U.S. News and World Report joins in the evolution onslaught
U.S. News and World Report ran a major story pushing evolution on 29 July 2002, giving it cover story exposure. The usual evolutionist hand-waving and bait-and-switch tactics were employed in a grand piece of propaganda. Here is our detailed response, interspersed between their actual item which is reproduced in full (in red-brown) to avoid suggestions of misrepresentation:
A theory evolves
How evolution really works, and why it matters more than ever
By Thomas Hayden
When scientists introduced the world to humankind’s earliest known ancestor two weeks ago, they showed us more than a mere museum piece. Peering at the 7 million-year-old skull is almost like seeing a reflection of our earlier selves.
See New ‘Ape-Man’ Preliminary Response concerning this particular claim. And it is not just creationists who are skeptical, although you would not get that impression from the dogmatism displayed here. Other French scientists are also skeptical. Brigitte Senut of the Natural History Museum in Paris pointed out that the supposedly human characteristics (small teeth and short face) are characteristics of female gorillas. ‘I tend toward thinking this is the skull of a female gorilla,’ she said in a Reuters interview. ‘The characteristics taken to conclude that this new skull is a hominid are sexual characteristics [of gorillas]. Moreover, other characteristics such as the occipital crest (the back of the neck where the neck muscles attach)…remind me much more of the gorilla,’ she said, saying older gorillas also had these characteristics. She pointed out that a skull found in the 1960s was mistaken as human-like for 20 years until everyone became convinced that it was just a female gorilla.
In fact the whole story of human evolution is one of mistaken identities, wishful thinking and even fraud, on occasions. One only needs give a fossil a bit of ‘breathing space’ after the hoopla dies down and the media (such as U.S. News) lose interest, and the more sober assessment eventually comes out—it wasn’t like they thought after all! For more, see our Q&A on anthropology. Other scientists also expressed doubts in the same report.
And yet that fossil represents only a recent chapter in a grander story, beginning with the first single-celled life that arose and began evolving some 3.8 billion years ago.
‘Story’ is an appropriate word. It is a grand exercise in story telling.
Now, as the science of evolution moves beyond guesswork,
So, is this meant to imply that it has actually been all ‘guesswork’ up until now? But we have been told for generations that evolution is a ‘fact’! Only the gullible would believe that suddenly the story has moved beyond guesswork. It is still story telling, wishful thinking and guesswork, as we shall see.
we are learning something even more remarkable: how that tale unfolded.
Scientists are uncovering the step-by-step changes in form and function that ultimately produced humanity and the diversity of life surrounding us. By now, scientists say, evolution is no longer “just a theory.” It’s an everyday phenomenon, a fundamental fact of biology as real as hunger and as unavoidable as death.
The analogy is illogical. Hunger and death can be observed in today’s world; the supposed evolution of life, from a ‘big bang’ billions of years ago, via microbes to man, cannot be observed; it is imagined. Evolutionists like to use these inappropriate analogies to give credence to their dogma.
Darwin proposed his theory of evolution based on extensive observations and cast-iron logic.
Hmmm… that’s not what Darwin said, and anyone who has actually read The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, would be aware of the many ‘ifs, buts and maybes’, that pepper the text. The book is one big surmise. Darwin himself described his work, in a letter to a colleague in 1858, a year before Origin’s publication, as ‘grievously too hypothetical’.
Organisms produce more young than can survive, he noted, and when random changes create slight differences between offspring, “natural selection” tends to kill off those that are less well suited to the environment.
This (natural selection) was not Darwin’s discovery. A creationist chemist/zoologist, Edward Blyth (1810–1873), wrote about it in 1835–7 well before Darwin, who very likely borrowed the idea from Blyth.
But Darwin’s evidence was fragmentary, and with the science of genetics yet to be invented, he was left without an explanation for how life might actually change.
Actually the science of genetics posed a huge problem for evolutionary ideas, and probably contributed to the work of Mendel, the creationist founder of the science of genetics, being ‘forgotten’ for 40 years. Darwin thought that variation was spontaneous and arising continually, unlimited, whereas Mendel showed that characteristics that appear in offspring are already present in the genes of the parents. It was different combinations of the same genes that gave rise to variations in offspring. In other words, variation was limited and ‘evolution’ could not proceed to the acquisition of new traits, such as putting legs on worms, or feathers on reptiles, etc.
The “modern synthesis” of genetics and evolutionary theory in the 1940s began to fill that gap.
The ‘gap’ was a credibility gap because genetics flew in the face of evolutionist dogma. The ‘modern synthesis’ involved the invocation of ‘mutations’ as the source of new genetic information, to overcome the sound science of genetics. It also involved the playing of mathematical games on the hypothetical flow of genes in populations—games which led to even more problems for evolution, which have been brushed under the carpet. See Haldane’s Dilemma (semi-technical), for example.
But until recently, much of evolution still felt to nonscientists like abstract theory, often presented in ponderous tomes like paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould’s 1,464-page Structure of Evolutionary Theory, published shortly before his death this spring. As theorists argued over arcane points and creationists stressed uncertainties to challenge evolution’s very reality, many people were left confused, unsure what to believe.
Nuts and bolts. But away from heated debates in schools and legislatures, a new generation of scientists has been systematically probing the fossil record, deciphering genomes, and scrutinizing the details of plant and animal development. They are documenting how evolution actually worked, how it continues to transform our world, and even how we can put it to work to fight disease and analyze the wealth of data from genome-sequencing projects. “The big story,” says evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson of Harvard University, “is not in overarching, top-down theory now, but in the details of research in the lab and in the field.”
No, again. The whole edifice is driven ‘top-down’. It is driven by the overarching philosophy of materialism that drives today’s academia. See The Rules of the Game; Darwin’s Real Message — Have you Missed It?; Evolution as Philosophy; Evolution as Religion.
Scientists have confirmed virtually all of Darwin’s postulates. For example, Ward Watt of Stanford University has demonstrated natural selection in action.
Again, this was not a postulate original to Darwin and it does not amount to ‘evolution’. Creationists have no argument with natural selection. However, natural selection does not create new organisms, it just weeds out the ‘unfit’ ones. Edward Blyth, the creationist, saw this effect of natural selection. See Brisk Biters—fast changes in mosquitoes astonish evolutionists, delight creationists for how natural selection is part of creationist biology but does not amount to molecules-to-man evolution.
In a hot environment, he found, butterflies with a heat-stable form of a metabolic gene outreproduced their cousins with a form that works well only at lower temperatures. “Darwin was more right than he knew,” says Watt.
No problem with this. But there is an unproven assumption underlying the way this is told: that the heat-stable form of the gene is new. It may have been there all along.
Darwin also held that new species evolve slowly, the result of countless small changes over many generations, and he attributed the lack of transitional forms—missing links—to the spotty nature of the fossil record. By now many gaps have been filled.
If you examine each supposed gap filler fossil on its merits, the gaps have not been filled. It is only the bluff and bluster of evolutionists that would lead anyone to think that this is a fair description of reality. The late Stephen Jay Gould was one who admitted on many occasions that the fossils are missing. See Are there any Transitional Fossils? (Luther Sunderland’s interview of leading museum paleontologists) and other articles in Are there really missing links?.
Dinosaur researchers can join hands with bird experts, for example, their once disparate fields linked by a series of fossils that show dinosaurs evolving feathers and giving rise to modern birds.
I hope Hayden does not have in mind the National Geographic’s fraudulent feathered fossil! Some prominent bird experts, themselves evolutionists, do not accept that any link has been demonstrated. See What about Archaeoraptor and Archaeopteryx and Did birds really evolve from dinosaurs? for details showing the non-link between dinosaurs and birds.
And last year, paleontologists announced that they had recovered fossils from the hills of Pakistan showing, step by step, how hairy, doglike creatures took to the sea and became the first whales.
Again, see our clear refutation of this fallacious claim in Does the fossil record of whales show that they evolved from land mammals?. Note the evolutionary bluff and bluster concerning one of the main players in this game regarding whales (as he describes Pakicetus, one of the supposed links):
‘In time and in its morphology, Pakicetus is perfectly intermediate, a missing link between earlier land mammals and later, full-fledged whales.’ (Gingerich, ‘The Whales of Tethys’, Natural History, April 1994, p. 86.)
And what was such enthusiasm based upon? A few teeth in a fragment of jaw and a piece of the back of a skull. It seems that the story of ‘whale evolution’ is a story of evolving teeth! Imaginative pictures were disseminated to the public and to school teachers (e.g. in J. Geol. Educ. 31:140–144, 1983), showing a creature with legs becoming flippers and a tail fluke developing, diving in the water after fish to eat. But much more of the remains of this creature were subsequently found and could it have looked at all like Gingerich imagined? No, nothing like it. See the recent reconstruction at Whale evolution?. Pakicetus means ‘the whale from Pakistan’. It’s a pretty imaginative name, I should say.
Such is the ‘hard evidence’ of the fossils. Presumably Hayden has dished up a couple of the best examples, so if this is the best, you can readily see that the rest is best left out if you want to indoctrinate people in materialistic philosophy (aka evolution).
But new research also shows that evolution works in ways Darwin did not imagine. Many creatures still appear quite suddenly in the fossil record, and the growing suspicion is that evolution sometimes leaps, rather than crawls. For example, the first complex animals, including worms, mollusks, and shrimplike arthropods, show up some 545 million years ago; paleontologists have searched far and wide for fossil evidence of gradual progress toward these advanced creatures but have come up empty. “Paleontologists have the best eyes in the world,” says Whitey Hagadorn of Amherst College, who has scoured the rocks of the Southwest and California for signs of the earliest animal life. “If we can’t find the fossils, sometimes you have to think that they just weren’t there.”
Perhaps they are just not there because they never existed. That would be a reasonable scientific conclusion to come to. In fact, one of the principles followed in doing science is ‘Occam’s Razor’, whereby, if there are different competing explanations, then the simplest explanation should be favored. There are no fossils because the supposed animals never existed—simple! But note the following attempt to ‘explain away’ the ‘hard data’ of the lack of ancestral fossils:
A new understanding of Earth’s history helps explain why. Scientists have learned that our planet has been rocked periodically by catastrophes: enormous volcanic eruptions that belched carbon dioxide, creating a super greenhouse effect; severe cold spells that left much of the planet enveloped in ice; collisions with asteroids. These convulsions killed off much of life’s diversity.
How close to the truth, but oh, how so far away. The Bible indeed records a huge catastrophe, the Flood of Noah’s time, which left its indelible imprint in the thick layers of rock made from sand, silt and clay transported in water. Included in these layers are myriads of fossils, many showing that they were buried alive, quickly. But of course materialists won’t give any truck to what God tells us in the Bible. In denying what the Bible says they also turn their backs on the traditions of almost every people group in the world—traditions of a great flood that only a remnant survived. To explain the data which speaks of a catastrophe (and its aftershocks), we now have multiple catastrophes (just one catastrophe would sound a bit too much like the Bible, I would think).
Once conditions improved, says Harvard paleontologist Andy Knoll, the survivors found a world of new opportunities.
Creationist biologists would say that such conditions applied after the Flood and resulted in a period of rapid adaptation as animals and plants filled the various ecological niches available. But this is not what Hayden is referring to of course.
They were freed to fill new roles, “experimenting” with new body plans and evolving too rapidly to leave a record in the fossils.
We may owe our own dominance to the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
This is a common view, but did it really happen? See Did a meteor wipe out the dinosaurs? How could an asteroid impact wipe out every single one of the dinosaurs, which were an extremely diverse group, yet leave a host of other species alive in the same areas? Other reptiles, amphibians, etc., survived, so the demise of the dinosaurs could not have been due to their (presumed) reptilian cold-bloodedness.
As mammals, we like to think that we’re pretty darned superior. The sad truth: “Mammals coexisted with dinosaurs for 150 million years but were never able to get beyond little ratlike things,” says Knoll. “It was only when the dinosaurs were removed that mammals had the ecological freedom to evolve new features.”
All this assumes the validity of the evolutionist’s millions of years of geologic time—their interpretation of the rock layers with various ‘ages’ of this and that. This interpretation originally denied any role for catastrophe and that’s where the eons of time originally came from—trying to explain how great thicknesses of sedimentary rock could form in estuarine or lake environments, slowly and gradually, at the rates observed today in such situations. See right for evidence for an alternative view.
Whether evolution worked fast or slow,
As I have explained in Punctuated Equilibrium: Come of Age?, the evolutionists have now set up their ‘theory’ so that it cannot be falsified. If they have some putative transitional fossils, then here evolution is said to work according to the standard evolutionary paradigm, but if the fossils are missing, then evolution worked differently. ‘Evolution’ is a given, it is not questioned, because it is, ultimately, not science; it is nothing more or less than materialist philosophy parading as science. Evolutionists accuse creationists, or even advocates of intelligent design, of being ‘religious’ and that there are things we believe that are held by faith that are not open to disproof. Evolutionists have made evolution exactly that—an idea held with ardour and faith that is not open to disproof. The evolutionists just give the knobs of the ‘mechanism’ a twiddle here and there to ‘explain’ the data. Creationists do the same, but at least we are candid enough to admit it. ‘Historical’ science is driven by the paradigm that is applied, not the data primarily.
They ‘labored’ because they were trying to explain away the hard evidence against evolution!
to explain how it could produce dramatic changes in body structure through incremental steps. Half an eye would be worse than none at all, creationists were fond of arguing. But “partial” eyes turn out to be common in nature, and biologists can trace eye evolution from the lensless flatworm eyespot to the complex geometry of vertebrate eyes.
More hand-waving. There is no such transitional series that can be traced, unless imaginative story telling counts as such. In fact, biologists recognize some 30 different basic types of eye design that could not have evolved from any putative common ancestor. They therefore propose that eyes must have evolved independently some 30 times. It stretches credulity to the breaking point to try to believe that any eye made itself from a series of mutations, but to believe that it happened 30 times! Such is the faith of the materialist. See Could the eye have evolved?
Now “evo-devo” biologists, who study how fertilized egg cells develop into adults, are discovering powerful new ways evolution can transform organisms. They are finding that changes in a handful of key genes that control development can be enough to drastically reshape an animal.
Master switches. The central discovery of evo-devo is that the development and ultimate shape of animal bodies are orchestrated by a small set of genes called homeotic genes. These regulatory genes make proteins that act as master switches. By binding to DNA, they turn on or shut down other genes that actually make tissues. All but the simplest animals are built in segments (most obvious in creatures like centipedes, but also apparent in human vertebrae), and the Hox family of homeotic genes interacts to determine what each segment will look like. By simple genetic tinkering, evo-devo biologists can tweak the controls, making flies with legs where their antennae should be, or eyeballs on their knees.
All this is good laboratory science so far.
This might seem like little more than a cruel parlor trick, and the resulting monstrosities would never survive in nature. But small changes in these master-switch genes may help explain some major changes in evolutionary history. This past winter, evo-devo biologists showed that an important animal transition 400 million years ago, when many-legged arthropods (think lobsters) gave rise to six-legged insects, was due to just a few mutations in a Hox gene.
No, they did not show that any alleged evolutionary change, occurring an alleged millions of years ago, ‘was due to a few mutations in a Hox gene’ at all. What they showed was they could modify the number of segments in an organism today by fiddling with Hox genes. The leap in logic here is breath-taking. See Hox Hype for a sober analysis of this research.
In the past few months, researchers have found that a change in the regulation of a growth-factor gene could have resulted in the first vertebrate jaw.
Notice the ‘could’. Since Hayden has shown such a hand-waving approach to other issues, this word should ring alarm bells that we here have some extremely wishful thinking.
And, incredibly, researchers reported in the journal Science last week that a single mutation in a regulatory gene was enough to produce mice with brains that had an unusually large, wrinkled cerebral cortex resembling our own. (No word, though, on whether the mutant mice gained smarts.)
In fact, all the mice died before birth, so this mutation was not some simple step towards higher intelligence, as implied. So little is known about how the human brain works that we don’t even know for sure if the wrinkled cerebral cortex is important in determining our intelligence.
Some critics of evolution argue that animals are so complex and their parts so interconnected that any change big enough to produce a new species would cause fatal failures. Call it the Microsoft conundrum. But just as Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson managed to delete that company’s Web browser on his own computer without crashing the operating system, evo-devo biologists are learning how evolution can tweak one part of an animal while leaving everything else alone. The key to modifying the machine of life while it’s running, says biologist Sean Carroll of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is mutations in the stretches of DNA that homeotic proteins bind to.
“If you change a Hox protein, you might mess up the whole body,” says Carroll. “But if you change a control element, you can change a part as small as a bristle or a fingernail.” He explains that genetic accidents can set the stage by duplicating segments, creating spares that are free to evolve while the other segments carry on with their original function. Biologists now believe that appendages like insect wings and the proboscis a mosquito jabs you with evolved from spare leg segments.
There are insurmountable problems with this scenario:
The extra gene has to be inactivated; otherwise it could upset the functionality of the organism while it supposedly evolved. Duplicated genes cause dose effects, especially in animals, that are detrimental—trisomy 21 (an extra chromosome 21) causes Down’s Syndrome in people, for example. You cannot just, willy-nilly, duplicate genes.
The duplicated gene has to be located where it does not interfere with the functionality of existing gene groups. If you duplicated a gene next to the existing one and the existing one comprised part of an operon, it would disrupt the functioning of the operon and mess up the biochemical pathway involved (an operon is a group of genes whose products operate together and which is controlled as a unit).
Mutations are not going to occur just in the duplicated gene; they are going to occur in the whole genome, so all the deleterious mutations have to be eliminated from the population. This incurs a cost, which slows any theoretical evolution to a snail’s pace and means there is just not enough time, even with the supposed billions of years, for evolution to achieve anything significant. For a brief discussion of this, see Population Genetics, Haldane’s Dilemma and the Neutral Theory of Evolution.
The duplicated gene, once it is capable of doing something useful, has to be reactivated so that it will produce a protein, for example. This scenario assumes Kimura’s ‘neutral theory’ of evolution, but there is no way that a gene can evolve a new function while it is not being expressed, because the chance of arriving at a new useful sequence ‘blind’ is worse than finding one atom in the whole universe by chance. Richard Dawkins realized that such is impossible, so he stuck to the standard neo-Darwinian story of step-wise mutations in an expressed gene (so natural selection can supposedly weed out the countless bad sequences). However, in this scenario every mutational step towards a new function has to be adding functionality, which is completely unrealistic. Furthermore, none of the products along the way can interfere with the existing cell functions, which is again unrealistic (note, for starters, the gene dosage point above).
You also need control mechanisms to make sure the right amount of the protein is produced (out-of-control production would not usually be a good idea).
Proteins must fold into their correct 3-dimensional shape to work and other proteins called chaperones, which have their own genes, assist in doing this. A new protein/enzyme may need new chaperones, which will have to evolve in parallel with the evolving duplicated gene (another duplication? Where? How will it get expressed at the same time?).
And this does not exhaust the list of unlikely events. We have not even considered the additional complications of traits that are produced by more than one gene (one duplicated gene won’t do the job alone) and pleiotropy, where a gene affects more than one trait, which can confound the capacity for natural selection to increase the frequency of the new gene. As we learn more of the details of growth and development, the list of problems for the gene duplication idea will undoubtedly grow. The gene duplication idea as a source of new genetic information just does not look at all feasible—it’s the stuff of more story telling, not hard (experimental) science.
Making do. This process may be rapid, …
Well, no it’s not. It can’t work at all. It’s dead in the water.
… but it’s not elegant.
Instead of inventing new features from scratch, evolution works with what it has, modifying existing structures by trial and error. The result is a messy legacy of complicated biochemical pathways and body parts that are more serviceable than sleekly designed.
Nonsense. This attitude probably stems from the erroneous belief that there is much ‘junk’ DNA in organisms. ‘Junk’ DNA is proving to be anything but, with lots of functions being discovered (See ‘Junk’ DNA for a brief treatment, or ‘Junk’ DNA: evolutionary discards or God’s tools? and Are pseudogenes ‘shared mistakes’ between primate genomes? for details). We have yet to understand how the DNA controls the development of organisms; much DNA whose function is unknown must be involved in this.
Although proponents of intelligent design hold that organisms are too “perfect” to have arisen by chance,
This is not the argument at all. This is a ‘straw man argument’, whereby you misstate the argument that you want to shoot down, which then makes it easy to do just that. The argument is not that ‘organisms are too perfect’, but that there are many parts of organisms that are well understood that defy evolutionary story telling. These parts are composed of many inter-related components that have all to be present, functioning and working together for the part to work at all. And it is not that ‘we don’t understand it, therefore God did it’, but we do understand it, so evolution clearly could not do it and it must have been put together by an (super) intelligent designer. For example, the bacterial flagellum consists of many different proteins, which all have to be manufactured together and assembled by other proteins/enzymes, with a coupled energy source to drive it. It is ‘irreducibly complex’—you cannot reduce its complexity and still have some functionality; you cannot remove components and have any remaining function. Consequently, mutations and natural selection cannot ‘create’ such integrated functions by small, step-wise changes (natural selection needs each change brought about by mutations to add some functionality, otherwise it cannot be selected). See this review of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (right) and Design in Living Organisms: Motors (Technical).
science shows that organisms don’t work perfectly at all; they just work.
No scientist has yet been able to demonstrate how any biochemical system can be improved. This statement is preposterous. It reminds me of the inane nonsense of Richard Dawkins about the human eye being wired back-to-front. This shows that the person making the statement does not understand the human eye. (See what an expert in eye diseases says about Dawkins’ eye argument in An eye for creation)
This perspective shows how detrimental evolutionary thinking is to the real progress of science. Scientists who believe that they are dealing with ‘jerry-built’ systems are likely to think that, with a little application of intelligence, they can improve them. Without denying the potential of some ‘genetic engineering’ for good, such a belief foundation would be naïve and dangerous.
While many scientists busy themselves figuring out the history and mechanics of evolution, others are already putting it to use. Jonathan Eisen of the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., deciphers the information stored in organisms’ genomes for clues to their ancestry and how they function. For him, evolution is as critical a tool as DNA-sequencing machines and supercomputers. “If I didn’t approach everything with an evolutionary perspective,” says Eisen, “I’d miss out on most of the information.”
That’s because genomes are the handiwork of evolution, and their origin can be key to making sense of them. Researchers analyzing the human genome, for example, reported finding a series of human genes that were also common in bacteria but absent from invertebrates like fruit flies. They concluded that bacterial genes had infiltrated vertebrate animals, helping to shape our genetic identity. But the explanation turned out to be more mundane. Knowing how evolution often prunes away unneeded genes, Eisen and several others showed most of the suspect genes had simply been dropped during the evolutionary history of flies. The moral of the story: “I’m begging people to treat evolution as a science and not just tack it on as an explanation afterwards,” says Eisen.
Actually, their approach has been to make up a story to ‘explain’ the data in terms of evolution, after the event, so what are they talking about?
Hayden fails to show how any of this has any practical application. Genome analysis does not depend on evolutionary assumptions at all. Genomic databases can be scanned for similar gene sequences, which can then be applied to suggesting what functions unknown genes have, without any assumption of evolution. If things were created by an intelligent Creator we would expect that certain design features would be common to many organisms, so we would look for them. So evolutionary assumptions have nothing to contribute to this process at all. More bluff and bluster.
Arms race. For microbiologist Richard Lenski, evolution is an obvious reality. Since 1988, the Michigan State University professor has been following 12 populations of the bacterium E. coli. With a new generation every 3.5 hours or so, this is evolution on fast-forward. The populations were once genetically identical, but each has adapted in its own way to the conditions in its test-tube home. The same speedy adaptation, unfortunately, can be readily seen in hospitals, where powerful antibiotics provide a major selective advantage for bacteria that evolve resistance. As bacterial evolution outwits one antibiotic after another, notes Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Palumbi, treating infections has become an evolutionary arms race. “It’s a cycle of escalation, and the entity that can make the last turn of the cycle wins,” says Palumbi. “So far, there’s no indication that it’s going to be us.” The answer, he says, is not just new antibiotics but new strategies based on evolution.
Here is the old ‘bait and switch’ trick. You define small changes within a basic kind as ‘evolution’, demonstrate that small changes, such as antibiotic resistance, occur, and then proclaim that you have demonstrated the reality and importance of molecules-to-man evolution. No creationist biologist denies that antibiotic resistance occurs, or that some of it is due to mutations, or that natural selection is involved (see above) in weeding out the antibiotic-susceptible types. Such things can be studied without worshipping at the materialists’ altar of mythical molecules-to-man evolution. See also Definitions as slippery as eels.
Studies of changes in bacteria actually underline the truth of what creationists have been saying for years: that, so far, mutations seem to be incapable of creating new functionality—new genes with new traits not previously present. Most antibiotic resistance is actually due to the swapping of pieces of DNA called plasmids. Bacteria of different types readily swap such plasmids, which often contain genes that confer antibiotic resistance. Such swapping does not explain the origin of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Furthermore, in cases where antibiotic resistance is due to mutation, in every case studied the mutation involves a loss of genetic functionality. For example, loss of control over the production of an enzyme that happens to degrade an antibiotic can result in the manufacture of lots of the enzyme and so the mutant is resistant to the antibiotic. This happened with one form of penicillin resistance. Or loss of efficiency in a bacterial wall ‘pump’ mechanism means that the mutant will be less likely to pump in the poison, which would kill it, into its interior. See Anthrax and antibiotics: Is evolution relevant? and the articles in the last section of Q&A Mutations.
Contrary to the propaganda printed in Hayden’s article, bacteria have not created new genetic information by these processes. They have therefore not taken any demonstrable steps towards becoming more complex organisms, like dogs or cats (or humans). It is deceitful to claim that these processes have anything to do with the grand claim that all living things arose by natural processes (i.e. evolution) from a common ancestor that made itself in a warm pond on a primeval Earth. And contrary to the impression given, neither our health nor medical science depends on such nonsensical beliefs.
“The key is to tip the balance of selection in favor of mild organisms,” says evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald of Amherst College. That can mean measures as simple as having doctors scrub their hands to prevent the spread of the dangerous, antibiotic-resistant strains from their sickest patients. Making life difficult for virulent microbes can actually guide the species’ evolution, weeding out the most harmful variants. In the case of malaria, the trick is keeping mosquitoes away from people bedridden with virulent strains. “If you mosquito-proof the houses,” says Ewald, “then only people walking around outside can spread the disease, and that will be a mild form.”
These same insights are made by creationists. They could have been made by Edward Blyth. They are emphatically not a consequence of evolutionary theory.
Evolutionary theorists may be able to guess how specific microbes will evolve, but not the fate of the whole panoply of life. “You can’t predict what organisms will look like millions of years from now,” says Knoll. Chance events, small and large, make all the difference, as mutations arise at random and unpredictable mass extinctions set life on a new course.
This is another example of how evolutionary thinking misleads scientists. Based on notions of unlimited change, complete plasticity in genomes, evolutionists imagine that almost anything could happen in the future. However, the Bible says, in Genesis 1, that God made various kinds of organisms to reproduce true to their various kinds (not the same as ’species’, incidentally—see What is the Biblical creationist model?). Real, experimental biology backs this up. No one has ever seen a cat give birth to anything but kittens, or a corn seed produce anything but corn, or a chimp give birth to a baby a step closer to looking like a human. Over and over again, real experimental science backs up these statements from the Bible.
What is the evidence? Are the bacteria we study today any different to those studied by the (creationist) founder of microbiology, Louis Pasteur? No, they appear to be the same. Are ones recovered in 1986 from the intestines of explorers frozen in the Arctic ice in 1845 any different to ones living today? No, in every case the unfrozen representatives have reproduced true to their kind. And the frozen ones had antibiotic resistance, suggesting that antibiotic resistance is not something new that has arisen since the modern use of antibiotics in fighting disease. See Superbugs: Not super after all.
The same tests identify Clostridium or Staphylococcus now as in the past. For example, Bacillus subtilis, a harmless, common soil-borne bacterium (and source of antibiotics and bio-pesticides), was identified and named in 1835; Staphylococcus aureus, the common cause of infections in hospitals, in 1884. And modern genomic techniques corroborate this point. This should be enough evidence from hard observational science to bury the whole idea of evolution.
Note that in 150 years, bacteria can pass through the same number of generations as a human in 65 million years and yet in just 5 or 6 million years humans are claimed to have evolved from an ape. If the amount of change in bacteria, with their huge populations that would maximize the chances of getting progressive mutations, is trivial in the equivalent of 65 million years of human generations, what hope has evolution of changing an ape into a human in just 1/10 of that time? Nil.
To this we must add the evidence of ‘living fossils’. There are hundreds of species still living today that are almost identical to fossils that are supposedly many millions, and some supposedly hundreds of millions and even billions of years old, and yet they are basically unchanged (See Do fossilized animals really look all that different from animals we see today?). In each case, of course, evolutionary ‘explanations’ after the fact (‘just-so’ stories) are hastily invoked.
And now we have DNA sequencing of organisms supposedly many millions of years old. Most of these reports have been dismissed because ‘DNA cannot last that long’ or because the sequences found have been virtually identical to modern day organisms, and therefore ‘must’ be contamination. However, in a recent paper in Nature, (Fish, S.A., Shepherd, T.J., McGenity, T.J., and Grant, W.D., Recovery of 16S ribosomal RNA gene fragments from ancient halite. Nature 417(6887):432–436, 2002.) the authors took every possible precaution to make sure that they were not dealing with contamination. DNA retrieved from salt inclusions from different parts of the world, which dated from 13 million years to 420 million years, gave sequences less than 2% different to modern bacteria. Furthermore, the supposedly oldest ones were not more different to modern ones than the supposedly younger ones. Either the millions of years are fictitious, or evolution does not happen (or both). The authors said something vague about implications for the molecular clock (the idea that mutations happen with clock-like regularity over time), but their data contradict the very notion of a molecular clock, indeed the very idea of evolution itself. However, the data fit well with all the bacteria being entombed in the year-long Flood of Noah’s time.
One mass extinction is easy to foresee: the one already underway because of our logging and paving and polluting. Things don’t look good for most large mammals—they can’t compete with us for space and resources. The outlook is brighter for species that depend on humans, like farm animals and crop plants, as well as rats and cockroaches. But this mass extinction is different from the last, 65 million years ago. “The day after the meteorite hit,” says Knoll, “the planet started to heal. The problem now doesn’t go away. It gets bad and it stays bad as long as our evolutionary history continues.”
Why should a materialist care about the extinction of anything, including humans? If we are just chemicals, an accidental by-product of a ‘big bang’, then our notions of religion and morality (what ‘ought’ to be) are also an accidental by-product of a series of accidents, so they have no real basis; they are an illusion. See this interesting statement by C.S. Lewis, a famous atheist academic who converted to Christ, on the irrationality of materialistic (atheistic) rationalism. However, if we are ‘made in God’s image’ like the Bible tells us, then we can see why we care about what is right and wrong, notions of justice, etc. Indeed, God gave man dominion over the world to care for it. This gives moral substance to environmental concerns.
God and man. Which brings us to one final result of evolution, the odd, upright, and curiously self-obsessed ape in the mirror. We’ve turned the tables on evolution, curing diseases and changing our environment to suit us, rather than the other way around. But don’t think that frees us from further evolutionary changes. Incurable epidemics that strike the young are still a powerful selective force. A mutation that boosted resistance to HIV, for example, could spread quickly by allowing those who have it to survive and have children. “We continue to accumulate mutations,” says Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Maryland.
The actual evidence suggests that the mutations we are accumulating are hardly making us better. Over a thousand human diseases are known to be caused by mutations, and the list is growing. This is to be expected: random changes to complex, highly integrated systems would not be expected to improve them. This points back to a time in the past when there were fewer mutations. The Bible speaks of this as when God made Adam and Eve, the first people, and everything was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31).
“But we’re altering evolution.” Assisted reproduction allows some people to beat natural selection, she notes, while birth control gives an evolutionary leg up to those who don’t use it.
In evolutionary terms, the most successful humans are those who have the most children!
A quick survey of the human condition reveals any number of desirable improvements—surely evolution could take care of hernias and osteoporosis and the appendix, which serves no greater purpose than to become inflamed?
A blatant falsehood. Epidemiological evidence shows that people who have their appendix removed in childhood have higher rates of bowel cancer later in life. The appendix is rich in lymphatic tissue, and clearly has some sort of immunological role, probably mainly in infancy.
At one time evolutionary notions led to 180 human organs being labeled as ‘useless leftovers of evolution’. Thankfully not everyone believed the evolutionary nonsense and the list has shrunk to the point that only the appendix normally gets mentioned. See Q&A Vestigial organs for more details. Old stories that indoctrinate in evolutionary dogma die a slow death, it seems (others include embryonic similarities fraud and peppered moths on trunks of trees, etc.). Interestingly, if a mutation got rid of the appendix, even if that were ‘beneficial’, it would not demonstrate ‘evolution in action’ because it would be a loss of information for making an appendix, not the gain of information that evolution needs to proceed from less complex to more complex (microbe to man, for example).
But those annoyances usually don’t keep the annoyed from passing on their genes. And with precious little geographic isolation—one of the main drivers of speciation—left in our global village, we’ll probably have to wait until a space colony gets cut off for several thousand generations before a new human species evolves.
Of course, it’s the idea that human beings themselves are products of evolution that provokes most of the attacks on evolution. Such rejections leave most scientists mystified. “The scientific narrative of the history of life is as exciting and imbued with mystery as any other telling of that story,” says Knoll.
This is wishful story telling in the extreme. Evolutionary dogma kills. It kills meaning, purpose and morality. Even evolutionists themselves admit it. Atheist professor of biology, William Provine, acknowledged:
‘Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposeful forces of any kind, no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be completely dead. That’s just all—that’s gonna be the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.’
(Provine, W.B., Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? The Debate at Stanford University, William B. Provine (Cornell University) and Phillip E. Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), videorecording © 1994 Regents of the University of California; see also Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994; arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm).
As two senior British educators pointed out:
‘To teach children that they are nothing more than developed mutations who evolved from something akin to a monkey and that death is the end of everything is hardly going to engender within them a sense of purpose, self-worth and self-respect.’ (Nigel McQuoid & John Burn, Principal and former Principal respectively of Emmanuel College, UK. The Guardian, 9 March 2002, p. 3).
People were shocked at the seemingly senseless massacre of fellow students at Columbine high school. But if children are taught an evolutionary view of reality that denies ultimate moral responsibility (there is no real Creator Who owns everything and to Whom I will be accountable in eternity), that they are just animals, part of the grand ‘struggle for survival’, it is really not that surprising. See this brief analysis and Dangerous Radicalization in Schools. As Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) wrote in his play, Brothers Karamazov, ‘Without God, everything is permissible; crime is inevitable.’
Western democracies are in decline because of the demise of active faith in God (Christ) and a significant factor in that decline is indoctrination in evolution, which allows people to be ‘intellectually fulfilled atheists’ (Richard Dawkins). As Sherwood Taylor said of England, ‘… I myself have little doubt that in England it was geology and the theory of evolution that changed us from a Christian to a pagan nation.’ (F. Sherwood Taylor, ‘Geology changes the outlook’, in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, Sylvan Press Ltd, London, p. 195, 1949—Taylor was Curator of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford).
This means that news media that indoctrinate readers in evolution, such as U.S. News and World Report (this response), PBS (see CMI’s response to their Evolution TV series), Scientific American (CMI’s response to ‘15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense’), Time (see ‘Up From the Apes’, Time magazine gets it wrong again, It’s time for TIME to get it right!, Time’s alleged ‘ape-man’ trips up (again)!) and National Geographic (see feathered dinosaur hoax, for example) are aiding and abetting the decline of western (Christian) civilization (including the United States of America).
The evidence against evolution amounts to little more than “I can’t imagine it,” Ewald adds. “That’s not evidence. That’s just giving up.”
To suggest that the arguments against evolution amount to simply ‘I can’t imagine it’ seem to willfully ignore the mass of arguments raised by its scientific opponents. See for example, Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati , Ph.D., FM.
Many researchers simply ignore the debates and press on with their work. But as evolution becomes an applied science, others say it’s more urgent than ever to defend its place in the schools. “HIV is one of the world’s most aggressively evolving organisms,” says Palumbi. If it weren’t for the virus’s adaptability, which helps it foil the body’s defenses and many drugs, “we would have kicked HIV in the teeth 15 years ago.” But doctors don’t learn about evolution in medical school, he says, leaving them about as well prepared to combat HIV as a flat-Earth astronomer would be to plan a moon shot.
“Somewhere in high school in this country is a student who’s going to cure AIDS,” Palumbi says. “That student is going to have to understand evolution.”
Here’s the ‘bait and switch’ trick again. HIV changes, yes, but do those changes (which they label ‘evolution’) mean that HIV could change into a more complex, different type of entity (as in the big picture ‘evolution’, microbes-to-man)? No, they are not information-adding changes—see Has AIDS evolved?. Here we also have the old ‘tug at the heart strings’ argument that we need to believe that we came from pond scum by accidental changes to genes over billions of years in order to find a cure for AIDS. The logic escapes me. To find a cure for AIDS, we need a thorough knowledge of the biology of the virus, HIV, and its interaction with the human immune system. The dynamics of natural selection are also important, but as we have seen, selection does not help the credibility of the belief that things evolved from a common ancestor. See Muddy waters. The same applies to any other disease: we need to study the disease here and now, experimentally. Dreaming about what happened in the past, especially when it is based on the false premise of materialism (nature is all there is), and its equally false corollary that complex coded genetic information arises through natural, non-intelligent processes, will lead to dead-ends in research, not breakthroughs. See what a top AIDS researcher, a creationist molecular biologist, says about this. By the way, if people followed God’s standards for sexual morality, AIDs would be stopped in its tracks, so we already have the solution to the problem available!
But then again, that’s what this whole debate is about—it’s about getting rid of God and His claim upon our lives, here and in the hereafter. That’s why certain people are so passionate about evolution. That’s why so many atheists are at the forefront of pushing evolution on society, by any means available (see A Who’s Who of evolutionists). That’s why atheists formed the organization that has become the (misnamed) National Center for Science Education (the only ‘science’ this group focuses on is evolution).
Evolution tends to make atheists of people who are indoctrinated in it, that’s why atheists push so hard for unfettered teaching of it. Evolutionist and atheist professor of biology at Cornell, Will Provine, admitted,
‘…belief in modern evotution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.’ (Prof. Will Provine (Biology, Cornell Uni.), ‘No free will’. In Catching up with the Vision, ed. Margaret W Rossiter, Chicago University Press, 1999, p. S123).
Michael Ruse, philosopher of science, University of Guelph (and a committed evolutionist and anticreationist campaigner), also acknowledged the religious nature of evolution:
‘Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. … Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today. … Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.’ (National Post, May 13, 2000, pp. B1,B3,B7).
If creation, or even intelligent design, is to be censored from schools because it is ‘religious’ and a contrived ‘violation of the separation of church and state’, then to be logical and consistent, evolution should also be censored, because it is integral to the religion of secular humanism / atheism. Vocal atheists / secularists are basically pushing for a ‘state church of atheism’ in the guise of ‘good science teaching’, which is actually bad, illogical philosophy parading as science.
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