Opinion:Evolution Is More Vulnerable Than Ever
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Evolutionism is More Vulnerable than Ever
The recent (April 18, 2008) release of Ben Stein's new documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, has brought the evolution/creation debate to a fever pitch—possibly the highest fever pitch since Tennessee vs. John Scopes. Indeed, the recent move of the Institute for Creation Research and its graduate school from California to Texas has actually prompted the higher-education authorities in that State to take the unusual step of inviting public comment on an application for accreditation—almost a "Scopes Trial in reverse."
All this extra attention can mean only one thing: the evolutionary paradigm is more vulnerable to abandonment than it has been since Charles Darwin first proposed it.
By "the evolutionary paradigm" I mean more than the theory of evolution. After all, evolution, properly understood, means change over time. And such change does occur, even to the development of new species. Creation biology takes the position (which I share) that the ancestors of life were not one, but many—at least one species per taxonomic family and possibly one species per taxonomic genus. But the evolutionary paradigm insists that natural selection and speciation are all that was required to create the astounding diversity of life from one common ancestor, a doctrine known as "common descent."
Now to assert, as Charles Darwin did, that all of life derives from a single ancestor, necessarily requires a great deal of time—deep time, to be specific. Enter Sir Charles Lyell, a geologist and a lawyer who used his considerable skill as a rhetorician, more than any true scientific insight, to argue that the same processes in operation today for the formation and laying down of rock have always operated for all eternity. This is the classic position of uniformitarianism. Technically, uniformitarianism is a concept unique to geology. But astronomy largely copied Lyell's ideas and came up with uniformitarian ideas of their own.
Near the beginning of the twentieth century, the notion that the earth and the universe were infinitely old became untenable. So uniformitarianism no longer holds to that idea. But it does hold to the basic idea of deep time, in space and on the earth, with ages for the universe and the earth measured in the billions of years. Astronomers invented a new cosmology called the Big Bang to explain the universe, and the nebula hypothesis to explain the sun, the earth, the moon, and all the planets (to paraphrase Harry Truman). But in fact, the only reason why astronomers date the solar system at 4.6 billion years old is that the geologists date the earth at 4.5 billion years old.
Finally, neither Darwin nor any of his contemporaries bothered to assert how life began to begin with. But modern proponents of the paradigm now boldly assert that life began from non-life, a principle that they call abiogenesis. (Others have flirted briefly with concepts like panspermia and even directed panspermia, but they are in the minority, and many of them, like Francis H. Crick, have since abandoned such ideas as untenable, or perhaps unsaleable.)
Thus the evolutionary paradigm rests on three legs, the removal of any one of which would cause it to fall:
- Common descent
Why does it matter?
Consistent biblical creationists have always taken the position (which, again, I share) that the acceptance of any one of the three legs of the evolutionary paradigm would fatally compromise the Bible. Uniformitarianism, with its concept of deep time, violates three prime tenets of Scripture:
- The absence of physical death before the fall of man
- The clear genealogical record from Jesus Christ back to Adam, that virtually determines the date of creation to be no earlier than 4219 BC or much later than 4004 BC.
- The specific historicity not only of a six-day creation but also of the global flood, to which Jesus Christ Himself specifically attested on more than one occasion.
Abiogenesis contradicts Scripture by implying that any form of life could now, or could ever have, generated itself with no intelligent input. Common descent contradicts the repeated references to created kinds of life, found in the Creation and Great Flood accounts.
Abiogenesis has never been very secure. No scientist has yet demonstrated abiogenesis even in the laboratory, much less in the wild. The best that any proponent of the paradigm has been able to claim thus far is:
- Self-replicating molecules, which still have none of the tremendous information that a single DNA strand contains, and which did not come together by themselves, and have never been observed in the wild.
- The Miller-Urey lightning-in-reducing-atmosphere experiment. Here, Drs. Miller and Urey created conditions that turned out to be most conducive to the synthesis and harvesting of amino acids. But they had to harvest the acids rapidly in order to preserve them. More to the point, they presented no evidence that the conditions they produced in their experimental apparatus even approximated conditions that have ever existed on earth.
The usual rejoinder of any evolutionist (I use this term strictly to describe a proponent of the full three-legged evolutionary paradigm), when challenged to produce an example of abiogenesis, is, "Wait and see, and stop praying for ignorance." Now any creationist could observe, and quite reasonably, that the scientific community has been "waiting and seeing" for centuries, without result. This, in fact, is what Michael Behe asserted in Darwin's Black Box. But in fact, the idea of spontaneous generation of life is as old as Aristotle, and has been suffering disproof by one counterexample after another ever since. Francisco Redi, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, and finally Louis Pasteur delivered three devastating critiques of the idea of spontaneous generation, so that no serious scientist looks for such a thing in the wild today. Instead they assert that any such organism that did form in the wild would be rapidly consumed by "modern" bacteria.
Francis Crick, as previously mentioned, at first abandoned abiogenesis after he realized how much information a single strand of DNA contained. He then proposed that an advanced civilization, perhaps in another galaxy, fired a brace of missiles, each laden with payloads of bacteria and blue-green algae, in all directions. One such missile crash-landed on earth, and we are its by-product. He does not believe in directed panspermia today, primarily because that idea has even more logical problems with it than does abiogenesis.
Common descent has always rested on the shaky assumption of "missing links"—hypothetical transitional forms that are supposed to show that all of life has a single taxonomic tree with multiple branches, and not an "orchard" with each tree representing a particular created kind. The problem: that transitional forms still have the sobriquet "missing links" implies that they are still missing. Many have claimed to have found transitional forms; most of those claims have since been abandoned as frankly fraudulent. Two prominent exceptions remain:
- Archaeopteryx, a fossilized bird repeatedly said to be a transitional form between dinosaur and bird.
- Tiktaalik, an alleged not-quite-amphibian having four legs. Evolutionists make much of its discovery in the very geologic stratum where they predicted that they would find it.
Two species, out of the myriads that exist, cannot be said to carry the load for defending common descent without additional evidence. Archaeopteryx is probably a true bird, not a dinosaur-bird transitional form. (The similar "find" called Archaeoraptor is a deliberate fraud, and almost no evolutionists defend it today.) Similarly, tiktaalik is simply a fish with slightly better-than-usually-developed pectoral and pelvic fins.
Of the three pillars of the evolutionary paradigm, uniformitarianism is the most vulnerable of all. Uniformitarianism has come under attack from at least three directions.
The least-well-known attack against uniformitarianism has come from archaeology. The specific attack takes the form of out-of-place artifacts, that include examples of modern technology found in ancient ruins, or even found "buried in deep time." For a full discussion of this point, see Out-of-place artifact#Discussion.
Out-of-place artifacts found "buried in deep time" are also a problem for uniformitarian geology. But geologists have at least three major problems with the so-called "fossil column":
- Polystrate fossils, or fossils that bridge more than one geologic stratum and hence more than one "era."
- Out-of-place strata, or even regions where fossils are found at random without regard to their "era." This latter most likely came from the formation of whirlpools in the flood waters.
- Recent formations of stratified canyons within days, always in association with a volcanic event. Mount Saint Helens produced one such canyon.
Since the development of nuclear physics, geologists have relied upon radiometric dating to defend the proposition that layered rocks show an age in millions or billions of years. But this type of dating suffers from several key flaws:
- Uniformitarian-minded geologists routinely report only the radiometric dates that agree with the overarching model, and discard the rest.
- Dating of objects found in the same region is often inconsistent, often by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
- Historically dated igneous rock has been dated as hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of years old when submitted "blindly" to a dating laboratory.
- The "youngest" rocks in the records of the United States Geological Survey have an apparent age of 700,000 years. Geologists therefore would not be able to date the eruption of, say, Mount Vesuvius did not ample historical evidence exist to date it independently.
More to the point, the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) group at the Institute for Creation Research has developed an ever-growing body of evidence that the earth is in fact much younger than uniformitarianism insists it to be.
Astronomers did not accept uniformitarian ideas until Sir Charles Lyell made his case for uniformitarianism in geology. The equivalent to uniformitarianism in astronomy states that physical processes presently observable in the universe have always been observed. In addition, astronomers have accepted the miscalled Copernican principle that an observer will always observe the same distribution of galaxies, and the same apparent motion of same relative to himself, wherever he sits, be it on earth or on some extrasolar planet in an extragalactic system. Yet the experience of astronomy with uniformitarianism has been frought with the greatest perils of all.
Evidence, in the form of quantized redshift of far-flung objects, strongly implies that the universe has a definite center, and that our own galaxy is at that center. No less an authority than Edwin Hubble developed that evidence himself, in 1937. But the implication of human exceptionalism (the anthropic principle) was something he refused to accept, on purely philosophical grounds. He therefore made an a priori assumption that the universe was curved, and was in fact a hypersphere, the only question being whether it would continue to expand forever, or stop expanding, or collapse.
To explain this expansion, astronomers invented the Big Bang model of spatial explosion and expansion. On the surface (pardon the pun), this model might explain why any observer might think himself at the center of a universe that in fact has no center. But the Big Bang theory has two problems of its own: the observed mass and energy of the universe are not sufficient to account for the observed putative gravitational and/or acceleratory effects. To solve this problem, astronomers invented the concepts of dark matter to explain the extra gravity, and dark energy to explain the universe' continued acceleration.
Invocation of dark matter is nothing new. In the latter days of the nineteenth century, astronomers invoked a form of dark matter to explain why the planet Mercury precesses 43 arc-seconds per century further than it should according to Newtonian gravitation alone. They suggested interplanetary dust, an inner asteroid belt, and even a planet, which they named Vulcan, inside the orbit of Mercury but somehow remaining out of sight of Earth-bound observers for the millennia of recorded history.
Albert Einstein proposed a new physics and made a second-order correction that exactly explained the orbit of Mercury without the need for any interplanetary dust, inner asteroids, or zeroth planet. Similarly, John Hartnett has recently proposed a new cosmology that eliminates the need to invoke dark matter or dark energy in the universe as a whole. Called Cosmological relativity, it treats the spatial continuum as one that includes not only three-dimensional space and one-dimensional time but also includes one-dimensional velocity, and specifically the velocity of apparent far-object recession. Neither dark matter nor dark energy are required.
Furthermore, the last objection of uniformitarian astronomers to the creation model is about to fall. Specifically, uniformitarians insist that Adam could not have seen the stars in the sky 6100 years ago, because the light from the most-distant objects in the sky could not have reached the earth even in 6100 years, much less in the two days between the creation of the stars and the creation of Adam. But according to cosmological relativity, clocks on earth ran more slowly, by many orders of magnitude, than did clocks at the edge of the cosmos. Specifically, they ran slowly enough for the light from the distant objects to reach the earth at the recorded time, regardless of their distance. This model requires the cosmos to have physically stretched after its creation—but God in fact said that this was done.
The increasing weight of contrary evidence continues to assail all three pillars of the evolutionary paradigm. This might explain the raft of adverse attention that the evolutionists are paying to projects like Ben Stein's documentary, and to a specialized graduate school seeking to relocate to, and win accreditation in, another State within the United States.
It also explains the continued funding of various projects seeking to gather evidence in support of the evolutionary paradigm. Some of these projects, like Project SETI, are complete wastes of time. Others, like the Hadron Supercollider, stand a remote chance of finding something useful, but are not likely to find anything that is, as lawyers like to say, dispositive. Happily, some other projects, like NASA's ongoing program of robotic deep-space exploration, hold great promise to yield a wealth of data—but these data are likely to militate for creation and not for the evolutionary paradigm.
- I happen to believe that the Julian calendar year of creation was 4159 BC.
- Crick, F. H. C., and Orgel, L. E. "Directed Panspermia," Icarus, 19, 341 (1973).
- Wieland, Carl. Stones and Bones: Powerful Evidence Against Evolution, 3rd ed. Queensland, New South Wales, Australia: Creation Ministries International, 2006.
- When challenged on this, geologists sometimes assert that the submitters asked for an inappropriate dating method. But this defense begs the question of why the laboratories involved reported tremendous geological ages instead of merely reporting that the age was too soon to resolve.
- Hartnett, John G. Starlight, Time and the New Physics. Queensland, New South Wales, Australia: Creation Ministries International, 2007, pp. 74-89.
- Genesis 1