THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION
The word "evolution," as it is currently used, has two meanings. The first meaning—the meaning that most people have in mind—is that it is the process that describes the descent of all living organisms from a single, primitive form of life. It represents the transformation of the first living cell into the various species of organisms in the world, finally culminating in the formation of man. The popular term "macroevolution" certainly falls under this first sense of the word but is not equivalent to it. The term "macroevolution" refers merely to any change that results in the formation of a new species; it does not necessarily denote the grand sweep of evolution or the descent of all organisms from a simple form of life. However, when the word "evolution" is used without qualification, most people understand it according to the first meaning defined above: it is the descent of all organisms from a single, primitive form of life.
The second meaning, or the definition of evolution found in most science textbooks today, refers to any change in the genetic makeup of an interbreeding population over time. This meaning of the word "evolution" is less ambitious than the first and is also less controversial because it does not presuppose the emergence of new genetic information not found in the parent species. Most of the "evolution" observed in the laboratory among rapidly reproducing bacteria or animals is of this type. It does not result in the emergence of a new species but only in small but observable changes in the population. This is why this type of evolution is sometimes referred to as "microevolution." Unlike macroevolution, which results in the formation of new species, microevolution results only in the formation of a new breed within the same species, due mostly to a small change in the existing genetic information that can be passed on from one generation to the next. Often, the change represents a loss rather than a gain of new genetic information.
It is important to keep these two meanings of the word "evolution" in mind when listening to scientists who claim that evolution is already "a fairly established fact." As long as they are using the word "evolution" merely according to the second meaning given above (microevolution), their claim may have some value. Microevolution is nothing new. Plant and animal breeders have used selective breeding and hybridization to produce different varieties of cats and dogs, for example. These are instances of micro-evolution and are not being disputed. But when evolutionists cite the existence of micro-evolution as evidence for evolution according to the first meaning described above, then it is a red flag. The emergence of diverse and complex organisms from simpler life forms, or the descent of all living organisms from a last universal common ancestor, requires the rise of new genetic information not found in earlier species. It is a hypothesis that still needs to be proved.
One must also distinguish between the phenomenon of evolution and the theory of evolution. The "phenomenon of evolution" speaks of the fact or occurrence of evolution. A theory of evolution is a tentative explanation of how evolution actually happens. There are many speculations regarding the process or "how" of evolution, but the most popular theory accepted by many scientists today is the Neo-Darwinian theory, which assumes random genetic mutation and natural selection as the primary mechanisms of evolution. Obviously, one may believe in evolution as a phenomenon but not accept the Neo-Darwinian theory. Those who reject the Neo-Darwinian theory hold an alternative mechanism, such as saltationism, to explain evolution.
This webpage will first address the claim that evolution has occurred in the first sense stated above. Evidence from comparative anatomy, paleontology, and biochemistry will be examined and evaluated. Then the Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution itself will be evaluated.
Before presenting and evaluating the evidence, it is first necessary to become acquainted with the way biologists and evolutionists classify organisms.
Taxonomy is the science that studies the classification of plants and animals based on their similarities. In this science, individuals that are very similar and are fertile when crossed are assigned to the same species. Similar individuals that cannot be crossed or whose offspring die or become sterile are assigned to a different species, but on account of their similarities, they are classified under the same genus. Likewise, similar genera are classified into families, similar families into orders, similar orders into classes, similar classes into phyla, similar phyla into kingdoms, and similar kingdoms into domains. Some examples illustrating this system are the following:
Domain Eukarya Eukarya Eukarya Eukarya
Kingdom Plantae Animalia Animalia Animalia
Phylum Tracheophyta Arthropoda Chordata Chordata
Class Angiospermae Insecta Mammalia Mammalia
Order Sapidales Diptera Carnivora Carnivora
Family Aceraceae Drosphilidae Canidae Canidae
Genus Acer Drosophila Canis Canis
Species A. rubrum D. melanogaster C. lupus C. familiaris
Common name Red Maple Fruit fly wolf dog
Recently, biologists have also started looking at the DNA of various organisms in addition to their morphological characteristics to determine their relatedness. Those organisms that have more identical DNA gene codes are presumed to be more closely related. The possession of similar gene structures also gives a clue regarding their ancestry. Those organisms that have been determined to be closely related are presumed to have a common ancestor. In looking at the relationship that man has with contemporary primates, for example, this concept results in the diagram below.
Molecular Phylogeny of Hominoid Primates
Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org
This diagram shows that, based on their DNA comparison, humans are more closely related to the chimpanzee than to the gorilla. However, the diagram also shows that humans did not evolve from the chimpanzee, the gorilla, or the orangutan, but that they belong to the same family (Hominidae) and have a common source.
Classifying organisms based on their DNA similarity is fast becoming a favorite among biologists. But the DNA comparison does give some very surprising, and even bizarre, results. For example, a study made in 1997 based on DNA similarities shows that cows are more closely related to whales than to other four-legged animals like pigs! See Los Angeles Times, Aug. 31, 1997.
1 – Evidence from Comparative Anatomy
Comparative anatomy, the science that deals with the morphological and physiological similarities (homology) of organic types, shows that the human body, for example, is constructed on the same general plan as the bodies of other animals. If we compare the skeletons of a gibbon, a man, a chimpanzee, a gorilla, and an orangutan, we notice a striking similarity. (See below.)
Comparison of Skeletons of Four Primates
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If we compare the forelimbs of four vertebrates, such as a man, a dog, a bird, and a whale, we again find a remarkable resemblance. Likewise, if we compare the head of a man with the heads of vertebrates, namely, a fish, a reptile, and a mammal, especially primates and anthropoid apes, we discern the unfolding of higher forms from lower organic types. There are similarities also in their digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems. According to evolutionists, these similarities strongly suggest descent from a common origin.
Comparison of Forelimbs of Four Vertebrates
Homology: one of Charles Darwin's arguments for evolution
Illustration by Волков Владислав Петрович
CC By-SA 4.0 license: commons.wikimedia.org
The evidence from vestiges has also been used by evolutionists to support their theory. They say that the presence in man of organic parts or vestiges that serve no useful function (for example, the vermiform appendix, the tonsils, the superfluous muscles of the external ear, etc.), but which are still found in lower animals, is reminiscent of man's animal ancestry. The existence of such useless and rudimentary organs—the supposed "remains" of man's animal ancestors—can be explained by the supposition that they have been inherited from lower animals in which they previously served a useful purpose.
The evidence from embryology is still occasionally presented to this day as evidence for evolution. The so-called Baer's rule states that the younger the embryos of different animals are, the more they resemble each other, and as they grow older, the embryos become more distinct. For example, all vertebrate animals are essentially alike in the early stages of their embryological development. Very remarkable is the fact that man begins as though he were a fish, and as he develops, he passes through stages characteristic of lower forms of life. This observation allegedly finds a very natural explanation in an evolutionary hypothesis. Indeed, Ernst Haeckel even formulated it as a law of ontogenesis: the individual "recapitulates," as it were, the phylogenetic history of the species.
Comparison of Embryos
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Evaluation of the Evidence from Comparative Anatomy
The observable physiological, anatomical, and genetic similarities of different organisms suggest but do not prove evolution. There is no reason why the observed similarities cannot be interpreted as exhibiting the work of the same Creator. Similarity alone is not conclusive proof of common descent. For example, one can also find similarities between a chariot, a carriage, a motorcycle, and a Model-T, but that does not prove that one developed from the other. They are all meant to be used for land transportation, so naturally, they have similarities in structure and design. For example, they all have wheels, a body or seat for cargo or passengers, a source of power (man, horse, or motor), and some means to control the direction of travel. In like manner, groups of animals that live in similar conditions or that perform similar functions will have similarities in body structures. For example, most aquatic animals (fish, mollusks, and crustaceans) will have gills, while those that live on land or in the air will have lungs; amphibians can have both. Monkeys have hands because they need to be able to grasp and hold tree branches (because they are arboreal organisms), while humans have hands because they need them for writing, typing, and making things that support their intellectual needs. Herbivores have two eyes, one on each side of the head, giving them panoramic vision and the ability to watch out for predators around them. On the other hand, predators have two eyes in front, giving them binocular vision and better depth perception, which allow them to hunt and capture their prey with accuracy. The similarities and differences among various organisms are dictated by their natural necessities and the laws of nature. The Creator, who created them all, gave each organism what it needed to live in its respective habitat. Different organisms will have body parts that are similar or different depending on their use, as dictated by their needs.
The evidence from vestiges is also not conclusive. We cannot infallibly conclude that an organ is useless simply because we do not know what its use is. During Darwin's day, for example, certain glands like the thymus and thyroid glands were considered "useless." However, we know today that the thymus gland is a factory for the white blood cells so necessary in the war against microbes. The thyroid gland has a major role in the metabolism and growth of the body. The appendix contains lymphatic tissue that helps control bacteria in the intestines. Even the coccyx, once thought to be the last vestige of a tail, may not be completely useless because it serves as a point of attachment for tendons and other muscles that would be immobile without it. Therefore, there is perhaps nothing rudimentary about these "rudimentary" organs except our knowledge of them. Actually, of the 180 human organs once claimed to be vestigial, practically none are claimed now, which is why few evolutionists today even use vestiges as an argument for evolution any more.
Another of those arguments that has been demolished by advances in modern science, particularly in the fields of molecular biology and genetics, is the evidence from embryology. The drawings of embryos given above were exposed as fraudulent in 1868. Of course, all embryos will look similar in the early stages of their lives because they all start as a single cell. But genetics has shown that the human embryo was always a human embryo, right from the moment of conception. It was not a fish embryo or a chicken embryo that only became human after eight weeks of its life. The so-called "law of ontogeny" was a notorious myth, since the development of each organism is uniquely programmed in its DNA. That this evidence still persists and is used in some science textbooks betrays a desperate move by some science professors to promote the idea of evolution in schools and to push its acceptance by the general public. See Jonathan Wells, Survival of the Fakest, 2001.
2 – Evidence from Paleontology
Paleontology is the science that deals with the history of biological life as known from fossil remains. Fossils are the remains of living organisms that have been preserved in rock layers, called strata. Some of these fossils are intact parts of animals, such as shells and bones. Other fossils, especially those of soft-bodied plants and animals, consist merely of imprints or marks that they have left on the rocks. Like the science of comparative anatomy, the science of paleontology has provided data that seems to prove the evolution of species. By using radiometric dating methods, such as the radiocarbon, uranium-lead, and potassium-argon methods, scientists were able to estimate the age of fossils and the rocks where the fossils were found. By studying the fossil record, paleontologists noted that the fossils in the lower (or older) layers of rock deposits show primitive life forms, while those in the upper (or newer) rock strata show the fossils of more advanced life forms. Since the higher forms of life appear later in the fossil record, the conclusion is made that the higher forms of life evolved from the lower ones. In the phylum Chordata, for example, there are fossil records of fishes appearing earlier than the amphibians, the amphibians earlier than the reptiles, and the reptiles earlier than both the birds and the mammals, indicating the sequence in which the vertebrates evolved on our planet. The table below shows the story of evolution in more detail.
Note 1: Permian-Triassic Extinction – 95% of life on earth became extinct.
It is claimed that the evolution of certain animals, such as the horse, is "fairly well established." The evolutionists often present a sequence of intermediary forms, such as the following:
Evolution of the Horse
Composed from Skeletons of Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany
Photo by H. Zell
CC BY-SA 3.0 license: commons.wikimedia.org
The most interesting fossils, of course, are those that depict the evolution of man. There are numerous fossils that were claimed to be either human or that were thought of as belonging to man's ancestral line. See List of Human Evolution Fossils from Wikipedia. The following are some important fossils found:
Homo habilis: These fossils were estimated to be between 1.9 and 1.74 million years old and were mostly found in Africa. The Homo habilis had large toes, indicating that it generally walked upright. It was only 3'10" tall. It was a meat eater and probably a tool user, a "handyman"; hence the name Homo habilis. Skull capacity is 642 to 723 cc, which is below modern man's average of 1300 cc.
Homo erectus: These fossils were estimated to be between 1.8 and 0.25 million years old and were found in many places around the world. A heavy, bony ridge above the eyes, a low, sloping forehead, and a protruding lower face with a receding chin characterized the Homo erectus. He was probably an elephant hunter. The presence of manufactured tools and the evidence of the use of fire convinced many evolutionists that the Homo erectus was human. His brain was 900 cc in size, but it was larger than that of the Homo habilis.
Homo sapiens: These fossils were estimated to be between 300 and 14 thousand years old and were found in many places around the world, including Asia and the Far East. The Homo sapiens had a high, nearly vertical forehead and a less developed jaw with smaller teeth. He was slightly taller (5'6" av.) but less muscular than a male Neanderthal. He hunted and used complex tools, and he did pretty much what his contemporary Neanderthal could do. The typical skull size is 1300 cc, and many paleontologists believe that modern man belongs as well to this taxonomical group. A late variant of the homo sapiens was the so-called Cro-Magnon man, represented by a group of fossils found in Europe dating from 40 to 14 thousand years old. Cro-Magnon was a much taller (5'11") and well-built individual and had a skull size of 1600 cc. Paleontologists believe that the Cro-Magnon became the ancestor of modern Europeans. Archaeological findings associated with the Cro-Magnon include cave paintings, sewing needles (for weaving and making clothes), bone flutes, and various craftsmanship with bones, wood, stone, and clay. The famous limestone figurine called "Venus of Willendorf" is a relic of Cro-Magnon art. See Early Modern Human Culture and Early Modern Humans.
Homo Erectus Skull
Photo by Tiia Monto
CC BY-SA 3.0 license: commons.wikimedia.org
Venus of Willendorf
Figurine made by Cro-Magnon in Austria 24,000 ya
Photo by MatthiasKabel
CC BY-2.5 license: commons.wikimedia.org
Evaluation of the Evidence from Paleontology
One obvious criticism against the evidence from paleontology is the incompleteness of the fossil record itself, particularly the scarcity of transitional forms that show the continuity of one kind of organism to its alleged ancestor. Various species in the fossil record often appear "suddenly," and it has not been possible, because of the scarcity of fossils, to demonstrate in a more decisive way the passage from one species to the next. Looking at the fossil evidences for the evolution of the horse, for example, one will notice the progression from the Hycotherium, the Mesohippus, the Parahippus, the Merychipus, the Pliohippus and the Equus (the modern horse). Between the Hycotherium and the Mesohippus, there is a gap of at least 5 million years without any transitional forms; and between the Mesohippus and the Parahippus there is a gap of another 10 million years without an intermediary; between the Parahippus and the Merychippus is a gap of 3 to 9 million years; between the Merychippus and the Pliohippus is a gap of 1 to 5 million years, and between the Pliohippus and the Equus is another big gap of at least 10 million years. If, as evolutionists claim, the evolution of species takes place gradually, such gradual development is definitely not exhibited by the fossil record. See List of Transitional Forms from Wikipedia.
The continuity in the lineage of the horse, as in the phylogenies of the mammals, the lizard, the whale, the birds, etc., has been supplied more by extrapolation and analogy than by real evidence. And it gets worse when one tries to trace the evolution not only of species and genera but also of families, orders, classes, and phyla. For example, the sudden appearance of various phyla of plants and animals during the Cambrian period, resulting in the so-called "Cambrian Explosion," is still a mystery. The presumed evolution of the vertebrates from the invertebrates has not been supported by fossil records either. So far, there are hardly any transitional forms linking the bony fish (419 Ma, or million years ago) with the cartilaginous fishes (503 Ma), a separation of several tens of millions of years. It is highly doubtful whether the gaps in the evolutionary lines of plants and animals can really be filled by future discoveries. The reason is that the so-called "transitional forms," precisely because they are transitional, are necessarily unstable, inasmuch as they are not yet perfectly adapted to existing environments and conditions. If they evolve, they may do so rapidly and may be composed of a few individuals localized in a small area. If they were abundant and dispersed over large areas, then they would no longer be transitional forms but stable species, which means species that have already attained equilibrium with the surrounding environment. Now, only the fossils of those organisms that were abundant and scattered over large areas can be expected to be found. In fact, only a very small fraction of these have actually been discovered. As a result, if very few fossils of stable species are found, we can expect even fewer fossils of transitional forms. No wonder then that large classes of animals seem to appear "suddenly" in the fossil records. They are already highly specialized and differentiated when we find fossils of them. This is because their transitional forms, being few and localized, always escape us.
Now, transitional forms could have existed, and if we don't find them, the most natural explanation from an evolutionary standpoint is that transitional forms are rare and difficult to find. But precisely because of this paucity of factual evidence, we cannot justly say that evolution, at least from the standpoint of paleontology, is already an established fact. It is still only a hypothesis, and whether or not it actually happened should be decided on other grounds besides paleontology.
Regarding the evolution of man, it must be said that there are, indeed, many fossils of the genus Homo in the fossil record, but they do not form a smooth sequence that shows the transition from one form to another. Some of the fossils even belong to hominins that were not our ancestors, so they really cannot fill the gaps. Homo neanderthalensis, for example, is now thought to be a contemporary of early Homo sapiens rather than our ancestors. The Homo heidelbergensis, also once believed to be our ancestor, is now regarded as belonging to the Neanderthal line of descent and, therefore, is not ancestral to the Homo sapiens. Now, between the Homo sapiens and the Homo erectus, there is a time span where the fossils overlap, so again, there is no clear path indicating the transition of one to the other. This means that the needed evidence for human evolution from the fossils cannot be established.
Although there are many fossils classified as homo sapiens in the fossil record, some dating to 300,000 years ago, the artifacts associated with them do not decisively prove that all the homo sapiens presented in the fossil record had intelligence higher than that of brute animals. Many evolutionists regard the individuals represented by these fossils as human because there was evidence that they made their own tools, used fire, buried their dead, etc. However, these evidences do not demonstrate abilities beyond the scope of animal intelligence because other animals have done the same. For example:
Some animals also make and use their own tools. See 10 Animals that Use Tools.
Some animals use weapons. See 10 Weapons that Animals Use.
Some animals use fire to cook their food. See Animals Who Cook their Food.
Some animals make and enjoy music. See 7 Amazing Animal Musicians.
Some animals bury their dead! See 3 Animals that Have Funerals.
Some animals show compassion and take care of the elderly and injured. 6 Amazing Ways Animals Show Compassion.
Some elephants could make amazing paintings. Watch Suda the Painting Elephant
Koko, the gorilla, was famous for learning sign language. See Koko the Gorilla
Jimmy, the chimpanzee, could walk on a wire and ride a monocycle. See Jimmy the Chimpanzee
A Gorilla Using a Stick to Gauge the Depth of Water
Photo from Public Library of Science
CC BY 2.5: commons.wikimedia.org
A simple Google search will show many more articles that reveal the lesser-known but extraordinary abilities of animals. One should not immediately conclude from some evidence of "intelligence" collected with the fossils of homo sapiens that these individuals were actually human. To be certain that a fossil is human, the evidence must demonstrate truly human intelligence, which means intelligence over and beyond the reach of animal intelligence, such as symbolic writing or any evidence of intellectual communication that is higher than simple sign language. Artwork that results merely from the imitation of natural objects or pattern recognition does not prove human intelligence, because we have seen elephants that can paint. (See Suda the Painting Elephant.) Thus, the cave paintings and stone age art from 40,000 years ago do not decisively prove human intelligence, because they are not beyond the reach of talented non-human hominins. It seems likely that true humans have been on this planet only recently, perhaps not more than 10,000 years ago.
3 – Evidence from Biochemistry
The similarity in the genetic properties of related species is also cited as evidence for evolution. For example, plants and animals have the same molecular building blocks, the same genetic material (DNA) with similar genetic codes, and the same process of gene transcription and translation. A similar study of the amino acid sequences of proteins with similar structures and functions has also been noted. Hundreds of proteins have been studied, and their sequences are stored in central data banks. New sequences from various organisms are then compared with those in the data banks to detect similarities and differences, from which biochemists determine their relatedness and their lineage. Similar to similarities in anatomy and physiology, similarities in biological molecules of various organisms are assumed to indicate common descent.
According to many evolutionists, various organisms have these features because they descended from ancestors that had the same molecular characteristics. Thus, by comparing the sequences in the genes of various organisms, it is claimed that it would be possible to determine not only which organisms are related to other organisms but also which organism is the likely ancestor of another organism. For example, if humans and chimpanzees have a gene that encodes the hormone insulin, then it is presumed that they inherited it from a common ancestor that had the same gene. On the other hand, if humans and chickens have some but not much genetic similarity, then they are presumed to be related to a distant ancestor, such as the reptiles, which, according to the fossil records, are ancestral to both birds and mammals. By studying the DNA nucleotide sequences of various species, biochemists claim to be able to construct a phylogenetic tree of life such as the one shown below.
Phlogenetic Tree of Life
Derivative work by Conquistador; original file by John D. Croft
CC BY-SA 3.0: commons.wikimedia.org
Evaluation of the Evidence from Biochemistry
The evidence from biochemistry is actually not much different from the evidence from comparative anatomy. Instead of arguing from similarities in anatomical and physiological structures, the evidence from biochemistry uses similarities in the DNA among organisms to prove common descent. Some evolutionists claim that DNA itself is evidence for evolution because it is found in all organisms. However, the similarity in the "alphabets" (base pairs) of the DNA among organisms does not necessarily prove common descent. It could also be due to the fact that the gene codes of different organisms have the same Author. Every organism has its own unique genetic code. But if it is the same Author who wrote the genetic code of each organism, it would not be surprising to see the same "language" being used in writing the unique genetic code of each organism. Imagine the genetic code of each organism as a "software code." Just as a computer programmer could use the same "subroutine" for processes that are similar for different programs, the Author of the genetic code of each organism could use the same nucleotide sequences for portions of the code that relate to functions that are similar in different organisms. So, some sequences of the nucleotides will be similar for organisms that will live under the same conditions, for parts that will perform the same functions, or for enzymes and acids that will produce the same proteins. The similarity in the DNA sequences of different organisms, such as between apes and humans, does not need to be explained exclusively by descent from a common ancestor. It could also be explained by the fact that there was one Author who wrote their gene codes.
Many evolutionists do not like to hear any explanation that involves creation or work by an Intelligent Designer. The problem is that the great differences between organisms would be left with no real explanation without God. Up to now, for example, biochemists have yet to explain how the first living cell was formed. If they could not explain how the first living cell was formed, how could they explain the formation of vastly more complex organisms? What would explain the evolution from the relatively simple structure of single-celled bacteria to the vastly more intricate structures of multicellular plant and animal life? Without God, where would all the information-rich gene molecules come from?
Many evolutionists today turn to biochemistry and genetics for evidence of evolution because they can hardly find support for their hypothesis in fossil records. But biochemistry has not produced any observable evidence of evolution that results in an increase in genetic information either. Evolutionists have tried to induce mutational changes in bacteria, fruit flies, and other rapidly reproducing organisms in the hope of producing a more complex or more advanced species, but all these experiments have failed. There were many mutations effected in these experiments, and there was so much variation in bacteria and fruit flies obtained from the trials. But they never resulted in anything new. Bacteria are still bacteria, and fruit flies are still fruit flies. This is because the vast majority of observed mutations were actually harmful rather than beneficial to the organism, so they could not be favored by natural selection. The beneficial mutations observed in the laboratory usually resulted in small changes only. On the other hand, the significant mutations that could result in large morphological changes proved to be harmful. Thus, evolution has never really been observed.
Selective breeding and hybridization have also been tried many times, and new traits and several variations within species have been obtained from these experiments. But nature seems to have placed a limit on how much variation can be achieved. Whenever variation is carried too far by selective breeding, the resulting hybrid becomes sterile and eventually gets phased out. Thus, it is seldom that a new species is actually produced, but only more variants of the same species. Also, not all new traits result from genetic mutations! Some changes arise from the unscrambling of pre-existing information, some from "unzipping" zipped information, and some from certain genes being turned on or off in response to environmental factors. Although most species tend to be stable, there is evidence that organisms and their genomes possess some degree of adaptability to the existing environment. See Epigenetics.
Evolutionists were able to produce evidence of new characteristics being formed, such as increased resistance to antibiotics or a change in wing or eye color, etc., but not as a result of an increase in genetic information. Often, the change was actually the result of a loss or corruption of genetic information. Evolutionists were able to show parts or organs being modified, such as the lengthening or shortening of the legs of lizards in the Bahamas Islands, but these were due to adaptation or a change in existing information rather than the emergence of new genetic information. Evolutionists were also able to produce big changes caused by a gene switch (the Hox gene) being turned on or off, but without evidence of new genetic information being added. For example, they were able to produce fruit flies with an extra pair of wings or flies that have legs growing on the head instead of antennae, but they have not produced evidence of new parts or organs evolving from a parent species that previously did not have those parts. See Fruit Fly Mutations: Evidence for Evolution?
All the above evidence is inadequate. To serve as evidence for evolution—not just microevolution but evolution in the first sense defined in the beginning paragraph of this essay—what is required is to produce an interbreeding population of organisms that results in an increase rather than a loss of genetic information. Evolution is thought to represent the evolution of the entire range of complex life forms that exist today from simple self-replicating organisms in the past. The simplest self-replicating organism has over 500,000 base pairs of DNA information. But every human cell has 3 billion base pairs. What brought about this increase in genetic information that led to the evolution from bacteria to man? Biochemistry has not yet produced evidence of producing the first living cell from dead matter. Neither has it produced evidence that the increasingly diverse and complex organisms on the planet came from the simplest living cell.
Evolutionists excuse themselves by claiming that the evolution of species goes too slowly to be observed by us today. They claim that beneficial mutations happen gradually and, therefore, their cumulative effect can only be noticed after millions of years. The problem is that the rapidly reproducing organisms that they use in the lab, such as the bacteria and the fruit flies, have not given any evidence of evolution either, even after a century of experimentation and research. Also, the fossil record, which was supposed to exhibit this gradual evolution of new species, failed to demonstrate this gradual process of evolution adequately. Therefore, the verdict is clear. In spite of the support of thousands of evolutionists around the world, evolution—defined as the descent of all living organisms from a single, primitive form of life—is still an unproven hypothesis.
The Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution
So far, all the evidence presented in support of the phenomenon of evolution has been circumstantial. Despite the lack of evidence, evolutionists have proposed a "theory" that explains how evolution might happen. The discussion below describes the current theory held by most evolutionists, followed by a short appraisal.
As a hypothesis, evolution expresses the idea that all living species descended from a common ancestor. Plants, animals, and men are, therefore, all related. According to this concept, life originated from inorganic matter through a purely naturalistic process and without divine intervention. Then, starting from the most simple life form—a living cell—life naturally evolved into more and more complex beings over time. From a single cell comes multicellular life, then the eukaryotes, then the arthropods, then the fish, then the plants and the trees, then the amphibians, then the reptiles and the dinosaurs, the birds, the mammals, the flowering plants, the bees, the apes, the hominids, and lastly man.
Timeline of the Evolution of Life
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The Darwinian theory of evolution assumes that the diversity of life and the evolution of new species result from random genetic mutations that give rise to new properties that can be passed on from one generation to the next. If such mutations are beneficial and confer advantages to succeeding organisms, then these organisms are likely going to win the competition for survival, which means that they would continue to exist, while the others that did not get the benefit of such mutations would slowly be phased out. This natural process, where those fittest to adapt and live in their environment survive while others are eliminated, is known as "natural selection." However, note that the competition for survival, or the so-called "survival of the fittest," is not merely determined by the struggle for food and the means of subsistence. More importantly, it happens because of the ability of certain individuals to surpass others in having offspring that can pass on beneficial mutations to future generations. For, in the long run, the "fittest," or the species that will survive, is not necessarily the one with the strongest individuals, but the one whose individuals are able to leave offsprings that can pass on their advantageous genes to future generations. The Darwinian theory stipulates that, since those beneficial hereditary genetic mutations happen randomly and, as it were, by chance, they cause only gradual changes to the species at first. But as these changes accumulate over time (possibly over millions of years), a group of new individuals will eventually be formed that is quite distinct from its parent species; the distinction being the fact that the new individuals are no longer able to interbreed successfully with members of their parent species. When this happens, a new species is born.
Evolutionists give credit for the theory of evolution to Charles Darwin (1809-1882). Although he was noted for the idea of natural selection as a mechanism of evolution, he did not have knowledge of genetic mutation during his time. The idea of genetic mutation as a change that can be passed on to an organism’s offspring, came from the Dutch geneticist Hugo de Vries (1848-1935).
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Hugo de Vries
Image Source link: commons.wikimedia.org
Darwinian evolutionists say that these two factors, namely, random genetic mutation and natural selection, are the mechanisms (or the driving forces) of evolution. However, evolutionists also acknowledge the fact that environmental conditions (such as climate, food supply, etc.), population migration, and other factors can influence evolution. For instance, environmental stress or pressure on a population can result in genetic changes. Natural selection will probably retain individuals who undergo genetic modifications that allow them to adapt to shifting environmental situations.
Evaluation of the Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution
The Darwinian theory of evolution assumes that random genetic mutation is responsible for the occurrence of new characteristics that can be passed on from one generation to the next. Although genetic mutations happen fairly often, beneficial mutations (or the mutations that confer an advantage to the individual in the competition for survival) are rare. Most mutations are actually neutral, harmful, or do not result in viable offspring.
The theory also assumes that mutations occur randomly or haphazardly, implying that evolution must occur slowly or gradually. Since the mutation happens randomly, and the exact same germline mutation is not likely to happen to several individuals in any generation, the only way that the effect of this mutation could produce a noticeable allele drift in a population would be to wait for several generations of new offspring with this allele to replace the dying ones. A single allele drift may be noticed in the laboratory in a rapidly reproducing organism, resulting in what is known as "micro-evolution." But for true evolution to happen, several generations of different beneficial germline mutations will need to happen and accumulate before a new species can emerge and be observed. The probability of successfully accumulating a set of several beneficial mutations in a population could only be obtained by taking the product of the probabilities of each beneficial mutation. But the product of a set of beneficial mutations, each with a very small probability of occurrence, would be so small that it would take an enormously long time for the evolution of a new species to be observed, even in a rapidly reproducing organism. In fact, evolution has not been observed in the laboratory. The mechanism of random genetic mutation may be compared to the random walk of a drunk, blind man. Imagine how long it will take for such a man to walk from point A to point B, which is 100 yards away. Every step may be likened to a mutation. Supposedly, every step forward makes him closer to the goal, but because he is blind and drunk, he does not walk straight to the goal but walks along a zigzag pattern in different directions, sometimes even going backward!
The other mechanism of Darwinian theory, namely, natural selection, is also inadequate in explaining the evolution of special body parts and organs in a new organism. Because natural selection only works when a certain mutation gives an organism an advantage. But the parts of an organism, such as the eye, are actually very complex organs that require the simultaneous development of coordinated parts to give an individual organism an advantage. Perhaps the eye began to improve (albeit slowly) from the time it gave an animal the ability to see. But it only gave this advantage after the eye had been optically constructed and linked by nerve cells to a sensitive optical center in the brain. How do you now explain, by genetic mutation and natural selection, the simultaneous appearance of the elements necessary for vision as long as vision did not yet exist? The simple sensitivity to light in a particular area of the skin does not immediately trigger the simultaneous chance mutations necessary for the formation of the lens, the iris, the retina, etc. Likewise, a bat may develop a thin skin flap that might help it to fly. But how do you account for the concomitant growth of the fingers and skeletal structure to enable its wing? They all have to grow together to give the bat the advantage of flying. Darwinian evolution here reaches an impasse, similar to the fate of biochemists who tried to explain the formation of the first living cell by chance alone. Like the parts of the cell, the parts of an organism have to be in place and functional before they can give an advantage to the organism and before they can be favored by natural selection. Therefore, much more is required than random genetic mutation and natural selection to produce a new species. The Darwinian theory might explain the development and survival of a certain allele in a culture of bacteria, but it is hardly adequate to explain the origin of a new species with all its coordinated organs and body parts.
The fossil records give evidence that complex organisms appeared later than simpler species, after millions or tens of millions of years. In addition, the fossil records show various complex species appearing "already made," or suddenly rather than gradually, since the transitional fossils that document their emergence from a lower species are given only scantily. Although fossil records speak of millions of years in evolution time, the recorded time it took for a new species to emerge from the previous species appears anomalously short, probabilistically speaking, when viewed against the gap in complexity that separates the old species from the new. This observation gives support to the suspicion that, instead of random genetic mutation and natural selection, there must be a hidden Cause driving the evolution of each species from the past to its present form.
The evidence does not prove that evolution—or the descent of all living things from a single, primitive form of life—has occurred. Yet, it is not impossible for plants and brute animals to evolve from a lower species, since it does not detract from the power and wisdom of the Creator to make use of pre-existing creatures to develop new ones. However, if evolution occurred, then it did not happen by random genetic mutation and natural selection, as the Darwinian theory of evolution proposed. If evolution occurred, then it must have happened by God-directed genetic mutation and providential selection. God Himself must have been the "Cheater" Who placed all the lucky chemical circumstances that led to the development of the first living cell. He must have been the One Who wrote the most improbable but ingenious DNA and RNA sequences that controlled the formation of each creature. It was He Who controlled the lucky environment that ensured the future trajectory of evolution as a giant preparation for the coming of man. Without Him, it would be impossible to explain, by chance alone, the sudden proliferation of life during the Cambrian Explosion, as well as the evolution of the plants, the vertebrates, and all the animals leading to man.
Yes, evolution is possible. However, an exception must be made when it comes to men. The author does not believe that Adam and Eve evolved from the early hominids. It is hard to imagine Adam evolving from, and growing up with, hominids that couldn’t talk and dating non-human girlfriends before meeting Eve. What the Bible said makes more sense. God first created Adam in a special way. But He knew that in the animal kingdom there was no suitable companion for Adam, so He also created Eve in a special way (Gen 2:20-23). The Bible said that Adam and Eve were talking familiarly with God in Paradise, which means that language was also a gift from God. Adam and Eve were already talking when they were driven out of Paradise, so Adam and Eve did not have to learn or invent language from scratch, although they had to start their new life outside of Paradise the hard way.
Adam and Eve
Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org
Some Catholics are of the opinion that the body of man could have evolved but not the soul, because the soul was created directly by God. However, the author believes that even the body of man, and not only his soul, was also especially created by God, perhaps not necessarily out of nothing but, as the Bible says, "of the slime of the earth" (Gen 2:7). Adam was not formed in the womb of an "anatomically modern homo sapien," but was a special creature altogether. He and all of humanity are not descendants of some ape-like ancestors. The reason for this belief is that man was made in God's image and likeness (Gen 1:26). This “image and likeness” are primarily in the soul, which gives man his fundamental dignity. But the body shares in the dignity of the soul because it is the whole man, not just the soul, that was made in God’s image and likeness. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 364.
Catholics should exercise caution when it comes to accepting evolution as it applies to humans. As a scientific theory, evolution is not applied to individuals but to populations. Therefore, if this view is accepted and applied to man, then one would have to think of not one, but several pairs of human parents at the beginning of humankind (polygenesis), each possibly mating with other hominids that are not humans! This kind of bestiality is unavoidable in a scenario where God's providence is disregarded or ignored. The truth that we learn from divine revelation is that humankind had a very special beginning in Paradise and that when Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise on account of their primal sin, God did not abandon them altogether but still guided their life together as the only couple having a nature that God the Son would later assume to be His own.
Another truth that we learn from divine revelation, about which the scientists have no clue, is that the present world—the world after the Fall—is not in the state that God had intended it to be, as hinted at in Gen 3:17. As a result, the Son of God would redeem all of creation, not just man, as St. Paul teaches (Rom 8:21). When the last judgment comes and our final destiny as adopted children of God is finally manifest, all creatures will also be restored to their primal state, which is a more glorious state than the present one. This doctrine of a “new heaven and a new earth” will not be disclosed by science, but it has been repeatedly mentioned in Holy Scripture (Isa 65:17; 2 Pet 3:13; Apoc 21:1).
Q & A
1. I thought that microevolution describes evolution within a species, while evolution (in the first sense) represents the emergence of new species.
No, the real difference between microevolution and evolution is not the fact that microevolution refers merely to genetic changes within a species, while evolution refers to genetic changes that result in a new species (speciation). Perhaps that is how many people understand the difference. But it is incorrect. The main difference is that evolution arises from an increase in functional genetic information, which then results in greater diversity and complexity of the new species, whereas microevolution arises from genetic changes that do not result from an increase in genetic information. The popular term "macroevolution" refers to a process that leads to the emergence of a new species, but the simple appearance of a new species does not necessarily indicate evolution if it does not result from an increase in functional genetic information.
2. What kind of evidence is required to prove evolution? Is it not enough to show that a new organism has emerged that is morphologically different from its parent organism?
No, that would be sufficient to prove microevolution, but not evolution. Many plant and animal breeders are actually able to produce a great variety of organisms (cats, dogs, horses, etc.) by selective breeding and hybridization, but these do not produce new species of organisms; they cannot serve as evidence for evolution. Also, not all mutations result in changes that are beneficial to the organism. More often than not, the outcomes are detrimental rather than beneficial. These mutations cannot serve as evidence for evolution. Because evolution aims to demonstrate the evolution of the entire range of complex life forms currently existing in the world from simple self-reproducing organisms in the past, the proposed evidence for evolution must demonstrate the emergence of increased functional genetic information in the species deriving from the parent species; otherwise, the proposed evidence would be insufficient.
3. There are cases when certain weeds or plants are found to develop immunity to herbicides. Isn't that evidence of the emergence of a new ability that favors evolution?
Often, such changes result from a loss rather than a gain of genetic information or function. Herbicides work by binding to specific vital proteins and depriving them of their function; therefore, a mutation that causes these proteins to lose the ability to bind to the herbicide tends to preserve their functionality and plant life. While this might be viewed as beneficial to the plant exposed to the herbicide, it also has its drawbacks because this mutation interferes with other normal biological processes in the plant. Actually, most mutations are like this. They are detrimental to the organism, or at best neutral.
4. A new species of self-cloning marbled crayfish was observed in 1995. Unlike its ancestor, this new species has the ability to reproduce pathogenically (asexually). Could the evolution of the mutant marbled crayfish not serve as evidence for evolution, since it gained the ability to reproduce asexually?
There is no certainty that the marbled crayfish’s ability to reproduce asexually arises from new genetic information. This ability could already be in its genome as a dormant gene that was simply turned on as a response to the environment to which it was exposed. This is not something new. In 1917, there was also a report of a zebra shark, Stegostoma fasciatum, that had been producing offspring sexually. But when the female shark was separated from her male partner and placed in a different aquarium, she switched to asexual reproduction and laid eggs! See Switch from sexual to parthenogenetic reproduction in a zebra shark, Jan. 2017. For hundreds of millions of years, organisms have been reproducing asexually. Sexual reproduction came later, but asexual reproduction did not cease to exist. Many organisms today still reproduce asexually. Most vertebrates reproduce sexually, but there are a few that still reproduce asexually. It is apparent that even in vertebrates that normally reproduce sexually, the old ability to reproduce asexually lies dormant in their genes and can be turned on by epigenetic factors. There are documented cases of organisms switching from asexual to sexual, or from sexual to asexual, reproduction. The switch from sexual to asexual reproduction has been observed even in turkeys! See Turkeys and Pathogenesis. Therefore, one may not conclude that the marbled crayfish's switch from sexual to asexual reproduction was due to the acquisition of new genetic information.
5. What empirical evidence could serve as evidence for evolution?
Empirical evidence is something that can be verified. For example, if one can produce a documented case of a population of interbreeding organisms that have no eyes at any time before time T1, and the same population of interbreeding organisms is shown to develop eyes at a later time T2, then that could be evidence for evolution. The new body part does not have to be an eye. But the development of a new body part, such as an eye, a limb, a wing, etc., in an interbreeding population that previously never had that part would really be great evidence for evolution because it is not easy to develop a new organ. Big changes have to be made. Often, the blueprint for that organ must already be in the DNA of a developing embryo for the organ to develop. That blueprint must already contain instructions for making the various components of the new organ—the stem cells, nerves, muscles, tissues, etc. The new organ should also have a system for maintaining itself, receiving nutrients, and excreting its wastes. All of its systems should be integrated to serve and maintain not just the organism itself but the life of the organism as a whole.
This is why the development of a new organ in an organism will be a better argument for evolution than a mere change in its appetite, behavior, resistance to a harsh environment, the color of its eyes, the size of its limbs, the length of its antennae, etc. These latter examples can be achieved through selective breeding, adaptation, and natural selection, but they will not be good evidence for evolution because they do not prove a gain in new genetic information. Equally unacceptable would be the growth of additional organs or body parts that were already in an organism (such as the third eye in a two-eyed organism) or the recovery of an organ that had been lost. In these cases, the genetic information for making the organ was already in the genome and is, therefore, nothing new. All it needs is a gene switch, such as the Hox gene, to turn the production process on or off. And this could be triggered by an environmental or epigenetic cause.
6. There are mathematical procedures for measuring the size and complexity of gene codes. I am referring to the Shannon and Kolmogorov measures, as well as the Functional Sequence Complexity (FSC) measure. Would these help to measure the increase in genetic information in an organism?
The DNA and RNA sequences are like a series of coded texts—(A, T, C, G) for DNA and (A, U, C, G) for RNA—that contain instructions for protein synthesis. They have been compared to computer program codes, except that they are written in the "language of nature" rather than in an artificial language like Pascal or C. As sequences of letters or texts, their length and sequence complexity can be measured by statistical procedures such as the Shannon, Kolmogorov, and FSC measures. But the biological meaning or information contained in the coded texts—that is, the sequence of biochemical processes contained in and executed by the codes—is ignored by these mathematical procedures, so they may not be a good measure of the true complexity of genetic information.
To illustrate this truth, consider the following sequence of words:
I will see my mother tomorrow.
James and John are arguing vertically around the identity of a flat Earth with the perpendicular genome of music embedded in the vertex of amoeba dubia.
Without using statistics and using only common sense, which sequence of words do you think gave more information, sequence 1 or sequence 2? Sequence 2 used a lot of words, but it really didn’t tell us anything because it is just gibberish. Sequence 1, however, only used six words, but it gave useful and meaningful information. Looking at the two sequences solely from the standpoint of statistics, Sequence 2 is larger and more complex than Sequence 1.
It is important to distinguish the information (which involves meaning) from the mere sequence of letters and words that convey the information. Meaningless sequences contain no useful information. But two sequences, even if they are composed of the same words, can have different informational content. For example, consider the following sequences:
Two men ran three miles.
Three men ran two miles.
Three miles ran two men.
Sequence 1 and Sequence 2 gave two different pieces of meaningful information, although they used the same words. Sequence 3 is meaningless, so it does not have any informational content at all, although it used the same words. When analyzed solely by mathematics, all three sequences may rank equally as having the same size and complexity.
Mathematics and statistics can count the letters and words and measure the size and complexity of sequences, but they ignore the meaning of sequences and, therefore, they cannot measure the significance of the information that the sequences contain. The Shannon and Kolmogorov procedures, as well as the FSC, measure the lengths and complexity of nucleotide sequences, but neither can measure true genetic information, which refers to the biological meaning of nucleotide sequences, i.e., the instructions for transcribing and translating protein synthesis. Mathematics only measures the size and complexity of nucleotide sequences, not their biological significance.
I brought this up to highlight the importance of genetic information when looking at organisms. Genetic information is what gives instructions on how to build up an organism. The amoeba dubia may have 200 times as many base pairs (letters) as that in the human genome, but the human genome has richer genetic information because it produced a human being, not a single cell. The presence of pseudogenes, junk DNA, and repeated sequences can inflate the amount of DNA in a genome without a proportionate increase in its genetic information.
7. To prove evolution, it is necessary to show that there has been a gain in genetic information in the new species. But how can this be done if mathematics is not employed to measure the increase in genetic information?
Unfortunately, although nucleotide sequences can be measured statistically, the genetic information they contain is not susceptible to the same kind of measurement. In cases like this, the use of judgment and common sense is better than mathematical sophistication. Fortunately, it is not necessary to measure exactly how much new genetic information is gained to prove evolution. It is enough to show that new genetic information is gained. For example, if new legs appeared in a worm or any other organism that never had legs before, we would know that new genetic information was gained. On the other hand, if a new pair of wings suddenly appears in an organism that already has wings, such as the fruit fly Drosophila, then we can’t say that new genetic information is gained because the fruit fly already has that information. A Hox gene probably just triggered the production of an extra pair of wings.
The bad news for evolutionists is that no evidence of new genetic information is being detected in all the evidence that they have so far gathered. In most cases, it was an information loss rather than an information gain that was responsible for the small changes noticed in the phenotype. Also, when a mutation results in a big change, it usually ends up being harmful rather than beneficial to the organism, so it is not favored by natural selection. Thus, the big mutations, besides being rare, do not end up being able to serve as evidence for evolution. Overall, no valid evidence for evolution exists because none of the alleged evidences for evolution reflect a gain in genetic information.
8. Can you recommend books or articles on the subject of evolution for further reading or study?
I found the following books and articles helpful:
The Biotic Message, by Walter James ReMine, 1993.
In the Beginning was Information, By Werner Gitt, 2000
Can Mutations Create New Information? by Dr. Robert Carter, 2011
Debunking Evolution, by John Michael Fischer, 2018