Consider the following five examples adapted from the article “Survival of the fakest” by Jonathan Wells published in the leading American magazine The American Spectator – December 2000 / January 2001
Life in a Bottle: Miller’s experiment
Anyone old enough in 1953 to understand the import of the news remembers how shocking, and to many, exhilarating, it was. Scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey had succeeded in creating “the building blocks” of life in a flask. Mimicking what were believed to be the natural conditions of the early Earth’s atmosphere, and then sending an electric spark through it, Miller and Urey had formed simple amino acids. As amino acids are the “building blocks” of life, it was thought just a matter of time before scientists could themselves create living organisms. At the time, it appeared a dramatic confirmation of evolutionary theory. Life wasn’t a “miracle.” No outside agency or divine intelligence was necessary. Put the right gasses together, add electricity, and life is bound to happen. It’s a common event. Carl Sagan could thus confidently predict on PBS (a television channel) that the planets orbiting those “billions and billions” of stars out there must be just teeming with life.
There were problems, however. Scientists were never able to get beyond the simplest amino acids in their simulated primordial environment, and the creation of proteins began to seem not a small step or couple of steps, but a great, perhaps impassable, divide.
The telling blow to the Miller-Urey experiment, however, came in the 1970’s, when scientists began to conclude that the Earth’s early atmosphere was nothing like the mixture of gasses used by Miller and Urey. Instead of being what scientists call a “reducing,” or hydrogen-rich environment, the Earth’s early atmosphere probably consisted of gasses released by volcanoes. Today there is a near consensus among geochemists on this point. But put those volcanic gasses in the Miller-Urey apparatus, and the experiment doesn’t work – in other words, no “building blocks” of life. What do textbooks do with this inconvenient fact? By and large, they ignore it and continue to use the Miller- Urey experiment to convince students that scientists have demonstrated an important first step in the origin of life. This includes the above-mentioned Molecular Biology of the Cell, co-authored by the National Academy of Sciences president, Bruce Alberts. Most textbooks also go on to tell students that origin-of-life researchers have found a wealth of other evidence to explain how life originated spontaneously – but they don’t tell students that the researchers themselves now acknowledge that the explanation still eludes them.
Imagination in Full Form: Darwin’s Tree of Life
Darwin’s theory claims to account for the origin of new species – in fact, for every species since the first cells emerged from the primordial ooze. This theory does have the virtue of making a prediction: If all living things are gradually modified descendants of one or a few original forms, then the history of life should resemble a branching tree. Unfortunately, despite official pronouncements, this prediction has in some important respects turned out to be wrong. The fossil record shows the major groups of animals appearing fully formed at about the same time in a “Cambrian explosion,”* rather than diverging from a common ancestor. Darwin knew this, and considered it a serious objection to his theory. But he attributed it to the imperfection of the fossil record, and he thought that future research would supply the missing ancestors. But a century and a half of continued fossil collecting has only aggravated the problem. Instead of slight differences appearing first, then greater differences emerging later, the greatest differences appear right at the start. Some fossil experts describe this as “top-down evolution,” and note that it contradicts the “bottom-up” pattern predicted by Darwin’s theory. Yet most current biology textbooks don’t even mention the Cambrian explosion*, much less point out the challenge it poses for Darwinian evolution. Then came the evidence from molecular biology. Biologists in the 1970’s began testing Darwin’s branching tree pattern by comparing molecules in various species. The more similar the molecules in two different species are, the more closely related they are presumed to be. At first this approach seemed to confirm Darwin’s tree of life. But as scientists compared more and more molecules, they found that different molecules yield conflicting results. The branching-tree pattern inferred from one molecule often contradicts the pattern obtained from another. Canadian molecular biologist W. Ford Doolittle doesn’t think the problem will go away. Maybe scientists “have failed to find the ‘true tree’,” he wrote in 1999, “not because their methods are inadequate or because they have chosen the wrong genes, but because the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree.” Leading evolutionist Stephen J Gould admitted, “The evolution tree that adorns our text books have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches, the rest is all inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”
Nevertheless, biology textbooks continue to assure students that Darwin’s Tree of Life is a scientific fact overwhelmingly confirmed by evidence. Judging from the real fossil and molecular evidence, however, it is an unsubstantiated hypothesis masquerading as a fact.
Look-alike Illusions: Homology
Most introductory biology textbooks carry drawings of vertebrate limbs showing similarities in their bone structures. Biologists before Darwin had noticed this sort of similarity and called it “homology,” and they attributed it to construction on a common archetype or design. In The Origin of Species, however, Darwin argued that the best explanation for homology is descent with modification, and he considered it evidence for his theory. Darwin’s followers rely on homologies to arrange fossils in branching trees that supposedly show ancestor descendant relationships. In his 1990 book, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, biologist Tim Berra compared the fossil record to a series of Corvette models: “If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious.” But Berra forgot to consider a crucial, and obvious, point: Corvettes, so far as anyone has yet been able to determine, don’t give birth to little Corvettes. They, like all automobiles, are designed by people working for auto companies, or in other words, designed by an outside intelligence. So although Berra believed he was supporting Darwinian evolution rather than the pre-Darwinian explanation, he unwittingly showed that the fossil evidence is compatible with either. Law professor (and critic of Darwinism) Phillip E. Johnson dubbed this : “Berra’s Blunder.” The lesson of Berra’s Blunder is that we need to specify a natural mechanism before we can scientifically exclude designed construction as the cause of homology. Darwinian biologists have proposed two mechanisms: developmental pathways and genetic programs. According to the first, homologous features arise from similar cells and processes in the embryo; according to the second, homologous features are programmed by similar genes. But biologists have known for a hundred years that homologous structures are often not produced by similar developmental pathways. And they have known for thirty years that they are often not produced by similar genes, either. So there is no empirically demonstrated mechanism to establish that homologies are due to common ancestry rather than common design. Without a mechanism, modern Darwinists have simply defined homology to mean similarity due to common ancestry. According to Ernst Mayr, one of the principal architects of modern neo-Darwinism: “After 1859 there has been only one definition of homologous that makes biological sense: Attributes of two organisms are homologous when they are derived from an equivalent characteristic of the common ancestor.” This is a classic case of circular reasoning. Darwin saw evolution as a theory, and homology as its evidence. Darwin’s followers assume evolution is independently established, and homology is its result. But you can’t then use homology as evidence for evolution except by reasoning in a circle: Similarity due to common ancestry demonstrates common ancestry. Philosophers of biology have been criticizing this approach for decades. As Ronald Brady wrote in 1985: “By making our explanation into the definition of the condition to be explained, we express not scientific hypothesis but belief. We are so convinced that our explanation is true that we no longer see any need to distinguish it from the situation we were trying to explain. Dogmatic endeavors of this kind must eventually leave the realm of science.” So how do the textbooks treat this controversy? Once again, they ignore it. In fact, they give students the impression that it makes sense to define homology in terms of common ancestry and then turn around and use it as evidence for common ancestry.
Beaks and Birds: Darwin’s Finches
A quarter of a century before Darwin published The Origin of Species, he was formulating his ideas as a naturalist aboard the British survey ship H.M.S. Beagle . When the Beagle visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835, Darwin collected specimens of the local wildlife, including some finches. Though the finches had little in fact to do with Darwin’s development of evolutionary theory, they have attracted considerable attention from modern evolutionary biologists as further evidence of natural selection. In the 1970’s, Peter and Rosemary Grant and their colleagues noted a 5 percent increase in beak size after a severe drought, because the finches were left with only hard-to crack seeds. The change, though significant, was small; yet some Darwinists claim it explains how finch species originated in the first place. A 1999 booklet published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences describes Darwin’s finches as “a particularly compelling example” of the origin of species. The booklet cites the Grants’ work, and explains how “a single year of drought on the islands can drive evolutionary changes in the finches.” The booklet also calculates that “if droughts occur about once every 10 years on the islands, a new species of finch might arise in only about 200 years.” But the booklet fails to point out that the finches’ beaks returned to normal after the rains returned. No net evolution occurred. In fact, several finch species now appear to be merging through hybridization, rather than diverging through natural selection as Darwin’s theory requires. Withholding evidence in order to give the impression that Darwin’s finches confirm evolutionary theory borders on scientific misconduct. According to Harvard biologist Louis Guenin (writing in Nature in 1999), U.S. securities laws provide “our richest source of experiential guidance” in defining what constitutes scientific misconduct. But a stock promoter who tells his clients that a particular stock can be expected to double in value in twenty years because it went up 5 percent in 1998, while concealing the fact that the same stock declined 5 percent in 1999, might well be charged with fraud. As Berkeley law professor Phillip E. Johnson wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 1999: “When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail, you know they are in trouble.”
Here is one more example from Forbidden Archaeology by Michael J. Cremo.
Apemen or Conmen – Javaman Thighbone
In August 1892, Eugene Dubois discovered a fossilized humanlike femur on the bank of the Solo River in central Java, near the village of Trinil. 45 feet from this location he found a skullcap and molars. Dubois believed the molars, skull, and femur all came from the same being. However, the fact that these bones were found 45 feet from the place where the skull was unearthed, in a stratum containing hundreds of other animal bones makes doubtful the claim that both the thighbone and the skull actually belonged to the same creature or even the same species. In 1895 Dubois presented his findings to the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory. The president of the society, Dr. Virchow declared that the femur was human and the skull belonged to an ape. Late in his life, Dubois concluded that the skullcap belonged to a large gibbon, an ape not considered by evolutionists to be closely related to humans. But this concept of the “missing link” is still widely promoted today! [pp. 464-465, Forbidden Archeology]
The extent of speculation especially regarding human origins is evident from the following statement by a leading archaeologist, “I shall discuss the broad patterns of hominoid evolution, an exercise made enjoyable by the need to integrate diverse kinds of information, and use that as a vehicle to speculate about hominid origins, an event for which there is no recognized fossil record. Hence, an opportunity to exercise some imagination.” [American Anthropologist, Distinguished Lecture; Hominoid Evolution and Hominoid Origins, by David Pilbeam. Vol. 88, No. 2 June 1986. p. 295.]
According to paleoanth-ropologist Misia Landau, theories of human origins “far exceed what can be inferred from the study of fossils alone and in fact place a heavy burden of interpretation on the fossil record – a burden which is relieved by placing fossils into pre-existing narrative structures.” In 1996, American Museum of Natural History Curator Ian Tattersall acknowledged that “in paleoanthropology, the patterns we perceive are as likely to result from our unconscious mindsets as from the evidence itself.” Arizona State University anthropologist Geoffrey Clark echoed this view in 1997 when he wrote: “We select among alternative sets of research conclusions in accordance with our biases and preconceptions.” Clark suggested that “paleoanthropology has the form but not the substance of science.” Biology students and the general public are rarely informed of the deep-seated uncertainty about human origins that is reflected in these statements by scientific experts.
Instead, they are simply fed the latest speculation as though it were a fact. And the speculation is typically illustrated with fanciful drawings of cave men, or pictures of human actors wearing heavy make-up.
II. Misinterpreted Evidences
Let’s analyze some other common examples of evidence that people uncritically assume to be supporting the idea of evolution.
(The following section is adapted from the Origins magazine published by BBT Science):
Similarity of DNA
In recent years, geneticists have discovered that in species of similar form the DNA and other proteins have similar molecular structures. So just as evolutionists have deduced ancestral relationships among species from similarities in physical form, some of them now deduce such relationships from the genetic similarities. It is not, however, very surprising that similar species would have similar genetic materials. But the main point is that such similarities show nothing definite about how the organisms originated and cannot be used as proof of Darwinian-style evolution.
Further, talks about genetic similarities can be quite deceptive, considering the level of complexity of genetic structures. For example, some evolutionists argue that since humans and chimps have 98.4% similar DNA, it’s clear that they have an evolutionary linkage. But Dr. Barnay Maddox, leading genome and genetic researcher, points out that the 1.6% difference in DNA amounts to a difference of 48 million nucleotides. And a difference of only 3 nucleotides proves fatal to an animal.
Ever since the time of Darwin, the changes resulting from breeding have been put forward as evidence for evolution. If man can produce limited changes in plants and animals over a few generations, then just imagine the possibilities of change over the course of millions of years. So goes the reasoning.
But evolution by natural selection and inducing changes in plants and animals by breeding are not at all comparable. In breeding there is a deliberate intent to obtain specific results a bigger apple, a cow that produces more milk but in the process of natural selection there is no intelligent directing plan.
Also, all available evidence shows that there are limits to the changes that can be brought about by breeding. The French zoologist Pierre-P. Grassi points out in his book Evolution of Living Organisms, “The changes brought about in the genetic stock [by breeding] affect appearances much more than fundamental structures and functions. In spite of the intense pressure applied by artificial selection (eliminating any parent not answering the criterion of choice) over whole millenia, no new species are born. … Ten thousands years of mutations, crossbreeding, and selection have mixed the inheritance of the canine species in innumerable ways without its losing its chemical and cytological [cellular] unity. The same is observed of all domestic animals: the ox (at least 4,000 years old), the fowl (4,000), the sheep (6,000), etc.”
The process of breeding is something like stretching a rubber band. It stretches only so far and then it either breaks or snaps back. For example, during the nineteenth century, domesticated rabbits were brought into Australia, where there were no native rabbits. When some of these domesticated rabbits escaped, they bred freely among themselves, and very quickly their descendants reverted to the original, wild type.
In short, it may be possible to induce changes in the existing form by breeding (making the creature smaller or bigger, for example), but it does not appear possible to generate entirely new complex structures in the organism in this way. If this cannot happen by man’s conscious efforts, why should we assume it could happen by blind natural processes?
Caitanya Carana Dasa holds a degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering and serves full-time at ISKCON Pune. To subscribe to his free cyber magazine, visit thespiritualscientist.com