The separate-worlds model: Science and religion deal with different subjects, do not conflict or overlap, and the two should coexist peacefully with one another. Charles Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, and many other scientists hold this model.
The conflicting-worlds model: One is right and the other is wrong, and there can be no reconciliation between the two viewpoints. This model is predominantly held by atheists and creationists, who are often at odds with one another.
This taxonomy allows us to see that Darwin's advice is as applicable today as it was a century ago. Thus, let us be clear that refuting creationists' arguments is not an attack on religion. Let us also be clear that creationism is an attack on science—all of science, not just evolutionary biology—so the counterarguments presented in this chapter are a response to the antiscience of creationism and have nothing whatsoever to do with antireligion. If creationists are right, then there are serious problems with physics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, and all the life sciences. Can all these sciences be wrong in the same direction? Of course not, but creationists think they are, and, worse, they want their antiscience taught in public schools.
Creationists and religious fundamentalists will go to absurd lengths to protect their beliefs from science. The Summer 1996 issue of the National Center for Science Education's Reports notes that in Marshall County, Kentucky, elementary school superintendent Kenneth Shadowen found a rather unique solution to a vexing problem with his fifth- and sixth-graders' science textbooks. It seems that the heretical textbook Discovery Works claimed that the universe began with the Big Bang but did not present any "alternatives" to this theory. Since the Big Bang was explained on a two-page spread, Shadowen recalled all the textbooks and glued together the offending pages. Shadowen told the Louisville Courier-Journal, "We're not going to teach one theory and not teach another theory" and that the textbook's recall "had nothing to do with censorship or anything like that" (August 23, 1996, Al, p. 1). It seems doubtful that Shadowen was lobbying for equal time for the Steady State theory or Inflationary Cosmology. Perhaps Shadowen found his solution by consulting librarian Ray Martin's "Reviewing and Correcting Encyclopedias," a guide for Christians on how to doctor books:
Encyclopedias are a vital part of many school libraries.. . . [They] represent the philosophies of present day humanists. This is obvious by the bold display of pictures that are used to illustrate painting, art, and sculpture. . . . One of the areas that needs correction is immodesty due to nakedness and posture. This can be corrected by drawing clothes on the figures or blotting out entire pictures with a magic marker. This needs to be done with care or the magic marker can be erased from the glossy paper used in printing encyclopedias. You can overcome this by taking a razor blade and lightly scraping the surface until it loses its glaze. . . . [Regarding evolution] cutting out the sections is practical if the portions removed are not thick enough to cause damage to the spine of the book as it is opened and closed in normal use. When the sections needing correction are too thick, paste the pages together being careful not to smear portions of the book not intended for correction. (Christian School Builder, April 1983, pp. 205-207)
Fortunately, creationists have failed in their top-down strategy of passing antievolution, pro-creationism laws (Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia recently rejected creationist legislation), but their bottom-up grassroots campaign bent on injecting Genesis into the public school curriculum has met with success. In March 1996, for example, Governor Fob James used a discretionary fund of taxpayers' money to purchase and send a copy of Phillip Johnson's antievolution book, Darwin on Trial, to every high school biology teacher in Alabama. Their success should not be surprising. Politically, the United States has taken a sharp turn to the right, and the political strength of the religious right has grown. What can we do? We can counter with our own literature. For example, the National Center for Science Education, Eugenie Scott's Berkeley-based group specializing in tracking creationist activities, countered Governor James's mailing with a mailing that included a critical review of Johnson's book. We can also try to understand the issue thoroughly so that we are prepared to counter pro-creationist arguments wherever we meet them.
The following is a list of arguments put forth by creationists and answers put forth by evolutionists. The arguments are primarily attacks on evolutionary theory and secondarily (in a minor way) positive statements of creationists' own beliefs. The arguments and answers are simplified due to space constraints; nonetheless, they provide an overview of the principal points of the debate. This list is not meant to substitute for critical reading, however. While these answers might be adequate for casual conversation, they would not be adequate for a formal debate with a well-prepared creationist. Numerous books offer fuller discussions (e.g., Berra 1990; Bowler 1989; Eve and Harrold 1991; Futuyma 1983; Gilkey 1985; Godfrey 1983; Gould 1983 a, 1991; Lindberg and Numbers 1986; Numbers 1992; Ruse 1982; and, especially, Strahler 1987).
What Is Evolution?
Before reviewing creationists' arguments against evolution, a brief summary of the theory itself might be useful. Darwin's theory, outlined in his 1859 On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, can be summarized as follows (Gould 1987a; Mayr 1982, 1988):
Evolution: Organisms change through time. Both the fossil record and nature today make this obvious.
Descent with modification: Evolution proceeds via branching through common descent. Offspring are similar to but not exact replicas of their parents. This produces the necessary variation to allow for adaptation to an ever-changing environment. Gradualism: Change is slow, steady, stately. Natura nonfacit saltum—Nature does not make leaps. Given enough time, evolution accounts for species change.
Multiplication of speciation: Evolution does not just produce new species; it produces an increasing number of new species. Natural selection: The mechanism of evolutionary change, co-discovered by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, operates as follows:
A. Populations tend to increase indefinitely in a geometric ratio: 2,4,8,16,32,64,128,25 6,512,
B. In a natural environment, however, population numbers stabilize at a certain level.
C. Therefore, there must be a "struggle for existence" because not all of the organisms produced can survive.
E. In the struggle for existence, those individuals with variations that are better adapted to the environment leave behind more offspring than individuals that are less well adapted. This is known in the jargon of the trade as differential reproductive success.
Point E is crucial. Natural selection, and thus evolutionary change, operate primarily at the local level. It is just a game of who can leave behind the most offspring, that is, who can most successfully propagate their genes into the next generation. Natural selection has nothing to say about evolutionary direction, species progress, or any of the other teleological goals, such as human inevitability or the necessary evolution of intelligence, which are commonly attributed to it. There is no ladder of evolutionary progress with humans at the top, only a richly branching bush with humans as one tiny twig among millions. There is nothing special about humans; we just happen to be extremely good at differential reproductive success—we leave behind lots of offspring and are good at getting them into adulthood—a trait that could eventually cause our demise.
Of the five points of Darwin's theory, the most controversial today are gradualism, with Niles Eldredge (1971, 1985; Eldredge and Gould 1972) and Stephen Jay Gould (1985, 1989, 1991) and their supporters pushing for a theory called punctuated equilibrium, which involves rapid change and stasis, to replace gradualism; and the exclusivity of natural selection, with Eldredge, Gould, and others arguing for change at the level of genes, groups, and populations in addition to individual natural selection (Somit and Peterson 1992). Ranged against Eldredge, Gould, and their supporters are Daniel Dennett (1995), Richard Dawkins (1995), and those who opt for a strict Darwinian model of gradualism and natural selection. The debate rages, while creationists sit on the sidelines hoping for a double knockout. They will not get it. These scientists are not arguing about whether evolution happened; they are debating the rate and mechanism of evolutionary change. When it all shakes down, the theory of evolution will be stronger than ever. It is sad that while science moves ahead in exciting new areas of research, fine-tuning our knowledge of how life originated and evolved, creationists remain mired in medieval debates about angels on the head of a pin and animals in the belly of an Ark.
Philosophically Based Arguments and Answers
1. Creation-science is scientific and therefore should be taught in public school science courses.
Creation-science is scientific in name only. It is a thinly disguised religious position rather than a theory to be tested using scientific methods, and therefore it is not appropriate for public school science courses, just as calling something Muslim-science or Buddha-science or Christian-science would not mean that it requires equal time. The following statement from the Institute for Creation Research, which must be adhered to by all faculty members and researchers, is a powerful illumination of creationist beliefs: "The scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are inerrant in relation to any subject with which they deal, and are to be accepted in their natural and intended sense ... all things in the universe were created and made by God in the six days of special creation described in Genesis. The creationist account is accepted as factual, historical and perspicuous and is thus fundamental in the understanding of every fact and phenomenon in the created universe" (in Rohr 1986, p. 176).
Science is subject to disproof and is ever-changing as new facts and theories reshape our views. Creationism prefers faith in the authority of the Bible no matter what contradictory empirical evidence might exist: "The main reason for insisting on the universal Flood as a fact of history and as the primary vehicle for geological interpretation is that God's Word plainly teaches it! No geological difficulties, real or imagined, can be allowed to take precedence over the clear statements and necessary inferences of Scripture" (in Rohr 1986, p. 190). Here is an analogy. Professors at Caltech declare Darwin's Origin of Species dogma, the authority of this book and its author absolute, and any further empirical evidence for or against evolution irrelevant.
2. Science only deals with the here-and-now and thus cannot answer historical questions about the creation of the universe and the origins of life and the human species.
Science does deal with past phenomena, particularly in historical sciences such as cosmology, geology, paleontology, paleoanthropology, and archeology. There are experimental sciences and historical sciences. They use different methodologies but are equally able to track causality. Evolutionary biology is a valid and legitimate historical science.
3. Education is a process of learning all sides of an issue, so it is appropriate for creationism and evolution to be taught side-by-side in public school science courses. Not to do so is a violation of the principles of education and of the civil liberties of creationists. We have a right to be heard, and, besides, what is the harm in hearing both sides?
Exposure to the many facets of issues is indeed a part of the general educational process, and it might be appropriate to discuss creationism in courses on religion, history, or even philosophy but most certainly not science; similarly, biology courses should not include lectures on American Indian creation myths. There is considerable harm in teaching creation-science as science because the consequent blurring of the line between religion and science means that students will not understand what the scientific paradigm is and how to apply it properly. Moreover, the assumptions behind creationism comprise a two-pronged attack on all the sciences, not just on evolutionary biology. One, if the universe and Earth are only about ten thousand years old, then the modern sciences of cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology, paleoanthropology, and early human history are all invalid. Two, as soon as the creation of even one species is attributed to supernatural intervention, natural laws and inferences about the workings of nature become void. In each case, all science becomes meaningless.
4. There is an amazing correlation between the facts of nature and the acts of the Bible. It is therefore appropriate to use creation-science books and the Bible as reference tools in public school science courses and to study the Bible as a book of science alongside the book of nature.
There is also an amazing correlation between acts in the Bible for which there are no facts in nature and between facts in nature for which there are no acts in the Bible. If a group of Shakespeare scholars believe that the universe is explained in the bard's plays, does that mean science courses should include readings of Shakespeare? Shakespeare's plays are literature, the Bible contains scriptures sacred to several religions, and neither has any pretensions to being a book of science or a scientific authority.
5. The theory of natural selection is tautological, or a form of circular reasoning. Those who survive are the best adapted. Who are the best adapted? Those who survive. Likewise, rocks are used to date fossils, and fossils are used to date rocks. Tautologies do not make a science.
Sometimes tautologies are the beginning of science, but they are never the end. Gravity can be tautological, but its inference is justified by the way this theory allows scientists to accurately predict physical effects and phenomena. Likewise, natural selection and the theory of evolution are testable and falsifiable by looking at their predictive power. For example, population genetics demonstrates quite clearly, and with mathematical prediction, when natural selection will and will not effect change on a population. Scientists can make predictions based on the theory of natural selection and then test them, as the geneticist does in the example just given or the paleontologist does in interpreting the fossil record. Finding hominid fossils in the same geological strata as trilobites, for instance, would be evidence against the theory. The dating of fossils with rocks, and vice versa, could only be done after the geological column was established. The geological column exists nowhere in its entirety because strata are disrupted, convoluted, and always incomplete for a variety of reasons. But strata order is unmistakably nonrandom, and chronological order can be accurately pieced together using a variety of techniques, only one of which is fossils.
6. There are only two explanations for the origins of Ufe and existence of humans, plants, and animals: either it was the work of a creator or it was not. Since evolution theory is unsupported by the evidence (i.e., it is wrong), creationism must be correct. Any evidence that does not support the theory of evolution is necessarily scientific evidence in support of creationism.
Beware of the either-or fallacy, or the fallacy of false alternatives. If A is false, B must be true. Oh? Why? Plus, shouldn't B stand on its own regardless of A? Of course. So even if evolutionary theory turns out to be completely wrong, that does not mean that, ergo, creationism is right. There may be alternatives C, D, and E we have yet to consider. There is, however, a true dichotomy in the case of natural versus supernatural explanations. Either life was created and changed by natural means, or it was created and changed by supernatural intervention and according to a supernatural design. Scientists assume natural causation, and evolutionists debate the various natural causal agents involved. They are not arguing about whether it happened by natural or supernatural means. And, again, once you assume supernatural intervention, science goes out the window—so there can be no scientific evidence in support of creationism because natural laws no longer hold and scientific methodology has no meaning in the world of creationists.
7. Evolutionary theory is the basis of Marxism, communism, atheism, immorality, and the general decline of the morals and culture of America, and therefore is bad for our children.
This partakes of the reductio ad absurdum fallacy. Neither the theory of evolution in particular nor science in general is no more the basis of these "isms" and Americans' so-called declining morals and culture than the printing press is responsible for Hitler's Mein Kampf or Mein Kampf is responsible for what people did with Hitler's ideology. The fact that the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, and many even more destructive weapons have been invented does not mean we should abandon the study of the atom. Moreover, there may well be Marxist, communist, atheistic, and even immoral evolutionists, but there are probably just as many capitalist, theist, agnostic, and moral evolutionists. As for the theory itself, it can be used to support Marxist, communist, and atheistic ideologies, and it has; but so has it been used (especially in America) to lend credence to laissez-faire capitalism. The point is that linking scientific theories to political ideologies is tricky business, and we must be cautious of making connections that do not necessarily follow or that serve particular agendas (e.g., one person's cultural and moral decline is another person's cultural and moral progress).
8. Evolutionary theory, along with its bedfellow, secular humanism, is really a religion, so it is not appropriate to teach it in public schools.
To call the science of evolutionary biology a religion is to so broaden the definition of religion as to make it totally meaningless. In other words, religion becomes any lens that we look through to interpret the world. But that is not what religion is. Religion has something to do with the service and worship of God or the supernatural, whereas science has to do with physical phenomena. Religion has to do with faith and the unseen, science focuses on empirical evidence and testable knowledge. Science is a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed or inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation. Religion—whatever it is— is certainly neither testable nor open to rejection or confirmation. In their methodologies, science and religion are 180 degrees out of phase with each other.
9. Many leading evolutionists are skeptical of the theory and find it problematic. For example, Eldredge and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium proves Darwin wrong. If the world's leading evolutionists cannot agree on the theory, the whole thing must be a wash.
It is particularly ironic that the creationists would quote a leading spokesman against creationism—Gould—in their attempts to marshal the forces of science on their side. Creationists have misunderstood, either naively or intentionally, the healthy scientific debate among evolutionists about the causal agents of organic change. They apparently take this normal exchange of ideas and the self-correcting nature of science as evidence that the field is coming apart at the seams and about to implode. Of the many things evolutionists argue and debate within the field, one thing they are certain of and all agree upon is that evolution has occurred. Exactly how it happened, and what the relative strengths of the various causal mechanisms are, continue to be discussed. Eldredge and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium is a refinement of and improvement upon Darwin's theory of evolution. It no more proves Darwin wrong than Einsteinian relativity proves Newton wrong.
10. "The Bible is the written Word of God ... all of its assertions are historically and scientifically true. The great Flood described in Genesis was an historical event, worldwide in its extent and effect. We are an organization of Christian men of science, who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and one woman, and their subsequent Fall into sin, is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Savior for all mankind" (in Eve and Harrold 1991, p. 55).
Such a statement of belief is clearly religious. This does not make it wrong, but it does mean that creation-science is really creation-religion and to this extent breaches the wall separating church and state. In private schools funded or controlled by creationists, they are free to teach whatever they like to their children. But one cannot make the events in any text historically and scientifically true by fiat, only by testing the evidence, and to ask the state to direct teachers to teach a particular religious doctrine as science is unreasonable and onerous.
11. All causes have effects. The cause of "X" must be "X-like." The cause of intelligence must be intelligent—God. Regress all causes in time and you must come to the first cause—God. Because all things are in motion, there must have been a prime mover, a mover who needs no other mover to be moved—God. All things in the universe have a purpose, therefore there must be a purposeful designer—God.
If this were true, should not nature then have a natural cause, not a supernatural cause? But causes of "X" do not have to be "X-like." The "cause" of green paint is blue paint mixed with yellow paint, neither one of which is green-like. Animal manure causes fruit trees to grow better. Fruit is delicious to eat and is, therefore, very unmanure-like! The first-cause and prime-mover argument, brilliantly proffered by St. Thomas Aquinas in the fourteenth century (and more brilliantly refuted by David Hume in the eighteenth century), is easily turned aside with just one more question: Who or what caused and moved God? Finally, as Hume demonstrated, purposefulness of design is often illusory and subjective. "The early bird gets the worm" is a clever design if you are the bird, not so good if you are the worm. Two eyes may seem like the ideal number, but, as psychologist Richard Hardison notes cheerfully, "Wouldn't it be desirable to have an additional eye in the back of one's head, and certainly an eye attached to our forefinger would be helpful when we're working behind the instrument panels of automobiles" (1988, p. 123). Purpose is, in part, what we are accustomed to perceiving. Finally, not everything is so purposeful and beautifully designed. In addition to problems like evil, disease, deformities, and human stupidity which creationists conveniently overlook, nature is filled with the bizarre and seemingly unpurposeful. Male nipples and the panda's thumb are just two examples flaunted by Gould as purposeless and poorly designed structures. If God designed life to fit neatly together like a jigsaw puzzle, then what do you do with such oddities and problems?
12. Something cannot be created out of nothing, say scientists. Therefore, from where did the material for the Big Bang come? From where did the first life forms that provided the raw material for evolution originate? Stanley Miller's creation of amino acids out of an inorganic "soup" and other biogenic molecules is not the creation of life.
Science may not be equipped to answer certain "ultimate"-type questions, such as what there was before the beginning of the universe or what time it was before time began or where the matter for the Big Bang came from. So far these have been philosophical or religious questions, not scientific ones, and therefore have not been a part of science. (Recently, Stephen Hawking and other cosmologists have made some attempts at scientific speculations on these questions.) Evolutionary theory attempts to understand the causality of change after time and matter were "created" (whatever that means). As for the origin of life, biochemists do have a very rational and scientific explanation for the evolution from inorganic to organic compounds, the creation of amino acids and the construction of protein chains, the first crude cells, the creation of photosynthesis, the invention of sexual reproduction, and so on. Stanley Miller never claimed to have created life, just some of its building blocks. While these theories are by no means robust and are still subject to lively scientific debate, there is a reasonable explanation for how you get from the Big Bang to the Big Brain in the known universe using the known laws of nature.
13. Population statistics demonstrate that if we extrapolate backward from the present population using the current rate of population growth, there were only two people living approximately 6,300 years before the present (4300 B.C.E.). This proves that humans and civilization are quite young. If the Earth were old—say, one million years—over the course of 25,000 generations at a 0.5 percent rate of population growth and an average of 2.5 children per family, the present population would be 10 to the power of 2,100 people, which is impossible since there are only 10 to the power of 130 electrons in the known universe.
If you want to play the numbers game, how about this? Applying their model, we find that in 2600 B.C.E. the total population on Earth would have been around 600 people. We know with a high degree of certainty that in 2600 B.C.E. there were flourishing civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and China. If we give Egypt an extremely generous one-sixth of the world's population, then 100 people built the pyramids, not to mention all the other architectural monuments—they most certainly needed a miracle or two ... or perhaps the assistance of ancient astronauts!
The fact is that populations do not grow in a steady manner. There are booms and busts, and the history of the human population before the Industrial Revolution is one of prosperity and growth, followed by famine and decline, and punctuated by disaster. In Europe, for instance, about half of the population was killed by a plague during the sixth century, and in the fourteenth century the bubonic plague wiped out about one-third of the population in three years. As humans struggled for millennia to fend off extinction, the population curve was one of peaks and valleys as it climbed uncertainly but steadily upward. It is only since the nineteenth century that the rate of increase has been steadily accelerating.
14. Natural selection can never account for anything other than minor changes within species—microevohrtion. Mutations used by evolutionists to explain macroevolution are always harmful, rare, and random, and cannot be the driving force of evolutionary change.
I shall never forget the four words pounded into the brains of the students of evolutionary biologist Bayard Brattstrom at California State University, Fullerton: "Mutants are not monsters." His point was that the public perception of mutants— two-headed cows and the like at the county fair—is not the sort of mutants evolutionists are discussing. Most mutations are small genetic or chromosomal aberrations that have small effects—slightly keener hearing, a new shade of fur. Some of these small effects may provide benefits to an organism in an ever-changing environment.
Moreover, Ernst Mayr's (1970) theory of allopatric speciation seems to demonstrate precisely how natural selection, in conjunction with other forces and contingencies of nature, can and does produce new species. Whether they agree or disagree with the theory of allopatric speciation and punctuated equilibrium, scientists all agree that natural selection can produce significant change. The debate is over how much change, how rapid a change, and what other forces of nature act in conjunction with or contrary to natural selection. No one, and I mean no one, working in the field is debating whether natural selection is the driving force behind evolution, much less whether evolution happened or not.
15. There are no transitional forms in the fossil record, anywhere, including and especially humans. The whole fossil record is an embarrassment to evolutionists. Neanderthal specimens, for example, are diseased skeletons distorted by arthritis, rickets, and other diseases that create the bowed legs, brow ridge, and larger skeletal structure. Homo erectus and Australopithecus are just apes.
Creationists always quote Darwin's famous passage in the Origin of Species in which he asks, "Why then 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, perhaps, is the gravest objection which can be urged against my theory" (1859, p. 310). Creationists end the quote there and ignore the rest of Darwin's chapter, in which he addresses the problem.
One answer is that plenty of examples of transitional forms have been discovered since Darwin's time. Just look in any paleontology text. The fossil Archeopteryx—part reptile, part bird—is a classic example of a transitional form. In my debate with Duane Gish, I presented a slide of the newly discovered Ambulocetus nutans—a beautiful example of a transitional form from land mammal to whale (see Science, January 14, 1994, p. 180). And the charges about the Neanderthals and Homo erectus are simply absurd. We now have a treasure trove of human transitional forms.
A second answer is a rhetorical one. Creationists demand just one transitional fossil. When you give it to them, they then claim there is a gap between these two fossils and ask you to present a transitional form between these two. If you do, there are now two more gaps in the fossil record, and so on ad infinitum. Simply pointing this out refutes the argument. You can do it with cups on a table, showing how each time the gap is filled with a cup it creates two gaps, which when each is filled with a cup creates four gaps, and so on. The absurdity of the argument is visually striking.
A third answer was provided in 1972 by Eldredge and Gould, when they argued that gaps in the fossil record do not indicate missing data of slow and stately change; rather, "missing" fossils are evidence of rapid and episodic change (punctuated equilibrium). Using Mayr's allopatric specia-tion, where small and unstable "founder" populations are isolated at the periphery of the larger population's range, Eldredge and Gould showed that the relatively rapid change in this smaller gene pool creates new species but leaves behind few, if any, fossils. The process of fossilization is rare and infrequent anyway, but it is almost nonexistent during these times of rapid speciation because the number of individuals is small and the change is swift. A lack of fossils may be evidence for rapid change, not missing evidence for gradual evolution.
16. The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that evolution cannot be true since evolutionists state that the universe and life move from chaos to order and simple to complex, the exact opposite of the entropy predicted by the Second Law.
First of all, on any scale other than the grandest of all—the 600-million-year history of life on Earth—species do not evolve from simple to complex, and nature does not simply move from chaos to order. The history of life is checkered with false starts, failed experiments, local and mass extinctions, and chaotic restarts. It is anything but a neat Time/Life-book fold-out from single cells to humans. Even in the big picture, the Second Law allows for such change because the Earth is in a system that has a constant input of energy from the Sun. As long as the Sun is burning, life may continue thriving and evolving, automobiles may be prevented from rusting, burgers can be heated in ovens, and all manner of other things in apparent violation of the Second Law may continue. But as soon as the Sun burns out, entropy will take over and life will cease and chaos come again. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to closed, isolated systems. Since the Earth receives a constant input of energy from the Sun, entropy may decrease and order increase (although the Sun itself is running down in the process). Thus, because the Earth is not strictly a closed system, life may evolve without violating natural laws. In addition, recent research in chaos theory suggests that order can and does spontaneously generate out of apparent chaos, all without violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics (see Kauffman 1993). Evolution no more breaks the Second Law of Thermodynamics than one breaks the law of gravity by jumping up.
17. Even the simplest of life forms are too complex to have come together by random chance. Take a simple organism consisting of merely 100 parts. Mathematically there are 10 to the power of 158 possible ways for the parts to link up. There are not enough molecules in the universe, or time since the beginning, to allow for these possible ways to come together in even this simple life form, let alone to produce human beings. The human eye alone defies explanation by the randomness of evolution. It is the equivalent of the monkey typing Hamlet, or even "To be or not to be." It will not happen by random chance.
Natural selection is not random, nor does it operate by chance. Natural selection preserves the gains and eradicates the mistakes. The eye evolved from a single, light-sensitive cell into the complex eye of today through hundreds if not thousands of intermediate steps, many of which still exist in nature (see Dawkins 1986). In order for the monkey to type the thirteen letters opening Hamlet's soliloquy by chance, it would take 26 to the power of 13 trials for success. This is sixteen times as great as the total number of seconds that have elapsed in the lifetime of our solar system. But if each correct letter is preserved and each incorrect letter eradicated, the process operates much faster. How much faster? Richard Hardison (1988) wrote a computer program in which letters were "selected" for or against, and it took an average of only 335.2 trials to produce the sequence of letters TOBEORNOTTOBE. It takes the computer less than ninety seconds. The entire play can be done in about 4.5 days.
18. Hydrodynamic sorting during the Flood explains the apparent progression of fossils in geological strata. The simple, ignorant organisms died in the sea and are on the bottom layers, while more complex, smarter, and faster organisms died higher up.
Not one trilobite floated upward to a higher stratum? Not one dumb horse was on the beach and drowned in a lower stratum? Not one flying pterodactyl made it above the Cretaceous layer? Not one moronic human did not come in out of the rain? And what about the evidence provided by other dating techniques such as radiometry?
19. The dating techniques of evolutionists are inconsistent, unreliable, and wrong. They give false impressions of an old Earth, when in fact it is no older than ten thousand years, as proven by Dr. Thomas Barnes from the University of Texas at El Paso when he demonstrated that the half-life of the Earth's magnetic field is 1,400 years.
First of all, Barnes's magnetic field argument assumes that the decay of the magnetic field is linear when geophysics has demonstrated that it fluctuates through time. He is working from a false premise. Second, not only are the various dating techniques quite reliable on their own but there is considerable independent corroboration between them. For example, radiometric dates for different elements from the same rock will all converge on the same date. Finally, how can creationists dismiss all dating techniques with a sweep of the hand except those that purportedly support their position?
20. Classification of organisms above the species level is arbitrary and man-made. Taxonomy proves nothing, especially because so many of the links between species are missing.
The science of classification is indeed man-made, like all sciences, and of course it cannot prove anything about the evolution of organisms absolutely. But its grouping of organisms is anything but arbitrary, even though there is an element of subjectivity to it. An interesting cross-cultural test of taxonomy is the fact that Western-trained biologists and native peoples from New Guinea identify the same types of birds as separate species (see Mayr 1988). Such groupings really do exist in nature. Moreover, the goal of modern cladistics—the science of classification through nested hierarchies of similarities—is to make taxonomy less subjective, and it successfully uses inferred evolutionary relationships to arrange taxa in a branching hierarchy such that all members of a given taxon have the same ancestors.
21. If evolution is gradual, there should be no gaps between species.
Evolution is not always gradual. It is often quite sporadic. And evolutionists never said there should not be gaps. Finally, gaps do not prove creation any more than blank spots in human history prove that all civilizations were spontaneously created.
22. "Living fossils" like the coelacanth and horseshoe crab prove that all life was created at once.
The existence of living fossils (organisms that have not changed for millions of years) simply means that they evolved a structure adequate for their relatively static and unchanging environment, so they stopped once they could maintain their ecological niche. Sharks and many other sea creatures are relatively unchanged over millions of years, while other sea creatures, such as marine mammals, have obviously changed rapidly and dramatically. Evolutionary change or lack of change, as the case may be, all depends on how and when a species' immediate environment changes.
23. The incipient structure problem refutes natural selection. A new structure that evolves slowly over tune would not provide an advantage to the organism in its beginning or intermediate stages, only when it is completely developed, which can only happen by special creation. What good is 5 percent of a wing, or 55 percent? You need all or nothing.
A poorly developed wing may have been a well-developed something else, like a thermoregulator for ectothermic reptiles (who depend on external sources of heat). And it is not true that incipient stages are completely useless. As Richard Dawkins argues in The Blind Watchmaker (1986) and Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), 5 percent vision is significantly better than none and being able to get airborne for any length of time can provide an adaptive advantage.
24. Homologous structures (the wing of a bat, the flipper of a whale, the arm of a human) are proof of intelligent design.
By invoking miracles and special providence, the creationist can pick and choose anything in nature as proof of God's work and then ignore the rest. Homologous structures actually make no sense in a special creation paradigm. Why should a whale have the same bones in its flipper as a human has in its arm and a bat has in its wing? God has a limited imagination? God was testing out the possibilities of His designs? God just wanted to do things that way? Surely an omnipotent intelligent designer could have done better. Homologous structures are indicative of descent with modification, not divine creation.
25. The whole history of evolutionary theory in particular and science in general is the history of mistaken theories and overthrown ideas. Nebraska Man, Piltdown Man, Calaveras Man, and Hesperopithecus are just a few of the blunders scientists have made. Clearly science cannot be trusted and modern theories are no better than past ones.
Again, it is paradoxical for creationists to simultaneously draw on the authority of science and attack the basic workings of science. Furthermore, this argument reveals a gross misunderstanding of the nature of science. Science does not just change. It constantly builds upon the ideas of the past, and it is cumulative toward the future. Scientists do make mistakes aplenty and, in fact, this is how science progresses. The self-correcting feature of the scientific method is one of its most beautiful features. Hoaxes like Piltdown Man and honest mistakes like Hesperopithecus are, in time, exposed. Science picks itself up, shakes itself off, and moves on.
These twenty-five answers only scratch the surface of the science and philosophy supporting evolutionary theory. If confronted by a creationist, we would be wise to heed the words of Stephen Jay Gould, who has encountered creationists on many an occasion:
Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact—which they are very good at. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent's position. They are good at that. I don't think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial, we had our victory party! (Caltech lecture, 1985)
Was this article helpful?