"Darwinism is a trivial idea that has been elevated to the status of the scientific theory that governs modern biology" [ Dr Michael Egnor, Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics, State University of New York ]
The common understanding of atheistic (no Creator God) evolution is that it happened naturally through random processes. This is shaky ground both scientifically and philosophically. Consider the current Big Bang theory of the universe - everything sprang into existence at a particular point in time and from a singularity (where the universe was of sub-atomic size and must be analysed by quantum mechanics). The theory implies that everything, including whatever matter subsequently 'evolved', came from 'nothing'. Scientifically we might define nothing as the absence of energy, the absence of matter, the absence of space, and the absence of time. Philosophically we would argue that such a 'nothing' can do, well ... nothing, and that matter and the evolution of matter would be impossible!
This is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the universe. According to Einstein, in order to generate matter there must be an input of energy (the conservation of mass and energy, as in E = mc²). Adding any form of energy to an object increases its mass. But where did that energy come from before the Big Bang? Our 'nothing' would have to have energy. Stephen Hawking has suggested a possible solution to this dilemma based on the law of gravity. His theory of 'spontaneous creation' does not require the 'nothing' to have energy. But it is still an unproved theory (quantum gravity is not understood), and we might also ask 'where did that gravitational law come from?' Philosophically, doesn't the assumption of a law imply a Law Maker (for more see Tipler: The Physics of God)? Philosophically, can a 'nothing' have an embedded law and still be nothing?
So, in the absence of a full scientific understanding of our universe, the theory of atheistic evolution is really based on the assumption that evolving matter came from absolutely nothing, where here our 'nothing' excludes any laws like gravity that could be construed as coming from a Creator. But, as briefly discussed, to claim that evolved matter came from absolutely nothing is both scientifically and philosophically unsound. Such a claim is more blind faith!
Nevertheless, evolution is given high profile in the media and deserves a reasoned, scientific, and biblical response. Simply quoting the Bible:
'In the beginning God created ... ' (Gen 1.1)
is inadequate in a sceptical and searching world. First of all, let's define the term as Darwin saw it.
In his work The Origin of Species, Darwin proposed that a mechanism of natural selection or survival of the fittest was operating in nature. The idea is that a species will adapt to its environment by genetic diversification. For example, Darwin studied the beak sizes and shapes of finches in the Galapagos Islands and concluded that they were adapting to their environment. Similar variation in finches has been observed in recent studies; depending upon the availability of suitable food, those with genes for smaller or larger beaks tend to thrive. Another example is the 'peppered moth', where one variant has given way to another as the environment has changed over time. Darwin was indeed right in his theory of natural selection, but it is important to note that what is observed occurs within a single species (a group of interbreeding individuals who are reproductively isolated from other such groups). It is a widely accepted scientific fact that natural selection causes diversification (genetic changes) within a species (speciation). This is Darwin's 'special theory' of microevolution.
Such variation is consistent with the biblical concept of 'created kinds':
'God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind ...' (Gen 1.25)
The biblical implication is that there is variation within a particular species. Unfortunately, this variation is often mistaken to be evidence for evolution.
Darwin's 'general theory' of macroevolution is the real point at issue. This is the theory of gradual evolution between species (or kinds) - and is more widely known as 'The Theory of Evolution'. Here we look for transitional species between species. Evolutionists claim there is good evidence for this from biology, biogeography and palaeontology (the study of fossils) [E.J.H. Cornor, Cambridge]. For example, it is claimed there are transitional fossils for lobopods (essentially worms with legs) which are intermediate between arthropods and worms [Conway Morris, 1998]. In fact, it is claimed:
'There is overwhelming scientific evidence for the Darwinian explanation of evolution. Evolution is a fact' [Richard Dawkins, Oxford Zoologist]
There are several problems with the Dawkins statement. First, when he claims that 'evolution is a fact', he is contradicting his own atheistic belief. Atheism not only maintains that God is non-existent, but it says that there is no ultimate truth (see What is Truth? and Reality). Atheism maintains that truth is culturally based and so it will vary with time - it is not transcendent and absolute. So how can Dawkins claim that 'evolution is (absolutely) true?'
Secondly, whatever truth atheism accepts, it maintains that it must be scientifically provable; it must be observed and sensed. Atheistic 'truth' needs overwhelming verification, either scientifically, logically, or historically. So, if evolution is a science, we should be able to apply the scientific method to it - which includes testing the theory by experiment, link. But can this be done with evolution? The theory requires extremely long time periods for simpler species to evolve to more complex forms, and for one species to evolve to another, and the only historical scientific evidence for this is the fossil record [C.O.Dunbar, Historical Geology]. If we discount the fossil record, then there is no historical evidence (and so no scientific test) and we must conclude that evolution is simply an unscientific theory, and certainly not an established fact.
Even leading evolutionists admit evolution is more a faith than a science - see Quotes from Evolutionists.
And even if so-called transitional fossils are found, we must bear in mind that we are dealing with a historical (changing) science, not a science that can be repeated in the laboratory. An interpretation of a fossil today can be replaced with a different interpretation tomorrow. A frequently used macroevolution example is the well-ordered sequence of horse fossils, starting from a small four-toed animal (Eohippus) to Mesohippus to Merychippus to Equus (the modern day horse). Today, Eohippus is scientifically discounted and the rest are simply horses 'evolving' into horses! The horse is simply an example of microevolution, link. Other examples of changing science are Peking Man, Neanderthal man, and Nebraska Man. Like the horse fossils, these turned out to be false interpretation.
Archaeopteryx fossil: Image Public Domain
Darwin stressed that the lack of transitional fossils was the most formidable obstacle to his theory, although he expected that many transitional fossils would be found. Indeed, shortly after his publication came the discovery of Archaeopteryx, a fossil specimen with the feathers, wings and beak of a bird, and the teeth, claws, unfused backbone and bony tail of a reptile. This seemed to be the ancestor of birds - a good example of a transitional form. But later discoveries have shown fossils of birds older than that of Archaeopteryx, and as old as the first dinosaurs, link. Also there is no fossil evidence of reptilian scales developing into feathers, or legs evolving into wings. There is good scientific evidence to suggest that Archaeopteryx was a true bird, capable of flight, whilst the details of the origin of birds remain elusive, link.
An interesting article appeared in Nature in 1993. It illustrated a hypothetical ancestral tree with a common ancestor at the bottom and descended modern species at the top. It modelled the common descent of primates from a common ancestor. The point is that the actual fossil record represented only some 3.4% of the assumed fossil record leading to modern primates! So the tree had sparse branches representing actually discovered fossils and most branches were assumed. Moreover, none of the 'true' branches (observed fossils) were connected to other 'true' branches and so transitional fossils were not present. Interpretation of such trees is difficult given the sparse sampling of true fossils. Even Huxley addmitted that supposed links can easily be wrong: "in dealing with fossils, (one) may mistake uncles and nephews for fathers and sons". The sparse sampling of such trees is also stressed by Stephen Gould:
'The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference ...' [Stephen Gould, Evolutionary Biologist, Harvard]
Despite the recovery of thousands of tons of fossils from all over the world, the many intermediate forms hypothesized by Darwin are still missing [R. Carroll, Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology, McGill University]. Fossils are most commonly found in sedimentary rocks (conglomerate, sandstone, shale, and limestone formed under water) such as the Cambrian rock strata, link. These are the first rock layers to contain many easily recognizable fossils. Many claim Precambrian layers essentially contain simple single-celled life, but in the Cambrian system the fossils represent an explosion of complex multicellular life forms, link.
Put another way, in the Cambrian rock strata many species appear for the first time already in an advanced state of development; there is a relatively sudden appearance of a variety of fully formed complex creatures. It is claimed that we find fully formed complex invertebrates (snails, worms, clams, jelly fish, sponges, sea urchins, trilobites ...) without ancestral trace. Similarly we find, fully formed, every major kind of fish (vertebrates) without ancestral trace. In fact, it isn't just the ancestors of trilobites etc. that are missing; it's the ancestors of all 30-40 major animal groups (phyla), link.
There is of course much debate about this e.g. some evolutionist’s claim there are transitional fossils within Cambrian, link, whilst others dispute such statements and conclude:
"None of the organisms mentioned by evolutionists represent transitional precursors to the forms that appear so abruptly during the Cambrian explosion. The Cambrian explosion continues to represent a formidable challenge to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolutionary gradualism." link, link
The reason for the Cambrian Explosion is still debated, link, but a biblical explanation is that the violent worldwide Flood shaved most of the pre-Flood fossils off the ocean floors, link. Whatever the cause, eminant evolutionists admit there certainly is a problem with the fossil record, particularly with the low sampling level of fossils, and so discount it as evidence in favour of evolution:
'No good Darwinian’s belief in evolution stands on the fossil evidence for gradual evolution, so nor will his belief fall by it.' [Mark Ridley, Oxford Zoologist, New Scientist ]
'The known fossil record fails to document a single example of evolution accomplishing a major transition - every palaeontologist knows that most species don’t change' [Stephen Gould, Evolutionary Biologist, Harvard, 1980 ]
'I still think that to the unprejudiced the fossil record of plants is in favour of special creation.' [E.J.H. Cornor, Cambridge]
Polystrate fossil: Image Public Domain
What does the Bible have to say about fossils? Indirectly quite a lot, since it talks about a worldwide flood. Why is water so important? Well, fossilization typically occurs when organisms (either living or dead) are deposited from water into sediment. Sometimes the sediment solidifies making a cast of the organism. At other times the organic material is replaced by mineral to form a stony replica. The point is that conditions must be perfect for fossilization to occur - the burial of the organism and the hardening of the sediment must occur very quickly otherwise the usual decay process will destroy the organism before it can be fossilized. A catastrophic world-wide flood would provide such conditions, giving rapid fossilization as compared to the gradual and so less probable fossilization assumed by evolutionists. There is strong evidence for such a flood, as in the major coal deposits all over the world. Another strong indication of a catastrophic flood is found in 'polystrate fossils', link. Here we see fossilized trees standing almost vertically and spanning multiple layers of rock, or coal. Now trees don't usually die vertically and don't last for millions of years in order for multiple coal deposits to accumulate!
There is also a theological argument against fossilization over hundreds of millions of years. Fossils involve death and suffering, but according to scripture death first entered the world through Adam's rebellion against God (Gen 2.17, 3.19). Before that the world was perfect (Gen 1.31). This implies that all fossilization occured after Adam's sin, and the worldwide flood could be the mechanism. Clearly, fossils would then be relatively recent, which points to possible problems in accepted dating methods.
There is a very important point here. If macroevolution is correct, then it undermines the important doctrine of original sin and the biblical explanation of death and suffering. It maintains that death and suffering are just natural processes in an imperfect natural world, and so undermines the need for salvation in Christ and the need for a Creator. This is the reason why atheists are so pro-evolution, despite the lack of historical evidence. Their science appears to be coloured by predjudice!. It is also worth noting that Buddhist, Hindu, Confucianist and Taoist philosophies are based on the theory of evolution.
Imagine a wilderness of wild grassland and woodland i.e. a random, unplanned distribution of nature. Now suppose you wished to turn it into a park. Besides the external energy source making things grow (the sun), you would need essentially two elements; an intelligent plan (information on how to do the work) and a mechanism to implement the work (workmen). Once the park was formed, you could carry on improving poor parts of the park, adding more complex displays of nature using further information and more workmen. In scientific terms we could say that the area of wild land has become more ordered and complex and has shown a decrease in entropy. But if we now left the park unattended for some time it would become less ordered and more random, exhibiting an increase in entropy. The information conveyed by a neat and orderly park would get lost in nature's random growth. In fact all observed things tend to show an increase in entropy with time (the car falls to pieces without maintenance for example). This universal law is called the Second Law of Thermodynamics and is even inferred in the Bible. Speaking of the earth and the heavens the psalmist says:
'... all of them will wear out like a garment' (Ps 102.26)
The biblical picture is one of perfect creation, followed by a continuous run down and increasing disorder (increasing entropy). To return to our analogy, although the park was being created (locally decreasing the entropy), overall the biosphere surrounding the park is still losing order and there is a net increase in entropy! Overall, the available energy to improve things and create order is decreasing.
So what has this to do with evolution? Quite a lot. The essence of Darwin's theory is that all living creatures descended from a single ancestor. All the plants, animals, and other organisms that exist today are products of random mutation and natural selection - or survival of the fittest. The theory maintains that the universe began in a random state and has gradually become more ordered and complex with time. It maintains that living systems increase in complexity with time and that, via natural selection and mutation, one species gradually changes to another. So macroevolution requires a world where entropy decreases and complexity increases with time, in direct conflict with the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that entropy increases and complexity declines. The usual reply to this charge is that nature is an 'open system' (has an external energy source, the sun) and that scientifically open systems can increase in complexity. For example, despite the Second Law, it is still possible to create a park from a random wilderness. All that is needed is:
For a complex living plant these are indeed present. The sun's energy is converted by photosynthesis and the genetic information is carried via the DNA in the genes making up the chromosomes. But DNA is an information carrying code and information (or intelligence) does not emerge naturally from randomness. Where did such intelligence come from? More importantly, how did the evolutionary process start? Where was the information carrying plan (intelligence) or the energy conversion mechanism in the first inorganic biochemical system that changed it to an organic system? How were these present in the first molecule? It is claimed that even the Journal of Molecular Evolution has failed to publish papers explaining how evolutionary life began at the molecular level! [Vardy and Arliss,'The Thinker's Guide to God'].
"The essence of humanity largely boils down to a bunch of random mutations, every one of them happening by chance." [Editorial, New Scientist, May 2012]
The evolutionist theme here is that certain genetic mutations (so-called 'beneficial' mutations) gradually build more complex organisms i.e. add information, thereby tracing the path molecules-to-man! One problem here is that the vast majority of mutations are not beneficial in any sense. For example, mutations induced in fruit flies (Drosophila) created an extra pair of wings but without the accompanying muscles - so the wings were a hindrance to flying. It is true that mutations have been scientifically observed to give an organism something which makes it more survivable under the given environment (a 'benefit'). But they have not been observed to make the organism more complex in the sense of building upon the existing DNA. In fact, observations show that chance mutations cannot improve genetic information. The fact is mutations only scramble the existing DNA of an organism. There must be introduction of truly new information for molecules-to-man evolution and the creation of more complex genomes.
So in the case of the plant above, even though it meets the criteria for increasing complexity, we do not see a plant becoming a fish via mutation! Mutation cannot provide the necessary information to increase complexity.
Another problem for evolution is the 'just right universe' concept. Instead of a randomly evolving universe, wherever we look the physical, chemical and biological conditions are 'fine-tuned' for life, implying that the universe is designed by an 'intelligence'. This is the so-called Anthropic Principle. For example, the following are just right for life:
Clearly, according to Einstein's E=mc2, even small changes in the velocity of light will lead to huge changes in energy or mass. This implies for example that stars would produce the wrong elements for life. If the proton mass increased by just 0.2% the proton would become unstable and decay. Since the hydrogen nucleus comprises just a single proton, then all hydrogen atoms would be destroyed, implying the destruction of water molecules etc. Gravitational force goes as the reciprocal of distance squared. The factor 2 here appears finely tuned and any variation from 2 would lead to decay of planetary orbits. And after studying the fine-tuning of the nuclear ground state energies of helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen, Fred Hoyle concluded that:
'a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology'
We might also ask: 'Since evolutionary theory maintains that order came out of randomness against a backdrop of the immutable laws of science, where did these laws come from? Surely they can't have evolved by chance too? Clearly this is not verifiable science - it is simply a rather implausible theory.
If we attempt to compute the probability of all conditions being 'just right' for the evolution of life (the probability of the simplest replicating system arising by chance somewhere in our universe) the figure is vanishingly small. In fact, conservative probability calculations say that evolution is mathematically impossible within our universe.
In order to accommodate this mathematical difficulty evolutionists resort to the concept of 'an infinite number of universes' - the multiverse. The theory goes that with an infinite number, then even the improbable becomes possible. Richard Dawkins [Oxford Zoologist] argues it this way. Suppose you deal 10 cards from ten shuffled packs, and get say
QH, 3D, 9S, KH, 5C, 10C, AD, JS, 2H, 4S
This combination is highly improbable, but nevertheless you got it! He argues that we are just as lucky to be on one of the few universes where conditions happened to be just right for life! Apparently pure chance has been helped by the law of the survival of the fittest and that is why we are here.
'The chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small. We should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun' [Richard Dawkins, Oxford Zoologist, Guardian 2006]
Recent discovery of gravity waves lends support to the controversial theory of cosmic inflation - a colossally fast expansion at the start of the 'big bang'. And if cosmic inflation is correct, then this supports the concept of the multiverse. But these are just unproved theories.
Many Christians see no problem with the concept of an old earth (OE) as deduced through radiometric dating. They readily accept the concept of macroevolution whilst still accepting the biblical concept of creation (see for example Old Earth Ministries). This is the theistic evolutionist worldview. They believe OE theory and in the claimed processes of evolution, but maintain that the initial matter and scientific laws were brought into existence by God (Gen 8.22, Ps 74.16,17, Job 38.4-7,33 Jer 33.25).
There are many notable Old Earth Christians and quotes from a few are given below:
"As for the age of the earth and the universe, within the usual limits of any scientific conclusions, I believe that the present calculations of about 4 billion years for the earth and 14 billion years for the universe are not far wrong, and I see no conflict with that understanding and my understanding of the Bible." [W. D. Phillips, a Christian and Nobel Prize winner for Physics in 1997]
"I believe that radioactive dating methods may not be as accurate as many people claim, but nevertheless I believe they are sufficiently accurate to show that our earth really is very old." [C. Humphreys, physicist and Professor of Materials Science, University of Cambridge]
"Three independent techniques date the universe at approximately 10 to 15 billion years. Is this a problem with respect to the Bible as some Christians seem to feel it may be? The answer to that is certainly 'No.'" [R. Gange, PhD, research scientist and professional engineer]
"As a Christian, I am a theist and believe that God created the world. I do not regard Genesis as a scientific text. I have no vested theological interest in the age of the earth or the universe. I find the arguments of geologists persuasive when they argue for an earth that is 4.5 billion years old." [W. A. Dembski, PhD, Research Professor in Philosophy]
"Four billion years ago, the conditions on this planet were completely inhospitable to life as we know it; 3.85 billion years ago, life was teeming. That is a very short period —150 million years— for the assembly of macromolecules into a self-replicating form. I think even the most bold and optimistic proposals for the origin of life fall well short of achieving any real probability for that kind of event having occurred. Is this where God entered? Is this how life got started? I think it is noteworthy that this particular area of evolution, the earliest step, is still very much in disarray." [F. S. Collins, PhD, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH]
Whatever scientific standing a Christian may have, if they hold to theistic evolution they still need to answer some difficult theological questions. For example:
If God created through a long evolutionary process of birth and death - and death often through killing, disease, starvation and suffering - then how can the creation process be described as 'very good' (Gen 1.31)? The usual theistic evolutionist response is to take a figurative (non-literal) interpretation of the Genesis account of creation. In particular, the Genesis 'day' is not taken as a literal 24-hour day. It is true that the Genesis word for 'day' (Hebrew 'yown') can be interpreted as a literal day (sunset to sunset) or as a vague period of time. The true meaning of 'day' must be obtained from its context. Now the same creation account is found in Exodus 20.8-11 and the context here clearly suggests 24-hour days. For example, the biblical working week is six literal days (v9)! In fact, study shows that whenever the Old Testament uses a number with the word 'day', it means a 24-hour period of time without any demonstrable exception. So the Genesis creation account is referring to 24-hour days!
"the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience" [ Hebrew Professor James Barr, University of Oxford, 1984 ]
If the theistic evolutionist cannot accept this scholarly reasoning, perhaps it would be more honest to become an atheistic evolutionist?
To summarise, both mathematics (probability theory) and palaeontology (fossils) say 'no' to macroevolution! Evolutionists admit this and generate the 'infinite number of universes' theory in order to accommodate their macroevolution theory. Also, macroevolution cannot explain the origin of the intelligence necessary for the claimed natural increase in the complexity of life (or decrease in entropy). In other words, it cannot explain how evolutionary life began at the molecular level! Finally, atheistic evolutionists who claim evolved matter came from absolutely nothing (including no initial physical laws, like gravity) are on shaky scientific ground, whilst theistic evolutionists have some very difficult theological questions to answer.
An alternative worldview is to see nature as 'designed' and the observed intelligence e.g. DNA information as coming from a Creator. According to the Bible this Creator designed the earth:
'I laid the foundation of the earth … (and) set its measurements' (Job 38.4,5)
Given the evidence for the truth of the Bible (see Reality) it is logical to follow up this biblical statement. The scientific approach would be to ask Is 'Creationism' true? See also Answers in Genesis and Creation Science.
Biologist Richard Dawkins insists that there is no room in an intelligent scientific discussion to talk about creationism:
"There's only one game in town as far as serious science is concerned. It's not that there are two different theories ... there is no serious scientist who doubts that evolution is a fact." [CNN interview, 2012]
So, logically, Dawkins also dismisses the Genesis account. Commenting on the book of Genesis he said:
"They have thrown it out as historical fact ... I think that it is a waste of time. I think it's nonsense." [Faith and Reason]
But other eminent scientists disagree. Joseph Mastropaolo has a Ph.D. in kinesiology and a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in human physiology. He taught biomechanics and physiology at California State University. Dr Mastropaolo has challenged those who reject Genesis to a 'Literal Genesis Trial' [March 2013].
The question before the court will be whether any verifiable scientific discovery contradicts or falsifies the Genesis account. That is, can anyone show, using verifiable evidence, that the creation story could not have happened as Genesis records?
This is a serious challenge to those who insist that Genesis is myth and evolution is a fact!
Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible