This article is from
Journal of Creation 37(1):29–32, April 2023

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Evolution’s last pillars are tottering

A review of: The Last Pillars of Darwinian Evolution Falsified: Further evidence proving Darwinian evolution wrong by Jerry Bergman
Westbow Press, IN, 2022



Jerry Bergman is a famous creationist author who has extensively published over many decades and who has taught at several universities. He describes the research that went into this book:

“This project has been for me a lifelong study for which this book is a summary. It is the culmination of four decades of research on the issue of evolution, 41 years of teaching life science at the college level, and over 1,700 publications in 2,400 college libraries in 65 nations and 13 languages” (p. xvii).

In terms of specifics, this work focuses on taxonomy, so-called convergent evolution, irreducible complexity, pseudogenes, and antibiotic resistance. Bergman goes into considerable detail on all of these.

What is a species, and what does it matter?

Author Bergman discusses the many subjectivities of taxonomic classification. How much variation should there be in a group before deciding if it is one species or more than one species? If reproductive isolation is the criterion for recognizing a species, does this reproductive isolation have to be absolute, or is it sufficient if it is usual? If infertile hybrids form between two species bred in captivity, do we still recognize two species, or should there only be one? And that deals with captive animals. How can we practically determine reproductive isolation (or lack thereof) in most cases in nature? How can we determine if any reproductive isolation we determine is genetic in nature, or if it is mechanical or from some other factor? So much for macroscopic life. How do we define species in bacteria when bacteria can swap genes? Finally, how do we recognize species among fossils?

Speciation, by itself, is not the same thing as evolution. Bergman quips:

“Although necessary and useful, the species concept has clear limits that disallow its use to document macroevolution. Changes within a species that are sufficiently large to prevent interbreeding do not provide evidence for macroevolution. Even the much-touted ring species cases are rare and problematic. Neo-Darwinism requires evidences of changes much greater than simply the prevention of interbreeding between two very similar lifeforms” (p. 23).

Homology and convergence: evolutionists want to have it both ways

In conventional evolutionary thinking, the more similar two organisms are to each other, the more recent their common ancestor. However, two organisms can be similar to each other even though they are not closely related. That is what convergence is all about. Structures are homologous if they are believed to have arisen from a common ancestor that had that structure. By contrast, evolutionists invoke convergence on an ad hoc basis whenever there are unexpected similarities between life-forms that are otherwise thought to be distantly related.

Evolutionists try to explain convergence in terms of life-forms evolving under similar selection processes that derived from being situated in similar environments, coupled with the presumed fact that there is only a finite number of ways a biological structure can evolve into existence. This could theoretically explain convergent features that are superficially similar to each other, such as the bird wing and the insect wing. It is quite another thing to invoke convergence for very similar outcomes.

Consider placentals and marsupials. They are each entirely separate lineages of mammals that are very distant from each other on the mammalian evolutionary ‘tree’. Yet the placental wolf (Canis) and the Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus) have extraordinary similarities between their respective skulls. Bergman comments:

“A Tasmanian wolf (thylacine) skull, when examined carefully and compared side by side, can be seen to be distinctly different from a North American wolf skull, even though many of their major skull traits and their overall shape are almost identical” (p. 46).

Bergman adds:

“… the American wolf and the Tasmanian wolf mentioned above, are far too similar to have evolved separately from an ancient common ancestor during the early Cretaceous, as convergent evolution theory postulates … . Their skeletal structures, especially their skulls and teeth, are so similar that, unless compared side by side and labeled, only someone who has previously studied the difference can distinguish between them. The close similarity is used as part of a museum exhibit in Australia to illustrate the fact that there are fewer differences between the Tasmanian wolf and Canis lupus than between many dog breeds … . As part of their final exam, zoology students at Oxford were required to identify 100 zoological specimens. A ‘dog’ skull that actually was the Tasmanian Wolf Thylacinus, successfully fooled many students until they caught on to the ploy. The examiners then placed an actual dog skull in their laboratory exam, which again confused the students. Dawkins noted that the main ‘way to tell the difference is by the two prominent holes in the palate bone, which are characteristic of marsupials generally’” (pp. 49–50).

Let us take this further. Bergman quotes Harvard’s Stephen Jay Gould, who said human origins “is the product of massive historical contingency, and we would probably never arise again even if life’s tape could be replayed a thousand times” (p. 52).

So evolutionists are being internally inconsistent. On one hand, they say that it is astronomically unlikely that evolution could closely repeat itself. Then evolutionists turn around, and, with reference to the extraordinary similarities between the skull of the marsupial wolf and the skull of the placental wolf, they say that evolution has in fact closely repeated itself. So which is it?

Co-option and exaptation do not overcome irreducible complexity

Co-option and exaptation refer to biological structures that supposedly evolved in a response to selective pressures for one function, and then were co-opted by evolutionary processes to have a different function. For instance, one theory of bird-wing origins is that wings evolved in order to make birds seem larger and more ferocious, and these were subsequently ‘recruited’ by later evolutionary processes for flight.

We hear that irreducible complexity is not real because the components of a complex system can each have alternative functions. This confuses the issue, which is not the function of a component itself, but how the function of the entire system could arise step by step. For instance, the spring in the mousetrap, acting alone, can be used in many different devices. Fair enough. However, the ‘springiness’ of the spring is not the essence of the mousetrap—it is the unique configuration of all the components of a mousetrap, including the spring, that enables it to function as a mousetrap. That is what needs to be explained by evolution.

Bergman touches on some of the challenges facing a putative evolutionary explanation, for the origins of complex structures, resulting from the co-option of components originally having different functions. He comments:

“… the availability of these parts would have to be synchronized … the parts must be correctly and properly positioned in 3-D space so they can be properly assembled … . Even if all of the parts are available at the proper time, the vast majority of assembly variations will be non-functional or dysfunctional” (pp. 145–146).

So the irreducible complexity remains.

Redundancies in living things do not vitiate irreducible complexity

Some evolutionists have vulgarized the Intelligent Design explanation as a ‘jackpot or nothing’ one. But that is exactly what it is, and evolutionists have failed to show how the emergence of a complex biological structure can be anything other than ‘jackpot or nothing’.

Evolutionists have argued that biological systems only appear to be irreducibly complex because these systems once had possessed numerous redundancies that enabled the components to function independent from each other. These redundancies have since been removed by evolutionary processes, leaving the remaining components in a state of lockstep dependence upon each other—hence the apparent irreducible complexity.

To begin with, the explanation is ad hoc. There is no evidence for any such one-time grand redundancies, and, if they are going to pooh-pooh the Intelligent Design explanation, the burden of proof is on the evolutionists to show that they once existed. Note also that spot redundancies should not be confused with the hypothesized grand redundancies that presumably governed the whole. In the Krebs cycle, for example, a few of the compounds can be synthesized by alternative pathways. The fact that parts of the Krebs cycle are redundant is very different from saying that the Krebs cycle as a whole is, or once was, redundant. The fact that there are ‘shortcuts’ within the Krebs cycle is very different from suggesting that the entire Krebs cycle can be bypassed by a shortcut. Bergman quips:

“Reducing the cycle by one step does not negate the fact that it still requires the remaining parts of the cycle. It would not be irreducibly complex only if a single quark were responsible for the biochemical results that the Krebs cycle achieves” (p. 123).

An analogy with the automobile may help. The car thief can do a ‘shortcut’ around the key-starting system by short-circuiting the wires that lead to the starter motor, and driving away the car. This means that, from a mechanical point of view, the key-starting system is redundant. However, this individual redundancy certainly does not mean that the automobile as a whole is a redundant system, much less that the automobile could spontaneously arise, step-by-step, without intelligent design.

‘Scaffolding’ does not overcome irreducible complexity

The stone arch is a classic example of irreducible complexity. It cannot be simplified. There can be no step-by-step evolution of the arch, because there is no such thing as a quarter-arch or half-arch. It is a ‘jackpot or nothing’ situation: it is either a full arch or no arch at all. Some evolutionists have tried to get around this by pointing out the fact that the arch can be constructed, step by step, by using scaffolding. One stone in the arch is not dependent upon any other stone until such time that the scaffold is removed. Let us take a closer look at this contention.

The scaffold enables a Roman arch to be constructed, and holds the stones in place, relative to each other, until they are all in place. While the scaffold is in place, stones can be added or removed at will. Once the arch is constructed, and the scaffold removed, the stones in the arch are in complete dependence upon each other, and no stone can be removed without the arch collapsing. This is the irreducible complexity.

Note that the scaffold does not eliminate the irreducible complexity: it merely relocates the irreducible complexity from the arch to the scaffold! (figure 1). Any old collection of wooden pieces will not spontaneously make an arch-constructing scaffold: it takes intelligent design to tailor-make a scaffold that is even minimally suitable for erecting a stone arch. In addition, a suitable scaffold cannot arise from a step-by-step processes. Just as there is no such thing as a quarter-arch or half-arch, neither is there such a thing as a quarter-effective scaffold or half-effective scaffold. Either we have a fully effective scaffold for constructing the arch or we have no scaffold at all. The ‘jackpot or nothing’ situation has not been overcome. It remains.

Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wikimedia / Public Domainfigure 1 scaffolding
Figure 1. The scaffold that supports the construction of a stone arch does not vitiate irreducible complexity. It is a tailor-made structure that is itself a manifestation of irreducible complexity!

Pseudogenes: not relics of an evolutionary past

For a long time, evolutionists have triumphally invoked pseudogenes. After all, surely no intelligent designer would litter our genome with disabled and non-functional genes. Not so fast. Bergman reviews the recent literature on this subject. It shows that some pseudogenes definitely have function. They are in no sense ‘disabled’. In fact, there is now no sharp boundary between genes and pseudogenes.

For a long time, genes were defined as genomic structures that enable a protein to be coded and synthesized. So, if a suspected gene cannot encode a protein, it must therefore be non-functional. Now we realize that this is not so. It turns out that a pseudogene that has obvious features that prevent it from coding a protein can, nevertheless, have a different function, such as a regulatory one that uses mRNA.

Bergman expands this consideration to cover all DNA in the genome which has long been dismissed as junk DNA just because it does not code for a protein and because, until recently, it had no known function. Now we realize that much so-called junk DNA is transcribed into RNA, which implies at least a possible function.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics: not evolutionary novelties

Evolutionists often cite antibiotic resistance in bacteria as evidence for evolution. It is not. It is a product of the ‘tweaking’ of pre-existing features in the bacteria, which raises the question of how these features arose in the first place. Bergman comments:

“Bacteria can also become resistant as a result of mutations, but all of those mutations studied so far are either loss mutations, or gene expression mutations that result in speeding up the already existing systems that remove or inactivate antibiotics. None are the result of new cellular innovations but are caused merely by altering the volume control [emphasis in original]” (p. 193).

Bergman further clarifies this matter:

“What is commonly referred to as gaining resistance to an antibiotic is more accurately understood as a bacterial strain that has lost sensitivity to the antibiotic. Bacteria were resistant to many antibiotics long before humans used them. This has been confirmed by culturing bacteria found on human explorers frozen to death long before human-developed antibiotics existed [emphasis in original]” (p. 190).

For evolution to occur, there must be an increase in biological information. This is lacking. Bergman elaborates:

“The recent development of bacteria and insect resistance does not support classically defined neo-Darwinism, which postulates evolution due to the natural selection of mutations. Macroevolution requires information- building mechanisms that add new information to DNA. In virtually all cases, bacterial or insect resistance is a result of the damage to an existing system, or a transfer of genes. In the rare cases where a mutation is involved, development of resistance involves only loss mutations … . This is confirmed by the fact that resistance is acquired very rapidly, in far too brief a period for evolutionary emergence of complex biochemical or physiological systems [emphasis in original]” (p. 204).


Bergman has examined and deconstructed a variety of ‘pillars’ of evolution. Each one of them contains major flaws. Neither taxonomy nor genetics, for example, compel belief in evolution. Evolutionists have caricatured, but not overcome, the fatal problem of irreducible complexity. The best explanation for living things, whether somebody likes it or not, remains an intelligent designer.

Posted on homepage: 7 June 2024