Is evolution allowed by scientific laws?
Fox and dog speciation
Published: 18 September 2010 (GMT+10)
This week’s feedback features a question from Richard L. from the United States on whether evolution and the big bang follow scientific laws, and another from a correspondent in Canada on speciation within the dog kind, and where foxes fit in. CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds to both queries.
Richard L. from the United States writes:
Do evolution and the big bang follow the laws of physics and the laws of chemistry?
CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati writes:
Dear Mr L.
First of all, I would say that the “laws of physics and the laws of chemistry” are descriptive rather than causative. I.e. they are like a map that describes a coastline; to say that something follows these laws is a bit like saying that the coastline follows the shape of the map. In reality, the laws describe what things are observed to happen in a regular, repeatable way, just like a map. See also Miracles and science.
Furthermore, it’s not just a matter of “following the laws of physics and chemistry”, to use the common parlance, even though it’s misleading as I’ve explained. There is also the matter of unreasonable assumptions about initial conditions. With the big bang, even some secular experts say: “The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed—inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory” (see Secular scientists blast the big bang).
Also, if we take the equations describing the laws, they have both forward and reverse solutions in the mathematics. But only the forward solutions make sense in the real world. Consider a gas in a cylinder in a room. Then the valve is opened. The gas will mostly escape the cylinder and fill the room. Yet the same laws of atomic motion could have the reverse paths: the gas molecules in the room could fill the cylinder instead. Why does this not happen? Because there are astronomically many more ways in which the atoms could fill the large volume of the room than the smaller volume of the cylinder.
Many of the arguments against evolution are of this kind. E.g. information theorist Hubert Yockey (not a creationist) said: ‘The origin of life by chance in a primeval soup is impossible in probability in the same way that a perpetual motion machine is in probability. The extremely small probabilities calculated in this chapter are not discouraging to true believers … [however] A practical person must conclude that life didn’t happen by chance.’ [Yockey, H., Information Theory and Molecular Biology, Cambridge University Press, p. 257, 1992.]
I hope this information helps
Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D. (physical chemistry)_________________________________________________________
R.R. from Canada writes:
I was talking to a co-worker who subscribes to evolution and she said that the Fox and Dog are too far separated from each other that it isn’t possible for them to reproduce. She feels they are more closely related to the cat family. I checked on the web and found this [Ed.—reference deleted as per feedback rules] that says there is a possibly some crossbreeding of Foxes and domestic dogs but not with most all other Canine breeds. I’m just wondering if you have an article discussing Foxes and some evidence that they are canine. Do you have anything regarding why they can’t breed with other variation of canines?
Jonathan Sarfati replies:
I am not sure of the specifics, but there are some principles that should help.
We would argue that if two creatures can hybridize, then they are members of the same created kind. Further, if two creatures can hybridize with the same third creature, they are all members of the same kind. So if a fox can hybridize with some canines but not others, they are still members of the one kind, since those canines can inter-hybridize.
However, we currently have no independently confirmed reports of successful hybridization between foxes and other canids (e.g. dogs and wolves), so we have no concrete evidence that foxes are part of the same biblical kind as dogs and wolves. So we would urge caution in saying that they are. This doesn’t mean they weren’t from the same biblical kind—just that we don’t have any hybridization evidence to conclusively say so. All the same, other evidence does support an identification as the same created kind: domesticating foxes results in the same changes as domesticating wolves did in producing our dogs (see my book The Greatest Hoax on Earth?).
The lack of inter-breeding to produce fertile offspring means that they are different biological species. But creationists accept speciation, so again, no drama there; many evolutionists don’t bother to understand what creationists actually teach. In fact, it happens more rapidly than evolutionists expected. See Speedy species surprise.
Many creationist taxonomists think that in many cases, the kind corresponds to the modern taxonomic family. So the foxes and wolves would be part of the same canid created kind, family Canidae; they are even both part of the subfamily Caninae.
Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
I have a question, if man is just another animal, how come there has been no speciation of humankind? People are able to breed with other people who have been seprated from each other for thousands of years and still have ofspring cabable of reproducing. Is it because God in his wisdon, and placing man in dominion, put into the human genome an unusally robust self-checking mechanism so that we could not claim others as “not human”?
That’s a good question actually. I suspect that the main reason is the different history of humans and animals. Animals migrated out from the Ark on Ararat as soon as they were let out. So they could become geographically isolated into small populations quickly, a condition for allopatric speciation (see my book The Greatest Hoax on Earth?, ch. 2). But we see in Genesis 11 that humans stuck around in one place, Babel, for about 100 years, which is several generations of a large population.
From human history of creatures like Neandertals, we know that there were successive waves of migration followed by either elimination or absorption. It’s likely that Neandertals could interbreed with Homo sapiens sapiens, but if there were any real new human species, they could have left no descendants today. See also this article about the Denisovans.
Your idea is also plausible, just that I can’t provide biblical information one way or the other. It seems likely that since the Bible stresses one human family (Acts 17:26), and the importance of the Kinsman-Redeemer concept (Isaiah 59:20), God has made sure that we can all interbreed.
It’s also notable that chimpanzees have 5–6 times more diversity among themselves than humans do. It appears the human mutation rate is lower, consistent with the above.
There is a claimed coyote-fox (Vulpes) hybrid that appears to be reliable: Mammalian hybrids and generic limits by Richard G. Van Gelder, American Museum novitates, no. 2635, New York : American Museum of Natural History, 1977. Van Gelder was a prominent mammalogist and accepted a report that he cites as: Anonymous. 1975. International Zoo Yearbook 5: 347. The other crosses between Canis and Vulpes species previously reported by Gray were questioned (mostly because they were not well enough documented).
BTW, nice article.