by Luther Sunderland · ©1988 · PREV NEXT
Darwinism's Lack of Scientific Foundation
Can Randomness Produce Ordered Systems?
The fossil record makes it eminently clear that the history of life on earth did not include a progressive development from a common ancestor. At least, if it did so, it left absolutely no sign of the process in the rock record. But, regardless of the lack of fossil evidence for common-ancestry evolution, many people have faith that, given enough time, random processes could produce almost any degree of complexity. The idea of randomness as opposed to some deterministic force was a primary contention of Charles Darwin.
As Stephen Jay Gould wrote in an introduction to What Darwin Really Said, "Darwin also introduced the specter of randomness into evolutionary theory. To be sure, randomness only provides a source of variation in Darwin's theory. Natural selection (a deterministic process) then scrutinizes the spectrum of random variants and preserves those individuals best adapted to changing local environments."1 In other words, the raw material on which natural selection operates is generated exclusively by random variations. The only qualifier added is that there is a finite number of possible combinations inherent in the genetic code. The total number of possible messages in DNA is so enormous, however, that it imposes no practical restriction on the evolutionary process.
On April 22, 1984, Dr. Gould had not changed his opinion that evolution
was purely an accidental process, for on the television program "60 Minutes"
If the history of life teaches us any lesson, it is that human beings arose as a kind of glorious accident . . . surely a kind of glorious cosmic accident resulting from the catenation (linking) of thousands of improbable events.
He very accurately described the core of evolutionary faith -- that man is the product of an immense number of glorious accidents which linked together a continuous series of improbable events. Let us see what modern science has to say about such grandiose terms as "glorious cosmic accident" and "catenation of thousands of improbable events."
Have we learned anything in the past century that would indicate how a purely random process could generate the raw material that would allow another naturalistic process, natural selection, to weed out the less fit and preserve only the better fitted? For the answer, it is necessary to turn to other scientific disciplines such as mathematics.
In 1966, after the advent of the tremendously powerful analytical tool, the digital computer, biologist Dr. Martin Kaplan organized a symposium at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia to thoroughly air a dispute between leading mathematicians and evolutionary biologists. The dispute had come to light at several meetings the previous year in Switzerland between mathematicians and biologists who were discussing mathematical doubts concerning the Darwinian theory of evolution. At the end of several hours of heated debate, the biologists proposed that a symposium be arranged to consider the points of dispute more systematically and with a more powerful array of biologists who could function adequately in the realm of mathematics. The Wistar Symposium was the result.2
In his preface to the proceedings of the symposium, Dr. Kaplan commented about the importance of mathematics in such matters as theorizing about origins. He said that to construct a history of thought without profound study of the mathematical ideas of successive efforts is comparable to omitting the part of Ophelia from Shakespeare's play, Hamlet.
The 52 attendees included a dazzling array of evolutionary biologists such as Sidney Fox, Ernst Mayr, George Wald, Richard Lewontin, Loren Eiseley, and H.B.D. Kettlewell of peppered moth fame from England. The mathematicians included Murray Eden and V.F. Weisskopf of MIT, Marcel Schutzenberger of Paris, and Stanislaw Ulam of Los Alamos. This was a conference to end all such conferences -- and it apparently did, as nothing like it has been held since.
Nobel Prize laureate and biologist Peter Medawar chaired the symposium. He stated its purpose in his opening remarks: "As Dr. Kaplan has explained, the immediate cause of this conference is a pretty widespread sense of dissatisfaction about what has come to be thought of as the accepted evolutionary theory in the English-speaking world, the so-called Neo-Darwinian Theory. This dissatisfaction has been expressed from three quarters and is not only scientific." He listed the three main objections to neo-Darwinian theory as first, religious; second, philosophical and methodological; and finally, "Objections by fellow scientists who feel that, in the current theory, something is missing." He said, "These objections to current neo-Darwinian theory are very widely held among biologists generally; and we must on no account, I think, make light of them."
Loren Eiseley also indicated a need for the symposium in view of the fact that there were still some unanswered questions about a mechanism for evolution. He noted that Darwin had placed emphasis on "fortuitous variation and selection" in the evolutionary process. He thought that Darwin's use of "fortuitous" in terms of pure chance and "mysterious laws" could be made allowance for because of what he did not know about genetics. But he said, "I still think Darwin expressed a certain tolerance, a marked degree of wary unease, as to whether, indeed, the phrase "fortuitous variation" was a sufficient answer to all our problems." This was the primary problem addressed by the symposium: Is there some natural process, which can be defined mathematically, that could generate the raw material which the theory of evolution requires as the first step in the creation of every different type of living organism?
For two days the biologists and mathematicians examined the question from every possible angle. Murray Eden, in a paper entitled, "Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory," showed that it would be unlikely for even a single ordered pair of genes to be produced by mutations in the DNA of the bacteria, E. coli, in five billion years. He calculated that to have any reasonable chance of getting such a result you would need a population of that organism weighing a hundred trillion tons, enough to cover the entire earth to a thickness of nearly an inch. He contended that the only way to overthrow this calculation was "by finding of a new determinate feature," in other words, a new natural law. This relates to only the probability of getting just one ordered pair of genes, but hundreds of genes are present in this bacterium. In fact, it is estimated that the genes of E. coli contain over a trillion (1012) bits of data. That is the number 10 followed by 12 zeros. Dr. Eden also calculated the maximum number of protein molecules that could have existed on earth in ten billion years, and it is only an "infinitesimal number" when compared to the maximum number of possibilities in a polypeptide chain containing 250 links.
These calculations are consistent with those made earlier by the French scientist Lecomte du Nouy, who examined the mathematical odds of life having evolved by chance from nonliving matter. Regarding the formation of a single protein, he said that the "time needed to form, on an average, one such molecule in a material volume equal to that of our terrestrial glove is about 10243 years."3 Thus, he concluded that the odds against the chance formation of a single protein were so great that such an event could not have occurred.
Dr. Eden attacked the central tenet of evolution, natural selection. He said, "Concepts such as natural selection by the survival of the fittest are tautologous; that is, they simply restate the fact that only the properties of organisms which survive to produce offspring, or to produce more offspring than their cohorts, will appear in succeeding generations." He further explained, "Any principal criticism of current thoughts on evolutionary theory is directed to the strong use of the notion of 'randomness' in selection. The process of speciation by a mechanism of random variation of properties in offspring is usually too imprecisely defined to be tested. "When it is precisely defined, it is highly implausible."
Getting away from the philosophical discussion, Dr. Eden reported on his extensive genetic data on hemoglobin. Hemoglobin contains two chains, called alpha and beta. Evolutionists assume that one evolved from the other through certain random mutations. He said that it would take a minimum of 120 point mutations to convert alpha to beta. At least 34 of these mutations required changing two or three nucleotides of the 140 residues in the chain. Yet, if a single nucleotide change occurs through mutation the result is highly deleterious to the organism.
George Wald commented on just this point. He said that George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard had claimed that all changes in protein were adaptive. Because of this remark, Dr. Wald said he "took a little trouble to find whether a single amino acid change in a hemoglobin mutation is known that doesn't affect seriously the function of that hemoglobin. One is hard put to find such an instance. Do you understand what I am saying? . . . One is hard put to find a single instance in which a change in one amino acid in sequence does not change markedly the properties." For example, the change of one amino acid out of 287 in hemoglobin causes sickle-cell anemia. Molecules of normal hemoglobin have a glutamic acid unit where the sickle-cell hemoglobin has a valine unit. The resulting disease kills about 25 percent of the population of black humans who are affected. (Evolutionists often like to cite this highly deleterious mutation as a good example of a beneficial mutation because those afflicted with sickle-cell anemia are less likely to die with malaria. To the overall population, however, it is highly destructive.) Dr. Wald also noted the enormous time span required to establish a mutation in a population: "If you make a rough estimate ... it looks as if something of the order of ten million years is needed to establish a mutation. That is, each of these single amino acid changes appears relatively frequently in individuals as pathology; but to establish one such change as a regular characteristic in a species seems to take something of the order of ten million years."
Participants in the symposium said that obviously there must be a way for nature to reduce the odds against evolution, but no one could offer a mathematical characterization of such a mechanism. Dr. Eden said, "What I would like to find is the characterization of these constraints.... What I am claiming is simply that without some constraint on the notion of random variation in either the properties of the organism or the sequence of the DNA, there is no particular reason to expect that we could have gotten any kind of viable form other than nonsense." He was talking explicitly about the very heart of the question of plausibility in macroevolution. If the raw material of evolutionary change is supposed to be generated by random processes, and random processes cannot be shown to produce even a fraction of the intelligence contained in the simplest DNA, then some non-random mechanism must be found. When no such mechanism can be found, the theory should be deposited in the rubbish heap. Natural selection is sometimes offered by neophytes as the answer, but knowledgeable specialists in the field know that selection cannot operate until there is raw material for it to preserve.
The problem becomes even more insurmountable when considering the matter of prebiology, or the origin of the first living cell from non-living chemicals. Some participants preferred not to address that subject, claiming that it was not a part of evolution, but Sidney Fox disagreed. Dr. Fox made the inexplicable statement that the evolutionary process from non-life to life was one of decreasing order and was completely in accord with the second law of thermodynamics that edicts this running down in all closed systems. He said, "On the premise of a logical evolutionary span from prelife to life and from preprotein to protein, the total picture is one of an evolution from a highly ordered primordial state to a considerably less ordered state, when looked at purely from the standpoint of the protein. This progression is in keeping with the second law of thermodynamics." This statement is particularly astounding since the simplest living cell contains over a trillion bits of data in its genes -- a number equivalent to the total number of letters in all the books in the world's largest library. If the supposed natural process from non-life to life represents a loss of intelligence, Dr. Fox is asking a lot if he expects anyone to believe that chemicals in an ancient ocean could contain more data than is in the largest library. It is quite understandable that most attendees were happy to avoid a discussion of the origin of life.
Ernst Mayr made some startling admissions about Darwin's original model of mutation and natural selection. He said, "Popper is right; this model is so good that it can explain everything, as Popper has rightly complained." This relates to the requirement in science that a theory or model must make exclusionary predictions. If the concept is so generalized that it can explain any conceivable type of evidence, then it is of no value in science. For example, if a theory can explain both dark and light coloration in moths, both the presence and absence of transitional forms in the fossil record, complex life forms either above or below in rock strata, etc., then it has no value in making predictions. Dr. Mayr talked in generalities about neo-Darwinism being more than just mutation and natural selection -- gene flow from one population to another, for example. But he admitted that, in reality, the raw material was all generated by random mutations: "Ultimately, all variation is, of course, due to mutation. . . . The input of untested new mutations in these cases would almost invariably have a deleterious effect."
At the conclusion of his comments he could only offer this in regard to a mathematical definition of his neo-Darwinism model that could be tested on a computer: "I think it should mean one thing in particular, which is that the approach adopted should not be too simplistic." From this, one can only gather that he admits that there is no presently known definitive theory on how life could have evolved from a common ancestor by a materialistic process. The challenge to define the theory mathematically quickly strips its proponents of the endless verbiage containing generalizations and suppositions. He added during the ensuing discussion, "Whenever a major new evolutionary branch originates, whether the birds, or the first mammals, or any other major new taxon, it always goes in an incredibly short time (geologically speaking) through that labile stage between the well-defined ancestral phenotype and the new descendant type. This is what was such a puzzle to Goldschmidt. ... An Eocene bat looks just like a modern bat." In this manner, Dr. Mayr copes with the total lack of fossilized transitional forms between the major different kinds of life.
In a discussion of how evolution theory can explain the fact that eels, which normally reproduce only in salt water, have certain landlocked species that reproduce in fresh water, Dr. Weisskopt said, "I think it was Medawar who said that one thing about the theory of evolution is (and he quoted Popper) that it is not falsifiable, that whatever happens you can always explain it. I think you have an example here."
On the same subject, Dr. Fraser said, "It would seem to me that there have been endless statements made and the only thing I have clearly agreed with through the whole day has been the statement made by Karl Popper, namely, that the real inadequacy of evolution, esthetically and scientifically, is that you can explain anything you want by changing your variable around."
George Wald agreed: "This cannot be done in evolution, taking it in its broad sense, and this is really all I meant when I called it tautologous in the first place. It can, indeed, explain anything. You may be ingenious or not in proposing a mechanism which looks plausible to human beings... but it is still an unfalsifiable theory."
Dr. Schutzenberger of the University of Paris reported on why all attempts to program a model of evolution on a computer had completely failed. He said that neo-Darwinism asserts that without anything further, selection brings about a statistically adapted drift when random changes are performed in a population. He insisted, "We believe that it is not conceivable. In fact if we try to simulate such a situation by making changes randomly at the typographic level (by letters or blocks, the size of the unit does not really matter) on computer programs we find that we have no chance (i.e., less than one in ten to the thousandth power) even to see what the modified program would compute: it just jams." In conclusion, Dr. Schutzenberger said, "Thus ... we believe that there is a considerable gap in the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, and we believe this gap to be of such a nature that it cannot be bridged within the current conception of biology."
One problem, of course, is that regardless of all the discoveries we have made in the field of genetics, there still is no way to know how chains of nucleic acids in DNA instruct the cell to perform its multitudinous and complex functions. Dr. Ulam said, "Nobody in the 19th century or even now would profess to understand the details of how, from the code, an actual organism is produced." To this Schutzenberger replied that if there were explicit general principles relating them we should be able to simulate them and show the passage form disorder to order. He insisted that with even the simple models that had been programmed on the computer, "What we know is that when we make changes of a typographic nature, most of them are meaningless from any respect, and when I say 'most of them' I mean less than one out of ten to the hundredth power." In reply to Lewontin's claim that a very large proportion of mutations do not render the molecule meaningless, Schutzenberger said, "I ask you, what is the mechanism which makes it so, or what sort of conceptual mechanism could make it so? I don't know of any general principle or of any trick which in any other circumstances could produce this effect." When someone argued in general terms about how evolution solved the problem, he replied that they were falling into a trap: "You only make the case worse by supposing that the mechanism which induces an agreement between the topologies has been produced also by random changes. That is to say, this sort of fallacy has been used a lot of times in 'artificial intelligence' to pretend that one could write programs [for] machines which would learn how to tell themselves how to improve programs."
Dr. Waddington commented, "Your argument is simply that life must have come about by special creation." This brought a resounding "No!"
Near the end of the symposium, Murray Eden presented a second paper
that summarized the results of the encounter quite well. He said that,
during the course of development of neo-Darwinian evolution, a variety
of postulates have been suggested and invalidated, so:
In consequence, the theory has been modified to the point that virtually every formulation of the principles of evolution is a tautology.... It is our contention that if "random" is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws -- physical, physico-chemical, and biological.... In summary, it is our contention that the principal task of the evolutionist is to discover and examine mechanisms which constrain the variation of phenotypes to a very small class and to relegate the notion of randomness to a minor non-crucial role."
Darwin's main undertaking was to attempt to show how the great complexity found in the biosphere could be explained by some purely natural process free of any outside guiding force or intelligence. The mathematicians at this conference showed that the commonly assumed random process of mutation could not possibly produce the raw material for evolution, even in many times the assumed age of the universe. So evolutionists are left with the task of discovering new natural laws if they are to justify not relegating their theory to the rubbish heap or restricting it to books on religion and philosophy.
What did the museum officials say in their interviews about mutations? Dr. Patterson said that whether there was such a thing as a beneficial mutation depended upon how you looked at it. He mentioned sickle-cell anemia and the generating of penicillin from mold as two candidates. Under certain circumstances, these could be considered good mutations. It was pointed out to him that in the delivery rooms of hospitals, evolutionists never hope for a mutation; yet, they say we got here by gradual mutations. He answered, "Right." It was also pointed out that, to the overall population, sickle-cell anemia was deleterious, and he replied, "Well, that is all anyone can say. Nobody would ever say that all these mutations would be advantageous."
Question: "Dobzhansky, after years of irradiating fruit flies for thousands of generations to artificially induce mutations, couldn't think of a single mutant that was more viable out in nature. He could only think of several which might be more viable at unusual conditions like very elevated temperatures." To this Dr. Patterson agreed, and pointed out that his fruit flies were all in glass jars. What did he think of the mechanism for evolution? He said that he had to agree that the only known kind of mutation was spontaneous change.
Question: "It is claimed that organisms evolve or develop resistance to antibiotic drugs, but some bacteria frozen in 1946 before antibiotics were developed were found to be immune to as many as six different antibiotic drugs. So the resistance was already in a small proportion of the population, right?" Dr. Patterson agreed. The literature now says that resistance in some organisms is due to an extra-chromosomal material called plas-mids which are passed on by conjugal union.
Dr. Eldredge was asked for an explanation of a mechanism for evolution. Did he agree with the view that it was natural selection working on random mutations? He said that this was the core of neo-Darwinism: more organisms are produced than can survive, a non-random pattern of survival. That was not what he believed but his rendition of the core of it. He said that mutations are random only in that they are not directed to help the individual. There is a limit to the kinds of mutations possible. Then natural selection selects out the most harmonious gene combinations. Did he think there were any beneficial mutations? He said, "Well that's not the point. The point is that amongst all the gene complexes that are produced in one generation (I'm just giving you my understanding) you are going to get some that are more harmonious than others. Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. We all know of people who have less chance of surviving and reproducing."
Dr. Eldredge then admitted, when questioned about sickle-cell anemia, that most mutations are harmful: "Apparently most mutations are harmful -- that's an old story -- because they foul up in the developmental process. They are mistakes in copying, that's what they are." He thought that he was compelled to accept, as a general proposition, that some of these mistakes in copying must have been improvements because things have changed.
Question: "(You mean) if evolution is true, that is?" Dr. Eldredge replied:
Yes. Well I told you I have adopted a set of axioms. The single axiom is that I see two ways of explaining the nested sets of patterns and resemblances in the world. I have adopted as an axiom, just to see how far I could go with it, the evolution one because I think you can make more predictions and more statements. That's all I've said. It's not a matter of true belief.... The mistake that we have today, I think, is that the most powerful individuals -- in the sense of the dynamism of their personalities, etc. -- in the last generation more or less have it that that's "all she wrote." We've got the synthetic theory of evolution.
Unfortunately, since he made those statements for the New York Education Department, Dr. Eldredge has changed his mode of doing science and has now adopted evolution as a "true belief rather than just an axiom.
It was pointed out that Dobzhansky said that he never knew of a mutation in his fruit flies that would have been beneficial out in nature and Dr. Eldredge replied, "That weren't lethal. People in America and the world often think that scientists have a bunch of answers. It's a difficult thing. It's a view that is not good." He said that the problem with neo-Darwinism was not so much that it was wrong, but it had some real problems with falsifiability in some of its concepts. Natural selection was particularly hard to deal with except in carefully controlled laboratory conditions. He thought the problem was that natural selection did not explain the diversity of life, so the idea of punctuated equilibria had been devised in an attempt to fill the gaps. The theory said there were differential rates of origination of new species and of their survival. He admitted that punctuated equilibria was still very "evolutionary," and arguments about mechanisms were still going on within the evolutionary camp.
In his 1980 book, Douglas Hofstadter addressed the mind-boggling problem
of the origin of life by a mechanistic process:
A natural and fundamental question to ask on learning of these incredibly interlocking pieces of software and hardware is: "How did they ever get started in the first place?" It is truly a baffling thing. One has to imagine some sort of bootstrap process occurring, somewhat like that which is used in the development of new computer languages -- but a bootstrap from simple molecules to entire cells is almost beyond one's power to imagine. There are various theories on the origin of life. They all run aground on this most central of all central questions: "How did the Genetic Code, along with the mechanisms for its translation (ribosomes and RNA molecules), originate?" For the moment, we will have to content ourselves with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than with an answer.4
Leslie Orgel wrote in the April 15, 1982, issue of New Scientist about the gigantic problem of the origin of life: "We do not yet understand even the general features of the origin of the genetic code.... The origin of the genetic code is the most baffling aspect of the problem of the origins of life, and a major conceptual or experimental breakthrough may be needed before we can make any substantial progress."5 In other words, as Dr. Eden said, we must await the discovery of new natural laws because the ones now known to be operating could not permit such an event.
Manfred Eigen of Germany, well-known in this field, often treats the gigantic problems with little concern by making assumptions: "It was therefore necessary for the first organizing principle to be highly selective from the start. It had to tolerate an enormous overburden of small molecules that were biologically 'wrong' but chemically possible. . . . The primitive soup did face an energy crisis, early life forms needed somehow to extract chemical energy from the molecules in the soup. For the story we have to tell here it is not important how they did so; some system of energy storage and delivery based on phosphates can be assumed." Most critics of evolution theory would be happy to grant Dr. Eigen an energy source and storage if he would just explain how non-living chemicals could become organized in the first place to permit life to begin.
He did restate the problem, but not the solution: "One can safely assume that primordial routes of synthesis and differentiation provided minute concentrations of short sequences of nucleotides that would be recognized as 'correct' by the standards of today's biochemistry." The information content of this sentence is that he assumes that life started spontaneously, and he thinks that it is safe to assume this because he knows that the scientific community, who should be critically evaluating such propositions, all accept the materialistic explanation of the origin of life on a philosophical basis. He does appreciate the magnitude of the problem, for he said, "Which came first, function or information? As we shall show, neither one could precede the other; they had to evolve together."6 This is the case throughout the assumed evolutionary process. For any new structure to come into existence, it would have required a host of highly coordinated structures and functions to originate simultaneously.
Dr. Patterson felt very strongly that no one had yet given a satisfactory explanation of the origin of the first living cell. When asked, "How could that have just happened by accident?" He replied unhesitatingly, "It couldn't. Absolutely, I agree."
Methodology in Science Instruction
There was a mixed but very confusing reaction among the museum officials about whether school and university students should be told about the scientific evidence that was contradictory to evolution theory. To the question, should both sides be taught? Dr. Patterson said, "No." He said, "How are you going to bring up a child telling him all the things we aren't sure about?" When he asked how it would harm a student to know these things, he replied that he could not understand why you should give a young child the facts and let him choose for himself. This, of course, makes a lot of sense, but that is not what is being sought for public education. Young students should not be taught about complex subjects, like theories on origins, when there is much debate among scientists about them. When they become old enough to evaluate the evidence themselves, then they can be presented the theories and relevant evidence. The philosophical bias of the school system or individual teachers should not be allowed to be used as a basis for indoctrination in a pluralistic society.
After some discussion Dr. Patterson said, "The thing I agree with is the philosophy. I will certainly agree that the first thing you do is what was done in the Middle Ages: take students up through Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Descartes, etc., to teach them philosophy and how to recognize truth when they find it. If there is no way of recognizing it, tell them that. From then on say, 'All right, we don't have time to tell you all the facts so we'll give you our story. If you can pick holes in it, then by all means do.' " He still had a strong inclination to tell only the establishment side of the story on origins.
Dr. Eldredge asked if the committee studying the question of how the state should teach theories on origins wanted to give equal time for creationism? He was told that since there were only two models on origins, they were trying to evaluate, for instance, whether a book like Wysong's The Creation/Evolution Controversy should be placed as a reference book in schools. He replied, "I would like to say this on tape that my feeling about that is that students always should be exposed to the fact that there are at least two, and, as you said, perhaps more. At least in terms of modern intellectual life there are these two basic sets of assumptions about the nature of the living world."
Question: "You don't object to both being taught?" Dr. Eldredge replied, "I don't object. In fact, it should be done. I think that would be good. However, in a course in biology which deals with science, I think the science version should not be presented alongside some other thing which is not science." Which version did he think was science? He thought the basic evolutionary theory, "fraught with error as it is" was science. Imperfect though it might be, he thought it was science, even though he admitted that it was just one of two possible axioms and there was a problem with testability. He said, "For the record this is the area that should be taught in biology, not creation-ism. I do not wish to be construed as supporting the teaching of both! However, it would be entirely appropriate at the outset to point out that creationism is another whole way of explaining the diversity of life. I also wish, though, basically, that all science would be taught in such a way that it was a normal human inquiry into the natural world." He thought that the logic was no different than that involved in literary criticism and that there was "nothing sacrosanct about science, there is nothing definite about it or definitive about it." He thought all of America would benefit if science were taught this way.
It was pointed out to Dr. Eldredge that people who defend evolution theory say that it proceeds too slowly over too long a time span to be tested in the laboratory. He replied, "No, you can't test natural selection or anything more than from one generation to another. In the fossil record you are dealing with things that are not subject to that. Needless to say, in the natural world it is hard to get that kind of data. You can't get it from long-dead organisms."
What did Dr. Eldredge think was the most difficult problem for evolution theory? He replied, "Making both aspects of the study of evolution more scientific is the ace number one problem, probably." He said that there were a number of problems left untouched just in sorting out what was related to what. But as far as macroevolution was concerned, he said that his "new theory that macroevolution is not reducible to microevolution" explained it.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe made an interesting conclusion about whether
Darwinism had succeeded in replacing Paley's argument for design:
The speculations of The Origin of Species turned out to be wrong, as we have seen in this chapter. It is ironic that the scientific facts throw Darwin out, but leave William Paley, a figure of fun to the scientific world for more than a century, still in the tournament with a chance of being the ultimate winner.7
Indeed in the concluding chapters of their 1981 book, they declared him the winner hands down, for life was in every respect "deliberate." They said, "There are so many flaws in Darwinism that one can wonder why it swept so completely through the scientific world, and why it is still endemic today."8
In The Bone Peddlers, William Fix, after documenting how the various assumed ancestors of man had been discredited, then went on to enumerate the difficulties with other aspects of evolution, such as the lack of transitional fossils and the vacuous nature of natural selection. He pointed out that many prominent evolutionists like Ernst Mayr and George Gaylord Simpson had admitted that Darwin really did not solve the question of how the different species originated. He questioned "how in Cosmos (1980) Carl Sagan can invoke natural selection as if this were an uncontested and immutable law of nature" when it was pure speculation with no positive evidence that it was ever responsible for creating anything new.9
He completely agreed with Norman Macbeth that the public was not being informed about the true status of evolution theory: "More than one responsible person has voiced concern that the real facts about Darwinism and evolution are simply not reaching the public."
Norman Macbeth's Harvard Debate
In a debate sponsored by the humanist chaplain at Harvard University
on September 24, 1983, between Norman Macbeth and Dr. Kenneth Miller, Macbeth
made the following statement:
Here I should again make it clear that Darwinism and evolution are not the same thing. Evolution is the course of change through time, and Darwinism is the explanation of it. I think that the change in the course of time -- the evolution -- is beyond challenge. You can see it in the fossils very clearly, and you can almost see it in a few centuries or even a lifetime. Darwinism is a different affair, one of explaining it. My attack in my book and elsewhere was on the ideas of Charles Darwin, explaining the mechanism by which the changes occurred. I am not a professional biologist.... I have got into the ptolemics -- the thrusting and parrying back and forth on the problems of Darwinism--and for that you don't need too profound a knowledge of anatomy or physiology.
I want to make a startling observation that it might be advantageous not to have any courses under your belt in biology. The reason I say this is that as I have dealt with biologists over the last 20 years now, I have found that in a way they are hampered by having too much education. They have been steeped from their childhood in the Darwinian views, and, as a result, it has taken possession of their minds to such an extent that they are almost unable to see many facts that are not in harmony with Darwinism. These facts simply aren't there for them often, and other ones are sort of suppressed or distorted. I'll give you some examples.
First, and perhaps most important, is the first appearance of fossils. This occurs at a time called the "Cambrian," 600 million years ago by the fossil reckoning. The fossils appear at that time in a pretty highly developed form. They don't start very low and evolve bit by bit over long periods of time. In the lowest fossil-bearing strata of all, they are already there and are pretty complicated in more-or-less modern form.
One example of this is the little animal called the trilobite. There are a great many fossils of the trilobite right there at the beginning with no build-up to it. And, if you examine them closely, you will find that they are not simple animals. They are small, but they have an eye that has been discussed a great deal in recent years -- an eye that is simply incredible. It is made up of dozens of little tubes which are all at slightly different angles so that it covers the entire field of vision, with a different tube pointing at each spot on the horizon. But these tubes are all more complicated than that, by far. They have a lens on them that is optically arranged in a very complicated way, and it is bound into another layer that has to be just exactly right for them to see anything. . . . But the more complicated it is, the less likely it is simply to have grown up out of nothing. And this situation has troubled everybody from the beginning -- to have everything at the very opening of the drama. The curtain goes up and you have the players on the stage already, entirely in modern costumes.
The Creationists say, "That is abrupt appearance," and they hammer away at that. Instead of building up bit by bit, it appears suddenly, and that to them signifies creation. I don't want to argue that, but I admit it is very strange that there is no slow build-up. The evolutionists have strained very hard to find earlier fossils and have had very meager results.
I find it odd that a leading evolutionist who is also a specialist in trilobites, Niles Eldredge of the American Museum in Natural History, never even mentions these problems of the eye. He has a recent book directed at the Creationists called The Monkey Business.10 He has several pages on the trilobite there, but he never mentions this eye which is really the hardest part of the problem. I think he does it because he simply can't see the significance of all these things when he is utterly convinced that there must have been a slow build-up, but we just don't have any fossils for it. Maybe the conditions were wrong, or we'll find them later.
Then also, if you ask evolutionists what is their best case, normally, their answer is "the case of the peppered moth in England." This moth has two forms -- the white and the black. In ancient times, up to about the 18th century, the white form was more numerous than the black, not overwhelmingly so, but more numerous. The industrial revolution began at that time in England and, bit by bit, the leaves and other vegetation, as well as the buildings, began to turn grimy and black. The white moths then became conspicuous against the black and sooty background, and they began to be picked off by predators -- birds, maybe. It's turning the other way now, and the black forms are getting a little closer to equality again in numbers. This is presented in practically every textbook on Darwinism as a wonderful example of natural selection at work in evolution. But is it anything like that? If you aren't pervaded with the idea to begin with -- if you aren't what is now called "theory laden" -- does that mean anything? There were two forms; there always were two forms and still are two forms. Under certain conditions, the blacks do better; and under other conditions, the whites do better. But there is no evolution--there's no change. There's no new form, and yet this is presented as their greatest example of what can be done.
I want also to point out something that I honestly think they are fully aware of. That is the scantiness of their performance over the last 120 years. Darwin's book The Origin of Species came out in 1859 propounding the idea of natural selection. The whole point of it was that we would now be able to explain where the animals and plants came from -- how they built up to their present form. So, naturally, the first thing you expect is that now we'll have some family trees, some pedigrees, showing how the present moose developed out of earlier forms. A whole series of them should be presented. These are called "phytogenies" by the biologists. A pedigree is the same thing and a family tree is the same thing. If you look at modern textbooks, you'll find very few family trees. In the early days -- in the last century -- they had enormous family trees reaching all the way from vertebrates back to the amoebae. All stages were represented in very fancy and complete trees. You hardly ever find anything like that anymore -- an occasional bush that is by no means convincing or impressive. The reason why is that they can't trace the ancestry.
After 120 years, it is possible to say with considerable certainty that they haven't got a single solid reliable phylogeny. And after 120 years, that is a very poor performance. I think they should candidly face up to that and recognize that Darwinism hasn't been producing much.
Macbeth's debate opponent, Dr. Miller, made no attempt to address these specific points. Instead he talked about what he would have said if he had been debating a Creationist, i.e., attack a straightforward interpretation of the Bible.
Darwin's Enigma Becomes a Light at the End of the Tunnel
Having made an extensive study of the literature and discussed the scientific evidence on origins with natural history museum officials and geology professors, how would the author summarize the results? Does the scientific evidence point to an answer to the "mystery of mysteries" which so greatly concerned Darwin and every thinking person who has ever lived?
First, because of the traps in which those who have gone before us have
become ensnared, a prudent person should exercise a certain restraint about
the temptation to assume that science is capable of providing absolute
answers to the question of origins. It is incumbent upon any person dealing
with metaphysics to never forget these two principles:
- Using purely scientific techniques, it is impossible for us to evaluate theories about pre-recorded history with the same degree of confidence that theories on currently operating processes can be studied.
- Science never absolutely proves any theory; it only disproves some theories and raises our confidence in those that have never flunked a valid test in their most mature form.
This is not meant to be a "cop-out" used to evade the subject, following what has been a rather dismal report on the status of Darwinian evolution theory. It simply must be emphasized that persons who expound on theories on origins are not being forthright if they do not incorporate these principles into their appraisal of the evidence. If textbook authors today were to use these as guidelines in presenting material relative to origins theories, there would be little basis for the hue and cry being raised across the United States and many other free world countries about its treatment by public education.
Of course, it is easy to enumerate the ideas that have been falsified. This practice is often criticized as being only negativism. But it must be remembered that, since falsification of wrong concepts is an essential part of our gaining knowledge through scientific research, it is most appropriate to discuss the failures along with the successes.
At the outset, to begin on a positive note, it can be stated emphatically that there is universal agreement among 20th century scientists that much change is going on among populations of living organisms and that there is fossil evidence of similar change in the past. Scientists who are Creationists emphasize this. The only dispute is over the extent and direction of this change.
Those who use the common-ancestry evolutionary hypothesis as their interpretive framework contend that, although extremely rare, it is possible for the change in organisms to be in the direction of increased complexity, more genetic information content, and more benefit to the organism in its struggle for existence. They postulate that, if insensibly minute increases in order can be amplified by a factor representing billions of reproduction events, then even the complexity of the human brain can be accounted for by a purely naturalistic process. Critics of this view point out that observable change in living organisms is quite restricted and obeys testable principles of genetics.
A wide range of variation occurs in any population with a normal bell-shaped distribution for almost every characteristic, although there are exceptions with certain well-fixed features, like the number of limbs and eyes. As the environment changes, one portion of the population may be more apt to survive than others. The changes in populations, whether due to damages to the DNA in reproduction or the normal intermixing of genes, are all purely random. Changes in populations are thus due to the preservation of those individuals which, by chance, were born with the right characteristics, at the right time, and in the right place to survive long enough to reproduce. This variation and survival process can be called "natural selection," but it never has been observed to create significantly higher levels of organization and intelligence in the DNA.
Just because an organism is able to reproduce and survive in a given environment, what is called "adapted," does not tell us how it adapted in the first place. An organism not suited to survive would have died, but that does not automatically indicate that the ones that have survived got their organs, structures, and functions all by evolution.
There has never been a case established where a living organism was observed to change into a basically different organism with different structures. No observed mutation has ever been demonstrated to be more beneficial to the overall population out in nature. The genetic machinery is so extremely complicated, interrelated and coordinated that a random change due to a copying error in DNA has been shown statistically to have only deleterious effects within the time restraints that have been considered for the age of the universe. Even if life had existed for an infinite amount of time, there is no known observable process that could increase the level of information significantly in a natural system.
Every system in the universe appears to be eventually running down, going to a more random state. It takes very special conditions to temporarily reverse this natural tendency towards disorder: an energy supply, an energy conversion system, and a blueprint or program consisting of pre-existing intelligence to direct the process. These could not all have been present in a vacuum or on a primordial earth before there was any life present. There would have been plenty of energy but no conversion system or program to direct it. Energy alone is highly destructive, and it drives any system toward disorder.
If those who believe in evolution are going to make a case for their theory, they are obligated to first demonstrate that some natural process exists that can create order out of disorder. They must also demonstrate with direct fossil evidence that such a process actually created the diversity of life existing in the biosphere.
Specialists in the world's greatest museums, who are in a position to know the nature of the fossil evidence, although expressing a strong desire to see the theory of evolution validated, have not produced any actual intermediate forms that would indicate the common ancestry of all life. There is not a single example of a series of fossils that would indicate that one form of organism changed gradually into a basically different type with new organs and structures. The lowest rocks that contain indisputable fossils show the abrupt appearance of all major groups of living organisms with nothing preceding them that could reasonably be argued as evidence for an ancestor.
Not only is there a complete lack of fossil evidence to indicate how the first life originated, but no one has yet shown how the enormous amount of genetic intelligence in a single-celled organism could have come spontaneously from non-living chemicals. The state of the art in science and mathematics has advanced to the point where we can now write mathematical models that quite accurately describe real testable natural processes. But evolutionists have been unable to define mathematically a random process that would generate anything approaching the information content of a living cell. Even if 50 percent of all mutations were beneficial, the evolutionary process would not move in a direction of upward complexity, and there is great dispute over whether any observed mutations can be demonstrated to produce more viable organisms out in nature. Everyone agrees that no more than one in a thousand or one in a million mutations are beneficial.
The origin-of-life experiments that have produced a few amino acids have given no indication whatsoever of how DNA or RNA could have originated spontaneously from non-life. Furthermore, the early-atmosphere conditions simulated have been found to be unrealistic, for it is now generally agreed that evidence in the Precambrian rocks shows that there was free oxygen present which would destroy the products of these experiments. Francis Crick's suggestion that at least the first living cell must have been transported to earth in a rocket ship, and Fred Hoyle's contention that random processes could not form even one of the necessary 2,000 enzymes for life are especially devastating to the theory that life arose in a purely mechanistic manner.
The scientific evidence shows that whenever any basically different type of life first appeared on earth, all the way from single-celled protozoa to man, it was complete and its organs and structures were complete and fully functional. The inescapable deduction to be drawn from this fact is that there was some sort of pre-existing intelligence before life first appeared on earth. Whether that intelligence was another civilization on some other planet or a supernatural power, science at the moment cannot determine. One thing is certain, if there is life elsewhere in the universe, man does not have any direct scientific evidence of it. There is not even any substantive evidence that planets exist around any star except our sun, regardless of the speculations emanating from many scientists.
Much weight is usually given to the assumption that the fossil record looks like the familiar picture presented in textbooks, known as the geologic column. The sedimentary rocks are supposed to have been formed by the slow accumulation of sediments over millions of years trapping in them the billions of organisms that then formed fossils. This uniformitarian concept has always been disputed by those who believe the rocks were formed instead by catastrophes. Over the past century the pendulum has swung away from widespread belief in Catastrophism to belief in uniformitarianism. Then in the 1980s, even evolutionists began talking about Catastrophism and contending that the major fossil depositions occurred in worldwide catastrophes. Some were suggesting that uniformitarianism should be scrapped completely.
It is widely known that there is no evidence today on the bottom of lakes or seas of any significant contemporary fossil formation going on that even remotely resembles what we find in the sedimentary rocks. This alone falsifies the uniformitarian theory. The sedimentary rocks, therefore, do not show a picture of slow gradual deposition, but one of catastrophes that laid down the organisms and covered them rapidly enough to have prevented decay.
Not only does the evidence show that the fossil-bearing rocks were laid down rapidly, but there are sufficient examples of out-of-order fossils to question the idea that the fossils are arranged in the exact sequence shown in the geologic column. Indeed, there are patterns found in the arrangement of rocks that must be accounted for in any model that attempts to explain geological formations. If models are expected to hold up under serious scrutiny, they should include neither the assumption of gradual fossil deposition over long periods of time nor the assumption that the geologic column arrangement actually exists and has been validated. The column is only a hypothetical arrangement for which there has never been developed a rigorous treatise showing how it has been systematically validated.
A geological fact which is perhaps the greatest problem for those who choose to believe that the geologic column was deposited uniformly over millions of years is the lack of meteoric evidence in all but the surface rocks. This is another well-guarded trade secret that has not leaked out, but knowledgeable geologists will admit it if questioned directly on the subject. In a personal correspondence with the author, a former president of the Geological Society of Britain wrote, "I do not know of any record of meteoritic material back in the stratigraphical column unless you accept Alvarez et al's evidence of iridium levels at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary." Many scientists, of course, dispute the contention that the presence of a high amount of iridium at several isolated locations indicates necessarily that it came from a meteor. But even if it is accepted as evidence of a meteor, that leaves billions of years of geologic deposits without evidences of meteors. When we examine the moon and Mars it is obvious that they were subjected to much meteoric bombardment. If the sedimentary rocks were deposited uniformly over a billion years, why do they not contain evidence of meteor strikes including huge craters below the surface? That question deserves a serious answer, but believers in uniformitarianism are notably silent on the matter. There have been some suggestions that several basins like Hudson Bay were the sites of giant meteor strikes, but, if strikes actually occurred there, it must have been before the sedimentary rocks were deposited since the evidence is not distinct.
So, if the theory of macroevolution has been falsified and the geologic
column was not deposited by uniform gradualistic processes, what do the
fossil and geologic evidences tell us about origins? It is this author's
opinion that at least two safe conclusions can be drawn without likelihood
of their being refuted. These are:
- A number of different types of living organisms first appeared abruptly on earth in completely functional form at some unknown times in the past. All life did not have a common ancestor.
- The fossilized organisms were buried rapidly in catastrophic events, some of which were on a worldwide scale.
Furthermore, it appears that greatly different conditions existed in the past, when a tropical-like climate extended to the polar regions. Animals and plants grew to very large sizes. The first fossil-bearing rocks appear to contain mostly sea-bottom creatures. But it is also true that at one place or another, rocks classified in every geologic period lay directly on rocks that have no fossils in or below them. Due to the common practice among geologists to ignore evidence that does not agree with evolution theory or uniformitarianism, it is difficult for us to obtain an accurate picture of the geologic data.
Perhaps critics will say that these are rather timid conclusions because they do not answer a lot of questions that the uniformitarian evolution theory attempts to answer. This might be true, but we must realize that there are limitations to what science is capable of accomplishing. Just because man has been imbued with great curiosity and has thought of many questions is no reason to conclude that he has already found all the answers. Perhaps there will always be questions that will remain unanswered by science. For those, we will be compelled to look elsewhere for the answers. This does not mean that we should not keep searching out the natural world to learn more about its boundless complexities. Our searching, thus far, has paid great dividends as long as we have adhered to the rules of the game in sifting out the conjectures from theories which are about observable, repeatable, and testable phenomena. Let us not abandon these principles that have served us so well for centuries.
The information presented in this book is not now readily available
to public school, college, and university students, but it should be presented
for open discussion along with the host of material that is now supplied
in support of evolution theory. As the natural history museum officials
said, there are only two theories on origins and both must be accepted
axiomati-cally. The question that the public must be allowed to decide
is: should we permit some person or body to select one of these axioms
to be taught exclusively, or should students be presented the evidence
relating to origins in an unbiased manner so that every person can decide
this important issue without coercion? The decision is yours.