
This all happened thousands of years ago, but the story is not over. We are still evolving.
So say goo-to-you evolutionists; a ‘story’ indeed. Observed changes in human beings do not qualify as evolution as defined earlier in this article, the Big Picture sort which links chimps and ourselves.
For instance, in the 1950s a British doctor called Anthony Allison was studying a genetic disorder called sickle-cell anaemia, which is common in some African populations. People with the disorder have misshapen red blood cells, which don’t carry oxygen around the body as well as they might.
An example of cell damage caused by a mutation, representing a corruption/loss of existing information.
Allison discovered that the east African populations were divided into groups of lowland-dwelling people, who were prone to the disease, and people who lived in the highlands, who were not.
It turned out that people carrying the sickle-cell trait got an unexpected benefit. It protected them from malaria, which was only really a threat in the lowlands. For those people, it was worth carrying the sickle-cell mutation, even if their children might be anaemic.
Notice the trade-off: deformed cells, the result of loss of genetic information which, whilst conveying an incidental benefit, has resulted in a disadvantageous trait in the population, the greater likelihood of becoming anaemic. There is no net gain of genetic information as Baraniuk is implying. The sickle cell anaemia evolutionary link has been thoroughly refuted—see here and here, and further comment below.
By contrast, people living in highland areas were not at risk from malaria. That meant there was no advantage to carrying the sickle-cell trait, so its otherwise-harmful nature had meant it disappeared.
Natural selection at work, but not evolution. World authority on sickle-cell anemia, Dr Felix Konotey-Ahulu, has no time for this clutching-at-straws example of evolution.
Of course, there are all sorts of questions about evolution that we still haven’t answered.
But perhaps most tellingly, evolutionists are unable to provide basic definitive experimental proof of a spontaneous increase of information in the genome of a living species. Moreover, if, as evolutionists are constantly parroting, ‘evolution is happening all around us’, it should be quite a straightforward matter to provide abundant evidence for this. Otherwise evolution (as defined earlier) remains ‘dead in the water’—an ideologically-driven theory with not just one, but numerous fatal flaws.
Stringer offers a simple one: what was the genetic change that allowed humans to walk upright, and why was that mutation so successful? Right now we don’t know, but with more fossils and better genetics, we might someday.
Or, more likely, it will never be answered, because it didn’t happen like that. God created human beings as a distinct ‘kind’ (see 1 Cor. 15:39) and there remains no hard evidence that mankind ever evolved from apes, or any other kind.
What we do know is that evolution is a fact of nature. It is the basis for life on Earth as we know it.
According to the evolutionary paradigm many people believe it to be a fact. However, the allied belief that life arose spontaneously from non-life by natural means remains totally unsubstantiated—see here. And as argued throughout this discourse, neither is there proof of ‘upward’ evolution (from microbial cells to microbiologists). In fact, as scientific knowledge has advanced, it has singularly failed to provide the evidence which earlier evolutionists predicted; so, increasingly, evolutionists have retreated to ad hoc explanations (‘just so’ stories) to maintain the theory, so attempting to make it unfalsifiable—see here.
So next time you’re out and about, whether it’s in your garden or on a farm or just walking down a road, take a look at the animals and plants around you and think about how they all got there.
And give thanks to their Creator, and yours, God.
Each of the organisms you see, whether it’s a tiny insect or a great big elephant, is the latest member of an ancient family. Their ancestors go back in an unbroken line for over 3 billion years, to the dawn of life itself. So do yours.
People will believe what they will. Good scientists examine all the facts before drawing their conclusions. Either creation created itself (evolution) through as yet unidentified—let alone unproven—naturalistic processes, as this rebuttal has sought to show, or it is replete with all the hallmarks we might reasonably expect to find if it was made by an intelligent, all-powerful Creator (biblical creation). You decide.
References and notes
- Baraniuk, C., How do we know that evolution is really happening? www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150803-how-do-we-know-evolution-is-real, accessed 5 August 2015. Return to text.
- Conway Morris, S., Once we were worms, New Scientist 179(2406):34ff, August 2003. Return to text.
- Darwin, C., On the Origin of Species, 1st ed., p. 280, 1859. Return to text.
- Jones, S., interviewed at the Australian Museum on The Science Show, broadcast on ABC radio, 12 January 2002, www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/almost-like-a-whale/3504048, 13 February 2012. Return to text.