A few non-Christian scientists have also written books pointing out the weaknesses of the neo-Darwinian synthesis:6. Criticisms from non-Christian scientists
The Neck of the Giraffe, Francis Hitching. New American Library, 1982
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton. Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1985. 0-917561-05-8
Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Robert Shapiro. Bantam, 1986. 0-553-34355-6
Information Theory and Molecular Biology, Hubert Yockey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 0-521-35005-0, ppbk …903-1
Computer Viruses, Artificial Life, and Evolution, Mark A. Ludwig. Tucson, Arizona: American Eagle Publications, 1993. 0-929408-07-1
Nature’s Destiny: How the laws of biology reveal purpose ion the universe, Michael Denton. New York: Free Press, 1998. 0-684845091
Not by Chance! Shattering the modern theory of evolution, Lee Spetner. New York: Judaica Press,1999. 1-880582244
These authors do not accept creation either, but they are telling other scientists to admit that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution fails to explain the origin of living things. It takes a lot of courage and a very secure position to make such statements. There are many others who agree but do not dare say so, because it would cost them their position and career. That is exactly what has happened in several instances. That is another long story beyond the scope of this book.
In considering evolution, we must begin with the philosophical arguments. They are the same “nothing but science” assumptions which were discussed earlier. The experts in biology are not experts on these assumptions. We are qualified to disagree with their beliefs, and to choose different ones. These assumptions must first be challenged, or it is no use proceeding to discuss the facts. If people are convinced that creation and design have been proved impossible, they cannot really listen to anything that advocates that conclusion. We might as well be trying to prove the earth is flat, and that is exactly the comparison that evolutionists sometimes make with those who challenge naturalistic evolution.7. Considering the “evidence” for evolutionj. Philosophical
This is a glaring instance of the fallacy introduced at the end of ch. 2 and discussed in ch. 5, V, the disguising of metaphysical naturalism as equivalent to methodological naturalism. This is what the experts mean when they state that evolution is science and creationism is not. They are defining science so as to exclude any trace of intelligent design, and furthermore claiming that the limits of the scientific method thus defined are equal to the limits of reality. We should voice strong objection to such manipulation of definitions and assumptions.
One symptom of this prejudicial treatment is the very terminology usually used: notice, it is evolution versus creationism. We must at least insist on parallel nomenclature, either evolution and creation, or evolutionism and creationism. Why is creation an ism but not evolution?
Anything else is relegated to another realm, which they are willing to politely tolerate as material for the study of comparative religions. The Biblical creation account is lumped in with all “creation myths” of other religions and cultures, and its origin and significance is thus considered fully dealt with and removed from further consideration in polite scientific discussion. Ch. 5, V, B already discussed this naturalistic outlook on the origin of religion. It never occurs to them that the modern scientific establishment with its metaphysical naturalism is also a culture and a religion, and that neo-Darwinian evolution is that culture’s creation myth. Thus if there is some reason why all creation myths must be disregarded, then evolution goes out with all the rest.
The question of whether intelligent design occurred is not a religious question but a historical one. It is a simple question of what in fact happened. Belief in a designer can be a conclusion from research and a motive for more research, not an obstacle. The only religious question is, if there is a designer, whether the designer is the god of one or more religions, but that is no reason to forbid asking the historical question. Whether there is design, and who the designer is, are two separate questions. Of course, it is natural to consider the gods of various religions as the foremost candidates for the role of designer. Forbidding the question of design for this reason is like restricting the police from investigating a murder because it might turn out that the murderer is someone in a high position. That would be called obstruction of justice, and is itself a serious crime.
Speaking of police investigations, that is one of many fields of scientific research which are explicitly devoted to discerning evidence of intelligent design, sometimes with no knowledge of the identity or purpose of the designer. Archaeology and cryptanalysis are other such fields. The SETI (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) program has a sophisticated criterion for distinguishing signs of intelligence in a radio signal. Yet it never occurs to them to apply their criterion to their own DNA. Actually, it does occur to them. Evolutionists consistently talk about the appearance of design in living things, they just insist that this is not really the product of design, but of Darwinian evolution.
Evolutionists complain that creation is not scientific because there is no test that can prove or disprove creation or design. This statement is false; see the discussion below of information and its production. Be that as it may, can they name a test that can prove or disprove evolution? Actually, it is possible to study an object and conclude that it is extremely, overwhelmingly, improbable that it was produced without design. There are things all around us that were obviously designed by someone for a purpose: paper cups, tables, chairs, lights, cars, watches, computers, books, words on the blackboard, posters, etc. If someone insists that we must explain all these things by natural laws alone without design, he’s simply crazy. Design is not a miracle; we see it all around us, and we do it ourselves all the time. At least the process of design and manufacturing does not involve any apparent violation of known laws of nature. On a different level, there is the question of whether our thoughts that produced the design and guided the manufacturing are a strictly natural process in our brain cells or something beyond, and if so whether that could be called a miracle. But that is another deep subject, which was discussed in ch. 5, V, A, and will be further pursued below in sec. d on mutations and natural selection.
According to evolutionists’ own principles, how can they account for the existence of all the obvious products of design around us? We have experience with designing automobiles and paper cups, but not with designing universes and living things. There is only one universe, and we have no recollection nor direct record of its origin. Therefore, what basis is there for ruling out the possibility of design in the universe, and living things?
The real problem is that the design of living things is not supernatural, but is superhuman. There were humans involved in the design of automobiles, but not of living things. In fact, that is an awesome project that no one on this Earth could possibly begin to accomplish. Perhaps the reason people do not believe there is such a designer is not that they are unconvinced but that they are unwilling to acknowledge that possibility, and accept the further implications it might have. The questions of design and designer are separate, but the first leads inescapably to the second. If we have a designer, he of course had some plans for his design, and those plans might be different from some of our own plans and wishes. So it might be preferable to believe there is no designer. As was asked in ch. 5, V, B, who is dreaming? We ourselves are living things, so it is impossible to have an objective, scientific attitude about this question; it is not a neutral, safe topic about things “out there,” like the origin of the physical universe. But, as noted earlier, even that subject makes a lot of people nervous.
Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science, has been one of the outstanding defenders of evolution as the only truly scientific explanation of our origin. He was one of the most influential witnesses at the 1982 Arkansas trial about teaching an alternative to evolution in the public schools, and Judge William Overton’s ruling closely followed his position. That ruling stated that creation is a religious concept and evolution is scientific, basing that on some definitions of science and religion. This has been extensively criticized in the years since, not only by Christians but also by non-Christian philosophers of science. But in 1993 Michael Ruse himself shocked the annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Invited to give a speech specifically “to refute Phillip Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial,” he instead stated that he had come to agree with one of the book’s primary conclusions: that evolution is in fact as much a philosophical assumption as it is a scientific deduction. He attributed this change of mind largely to his personal contact with Phillip Johnson, especially in their encounter at a conference on Darwinism at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1992. Ruse of course still staunchly supports belief in evolution, but at least he has come to admit to himself and to others why he does so.
It is true that in many cases evolutionary theory has motivated a lot of interesting research, but in many other instances it has also often been a hindering and misguiding influence. For example, it has caused an overemphasis on competition between species, and a slowness to notice cooperation. It encouraged a mistaken interpretation of embryology. Paleontologists (fossil researchers) “must” find fossils that show evidence of gradual change, or at least that is the only kind they can publish articles about.
Evolutionists say that any theory is better than none, and evolution is the only possible scientific theory; does evolution really need such a defense?! Aristotle’s astronomy was better than nothing too, but it waswrong. Is there really no alternative to evolution? Why is intelligent design not an acceptable alternative, a suitable subject for research?
The questions are not restricted to the origin of life on the Earth. There is also the question of the origin of the Earth with all its just-right characteristics, and the origin of the universe with its just-right physicsconstants. If intelligent (superhuman) design is not an acceptable explanation of all this, then what is? For the formation of the Earth, naturalism can only offer blind faith in blind chance. However improbable it may be, they can only say that it did somehow happen. For some people, the anthropic principle has been transmuted into an inversion of cause and effect, claiming that the universe and the Earth are like they are because we have to be here. It is a clear-cut example of the fact that the only way to reject God is to make yourself God. This is unavoidably connected with new-age concepts of guiding spirits and a pantheistic universe. Somehow that seems to be acceptable to most scientists, or at least they feel it is not polite (or politically correct) to criticize it. But the idea of a personal intelligent God Who designed it all is firmly rejected. Why?
The only alternative scientific explanation for the universe’s characteristics is to propose that there is a huge number of other universes, all with different characteristics, and of course the one we see is the one in which it is possible for us to exist. Therefore it is not a result of design, but an observational selection effect. But this merely pushes the question back one step, by assuming there is a higher level of laws governing the formation and characteristics of multiple universes. The question then becomes why those laws exist. But another question is why we should prefer this explanation over intelligent design of the one universe we see. There is by definition no possibility of evidence for the existence of other universes, let alone for their characteristics; can this be considered science?
The issue thus boils down to the logic of explanation, first introduced at the end of ch. 2. What is the “best” explanation of the characteristics of living things? That depends on our definition of “best.” If we accept metaphysical naturalism, then some form of evolution is the only player on the field. If we do not accept that philosophical assumption, then the field is still open to other players, and intelligent design is a very qualified contender. In fact that contender seems the overwhelming winner by all objective logical standards when we finish looking at the evidence in the following sections.
Now that we have discussed the philosophical arguments which are often used in support of evolution and against intelligent design, we can discuss the evidence.
The argument from similarities contains three hidden assumptions, at least they are never stated explicitly:a. Similarities
1 That we know what characteristics would result from an evolutionary process,Simply stating the logic this clearly reveals the fallacy in it. Point 1 is false. Evolution is by definition an unguided, random process. In evolutionists’ hands it is sufficient to explain even the most unusual plants and animals. It can explain anything, and predict nothing specific, only that there should be a broad variety of living things with both similarities and differences.
2 that we know what characteristics would result from design, and
3 that the characteristics of actual living things fit evolution and not intelligent design.
Point 2 is debatably false, and is certainly false as evolutionists state it. Evolutionists claim that the result of design would not be so many similarities between different life forms. Why not? We will pursue this point in the next paragraph. But now, to be as generous as possible, let’s say that we just do not know what would result from design, since we did not design living things. For now, we can at least conclude that we do not know points 1 and 2, so this gives us no basis for point 3, deciding whether living things fit one theory better than the other. Thus, giving evolution every possible benefit of the doubt, similarities prove nothing in choosing between evolution and design. They are irrelevant.
In fact we do have vast experience with design; we all do it every day, and see it all around us. Products of human design display many points of similarity, with differences in details. One good idea deserves many applications. Automobiles have many common features, because they have many common functions. But no one argues that they therefore must be lined up into a family tree of evolutionary descent. The same is true of airplanes and teaspoons. If the incredible complexity of living things is not evidence for design, what would be? Why would a creator not make things with many similarities? We make things that way.
One evolutionist many years ago made an often-quoted remark that it is difficult to understand the capriciousness of a deity who would create things with so many similarities, and thus the deceptive appearance of evolution instead of creation. It is difficult to understand the capriciousness of an undeniably intelligent man who would make such a statement with the deceptive appearance of stupidity.
Even evolutionists are not sure similarity always proves a common ancestor. Many similar-looking plants and animals are obviously not closely related; this is called convergence or mimicry. There are similarities in shape and color, and in functions like vision, flying and swimming. Mimicry is in fact difficult to explain by evolution.
Some very similar organisms must be related, but this does not prove that less similar ones must be related more distantly. It is a huge extrapolation to say that micro-evolution proves macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is an observed fact; the question is where its limits are. This is a subject for research. The assumption of design does encourage research.
An example of extrapolation helps to emphasize the importance of this point. Suppose I am severely out of condition, due to my sedentary lifestyle as a university professor. Finally one day I become concerned about my physical condition, enough to get into action. I decide to begin by completing one mile, four laps around the track. That first time, it takes me 15 minutes to trot/walk/stumble one mile. But my body takes notice of the event, perceives that I may be raising my expectations of the service my body should provide, and makes some improvements in the necessary systems just in case. The next day I try it again, and am able to finish the mile in 14 minutes! Two days in a row is really a stimulus to my body’s conditioning capabilities. My heart, arteries, and lungs hold a meeting and decide that two days in a row means the boss is really serious. They agree to further upgrade their condition, and the third day I complete the mile in 13 minutes. Now, based on these three days of data, can I extend the straight line on the graph and predict that on the fifteenth day I will complete the mile in 1 minute? That is analogous to using micro-evolution, changes in the beaks of finches and colors of moths, to prove that macro-evolution is possible, and could transform mud into man, legs into wings, reptiles into mammals and birds, mice into bats, cows into whales.
There are many dissimilarities that do not fit the predictions of evolutionary theory. Michael Denton, author of a book listed above, is a molecular biologist. He says (and so do others) that molecular biology is finding many dissimilarities among living things that evolution cannot explain, and is not finding the pattern of varying degrees of similarity that evolution predicts there should be. A few examples that do fit those predictions have been widely publicized, while the many that do not are ignored.
We who are not experts can observe that some experts say that other experts have not reported the facts accurately or completely. We can also conclude that the logic of this argument is unconvincing. Familiarity breeds contempt; the experts seem so familiar with the wonders of life that they take it all for granted. We non-experts who are not so familiar with the endless intricacy of living things are still amazed to learn about a little of it, and incredulous that anyone could assert that it all came about by accident.
These organs are not necessarily useless. Over one hundred organs in the human body were once considered useless, but then were discovered to have an important function: tonsils, appendix, tailbone. The list of alleged human vestigial organs is now less than ten. Considering them unfunctional was only an indication of our ignorance, not their actual operation. Doctors are no longer as quick as they once were to remove troublesome tonsils or the appendix; they are now known to be an important part of the immune system. If you injure your tailbone, as my mother once did, you will suddenly discover that nearly every muscle in your body is attached to it. Useless?!b. Vestigial organs and imperfect structures
Another famous example is small bones in whales that are claimed to be useless remnants from walking ancestors of whales, and thus proof that whales are descended from land mammals. This is a very interesting example. It raises several questions. Are those bones really useless in whales, or do they still serve some purpose, for instance for muscle attachment? Or perhaps in the process of development of the embryo. Perhaps a designer did begin with a land mammal and do an extensive editing of its DNA to produce a whale, and the intricate interactions of the DNA structure required leaving this little bit there.
As for supposedly imperfect structures, this is a very subjective statement. When one person considers another stupid, it means they have a widely different degree of understanding of the matter at hand, but which is which requires further investigation. In this case, where one is a human and the other is the Maker of heaven and Earth, I’ll put my bet on the latter. What seems imperfect in one regard may be the best solution of several interrelated requirements. There is no such thing as perfect design, only satisfactory fulfillment of many often-competing requirements. I have seen articles claiming that the structure of the human retina is not inverted but is in fact very effective and better than the other way around. So which expert am I to believe?
But this still misses the point. Intelligent design is not necessarily perfect design. Imperfect design is still design. This questions the intelligence, not the existence, of the designer. When a model of tire is found to be faulty and recalled, no one concludes that that proves those tires were all found congealed in a river downstream from a rubber plantation. In the case of living things, purported imperfection does not prove the nonexistence of a designer but only leads to questions of the identity, ability, and nature of the designer, which is another whole subject of theological questions, and ends up connecting with the problem of evil that is discussed in ch. 4, IV. Once again, separate questions must be dealt with separately.
Even if in some cases an organ really is useless and proves descent from an ancestor in which the organ was functional, this is evidence of regress, not proof of the possibility of progress! Something has gone astray in the logic (see “Facing the Experts” ch. 5, III) when examples of degeneration are used as evidence to prove the possibility of development. It takes little time or skill to destroy something, but great effort and ability to create something new and useful. Destruction is the one thing that time plus chance can accomplish very well. You don’t need a license to work on a demolition team, except in some exceptional circumstances where it is important to avoid unwanted damage nearby. A small guerilla force can bring a strong army to its knees, as in Vietnam. Two teenage boys with guns can devastate a high school in a few minutes, but it takes a large team of professionals many years to build one.
This point does not need further discussion. It has been largely abandoned by evolutionists themselves. It is not a crucial point, and whatever merit it may contain can be regarded as one aspect of similarities.c. Embryology
This is the crucial point where the entire Darwinian model of origins stands or collapses. The fundamental level of life is molecules. I wrote most of this chapter long before I read Michael Behe’s and Bill Dembski’s books, honest! I recommend their books highly, and have recently incorporated their key concepts. If you want all the details and references to support my summary of the subject, it is all there in their books.d. Mutations and natural selection
We must ask whether the assumed random, unguided, unplanned processes of evolution can account for all the life forms we see in the world today. Specifically, can this account for the countless complex systems of which living things are constructed? Can DNA molecules, randomly disrupted by various chemical, mechanical, organic, and radioactive agents, generate the genetic code for all these new structures for natural selection to preserve and accumulate? Can this process ascend from mud to man?
Can it ascend at all? There is a dilemma here, because the vast majority of mutations are destructive, a few are neutral, and a vanishingly small proportion could in any way be considered as introducing something with a really new function beneficial to survival. There is not yet a single observed mutation which can be claimed to do so. Too many mutations will overload the population with defects and lead to its extinction, but too few will fail to supply the assumed rate of development. It is not even theoretically proven that a balance exists between these conflicting requirements.
In considering random events, this must boil down to an assessment of probabilities. But in such complex systems, that is impossible to do with any meaningful precision; any attempted estimate is doomed with fatal flaws in its relevance to the real world. Advocates of evolution are quick to point out such flaws. But those flaws consist of erring on the side of simplicity. If even a simple model fails to confirm the principle, it gives little encouragement to confidence that the principle could be successful in the vastly more complex real world.
There have been attempts to write a computer computation that at least demonstrates the principle of progress by random mutation and natural selection. Some such attempts have failed, and evolutionists respond of course by claiming the model does not adequately represent the real world, and this is a valid objection. But other attempts have succeeded in displaying change that meets some criterion of “progress,” such as Richard Dawkins’ famous “blind watchmaker” program (discussed a few paragraphs below). Evolutionists are strongly inclined to feel these models do have some relevance to reality, although they may be even simpler than the ones that do not show progress. This seems to be a double standard, and further evaluation is needed before any convincing conclusions can be drawn. The computations that “succeeded” have been criticized as having the result built into them, thus actually demonstrating intelligent design instead of random evolution. It seems that for the foreseeable future, a really meaningful computer analogy to biological evolution is beyond the reach of any computer facility. This leaves the concept of development by random variation and selection an unverified and unverifiable speculation.
Actually, the very existence of computers and programs is an unintentional experiment in evolution, a point which is the subject of an entire book by Mark Ludwig. He analyzed the structure of computer viruses, managed a contest for the smallest possible virus capable of certain functions, and evaluated the possibility of evolution of such viruses in their ability to evade virus scanning programs. All of this is precisely parallel to the standard Darwinian natural selection scenario. Ludwig, not at all a Christian let alone a creationist, comes to the conclusion that mutation and natural selection produces absolutely nothing that could be called improvement in the world of computer viruses, and that this is highly relevant to the theory of biological evolution. The argument can be extended to all computer hardware and software. How often is an accidental modification an improvement? The answer is never, at least not in this world. No one, not even an evolutionist, wants a computer that has a certain rate of random malfunctions in the hope that it will sometimes lead to improvement in either the hardware or the software. It is of course imaginable that it could occur, but the improbability vastly overwhelms the finite number of computers and time spent doing computation. And evolution requires not just one such instance but a fairly abundant and steady supply of them.
We can at least evaluate evolutionists’ attempted defenses of this theory. Richard Dawkins has become one of the foremost participants in this debate in the 1990s. He has produced a “blind watchmaker” computer program which can by random changes quite rapidly produce a designated sentence from any given initial string of random letters. Is this relevant to our origin? Notice the detail “a designated sentence.” Here is where the intelligence is in fact inserted at the beginning. The random changes are “selected” according to their progress toward or away from the destination sentence, and all such progress is retained as the starting point for further variation. In the evolutionists’ unguided world, where did the genetic designated destination sentences come from, with which to compare the products of mutational variation?
But this is the least of Dr. Dawkins’ problems. To be a true analogy of evolution, his sentence must be a correct meaningful sentence at every step. It is not. Even if evolutionists can imagine a gradual process which would produce functioning complex systems in the end, we still must ask what would make the process go on. When the system is only half-complete, the animal is not fit to survive, and natural selection, the survival of the fittest, will reject it. What will make reptile scales keep changing until they become bird feathers? What good is a fuzzy scale? What will make reptile feet keep changing until they become wings? If they are neither feet nor wings, they are useless and unfit to survive. A snake’s poison system with just one part missing is worse than useless. A hollow tooth by itself will only cause cavities. Without an intelligent designer why does the process go on? With an intelligent designer, what need is there for a process? Not only is it difficult to propose a process to explain the origin of flying birds; there are also bats, and many different types of flying insects. Evolutionists themselves estimate that the power of flight arose not just once but over a dozen separate times. Rather than taking this as evidence that some intelligent design must be occurring, they take it as evidence of how easy it is for flight to be produced by evolution!
In the survival of the fittest, anything less than fitness is extinction. Survival is the definition of fitness. Genetic “sentences” must not only make progress toward being meaningful, but must be meaningful at every stage along the way. This is an interesting exercise with a single word; try changing “dog” to “cat” one letter at a time, so that it is a valid word at every step. There are several possible solutions which you can find fairly quickly, getting there in three (can you find that one?) or a few more steps. But how would a random process find them? It could be restricted to changing a letter into any other letter, so there are 25 choices at each step. So it would take at least about a hundred attempts to reach the answer, and that includes smuggling in your intelligence in knowing a valid word when you see one. A dictionary search at each step is a vast increase in the computing necessary, and of course introduces the information content of the dictionary. In a really random selection process, we quickly run into millions of possibilities, in which the successes constitute a very tiny fraction. (More about these fractions a few paragraphs later.)
Now try changing the Declaration of Independence into the first chapter of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one letter at a time, keeping it meaningful at every step (whatever that “means”!). And now we have capitals and punctuation, so there are a lot more than 25 possible changes of each letter. Changing it a word at a time might seem to promise faster progress, but that vastly increases the number of choices and lowers the probability of survival at each step; remember this is done randomly. Or to change the analogy from sentences to computer programs, try to transform a Microsoft program into a Gameboy game, let alone into a Macintosh program (all registered trademarks, just for the record), with the requirement that at every step it is a functioning program (on what computer?). Or to think in terms of machines, convert a functioning VW beetle one part at a time into a Rolls Royce, let alone into an airplane, or a radio telescope. Even if you could do it, who would buy a Volks Royce? And what does “function” mean for something halfway between a car and a radio telescope? Or even between things as closely similar as a VW and a lawnmower. And if you did by great ingenuity devise a successful conversion process, would you expect a random process to be able to duplicate it, let alone improve it?
It is impossible to attach any meaningful numbers to these hypothetical conversions. But it is possible to prove that the numbers are unimaginably huge, making astronomical numbers infinitesimal in comparison, and it a matter of sheer common sense that these incalculable numbers amount to simple impossibility. Yet this is precisely the kind of conversion we are talking about in assuming that a four-footed scaly cold-blooded reptile was the ancestor of a flying feathered warm-blooded bird, or a walking mammal the ancestor of a swimming whale or a flying sonar-equipped bat, or that an egg-laying reptile produced a live-birth furry mammal, and that these conversions were accomplished by a long series of small random modifications. We should ask the same kind of questions about such conversions that we asked about the Volks Royce.
It would seem reasonable to say that these key transitions in the theory of evolution are as impossible as the mechanical examples just given, but hope springs eternal, and the fact that we cannot think of a solution does not prove one does not exist. We are surrounded by things we could not figure out how to make, but obviously somebody did. I can’t even figure out how a split-ring key ring could be made. Crocheting boggles my mind, but many illiterate people have mastered it. A chess grandmaster might be able to get out of a game situation that ordinary mortals would consider hopeless. But we are not talking about a grandmaster rescuing evolution; we are talking about random mutations. Even assuming that a solution exists which our most intelligent research cannot discover, what is the probability that a random search would find it before it self-destructs instead?
Some evolutionists admit that slow change like this is impossible, and also lacks evidence from fossils, so they assume a giant mutation produced major changes. For example, they say the first bird hatched from a reptile egg. The best-known example of this suggestion was Richard Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster,” for which he was mercilessly ridiculed. The ridicule was probably correct, but the only alternative is gradual change, and he was trying to point out that this too seems hopelessly improbable. But even if the hopeful monster appeared, notice that it is a single individual. Where would this lone creature find a mate?! With such a major alteration, surely it would not be inter-fertile with its relatives. If it were inter-fertile, what kind of offspring would it have? Does the literature contain any attempts to answer such questions? If there are a few attempts, are they convincing? Would you dare ask Michael Behe to give his considered opinion of them?
With either gradual or giant changes, once again we are up against assessing probabilities, and evolutionists invoke the vast times and populations of the ancient earth. But vast is not infinite. We can attach numbers to the generations and DNA locations involved. There are tens to hundreds of thousands of locations, and 20 different amino acids to substitute at each one, and all this is assembled in a flexible three-dimensional structure. In estimating the number of random possibilities in such cases, authors criticizing evolution can easily come up with numbers that are ten to the power of many hundreds or thousands, in fact ten to powers that are that big. These are numbers that you could not even finish writing from the Big Bang to the present, let alone imagine what they mean. You could not even finish writing the exponents. The age of the universe, 15 billion years, is a fleeting 1017 seconds or so, and the visible universe only contains is a scant 1080 electrons. So the known universe, not to mention the early earth’s beaches, is far too tiny and young to give much comfort to the stories of evolutionists.
We now see why there is little encouragement to be found even in the cosmological theories which say the universe may actually be 10100 times bigger than the 10,000,000,000 light years or more that we can see. Even this factor pales to insignificance next to the numbers required in evolutionary theorizing. What is needed is an infinite universe and eternity, plain and simple, in which our existence is an incredibly unlikely fluke occurrence leaping up the powerful waterfall of improbability and decay, which will inexorably soon carry us back downstream. Some like Stephen Jay Gould have in professional publications discussed the lack of a definition of progress, and insisted we cannot really talk about higher or lower life forms. Most change is neutral, sideways, drifting. But that is not at all the way evolutionists routinely view our existence. In their confident moments with a trusting audience, evolutionists give firm assurance that life arose quickly and naturally on the early earth as soon as conditions were suitably favorable, and that the process of evolution continues inexorably upward and onward all around us at this very moment. And that it surely can and did happen anywhere else in the universe where conditions are suitable, for instance perhaps on Mars long ago when it possessed liquid water, or right now in the dark ocean under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
I recently (in 1999) heard a radio interview with an “expert” confidently proclaiming that “Biology has taught us that wherever there is water, life arises.” And as near as I could tell on the radio, he said it with a straight face. What biological research has taught us this? What biology has taught us is that wherever there is life there is water, not the other way around. One of the (no pun intended) watershed advances in the history of biology was the realization that life does not arise from non-life. But somehow in evolutionists’ hands that fact becomes inverted into a reason to reject intelligent design by a living God, in favor of an origin-of-life model of random production on a sterile early earth. This sounds to me like saying precisely that life arose from non-life. It is time to make a critical evaluation of these experts’ assumptions and logic (see ch. 5, III).
Another common fallacy in assessing probabilities is the assertion that “something must happen.” This reveals a common error in both defense and criticism of evolution. Critics estimate the probability of a given protein structure forming by blind chance, giving the astronomical numbers referred to above. It is usually presented as if this is the only possible structure, and therefore of course impossibly unlikely for a random process to produce this particular one. Evolutionists retort, rightly, that this is not the only possible structure, but one of an essentially infinite number of structures that would be successful living things. Evolutionists basically assume that out of all these vast possibilities surely one will occur, so “something must happen.” The only question is what it will be. But this defense is as false as the criticism it answers.
Analogies evolutionists often use are winning a lottery, having the particular people in the audience at a particular performance or lecture, or a golf ball landing on a particular blade of grass. These are all exceedingly improbable, yet they do occur. Someone wins the lottery. Some audience is present. The golf ball lands on some blade of grass.
The flaw in these analogies is so obvious that explaining it is like proving two plus two is not five, but apparently it must be done. The flaw is of course the assumption that “something must happen”. We cannot assume that there will be a winner in the origin-of-life lottery, or an audience for the origin-of-life lecture, or a blade of grass in the origin-of-life golf course. It is true that there is an infinite number of living protein structures. But there are ranks of infinities. Similarly, there is an infinite number of possible meaningful 500-page books, or even just one page or paragraph, but there is an infinitely larger number of meaningless ones, and therefore an essentially zero probability that the proverbial monkey at a keyboard will produce one of the meaningful ones. He won’t even produce a meaningful 50-letter sentence, any sentence, let alone one from Shakespeare. Life is not like a golf ball landing on a golf course but like a meteor landing on the Sahara Desert, which may contain a large number of blades of grass, but if the meteor lands on one of them the only reasonable explanation is that it was extremely carefully aimed.
In yet another analogy, there is an infinite number of possible computer programs, but what fraction of all possible random computer codes are functioning programs? Computer programmers earn most of their living not by writing new code but by searching for the “bugs” in what they and others have already written. What was written was not, at some tiny point, what was meant, and the computer, high-speed moron that it is, knows no better than to do as it was told.
There is an infinite number of possible ways to design a microprocessor, but what fraction of all possible random patterns on a silicon chip would be a functioning microprocessor? No one would expect to ever see even a single successful chip produced in this way, and the probability is impossible to estimate without some detailed constraints on how the “random” patterns are generated.
I have read about a personal conversation with James Sire in which Dr. Dawkins criticized Dr. Behe for being too lazy to figure out how irreducible complexity can be produced by natural processes. If nobody else has done it yet, then Dr. Behe should work on it. But Dr. Dawkins obviously assumes that there is a solution, that it is what actually happened. What if there is none, and it is not what happened? Dr. Dawkins is too lazy to develop an objective criterion for distinguishing intelligent design from random formation. On what basis could he assert (as he surely would) that a paper cup is a product of design but the hand holding it is not? Bill Dembski’s newest book, The Design Inference, claims to present exactly such a criterion, and deserves careful evaluation. By his criterion, living things indicate design.
It is significant that Dr. Dawkins does not challenge Dr. Behe’s assertion that the literature does not contain any attempts to solve this problem. He does not claim he was too lazy to find it, so he apparently agrees that none exists. If the entire world biological community has not produced an answer in several decades, it is hardly laziness on Dr. Behe’s part to be unable to single-handedly plug this gap, or to even hope to do so. I have recently read articles by others claiming that Dr. Behe did not look far enough in his search for attempted solutions. But it still must be questioned whether those solutions are adequate, and why there were so few attempts, and those so unsatisfactory, where Dr. Behe did look. If the Journal of Molecular Evolution had no answers, why not, and where should they be? Also, stung by the publicity his statements have attracted, some biologists have attempted to rise to the challenge, and in some cases they claim to propose a possible series of steps leading to a system which Dr. Behe considers irreducible. This too must be carefully scrutinized. And as I already asked earlier, even if an extremely clever person can think of a series of steps leading to a particular complex system, would a blind-chance world ever successfully stumble through that series?
This dialogue no doubt has a long and interesting future, and is well worth watching. Even if Dr. Behe turns out to be wrong in a few specific instances, which is probably inevitable given that no-one is infallible, that still does not overthrow his overall conclusion.
Humans have always had an inborn need to account for the origin of living things, especially ourselves, and before Darwin all creation accounts contained some element of intelligent design. It seemed intuitively obvious. Arguably the clearest statement of this was given in William Paley’s writings 200 years ago at the turn of the 19th century. He originated, or at least popularized, the analogy of the watch, arguing that a watch found in a field is obviously a product of design to serve a particular function. The conclusion of a study of the watch is that there must be an intelligent watchmaker. Critics in the 19th and 20th centuries have pronounced his arguments refuted, because they can find a few points on which his enthusiasm somewhat exceeded the actual evidence and rigorous logic. But they have never really faced or refuted his basic point. Behe’s book discusses this subject in detail.
One final argument used in defense of the possibility of naturalistic evolution is the principle of “self-organizing systems.” These occur in various circumstances, most notably in chaotic systems and non-equilibrium thermodynamics, for which Ilya Prigogine won a Nobel prize. But Dr. Prigogine himself states that the relevance of this to living systems is still only a remote speculation. Stuart Kauffman has been an advocate of the concept of self-organization, but his theories too seem to have fallen out of favor for lack of connection with the real world. Even Scientific American, which published some of his articles, has since published comments critical of his theories, calling them “fact-free science.” Michael Behe’s book discusses this.
Christians and other critics of Darwinism have been accused of incompetence for not expressing more awareness of work like that of Kauffman and the artificial-intelligence program. This is no doubt true; our competence is severely limited, and it always would be nice to know more than we do. A few of us did make responses, myself not included. One life is too short to learn everything, and perhaps most of us had the common sense to know that such things must be barking up the wrong tree, and that that would sooner or later become evident without our devoting a lot of time to making it happen. Anyway, who would listen to us with our disqualifying bias on the subject?
Another point often overlooked is that order is not what is needed or observed in living things. Life is not ordered, it is complex. Order is repetition and contains little information; life is not repetitive and its complexity has vast information content. The structure of DNA is called the genetic code. A code is written and used by a coder.
Information can be related to entropy; much information is low entropy. And thus the Second Law becomes relevant. Critics of evolution have often attempted a quick victory by stating that the theory of evolution proposes an increase in order, which violates the Second Law. It is not that simple. Increases in order occur frequently, such as whenever a liquid freezes into a solid by known mechanisms of inter-atomic forces. It also occurs whenever we clean up or manufacture something. But this occurs because the system is not closed; it is interacting with some other part of the universe, and that other part’s entropy increases more than this part’s decreases, even with the intervention of intelligent manipulation. The earth is not a closed system, but constantly flooded with energy input from the Sun. So the question is not whether an increase in order (information, to be precise) on the earth violates the Second Law; it does not. The question is whether mutation and natural selection is a sufficient mechanism to harness the energy input so as to bring about this local increase in information content. The conclusion of this discussion is that it is not. Only intelligent design is sufficient to that task.
That is my conclusion, and that of common sense and a number of experts. It is not the conclusion of the large number of experts constituting the scientific establishment. We are thus left with a stalemate between subjective opinions about what is believable, with some very intelligent and well-informed people (myself not included in that category) on both sides. We need something more objective. Help has arrived in recent years.
In recent decades the sophisticated field of information theory has developed. Among its concepts is the term “entropy,” a direct generalization from its meaning in thermodynamics. Hubert Yockey is one of the experts in this area; see his book. Bradley, Olson, and Thaxton, in The Mystery of Life’s Origin, raise some simple, preliminary arguments about thermodynamics and order. This is the theme of most of the books listed above as critical of evolution.
The most recent and penetrating contribution to this subject is by Bill Dembski. He develops the concept of complex specified information, and equates this with Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity. Dembski reports that it is a mathematically proven conclusion in information theory that information cannot be produced by any natural law, nor by blind chance, nor by any combination of the two. Information can be produced only by intelligent choice and action. Meanwhile the biological community universally recognizes that living things contain a large amount of information, primarily in their DNA but also elsewhere. But biologists believe they can imagine this information being produced by a Darwinian process of mutation and natural selection, which are chance and a law respectively. Dembski points out that information theorists and biologists need to compare notes, and they will then realize that Darwinian theory is in the same category with perpetual motion machines; it violates a well-established principle, and therefore is impossible. The Patent Office will not waste its time looking at a purported design for a perpetual motion machine, but the biological community has devoted thousands of lifetimes to the learned study of the proposition that the Earth’s biosphere is an information-producing machine. And they defend this as a great breakthrough and stimulus in science, and resist any alternative as a setback and hindrance.
An important distinction is between information and data. Information is defined as the result of a choice among equally possible options. Computers generate data in massive quantities, but not information. The output of the computer is pre-determined by the input; it is not making choices among equally available options. Computers generate information only in the sense that they work through the complex implications of given principles much more rapidly than the human brain is capable of doing. The brain gave it the principles, and considers the implications.
A fascinating implication of this is that even human design becomes nothing short of supernatural. If information cannot be generated by any natural law nor chance, but intelligent choice can generate it, then that process of generation is not natural, which it would seem only leaves the alternative that it is supernatural. This point has thus far not been explicitly developed.
The advocates of materialism of course retort that the human mind is in fact a pre-determined computer, or at most as indeterminate as allowed by the laws of physics. But we have discussed that already in ch. 5.
The criterion which Dembski proposes for inferring design as the best explanation (review the discussion of explanation at the end of ch. 2) is to draw the line of probability at one in 10150. That means 1 with 150 zeroes after it. Anything with a probability less than this will be considered impossible as a product of random chance, and therefore must be a result of intelligent design. This is a very generous criterion; review the examples of such numbers given a few paragraphs earlier. This test for design may result in false negatives; it takes intelligence to recognize intelligence, and we may fail to discern the telltale pattern, function, etc. Sometimes it is deliberately disguised, as in codes. And intelligence may produce things that are not quite this improbable, for instance much of modern art. But the test cannot give a false positive; whatever is considered to be a product of design must in fact be exactly that. The information content of DNA unquestionably gives a positive result, far beyond even Dembski’s criterion. Ask any gambler whether he would put any money on Darwinism’s chances.
Dembski’s work thus breaks the longstanding stalemate between some experts’ subjective opinion that living things could not result from a random process, and many other (Darwinian) experts’ opinion that they could. We now have an objective, quantitative criterion by which to conclude that living things are the product of intelligent design, not chance and selection. Thus far the scientific community has responded only by ignoring this “intelligent design movement” as long as possible, and then ridiculing it as “scientific creationism in disguise.” This is their only alternative to facing the inescapable conclusion of work like Dembski’s. But the leaders fortunately do not control the reading or thoughts of every individual. Hopefully more and more will surreptitiously read these intelligent-design arguments and become convinced, and one day their number will become sufficient so that general recognition of the significance of these arguments will become impossible to suppress.
The design in living things has been obvious to most of the world’s population, but millions of university professors cannot see it. The neo-Darwinian emperor’s dependents are not willing to admit he has no clothes. It takes a whole team of Ph.D.s in the “intelligent design movement” to prove what should be obvious.
I find it truly amazing that the theory of evolution by descent with random modification continues to survive. We don’t need to be experts in thermodynamics and information theory to be suspicious of such a theory. We all spend much of our lives battling Murphy’s Law, and many service and administrative professions are fully devoted to cleaning up, organizing, and repairing things, institutions, and people. Research scientists spend most of their time untangling cables, debugging computer code, calming down personnel, hunting for their notebooks and dropped screws, etc. Yet they can believe they themselves, the untanglers, debuggers, calmers, hunters were assembled by a series of random accidents. Despite all their experience in the everyday world, they somehow maintain a faith in the ability of matter to organize itself in the case of biological structures in the remote unobserved past. People who can believe such a thing should be committed for therapy consisting of three months of dressing babies, untangling coat-hangers, and repairing automobiles.
This is the crucial point of this entire subject. The remaining points are mere footnotes, but fossils also merit considerable consideration.
Some of them are not even micro-evolution. European moths always had various different colors; the influence of the change in the environment only selected them in different proportions. The same is true of some bacteria resistance to antibiotics and insect resistance to insecticides. Even where the observed change is a new mutation, it is only a modification of one detail of their chemistry, not a basic change that could lead to a new species. Scientists have studied several thousand generations of fruit flies in the laboratory, and have seen millions of mutations; but fruit flies are still fruit flies.e. Examples
This does raise some interesting questions about the time and place of origin of different animals and plants, but it does not prove the theory of macro-evolution.f. Geographical distribution
They are a big subject. Fossils are evidence of similarity; we have already discussed similarity. The existence of more and more complex organisms with the passage of time is not a surprise to people who believe in an orderly creator God. But a crucial fact is that fossils cannot prove one form was actually descended from another form, only that they existed in a certain time sequence. (Some Christians do not even accept that conclusion from fossils; this is discussed in ch. 7.) As with living organisms, research is needed to determine the degree of similarity which really proves common ancestry, and the question is probably impossible to answer with precision.g. Fossils
An alternative explanation of the sequence of life forms on the Earth is given in sec. 9 below.
The fossils only record the last small fraction of the assumed process of evolution, the last 500,000,000 yr of a 3,500,000,000-yr story. The first 6/7 or more, the transition from a simple cell to complex invertebrates, has almost no record at all, except fossil traces of one-celled organisms. The evolutionists’ explanation is of course that during that time there were no hard parts to produce good fossils. This may be partly reasonable, but evolutionists themselves point to many fossils of soft body parts. The fact remains that many steps in the assumed evolutionary process are an assumption, with no evidence from fossils.
There are many major gaps in the sequence of fossils, major differences between the most similar forms found. Darwin could say that that was because there had not been enough study of fossils, but over 140 years laterthat cannot be said. The gaps are still not filled, though of course there is controversy over exactly how many gaps there are, and where. But if they were in fact all filled, then it would not frequently be news when some new discovery supposedly helps fill one of them, such as in the origin of birds, or whales, not to mention humans. It is often dubious whether the new discovery really does fill any of the gap. And the name of the Cambrian Explosion (see below) would be changed if its origin could be accounted for.
Evolutionists concede that there are still some gaps, but they say that many transitional forms have been found, for instance fossils that are similar to both reptiles and mammals, and therefore are interpreted as the ancestors of mammals. Other experts are on record stating that there is a systematic absence of transitional forms. There is apparently a problem of definition here; transitional forms are in the eye of the beholder. What is our definition of a transitional form?
The first question is how big the changes are from one to the next. How dissimilar can two fossils be and still be considered evidence for an evolutionary transition from one type of animal or plant to another? This is merely another application of the question of how close similarity must be in order to be evidence of a common ancestor. For instance, one change is from one bone in each ear and five bones in the jaw (reptile) to three bones in each ear and one bone in the jaw (mammals). This is a major change. I have not seen anyone claim to find a fossil with two bones in each ear and three bones in the jaw. But even that is not the crucial question. How can there be a gradual process moving a bone (or two) from the jaw to the ear? And how can an accidental, undesigned process do it? The mammal ear is very complex. It is actually one of the outstanding evidences of intelligent design.
For many years the fossil archaeopteryx was considered to be the link between reptiles and birds. But it had fully developed feathers, and other bird-like features. In recent years geologists have found completely bird-like fossils which they date earlier than archaeopteryx, so it can no longer be considered to be the link. The origin of birds continues to be the subject of widely-publicized discoveries, which are re-interpreted a few months later with much more subdued fanfare. The subject is in too much of a state of flux to attempt any conclusive evaluation at present, except that there is still no convincing evidence that birds were produced by gradual evolution from reptiles. The most recent incident was widely publicized in 1999 by National Geographic and others, the discovery in China of a feathered reptile fossil. This later was discovered to be an outright fraud, a counterfeit made of two fossils glued together. This is an example of how the pressure to find confirmation of evolution not only hinders but subverts the progress of science.
The second question about purported transitional fossil forms is their detailed structure and sequence. Are they really evidence of a transition? Or are they a variety of mosaics, for example each with a different mixture of some reptile characteristics and some mammal characteristics? Can they be lined up in a sequence of steady accumulation of specific mammal characteristics? A process of accumulation of new characteristics would have to go through such a sequence, at each step retaining the earlier traits and adding a new one. I have never seen anyone claim that there is any such sequence, so there must not be one. Evolutionists would surely emphasize it if it existed. A variety of mosaics indicates a designer having fun, and it is evidence against a continuous process of modification. Even if there were such a sequence, it still would not be proof of random variation instead of design. It could also very reasonably be interpreted as a well-planned sequence carried out by a designer with a specific goal in mind. Would an unguided random process progress steadily toward a goal? Evolutionists often insist that the question is only how evolution did it, not whether evolution did it. It seems more reasonable to say that the question is only how the designer did it, not whether there was a designer.
The same seems to be true of the link between land mammals and whales, or bats. And there is not even a proposed link between fish and anything earlier. The advocates of evolution themselves speak of the “Cambrian explosion” about 500 million years ago, when all the present major groups of plants and animals (and many others that have since vanished) suddenly appeared in the fossil record within the geologically brief period of a few million years with no known ancestors. The extent and suddenness of this explosion has only been re-emphasized by recent discoveries at a site in China, where a multitude of fascinating, previously unknown types of fossils are being discovered. It remains a mystery (apart from the activity of a designer) how and why they all appeared as they did.
We all have a personal interest in the origin of the human race. Evolutionists point to fossils of “cave men” as our ancestors. Time-Life books have widely propagated a painting that shows a very ape-looking small animal hunched over at the left, and a series of taller and more human-looking creatures ending with modern man standing erect on the right. But the external appearance of all these creatures is supplied by the artist, and cannot be well determined from incomplete skeletons. The series is not in fact a progression of small changes from one to the next. For example, at one point there is the major change from a bone structure suited to walking on four feet to a structure suited to walking upright. There are no fossils representing an intermediate between these two structures.
All the known fossils of “hominids” could be placed on a single table, and their interpretation includes a large number of assumptions. The theories are constantly being rearranged as to which fossil represents an ancestor of which others, and which ones are or are not our ancestors. The datings also are not at all precise. DNA sampling from a few fossils has just become possible in the late 1990’s, and already has overthrown some previously confident assertions, such as the nearness of our relationship to the Neanderthals. Stand by for further developments.
The most direct interpretation of Biblical genealogies gives a date for Adam somewhere near Archbishop Ussher’s famous 4004 BC. There may be gaps in the record, but I find it difficult to stretch this far beyond, say, 10,000 yr. 1,000,000 yr. or more seems out of the question. It is often claimed that there is evidence of humans far older than 10,000 yr. But the definition of “human” is arguable, and as already mentioned the datings are also uncertain.
Since this entire field of research seems to remain in a state of rapid change, I will not attempt to describe or criticize the current viewpoint. Any detailed comments now would soon be out of date.
These are no help to the theory of evolution. There are three serious problems.h, i. Origin-of-life experiments, and organic molecules in space
First, the experiment is mis-named; it was in fact only an “origin of amino acids” experiment. These and the organic molecules in space are very simple molecules, and are arranged quite naturally according to simple laws of reaction. They are not at all as complex as the huge molecules of the simplest living things. This is like finding a few toy alphabet blocks and claiming this explains the origin of a dictionary or Shakespeare’s plays. Actually it is not even as sensible as that; alphabet blocks assume the existence of an alphabet. Living protein is composed of 20 amino acids, out of a vast number of chemically possible amino acids, which would presumably all be present and interacting in a primeval ocean. Of these 20, 19 occur in left- and right-handed symmetric forms; all living things contain only the left-handed forms. So the origin of life from random chemicals is comparable to producing a dictionary from the drawings in an abstract-art gallery. Thaxton’s book discusses the origin-of-life experiments in detail. They did not in fact give consistent results, and are difficult to reproduce.
Second, these compounds are quite fragile, and easily destroyed by the same energy that helps form them. They would not naturally accumulate in the apparatus, but would quickly reach a small steady concentration with a balance between destruction and production. In the experiments the organic compounds were quickly withdrawn from the experiment. But the early earth had no human experimenter controlling the experiment so as to withdraw and protect the products.
Third, geologists have found no evidence in the rocks that there ever was an early reducing atmosphere of ammonia and methane, so there may have never been such conditions on the Earth.
A related question is what kind of origin of life we are trying to explain. Would the first self-reproducing molecule be DNA or RNA? Obviously, not quite either one, because they are dependent on each other. As stated earlier, no one has ever seen a self-reproducing molecule; none are known to exist at present except in textbooks. It is only a theoretical concept, in the same category as physics textbooks’ frictionless planes and massless pulleys.
Some research projects are attempting to produce man-made living things in a test tube. If they succeed, will this disprove the Bible’s story that living things were created by God? No, it will confirm the Bible’s story that living things are a product of intelligent design. If we say it proves that living things can be produced without intelligence, that is an insult to the scientists who do it! If the experiments succeed, they will only produce something like a very simple virus, and will be copying existing viruses. It will still be far, far simpler than any plant or animal.
After we finish listening to experts about evolution, we have many questions that are still unanswered, discussed above. To gather and summarize these crucial questions:8. Questions that are still unanswered by evolution
In conclusion, the theory of evolution is nowhere near a proven fact. Evolutionists are not able to explain how the process could have begun, nor suggest or even imagine specifically what process could have produced the many living things we see, nor explain why the process would happen, nor prove that it did happen. It is arguably not even a conceivable scenario; it is debatable whether a theory of evolution even exists.a. Why do they assume that there could not possibly be a designer? There seems to be neither philosophical nor scientific justification for this assumption, but on the contrary much philosophical and scientific reason to reject it.9. Conclusion
b. What was the origin of the first, simplest living thing?
c. How can the transition be bridged between major differences, e.g. transforming a foot into a wing? Even if a series of transitional forms can be imagined, how can such a transition be fit to survive at every stage along the way, and what propels it forward toward completion of the transition? Could the Volks Royce company keep selling automobiles while the overhaul progresses bit by bit?
d. Is there really any conceivable, let alone believable, series of steps that could produce large, complex systems that are useless unless complete? “Believable” is in the eye of the beholder-believer. This point overlaps with the previous one.
e. Could random genetic variations possibly accomplish all these wonders, select and preserve them, without first destroying the species with the countless accumulated harmful variations?
This is an example of facing the experts, as was discussed earlier in the section on conflicts between science and faith. We who are not experts on biology and geology are able to consider the experts’ philosophical assumptions and their logic, and we conclude that there are some serious weaknesses in both areas. We even suspect that the experts are not being completely objective about the facts within their areas of expertise. Therefore we are unconvinced that evolution is an adequate explanation of the origin of all living things, and we prefer to find a different explanation.
Finding that different explanation is unavoidably linked to our choice of a religious faith, since it is our own origin and purpose that is determined by the answer. The explanation we find will provide considerable guidance in our choice of religious faith, rejecting some and reinforcing the credibility of others. Review the discussion way back at the beginning of this long sec. II.
Let me suggest an alternative version of the history of the Earth, and of life on it. An intelligent power supervised the formation of the Earth less than five billion years ago, so that it possessed all the characteristics required for life to survive. Perhaps an observer would have been able to discern some events in this formation process which clearly violated the usual “laws of nature,” perhaps not. It may have consisted entirely of ordinary events, which only with hindsight could be seen to have a remarkable, purposeful result, which we would call “providential.”
When the sterile early Earth was ready, perhaps a little more than three billion years ago, this intelligent power, or designer, formed some “simple” life forms in the ocean, with the capability of photosynthesis and reproduction. This event of formation would certainly be discernible to an observer. There is no intermediate series of natural-looking steps. These life forms produced oxygen, and changed the composition of the atmosphere slowly over many millions of years, and also in some locations accumulated their decayed organic material. As oxygen accumulated, it produced an ozone layer in the stratosphere, absorbing the sun’s near-ultraviolet radiation before it reached the surface. This made it possible for some slightly more complex plants, and perhaps very simple animals, to survive on the surface of the water and the land, and these were then designed and introduced on the scene. They further modified the environment, until the conditions were suitable for still more complex life forms. And thus the process proceeded, step by carefully planned step, each one essential, until a few thousand years ago a pair of human beings was formed and placed in a home specially prepared for them. First the man was created, given a cram course on survival, and then finally provided with a woman for a mate. Apparently the Creator couldn’t top that, or at least chose not to for now. As far as we know, that was the last such step, the completion and objective of the entire plan of the universe.
The steps in this scenario would have been discernible to a (slightly) trained human observer who happened to be on the scene and paying attention. I leave it unstated precisely how the new forms were constructed. Perhaps each new, more complex life form was produced “from scratch” incorporating many features similar to earlier forms. Perhaps it was done by performing a major editing operation on the DNA of an existing life form, so that for instance the first bird (well, actually at least a mating pair of them) hatched from a reptile egg (well, two eggs). That would seem to be more efficient, utilizing the large amount of similarity to earlier creatures, though of course an intelligent power would have no difficulty accomplishing the job in whatever manner he chose. Such modification is just as much an act of creative intervention as starting all over would be. And this is not what is usually meant by the term “theistic evolution.” I consider it to be clearly in the category of “progressive creation.” This distinction is further discussed in ch. 7.
This scenario also leaves unstated the extent of modification imposed at each instance of intervention, and the extent of modification produced by diversification from a common ancestor. That is to be determined from research, primarily of fossils. Therefore even finding a series of genuine intermediate fossil forms, or missing links, say between reptiles and amphibians, does not answer the question of whether the steps of that transition were brought about by random Darwinian evolution or by intelligent design. That question must be answered by studies of genetics and probability, and the point of this section is that such studies point overwhelmingly in the direction of intelligent intervention as the only feasible explanation.
The origin of Adam and Eve is a particularly sensitive point for those who believe the Biblical creation account as an inspired, accurate historical record. There are many legitimate questions about its precise interpretation, but it clearly emphasizes the separate origin and unique status of Adam and Eve as specific historical individuals, the ancestors of the entire human race. This is reinforced by many references to them later in the Bible, especially by Jesus Himself. It seems especially impossible to interpret the Genesis account as referring to the gradual development of an entire population of pre-human monkeys into a human community, as evolutionists assume, and some Christians propose. Could “the dust of the ground” mean that God produced Adam’s body by editing the DNA of a human-like monkey, instead of starting totally from scratch? Perhaps, but then the statement that God breathed into him the breath of life does not mean he was dead prior to thatmoment. Instead it must refer to placing within that living body a spiritual nature that transcends anything possessed by animals. The subject of human-animal distinctions was bypassed in the earlier discussion of the distinctions between humans and computers. Be that as it may, the account of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib while he took a nap seems especially incompatible with the idea of the gradual transition of an entire community from animal to human. Instead, it supports the idea that God worked through a process of DNA editing. Eve was the first human clone, with extensive genetic engineering.
There is nothing in this story of the universe and life that is inconsistent with logic or with any scientific discoveries of which I am aware. This scenario also has no conflict with the Biblical account (see ch. 7). Science has not given us any reason to doubt the Bible’s story that God formed the Earth and living things. Science is not a barrier in anyone’s path to faith in the Bible, including its account of the creation of heaven, Earth, life, and the human race. In fact, the progress of science has given us many reasons to conclude that there must be an extremely intelligent designer of the universe and living things. If so, then it is important for us to know who the designer is and why He created all this, including ourselves. Science cannot answer these questions. The Bible claims to answer them.
But the Bible is not the only answer on the market. It is impossible to predict the outcome of the debate over the validity of Darwinian evolution. The scientific establishment is still vehemently rejecting intelligent design and defending naturalistic materialism. But there are many trends already in Western society toward a pantheistic, or New Age, paradigm of a deified universe and a living Mother Earth, with unabashed connections to spiritism. Eastern society has already been there for millennia, waiting for the West to join it. Perhaps when the facts and logic against Darwinism become overwhelming, there will finally be a paradigm shift in the scientific establishment. But it probably will be to the New Age, rather than to the Bible. Intelligent-design thinkers like Bill Dembski and Phillip Johnson talk optimistically about the overthrow of naturalism, but if the result is the dominance of New-Age spiritism we may wish for the good old days of atheistic naturalism. When society falls into the hands of Satan himself, we will prefer the tender mercies of the Nazis and communists.
It is important for us to find the correct answer,
if there is one, and therefore to know whether the Bible’s answer is true.
That is the subject of the next section.