Disagreements About Evolution—Why?
When a special centennial edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species was to be published, W. R. Thompson, then director of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control, in Ottawa, Canada, was invited to write its introduction. In it he said: “As we know, there is a great divergence of opinion among biologists, not only about the causes of evolution but even about the actual process. This divergence exists because the evidence is unsatisfactory and does not permit any certain conclusion. It is therefore right and proper to draw the attention of the non-scientific public to the disagreements about evolution”a
1, 2. (a) How has the word “fact” been defined? (b) What are some examples of facts?
THOSE who support the theory of evolution feel that it is now an established fact. They believe that evolution is an “actual occurrence,” a “reality,” a “truth,” as one dictionary defines the word “fact.” But is it?
2 To illustrate: It was once believed that the earth was flat. Now it has been established for a certainty that it is spherical in shape. That is a fact. It was once believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that the heavens revolved around the earth. Now we know for sure that the earth revolves in an orbit around the sun. This, too, is a fact. Many things that were once only debated theories have been established by the evidence as solid fact, reality, truth.
3. (a) What indicates that evolution as an established “fact” is still in question? (b) What approach will be helpful in examining the current status of evolution?
3 Would an investigation of the evidence for evolution leave one on the same solid ground? Interestingly, ever since Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species was published in 1859, various aspects of the theory have been a matter of considerable disagreement even among top evolutionary scientists. Today, that dispute is more intense than ever. And it is enlightening to consider what advocates of evolution themselves are saying about the matter.
Evolution Under Assault
4-6. What has been happening among those who promote evolution?
4 The scientific magazine Discover put the situation this way: “Evolution . . . is not only under attack by fundamentalist Christians, but is also being questioned by reputable scientists. Among paleontologists, scientists who study the fossil record, there is growing dissent from the prevailing view of Darwinism.”1 Francis Hitching, an evolutionist and author of the book The Neck of the Giraffe, stated: “For all its acceptance in the scientific world as the great unifying principle of biology, Darwinism, after a century and a quarter, is in a surprising amount of trouble.”2
5 After an important conference of some 150 specialists in evolution held in Chicago, Illinois, a report concluded: “[Evolution] is undergoing its broadest and deepest revolution in nearly 50 years. . . . Exactly how evolution happened is now a matter of great controversy among biologists. . . . No clear resolution of the controversies was in sight.”3
6 Paleontologist Niles Eldredge, a prominent evolutionist, said: “The doubt that has infiltrated the previous, smugly confident certitude of evolutionary biology’s last twenty years has inflamed passions.” He spoke of the “lack of total agreement even within the warring camps,” and added, “things really are in an uproar these days . . . Sometimes it seems as though there are as many variations on each [evolutionary] theme as there are individual biologists.”4
7, 8. How did one respected writer comment on Darwin’s Origin of Species?
7 A London Times writer, Christopher Booker (who accepts evolution), said this about it: “It was a beautifully simple and attractive theory. The only trouble was that, as Darwin was himself at least partly aware, it was full of colossal holes.” Regarding Darwin’s Origin of Species, he observed: “We have here the supreme irony that a book which has become famous for explaining the origin of species in fact does nothing of the kind.”—Italics added.
8 Booker also stated: “A century after Darwin’s death, we still have not the slightest demonstrable or even plausible idea of how evolution really took place—and in recent years this has led to an extraordinary series of battles over the whole question. . . . a state of almost open war exists among the evolutionists themselves, with every kind of [evolutionary] sect urging some new modification.” He concluded: “As to how and why it really happened, we have not the slightest idea and probably never shall.”5
9. How is the situation among evolutionists in recent times described?
9 Evolutionist Hitching agreed, saying: “Feuds concerning the theory of evolution exploded . . . Entrenched positions, for and against, were established in high places, and insults lobbed like mortar bombs from either side.” He said that it is an academic dispute of far-reaching proportions, “potentially one of those times in science when, quite suddenly, a long-held idea is overthrown by the weight of contrary evidence and a new one takes its place.”6 And Britain’s New Scientist observed that “an increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists . . . argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is no genuine scientific theory at all. . . . Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials.”7
Dilemmas Over Origins
10. Has an evolutionary origin of life on earth been established as fact?
10 Regarding the question of how life originated, astronomer Robert Jastrow said: “To their chagrin [scientists] have no clear-cut answer, because chemists have never succeeded in reproducing nature’s experiments on the creation of life out of nonliving matter. Scientists do not know how that happened.” He added: “Scientists have no proof that life was not the result of an act of creation.”8
11. Complex body organs present what difficulty for evolution?
11 But the difficulty does not stop with the origin of life. Consider such body organs as the eye, the ear, the brain. All are staggering in their complexity, far more so than the most intricate man-made device. A problem for evolution has been the fact that all parts of such organs have to work together for sight, hearing or thinking to take place. Such organs would have been useless until all the individual parts were completed. So the question arises: Could the undirected element of chance that is thought to be a driving force of evolution have brought all these parts together at the right time to produce such elaborate mechanisms?
12. (a) How did Darwin comment on the origin of the eye? (b) Is the problem nearer to being solved today?
12 Darwin acknowledged this as a problem. For example, he wrote: “To suppose that the eye . . . could have been formed by [evolution], seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”9 More than a century has passed since then. Has the problem been solved? No. On the contrary, since Darwin’s time what has been learned about the eye shows that it is even more complex than he understood it to be. Thus Jastrow said: “The eye appears to have been designed; no designer of telescopes could have done better.”10
13. What did one scientist conclude about the brain?
13 If this is so of the eye, what, then, of the human brain? Since even a simple machine does not evolve by chance, how can it be a fact that the infinitely more complex brain did? Jastrow concluded: “It is hard to accept the evolution of the human eye as a product of chance; it is even harder to accept the evolution of human intelligence as the product of random disruptions in the brain cells of our ancestors.”11
Dilemmas Over Fossils
14. Is it true that the fossil evidence supports evolution?
14 Millions of bones and other evidence of past life have been unearthed by scientists, and these are called fossils. If evolution were a fact, surely in all of this there should be ample evidence of one kind of living thing evolving into another kind. But the Bulletin of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History commented: “Darwin’s theory of [evolution] has always been closely linked to evidence from fossils, and probably most people assume that fossils provide a very important part of the general argument that is made in favor of darwinian interpretations of the history of life. Unfortunately, this is not strictly true.”
15. (a) How did Darwin view the fossil evidence in his day? (b) After more than a century of collecting fossils, what does the evidence reveal?
15 Why not? The Bulletin went on to say that Darwin “was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn’t look the way he predicted it would . . . the geologic record did not then and still does not yield a finely graduated chain of slow and progressive evolution.” In fact now, after more than a century of collecting fossils, “we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time,” explained the Bulletin.12 Why is this the case? Because the more abundant fossil evidence available today shows that some of the examples that were once used to support evolution now are seen not to do so at all.
16. What do many evolutionary scientists now acknowledge?
16 This failure of the fossil evidence to support gradual evolution has disturbed many evolutionists. In The New Evolutionary Timetable, Steven Stanley spoke of “the general failure of the record to display gradual transitions from one major group to another.” He said: “The known fossil record is not, and never has been, in accord with [slow evolution].”13 Niles Eldredge also admitted: “The pattern that we were told to find for the last 120 years does not exist.”14
17. How did Science Digest comment on the newer theories?
17 All of this has led many scientists to champion novel theories for evolution. Science Digest put it this way: “Some scientists are proposing even more rapid evolutionary changes and are now dealing quite seriously with ideas once popularized only in fiction.”15
18. What difficulty is there with the more recent theory that life began in outer space?
18 For instance, some scientists have concluded that life could not have arisen spontaneously on earth. Instead, they speculate that it must have originated in outer space and then floated down to the earth. But that just pushes the problem of the origin of life further back and into a more forbidding setting. The perils confronting life in the hostile environment of outer space are well known. Is it likely, then, that life began spontaneously elsewhere in the universe and survived under such harsh conditions to reach the earth, and later to develop into life as we know it?
19, 20. What new theory are some evolutionists promoting?
19 Since the fossil record does not show a gradual development of life from one type into another, some evolutionists theorize that the process must have happened by jerks and starts, not at a steady pace. As The World Book Encyclopedia explains: “Many biologists think new species may be produced by sudden, drastic changes in genes.”16
20 Some adherents to this theory have called the process “punctuated equilibrium.” That is, species maintain their “equilibrium” (they stay much the same), but every once in a while there is a “punctuation” (a big jump to evolve into something else). This is just the opposite of the theory that has been accepted by nearly all evolutionists for many decades. The gulf between the two theories was illustrated by a headline in The New York Times: “Theory of Rapid Evolution Attacked.” The article noted that the newer “punctuated equilibrium” idea had “aroused new opposition” among those who hold to the traditional view.17
21. (a) Regardless of which theory of evolution is accepted, what evidence should exist? (b) Yet what do the facts show?
21 Regardless of which theory is held, it is reasonable that there should be at least some evidence to show that one kind of life turns into another kind. But the gaps between different types of life found in the fossil record, as well as the gaps between different types of living things on earth today, still persist.
22, 23. How has Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest” been challenged in recent times?
22 Also, it is revealing to see what has happened to Darwin’s long-accepted idea regarding the “survival of the fittest.” This he called “natural selection.” That is, he believed that nature “selected” the fittest living things to survive. As these “fit” ones supposedly acquired new features that worked to their advantage, they slowly evolved. But the evidence of the past 125 years shows that, while the fittest may indeed survive, this does not explain how they arrived. One lion may be fitter than another lion, but that does not explain how he got to be a lion. And all of his offspring will still be lions, not something else.
23 Thus, in Harper’s magazine, writer Tom Bethell commented: “Darwin made a mistake sufficiently serious to undermine his theory. And that mistake has only recently been recognized as such. . . . One organism may indeed be ‘fitter’ than another . . . This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, . . . It is clear, I think, that there was something very, very wrong with such an idea.” Bethell added: “As I see it the conclusion is pretty staggering: Darwin’s theory, I believe, is on the verge of collapse.”18
Fact or Theory?
24, 25. (a) What are some of the areas in which evolution has not met the standard of being an established fact? (b) In line with what an evolutionist said about the modern theory, how could it be regarded?
24 Summarizing some of the unsolved problems confronting evolution, Francis Hitching observed: “In three crucial areas where [the modern evolution theory] can be tested, it has failed: The fossil record reveals a pattern of evolutionary leaps rather than gradual change. Genes are a powerful stabilizing mechanism whose main function is to prevent new forms evolving. Random step-by-step mutations at the molecular level cannot explain the organized and growing complexity of life.”—Italics added.
25 Then Hitching concluded by making this observation: “To put it at its mildest, one may question an evolutionary theory so beset by doubts among even those who teach it. If Darwinism is truly the great unifying principle of biology, it encompasses extraordinarily large areas of ignorance. It fails to explain some of the most basic questions of all: how lifeless chemicals came alive, what rules of grammar lie behind the genetic code, how genes shape the form of living things.” In fact, Hitching stated that he considered the modern theory of evolution “so inadequate that it deserves to be treated as a matter of faith.”19
26. Why is it not reasonable to continue insisting that evolution is a fact?
26 However, many advocates of evolution feel that they do have sufficient reason to insist that evolution is a fact. They explain that they are just arguing over details. But if any other theory had such enormous remaining difficulties, and such major contradictions among those who advocate it, would it so readily be pronounced a fact? Merely repeating that something is a fact does not make it a fact. As John R. Durant, a biologist, wrote in The Guardian of London: “Many scientists succumb to the temptation to be dogmatic, . . . over and over again the question of the origin of the species has been presented as if it were finally settled. Nothing could be further from the truth. . . . But the tendency to be dogmatic persists, and it does no service to the cause of science.”20
27. What other framework for the evidence is there, which offers a basis for understanding how life got here?
27 On the other hand, what about creation as an explanation for how life got here? Does it offer a framework for the evidence that is any more sound than the assertions that often underpin evolution? And, as the best-known creation account, does Genesis shed any credible light on how the earth and living things got here?
[Blurb on page 14]
“Darwinism, after a century and a quarter, is in a surprising amount of trouble”
[Blurb on page 15]
“Exactly how evolution happened is now a matter of great controversy among biologists”
[Blurb on page 18]
“The eye appears to have been designed; no designer of telescopes could have done better”
[Blurb on page 21]
“The pattern that we were told to find for the last 120 years does not exist”
[Blurb on page 21]
“Some scientists are proposing . . . [evolutionary] ideas once popularized only in fiction”
[Blurb on page 22]
New theories contradict what has been accepted for many decades
[Blurb on page 23]
“Darwin’s theory, I believe, is on the verge of collapse”
[Blurb on page 24]
“Over and over again the question of the origin of the species has been presented as if it were finally settled. Nothing could be further from the truth”
[Box on page 18]
“Computer Scientists Stymied in Their Quest to Match Human Vision”
Under the above headline The New York Times reported: “Experts pursuing one of man’s most audacious dreams—to create machines that think—have stumbled while taking what seemed to be an elementary first step. They have failed to master vision.
“After two decades of research, they have yet to teach machines the seemingly simple act of being able to recognize everyday objects and to distinguish one from another.
“Instead, they have developed a profound new respect for the sophistication of human sight. . . . The human retina is the envy of computer scientists. Its 100 million rods and cones and its layers of neurons perform at least 10 billion calculations per second.”b
[Picture on page 16]
Of Darwin’s book The Origin of Species, a London Times writer who accepts evolution wrote: “We have here the supreme irony that a book which has become famous for explaining the origin of species in fact does nothing of the kind”
[Picture on page 17]
An evolutionist stated: “Entrenched positions, for and against, were established . . . and insults lobbed like mortar bombs from either side”
[Pictures on page 19]
Said astronomer Robert Jastrow: “It is hard to accept the evolution of the human eye as a product of chance; it is even harder to accept the evolution of human intelligence as the product of random disruptions in the brain cells of our ancestors”
[Pictures on page 20]
“Some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record . . . have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.”c—David Raup, Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History
[Picture on page 22]
While the fittest may survive, this does not explain how they arrive