The Imminent End of the Evolution Theory
“[T]he Darwinian brand of evolution is becoming increasingly vulnerable as the progress of science reveals its weaknesses.”—Historian Paul Johnson in Forbes
THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
In 1974, Muhammad Ali faced the legendary George Foreman—a powerful fighter whose crushing blows had led to early round knockouts in most of his previous forty bouts. Although Ali entered the ring as a 3-1 underdog, he had a strategy to prevail over his Herculean opponent.
Round after round, Ali leaned against the ropes, moving with the ordnance Foreman unloaded on his body. In the seventh round, Ali whispered to Foreman, “Is that all you got, George?” Foreman would later comment, “I knew something strange was happening in my life especially because that was all I had.”
At the opening bell of the eighth, Ali sprang up against an exhausted, lumbering champ, delivering a flurry of viper-like strikes. Then, a rock solid shot to the head brought the “most unbeatable fighter in history” to the canvas. Ali went on to dominate heavyweight boxing for another four years, while Foreman faded into the ignominy of exhibition matches.
Many have been critical of Ali’s “rope-a-dope” tactic, but others recognize the wisdom of letting an opponent’s own strength defeat him. Today, the same strategy can be used against a giant that has been pounding its chest for nearly 150 years.
THE 800-POUND GORILLA
Prior to 1859, the humanistic ideals of the Enlightenment were insufficient to jettison God from the universe. The most any honest skeptic could do was shove Him into a remote outpost of the cosmos where He could amuse Himself with heavenly delights, thus leaving mankind to perfect society through science and technology.
However, all of that changed in 1859 with the publication of The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution enabled “enlightened” thinkers to eject the Clockmaker completely, and become intellectually fulfilled atheists, as neo-Darwinist Richard Dawkins once said.
Darwin’s theory quickly became the cornerstone of a new world paradigm: one that needed no Creator, Savior, or supernatural. When combined with Marx’s theory of social progress and Freud’s theory of human nature, evolution could explain everything (from finch beak size to human emotions) in terms of natural processes. Not surprisingly, philosophical materialists like Daniel Dennett rate Darwin’s “breakthrough” the most important in history, surpassing the work of even Newton and Einstein.
But scientists haven’t been the only ones to promote evolution. One hundred years after Darwin’s seminal work, filmmakers released Inherit the Wind, a movie loosely based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. By mocking critics of evolution and depicting religion as the enemy of open inquiry, the film helped elevate Darwinism to monolithic stature.
In the years hence, Darwinian evolution has grown into society’s new 800-pound gorilla—a fact to be accepted, rather than a theory subject to critical analysis. In a country where more people believe in the virgin birth than in evolution, as one pundit has lamented, Darwinism has become the litmus for the “smart set.”
How tough is this gorilla? Consider what happened in 2004 when Italy’s Minister of Education proposed removing evolutionary theory from middle schools. The scientific community responded by circulating an appeal that garnered thousands of signatures worldwide in a matter of days. In a quote reminiscent of Inherit the Wind, a New York professor stated:
Creationism . . . is one aspect of a more general and widespread anti-intellectualism that permeates . . . society . . . Since the Enlightenment [Europeans are] not going to trust religious authorities in these matters; they’re going to trust the experts.
In other words, any criticism of evolution is the product of flat-earth science and religious extremism. Within a week, the Italian Minister of Education not only withdrew his proposal, but promised to expand the teaching of Darwin’s theories into elementary schools. The evolution theory has grown into a fierce heavyweight.
THE GORILLA’S ‘STRENGTH’
According to evolutionists, the strength of their theory is in its scientific evidence. They point to things like the fossil record, embryology, pesticide resistant insects, anti-biotic-immune bacteria, “junk” DNA, and species variation. In a way, neo-Darwinists sound like Don King hyping the indomitability of a heavyweight champ.
Nevertheless, a well-informed challenger can confidently lean against the ropes throughout these seven rounds of just-so “proofs” before countering, “Is that all you’ve got?” That’s because the strength of Darwinism is its biggest weakness. You see, the evidence marshaled in support of evolution is based on the premise it is intended to prove. In some cases, it’s outright fraud.
FOSSIL GAPS AND FAKERY
Take the fossil record, for example. Ian Tattersall, Curator of the American Museum of Natural History, confesses, “The patterns we perceive are as likely to result from our unconscious mindsets as from the evidence itself.” Richard Leakey admitted as much when he disclosed the tendency of his father (paleontologist Louis Leakey) to arrange fossils and alter their criteria to fit into a line of human descent.
Compounding the problem is the lack of transitional forms. The late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould called this dilemma “the trade secret of paleontology.” But most damaging are the attempts to fill those gaps with forgeries. Java man, Nebraska man, Piltdown man, Peking man—they have all been proven false. (Not to mention the phenomenon of China’s thriving fake fossil business as reported in the February 2003 issue of Discover.)
ERSATZ EMBRYO DRAWINGS
Evolutionists support the claim of common descent by touting the similarity of embryos among fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals. But there’s just one problem. The embryos of these groups are significantly different from each other. Their purported resemblances are based on the nineteenth-century drawings of a Darwin admirer, Ernst Haeckel, who later admitted to their fabrication.
Even if the drawings were accurate, they could just as easily support a common Designer. The same is true for the structural similarities between the fish fin, bird wing, and human hand. Again, the neo-Darwinist interprets the evidence based on the presuppositions he brings to the laboratory table, meaning he disallows any supernatural process or agent from the outset. As Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin candidly admits:
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises . . . because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
That could explain why many school textbooks published over the past fifty years—including those in print today—contain the Haeckel drawings, even though the scientific community has known about the fakery for over a century.
DEAD MOTHS AND GLUE
Sadly, the scientific community continues to allow deceptive examples of Darwinism in school textbooks. In the much cited study of Britain’s peppered-moths, researchers claimed that light-colored moths underwent natural selection, turning dark, after the pollution buildup on tree trunks made light moths more visible to predators. It was later learned that peppered moths do not normally rest on tree trunks and that the photos of them were staged by gluing dead moths to trees.
As recently as this past February, Patrick Chisholm of the Christian Science Monitor referenced the peppered moth phenomenon to emphasize that “evolution is fact.” Miffed at the wrongheadedness of school administrators, who wanted to put evolution in its rightful place, Chisholm writes, “Saying evolution is a theory is like saying the earth revolving around the sun is a theory.”
Chisholm didn’t support his claims by citing solely the flawed peppered-moth study, though. He also “proved” his point by mentioning drug-resistant viruses and chemical-resistant insects. Like other evolution advocates, Chisholm took the speculative leap from micro-evolution (the generally accepted process of adaptation through genetic variation) to the neither observed nor demonstrated phenomenon of macro-evolution (the emergence of new and improved species by those same accepted processes).
AN UNCONVINCED PUBLIC
Despite the size of the evolution giant, many Americans don’t take Darwin’s theories too seriously. For example, a November 2004 Gallup poll reported that 83 percent of Americans believe that God was involved in human origin and development. Only 13 percent believed that God had no part in the process. Remarkable, considering that Darwinian evolution has been a theory without rival in public education ever since the Scopes Trial.
These numbers made academians wonder how the public could fail to “get it.” Surely Christian fundamentalists are to blame. Those religious zealots who believe in biblical truth are trying to re-infect society with myth and superstition—evils from which science rescued us long ago.
But here’s the rub. That same Gallup poll reported that only 34 percent of Americans believe in the literal truth of the Bible. In other words, fundamentalist teaching can’t account for the lack of public acceptance for Darwin’s theory. And, if eighty years of education have been insufficient to convince the public otherwise, something else must be wrong.
What’s wrong is that Darwinism lacks the creative power to explain the full complexity and diversity of life. And a growing number of scientists agree. Since 2001, more than three hundred scientists have signed “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” It states:
We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.
The growing list of signatories includes biologists and scientists from Princeton, Cornell, Berkeley, UCLA, Ohio State, and Purdue, as well as the prominent evolutionary biologist, Dr. Stanley Salthe.
A THEORY IN CRISIS
These scientists understand that the modern version of Darwinism (neo-Darwinism) is a theory of human origins based on unguided, random variability through genetic mutation and natural selection. In an attempt to explain biological life in exclusively materialistic terms, evolution far overreaches—and, in some cases, ignores—what has been demonstrated.
For example, Charles Darwin observed that the size of finch beaks increased on the Galapagos Islands after a drought. Since the drought reduced the number of small seeds in comparison to those of the large variety, only those finches with larger, stronger beaks had sufficient food to survive, Darwin theorized. In a follow-up on Darwin’s study, a Princeton research team estimated that if a drought occurred once every ten years, a new species of finch would evolve in only two hundred years.
But the research team failed to note that the beak size of Darwin’s finches returned to normal within a few years after the drought, resulting in no continued directional change of the species. Even if directional change had occurred, it would not have demonstrated how a finch could one day become a falcon.
Of course, genetic alterations do sometimes occur after exposure to environmental stresses. Radiation experiments on the much-studied fruit fly are a case in point. Nevertheless, after countless fruit fly generations, nothing other than malformed flies have ever been produced. As someone has said, Darwin’s theory may explain the survival of species but not the arrival of species. That’s because biological life is much more complex than can be accounted for by materialistic processes alone.
LITTLE FACTORIES OF LIFE
Recent studies of cells vividly demonstrate such complexities of biological life. In Darwin’s day, the cell was viewed as a globule of protoplasm consisting of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen. Up until the 1950s, biologists assumed that the building blocks of life could be produced by combining just the right amounts of these chemical substances. Then, Harold Urey and Stanley Miller produced a small yield of amino acids in a highly controlled experiment. Suddenly, chemical evolution became the reigning canon of life origins.
But all the Urey-Miller experiment really demonstrated was that an atmosphere designed for life could be carefully guided to produce one of life’s building blocks. In other words, while attempting to verify evolution by unguided, materialistic means, Urey and Miller merely confirmed the need for an intelligent agent to create and control the conditions necessary for life.
One year after the Urey-Miller experiment, Francis Crick and James Watson unraveled the structure of DNA. With that breakthrough, scientists soon learned that the instructions for life came from a code within the DNA molecule. What’s more, they found that the tiny double helix structure governed a whole range of cellular functions from DNA replication, repair, and data transmission, to feedback looping and self-correction processes for transcription errors. Bill Gates once remarked, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”
As a result, the cell could no longer be thought of as a simple collection of chemicals reacting under the right environmental conditions. Instead, it was a microcosmic “factory”—a manufacturing center of life, consisting of complex hardware and highly specified software programmed in a chemical “language.”
It was such evidence that recently led life-long atheist Antony Flew to conclude that life on earth could not have originated by chemical evolution—even with a 15 billion-year process to “get it right.” Acknowledging the need for a Creator, Flew now describes himself as a deist.
Atheists Francis Crick, Carl Sagan, and Sir Fred Hoyle came to a similar conclusion about evolution, but instead of admitting the necessity of a transcendent Creator, they turned to “panspermia”: the belief that super-intelligent extra-terrestrials deposited life’s seedlings on earth sometime in the distant past.
We may tend to snicker at such theories, but at least these men have examined the explanatory power of neo-Darwinism and found it wanting; which is more than many scientists entrenched in philosophical naturalism are willing to do.
THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS
Take evolution advocate Richard Dawkins, for example. Dawkins refuses to enter a publicized discussion with anti-Darwinists for fear that it would raise alternate theories to a level of serious consideration. (Although survival-of-the-fittest is the engine for progress, according to Darwinism, apparently that doesn’t apply to the survival power of theories in the marketplace of ideas.) Dawkins believes that “any airing of questions about the Darwinian narrative,” especially in public education, would result in the eventual imposition of Christian values on society. Scary!
Despite such objections, a 1986 Supreme Court decision ruled that legislatures could require that public school curricula include scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act referenced biological evolution as a key example that students should be helped “to understand the full range of views that exist.”
Since more than 70 percent of the populace favor “teaching the controversy,” it was only a matter of time before states began amending science curricula. Ohio, Minnesota, and New Mexico voted to include scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution, and others like Kansas, Georgia, Pennsylvania began to follow suit.
“Teaching the controversy” in public schools does not mean invoking the Judeo-Christian God or even a transcendent God. It means teaching Darwin’s theory along with the evidence for and against it. It means following the evidence wherever it leads without, a priori, disqualifying evidence that does not fit a materialistic paradigm.
Exposing students to critiques of Darwinism, like design theory, is not a subterfuge for religious indoctrination or creationism. You see, design theory is established on scientific criteria rather than on religious texts. The empirical basis for design theory has made it a reliable tool in many fields. Archaeology uses it to determine the authenticity of human artifacts. Forensics uses it to distinguish death by natural causes from murder. Cryptography employs it to decide whether a collection of symbols is random string of characters or a message of human origin.
FROM PHYSICAL TO METAPHYSICAL?
Still, some will pose questions: Will the presentation of design theory lead students to metaphysical areas outside the realm of science? Will it cause them to question the “why” of the design and the “who” behind it? Possibly. But that shouldn’t disqualify the discussion of design in a biology class studying cell structure any more than it should prohibit the discussion of civil rights in a literature class studying Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Education is not about cubby-holing knowledge, nor is it merely teaching students facts and theories. Education is about cultivating critical thinking skills —skills that will enable students to take the specifics of their schooling and apply them to the whole panorama of life. Thus, a quality education goes beyond preparing one for a productive career. (Although that is the sole focus of students and educators alike today). Instead, education should shape one to be a good citizen and good neighbor. And that requires a critical look into the metaphysical questions of life. Otherwise, careers won’t even matter.
A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.—Charles Darwin
THE GIANT STAGGERS
I have been asked more than once why many people hold tenaciously to a theory riddled with so many problems. I think the best answer comes from NYU Law professor Thomas Nagel, a self-professed atheist:
It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God . . . I hope there is no God! . . . I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and is responsible for . . . the overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind.
When neo-Darwinists begin hammering us with their best shots—dogmatic claims based on philosophy, speculation, flawed studies, and fraudulent evidence—you know it won’t be long before the lumbering giant staggers, stumbles, and collapses to the canvas.
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a Centurion of the Wilberforce Forum. His "All Things Examined" column appears on BreakPoint every other Friday. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at: email@example.com.
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