Disclaimer: Although CSSI generally agrees with the thrust of this critique, the ideas expressed are those of the author himself.
A Critique by John Armstrong of:
“Was Darwin Wrong?” by David Quammen
National Geographic, Nov 2004, pp. 2-31
The National Geographic journalist takes the viewpoint that evolution is a mature theory, accepted by all knowledgeable scientists. It is assumed that any dissent is only because the ‘lucid explanations’ given by evolutionists have either been misread or ignored by ignorant lay people. This critique will reference many scientists, experts in their fields, who argue with the tenets of evolution and with its ability to adequately explain reality. These scientists expose the shortcomings of supposed evolutionary support, from a century old fraud ‘showing embryonic evolution’ to modern genomic considerations.
The style of this critique is to quote a passage from the National Geographic article (with page reference, e.g. P4:) followed by refuting comments supported by quotations from both evolutionary and non-evolutionary scientists.
P4: “Evolution . . . is a theory. . . . It’s a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth’s living creatures. In the same sense, relativity . . . is “just” a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun . . . is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct.”
There is one obvious distinction here, however, between evolution and the other theories mentioned in the quotation. Evolution is a theory about origins – progress and changes in the very distant past, which cannot be observed, tested, or falsified today. Relativity theory is regularly tested and confirmed (e.g. by receiving and counting cosmic particles arriving on Earth through their half-lives dictate that they could never last long enough to reach our detectors). Earth’s orbital characteristics are confirmed every time a satellite is launched. Continental drift is regularly measured today by lasers. Any scientist can measure the countless properties of atoms any day he wants.
Evolutionists would have us believe that evolution has reached the status of a ‘law of nature.’ However, Werner Gitt, A specialist in information theory, stresses, “If the truth of a statement is verified repeatedly in a reproducible way so that it is regarded as generally valid, we have a natural law.” Theories of science must lend themselves to verification. “Verification means that a statement is tested experimentally. . . . A theory is good if it could be falsified . . . and when it survives all open criticisms and tests, it can be accepted.”
Yes, each of the “theories” given by the author of the article as a comparison can be tested today, tomorrow, and next week. However, any theory of origins cannot be repeatedly tested. That is the obvious distinction that the author does not seem to see.
“I argue that the ‘theory of evolution’ does not make predictions, so far as ecology is concerned, but is instead a logical formula which can be used only to classify empiricisms and to show the relationships which such a classification implies. . . . The essence of the argument is that these ‘theories’ are actually tautologies and, as such, cannot make empirically testable predictions. They are not scientific theories at all.”
“It is manifestly impossible to reproduce in the laboratory the evolution of man from the australopithecine, or of the modern horse from an Eohippus, or of a land vertebrate from a fish-like ancestor. These evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible . . . The applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted . . . Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the simplest levels of the evolutionary process, sometimes called microevolution.” It seems that only microevolution fits the definition of a theory. Macroevolution is simply not testable!
“For some time, it has seemed to me that our current methods of teaching Darwinism are suspiciously similar to indoctrination.”
“There is a close similarity, for instance, between the Darwinist and the Marxist . . . Both can take any relevant information whatever, true or false, and reconcile it with their theory. The Darwinist can always make a plausible reconstruction of what took place during the supposed evolution of a species. Any difficulties in reconciling a given kind of natural selection with a particular phase in evolution can be removed by the judicious choice of a correlated character . . . Looked at in this way the teacher of Darwin’s theory corresponds with the latter, since he undoubtedly is concerned to put across the conclusion that natural selection causes evolution, while he cannot be concerned to any great extent with real evidence because there isn’t any.”
P6: “The creationist conviction – that God alone, and not evolution, produced humans – has never drawn less than 44 percent . . . Why are there so many antievolutionists? Scriptural literalism can only be part of the answer.”
Agreed. The author adds political lobbying and ignorance of “lucidly explained” evolutionary theory. It seems that some scientists and journalists are unaware of the assumptions within the evolutionary establishment. Each person carries with him a worldview – either consciously or unconsciously. That worldview, if correct, agrees with knowledge gained in whatever discipline. An incorrect worldview hinders us from seeing “truth” in its fullness. Specifically, extrapolating variation within kinds or species (micro-evolution) to support evolution between progressively more complex kinds (macro-evolution) shows a disregard for this important distinction. Assuming that supernatural causes cannot be considered is limiting research to a naturalistic, and incorrect, worldview that at least 44 percent of the population is unable to accept.
“To understand scientific development, it is not enough merely to chronicle new discoveries and inventions. We must also trace the succession of worldviews.”
“Contemporary historians argue that it is impossible to neatly separate out something called “pure” science from the “external” religious and metaphysical influences that supposedly “contaminate” it. Fundamental decisions within science are necessarily affected by extra-scientific commitments. The facts that a researcher considers scientifically interesting in the first place, the kind of research he undertakes, the hypotheses he is willing to entertain, the way he interprets his results, and the extrapolations he draws to other fields – all depend upon prior conceptions of what the world is like.”
Many people still retain a worldview that is flavoured by our Judeo-Christian heritage – one in which God is the creative force behind the order, beauty, and complexity of this universe. This perspective fits well with the observed universe. The evidence for evolution is far less adequate (as will be seen as the major supporting pillars given in this article are discussed below). It does not give the obvious fit with the data as the author so hopefully expects.
P8: “Evolution is both a beautiful concept and an important one, more crucial nowadays to human welfare, to medical science, and to our understanding of the world than ever before. It’s also deeply persuasive.”
One of the reasons that evolution is NOT accepted wholeheartedly by people is that it does NOT give us a comfortable foundation for “human welfare.” If we are the product of random chance, the result of eons of death and struggle, then human morality is hollow. Sex is king. We live for our genes. Trust, compassion and caring are signs of weakness. Preying on others epitomizes ‘survival of the fittest’, while praying for others encourages the unfit and aged, those who should be left to the wolves
Yes, it is crucial that we correctly understand our world. We are stewards of God’s creation, accountable to Him for how we treat each other, and the resources He has provided. In our humanness we recognize, however faintly, that morality and beauty, love and trust, harmony and truthfulness are qualities that raise us above the dog-eat-dog rule of tooth and claw. No theory, no matter how ‘beautiful a concept’ can be persuasive enough to rob us of our awareness of what makes us human! Thus, our human nature keeps even non-Christians from wholeheartedly accepting evolution, with its (im)moral ramifications.
The demands of evolution exclude faith in any higher Being. “In the evolutionary system of thought there is no longer need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created; it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul, as well as brain and body. So did religion.”
Not only does evolution remove God, it replaces God with itself as the ultimate god of the universe, to which we all must bow. “Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories all systems, all hypotheses must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”
It would take a lot of good, unequivocal evidence to cause people to make such a change in their belief system. It would be equally hard to convince people that death and struggle are the gods of our upward progress, and the guide for our morality and sense of worth in this universe. If people could be persuaded that strong evidence for evolution exists, they might reconsider their worldview. Perhaps the lack of universal support is a consequence of the paltry evidence that we have for evolution.
P9: “So much for one part of the evolutionary process, known as anagenesis, during which a single species is transformed. But there’s also a second part, known as speciation. Genetic changes sometimes accumulate within an isolated segment of a species, . . . At a certain point it becomes irreversibly distinct – that is, so different that its members can’t interbreed with the rest. Two species now exist where formerly there was one. Darwin called that splitting . . . the ‘principle of divergence’.”
Anagenesis may be called “micro-evolution”, that is, the variation within an inter-breeding species. This is supported in the varieties of roses or dogs (or whatever) that are present today. No thinking person denies this. However, such variation comes at a cost. The original gene pool of each species (kind) contains incredible potential to adapt to changing environments. Each actual change comes from a reduction of some of that potential.
Some dark-skinned people lose their ability to create fair-skinned offspring. Some fair-skinned people lose their ability to create dark-skinned offspring. Carried to an extreme, some animals may have lost their ability to reproduce with others of their original kind. This is not a source of ever more complex divergence of species! It cannot be used to argue that a cow can become a whale, or an ape can become a human. It does explain the origin of pigmy horses, and of albino flamingos – both of which have reduced potential to flourish in their natural environments.
There is no evidence of species divergence that has resulted in a new species that is more complex. The evolutionary tree has gaps at the juncture of every branch because there are no diverging examples to fill them, nor can there be!
As Charles Darwin wrote, “Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.”
Speaking of his book entitled Evolution, Dr. Colin Patterson wrote, “I fully agree with your comments about the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. . . . I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”
P9: “He [Darwin] may have delayed, too, because of his anxiety about announcing a theory that seemed to challenge conventional religious beliefs – in particular, the Christian beliefs of his wife, Emma. Darwin himself quietly renounced Christianity during his middle age, and later described himself as an agnostic. . . Darwin avoided flaunting his lack of religious faith, at least partly in deference to Emma. And she prayed for his soul.”
Speaking of his life before he married, Darwin said, “On 7 March 1837 I took lodgings in Great Marlborough Street in London and remained there for nearly two years until I was married. . . . During these two years I was lead to think much about religion . . . But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the world . . . was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindus, or the beliefs of any barbarian. . . . Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true, for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” It seems that Darwin did not ‘quietly renounce Christianity during his middle age’. It was his agnosticism that gave him motivation to develop evolution!
Thus is the worldview of Darwin throughout his adult life. This was written 22 years before he released his book. Richard Dawkins, a staunch British supporter of standard evolution, says, “Darwin’s own bulldog, Huxley, as Eldredge reminds us again, warned him against his insistent gradualism, but Darwin had good reason. His theory was largely aimed at replacing creationism as an explanation of how living complexity could arise out of simplicity. . . . Gradualness is of the essence. In the context of the fight against creationism, gradualism is more or less synonymous with evolution itself. If you throw out gradualism, you throw out the very thing that makes evolution more plausible than creation.”
Darwin had a purpose for introducing evolution. Perhaps Satan himself encouraged its acceptance. Where evolution succeeds, belief in the Christian worldview, and in Christ Himself flounders!
P9: “The evidence, as he [Darwin] presented it, mostly fell within four categories: biogeography, paleontology, embryology, and morphology.” Each of these is then defined in the article.
P15: “Biogeography is the study of the geographical distribution of living creatures.” As Darwin found, various distinct groups of finches had dissimilar beaks and feeding habits. But, notice that they were still all finches. This study establishes beyond any doubt that living groups (kinds) have incredible ability to diversify. Breeding of cattle, horses, fruit flies, and dogs also show this stunning array. What fantastic support for micro-evolution – variation within kinds. There is a total lack of similar support for any upward change from one living form to another!
Marjorie Grene, an eminent philosopher of science, says: “Geographical distribution was one of the classic supports for descent with modification. . . . But birds do fly and so . . . do fishes swim. Why no dispersal, ever? Among, for example, North and South American fauna or Hawaiian drosophila it seems pretty well established.” Dr. Grene is skeptical of the importance given to geographical isolation within the standard evolutionary model.
Speaking of Darwin’s finches, “it has been found in recent years that such variation in the finches can take place in just a very few years, as in the case of the peppered moth or in pesticide-resistant insects. The finches are all still inter-fertile, and so continue to constitute one species.” Variation within kinds is everywhere. Change from one kind to another, more complex one, is non-existent
P9: “Paleontology investigates extinct life-forms, as revealed in the fossil record.”
Stephen J. Gould comments on the weight of fossil evidence against standard evolutionary theory: “New species almost always appeared suddenly in the fossil record with no intermediate links to ancestors in older rocks of the same region.” In the same article, he reveals that: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils…. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth…. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed’.”
Paleontology has not supported macro-evolution. Basic living forms change size and they adapt to differing habitats, but they do not transform into other beings.
P9: “Embryology examines the revealing stages of development (echoing earlier stages of evolutionary history) that embryos pass through before birth or hatching.”
P13: “Why does the embryo of a mammal pass through stages resembling stages of the embryo of a reptile?’ … because, Darwin wrote, ‘the embryo is the animal in its less modified state” and that state