Science…Evolution’s Missing Link?
|By: James Virkler; ©2009|
|Why I do not believe in evolution.|
Good Science…or Slick Propaganda?
Stephen Jay Gould, articulate popularizer of evolution, says, “Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact…..Facts are the world’s data.” The reasoning goes like this: in the world’s data (the fossil record) scientists “see” evolution. Therefore, evolution is a fact. Many discussions about the validity of evolution run aground on a similar semantic shallow.
Evolution’s proponents masterfully create perceptions later embraced by the public as self-proving. We are told evolution is the most fundamental conceptual pillar in all of science. Moreover, they intone, as a foundational organizing principle, it gives unity and coherence to our view of things. Evolution is solid science, providing us with a practical and powerful tool-kit for enriching and fulfilling our lives in the fields of consumer goods and medicine. We seldom watch many minutes of a science program or read too far into a science-based article without being peppered with “evolution this” or “evolutionary that.”
In the past few decades, the advertising industry has often successfully promoted their merchandise only with catchy humor or a portrayal of some outrageous situation. “Truth in advertising” is a marketing anachronism. Never mind how good the soda tastes or how well the automobile runs. Above all, create positive attitudinal ambience. The conversion strategies of evolution’s missionaries have been startlingly effective. One is reminded of the tactics of propagandists for cultic religions. The search for objective truth, what is really real, takes the back seat to the goals of promotional strategy. This essay concerns itself primarily with how evolution’s faithful followers have created and promoted their paradigm in the marketing sense. Perhaps this should be the subject of the creationists’ more significant crusade.
The science supporting evolution is incredibly weak. The basis of dissent from the creation/design congregation is often lost in the blitz of the successful evolutionary public relations campaign. Evolutionists actually spend far less time and energy persuading the public of scientific credibility than propagandizing. The success of evolution comes at this level. The degree of success achieved with the non-scientific public is frightening.
Consilience of Induction
Evolution’s main proposals boil down to a mere handful of straightforward assertions, but the scientific proof for them is far from straightforward. The main pillar of proof rests upon the foundations such as consilience of induction, consensus, and inference. The word consilience, along with the term consilience of induction, was resurrected in the late 20th century after being hidden in the writings of brilliant 19th century science philosopher William Whewell for over a century. It is not in popular use, but its use in one recent article will help us understand some of the ways in which evolution has come to influence our national psyche.
William Whewell, in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, 1840, stated, “The consilience of inductions takes place when an induction, obtained from one class of facts, coincides with an induction obtained from another different class.” Consilience is defined as the unity of knowledge, literally a “jumping together” of knowledge. Stephen Jay Gould used the term in 1992 in an attack on Phillip E. Johnson, prominent in the intelligent design movement. Johnson had criticized some of the fuzzy terminology and methodology used by evolutionary leaders. Here are several evolutionary dogmas supported by consilience, consensus, and inference:
- All earth’s present life forms originated and developed from simpler forms via beneficial random mutation and natural selection. All life came from the last universal common ancestor (LUCA). Changes gradually accumulated in the past 3.8 billion years, and new branches have sprouted on the evolutionary tree of life.
Comment: The theory proposes that each species alive today originated with a different species at some point in the past. Neo-Darwinism (the modern synthesis) is merely a blending of modern genetic knowledge with the original concepts of Charles Darwin, who did not have access to modern genetic knowledge. The process of one species transitioning to a different species is called “speciation,” or “descent with modification.” There is no laboratory proof that this process occurs and no proof that it ever occurred. If Species A becomes Species B, there must be transitional organisms. Transitional fossils are inferred to exist. Several million different species are alive today. Each species, according to the theory, transitioned from a previous species. The transition did not occur overnight, since the transition from Species A to Species B would involve the simultaneous production of new proteins, then new cell types, followed by new tissues, new organs, new body parts and finally, a new organism. No harmful mutations could occur along this transitional pathway to derail the process, in spite of the fact that over 99.99% of all mutations are known to be harmful to the organism. For the tens of millions of species existing on this earth at some bygone time, there should be hundreds of millions of transitional fossils to demonstrate how the process worked.
The reality is that transitional fossils do not exist. A feathered dinosaur resembling a bird is most definitely not a transitional fossil. Neither is the recently discovered tiktaalik, a scaled fish with webbed fins that seems to have appendages which may have afforded it limited land mobility. It would have needed many thousands of transitional forms. In the fossil record those transitional forms do not exist. Absence of transitional forms is a dirty little secret of the evolutionary belief system, a secret evolutionary writers prefer not to confront. One writer, explaining why paleontologists do not bother to popularize species-to-species transitions, stated it was thought to be an unnecessary detail. It is not just unnecessary detail. Transitional fossils are needed to promote evolution’s paradigm. It is no wonder advocates of evolution much prefer to buttress the attitudes and beliefs of the public with clever marketing strategies instead of with good science. Demonstrating the existence of transitional fossils and the existence of laboratory proof for speciation would be good science.
The fossil record does not happily agree with Darwin’s theorized gradualism. Instead, it shows multiple examples of stasis, sometimes for tens of millions of years, then mass extinction, followed by a sudden burst of novel species appearing with no antecedents. Scientists have called this observed phenomenon “punctuated equilibrium” (PE). There is no evolutionary mechanism to account for this feature of the paleontological record of earth’s life. There is, however, a creationist mechanism to account for it. The mechanism is recorded in Genesis 1.
- Man is the product of evolution, not of special creation. Bluntly stated, this means that man’s distant antecedent was the last universal common ancestor (LUCA), which is thought to be much simpler than any presently existing life.
Comment: The purported evolutionary ancestry of man is becoming more confused with each new discovery. The record of primate fossils looks like a lawn of individual plants, not like an idealized tree with branches. Newsweek’s article “The New Science of Human Evolution” (3/19/07) makes many statements which accord with a more Biblical view of man’s arrival on this planet: “The neat transitional model in which one species gave rise to another like Biblical ‘begats’ has been replaced by a profusion of branches…But there was no representational art, no figurines, no jewelry until 50,000 years ago.” That is also about the time historians pinpoint a “cultural Big Bang:” technology, art, music, jewelry, clothing, complex language, and religious ceremonies. The same article discussed the origin of humanity from a very small group of men in the vicinity of Africa less than 100,000 years ago. In many other articles in recent years, Mitochondrial Eve has received much press. She is the sole woman who is the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) for all living humans. Many other recent discoveries are pointing to an origin of man more in line with the creation model of Genesis 1. Modern man is so recent, and so very different from the most advanced theorized evolutionary ancestor, that the Biblical model of special creation of modern humans by God looks more and more likely, even from a scientific perspective.
- The human genome, 3.1 billion letters of DNA code arrayed across twenty-four chromosomes, has much in common with the genomes of chimpanzees, dogs, mice, chickens, fruit flies, roundworms, even daffodils. Therefore, common ancestry is indicated.
Comment: Darwinists give only polite lip service to the fact that this is far from proof. It is pure inference of the first magnitude. Many objections have been offered. Apparent design is far more plausible than the power of random events and accidents of genetics. More and more functions are being identified for so-called “junk” DNA, one of the chief proofs offered for the implausibility of the design hypothesis. God wouldn’t have done it this way, or that way, we are told, because it illustrates a wasteful leftover process not typical of what a God ought to do. Naturalistic evolution cannot account for how a small difference in genetic instructions could make the difference between language and non-language, or between human and non-human. Chimpanzees are 98% human by some genome standards, but does this mean chimpanzees are 98% human? The nuances of gene expression are difficult to explain naturalistically. Insistence on naturalistic interpretations is understandable only if the interpreter is committed to naturalism and to anti-supernaturalism. Good science process would exclude no possible option.
The evolutionary science establishment has insisted, in its rock-ribbed pre-suppositionalism, upon force-feeding our society a steady diet of evolution, evolution, and still more evolution. Their establishment has pre-emptively captured the hearts of media, the educational system, and even religious denominations such as the Catholic Church. In the public school setting a board of education or a classroom teacher may not even suggest any weaknesses in evolutionary theory, much less a possible alternative explanation for the complexity of the genetic code, or the irreducible complexity of a bodily function cascade. This would result in discipline, sanctions, court action, or worse. There are plenty of activist jurists on the naturalist side of this cultural war zone willing to affirm what is good science and what is not, what is religion and what is not, and perceived violations of the separation of church and state doctrine. The latter is not even a constitutional principle, but secularists have succeeded in making the public think so, and judicial chaos has resulted in education rulings on the teaching of evolution.
Belief Du Jour
Naturalistic evolution is the “belief du jour” among the contemporary science community to account for biodiversity on this planet. However, there is a growing contingent of science professionals casting doubt on this popular paradigm, not because of their religious beliefs, but because they view evolution as the embodiment of deficient science. Scientific and theistic beliefs intersect when origins questions are considered. Based primarily on science grounds, however, many are becoming doubters.
Why would one trained in science and science education question the “religion” of evolution embraced by the vast majority in the field of the biological sciences? Isn’t that like a nature “purist” questioning the benefits of organically raised fruits and vegetables or a clergyman questioning the theological beliefs of his own denomination? Perhaps so, but in both cases honest questioning and diligent study may lead to truth discovery in their respective fields. Our goal in both science and theology is to peel away errant belief and come ever closer to truth.
Both religion and science are spheres with wide spectra of belief. There is more subjectivity involved in establishing religious belief systems, but scientists pride themselves on precision and objectivity. Religious people, particularly creationists and intelligent design adherents, also rely on objective evidence. They view apparent fine tuning and design in the cosmos and in bio-systems as affirmation of an omnipotent creator/designer. There is, conversely, some measure of subjectivity among evolutionary scientists, especially as their embrace of exclusively natural causation drives their anti-theistic worldview, even though they would prefer to be known as purely evidence-influenced.
Evolutionary scientists have successfully imposed a wedge between the domains of science and religion. For several decades the separation of science and religion has been engraved in stone. This was highlighted in 1997 when evolution guru Stephen Jay Gould articulated the NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) principle, energized by Pope John Paul II’s formal endorsement of the theory of evolution in his Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. According to the NOMA doctrine, science should independently search for exclusively naturalistic explanations for the development of life on earth. No interference from any agency suggesting possible supernaturalism in proposals of creation or design in the biosphere may be countenanced, because that would be religious interference. Religion should operate only in its own sphere, that of morality and behavior.
Concordat or Insulation?
The cabal of scientific naturalists and their sympathizers has succeeded in insulating itself from even the possibility of discussing supernatural causation for events or design features in the cosmos and, in particular, earth’s life forms and processes. Its success has infected not only the science literature, but also the educational system, the media, the courts, and every segment of our culture, often with disastrous results. Its prevalence has even turned many Christians toward a belief system which embraces not only bad science, but bad theology as well. Separation of the realms of science and religion has helped weaken the search for truth about origins, just as the pseudo-doctrine of the separation of church and state has weakened the fiber of our culture.
Stephen Jay Gould, in his 1997 NOMA article in Natural History, proclaimed “I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria.” But the reality is very different. Whenever a theist hypothesizes possible supernatural intervention at any point in the timeline of bio-history, perhaps with a group of scientists, or possibly in a public school science classroom, he suffers scornful humiliation and intimidation. Why? we may ask. Not because such a proposal is inherently unscientific. Not because such a proposal holds no promise for investigation based on the methods of science. It is because the proposal for God’s existence or agency in the cosmos is unacceptable, even repulsive to many in the scientific community. Taking their cue from no less than the pope, many Christians have become allied with this naturalist mindset. Stephen C. Meyer, Senior Fellow at the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, has stated “Darwinism and design are both theories within the historical sciences, because it is the job of such sciences to reconstruct the causes of past events.” Could one object to such a statement on any other than philosophical grounds?
Secular scientists confronted with theistic agency raise a huge outcry. This is a god-of-the-gaps proposal, they would claim, in which unanswered questions about origins are ascribed to the work of a creator/designer. Reasonable theistic scientists do not make god-of-the-gaps claims every time a mystery arises, notwithstanding the drumbeat of such accusations from Darwinists. Rather, they perceive the question concerning a Creator’s possible agency to be an open-ended opportunity for the operation of scientific processes such as inquiry, evidence gathering, and thoughtful hypothesizing. Some progress has been made by theistic scientist/scholars in this area. Credible proposals utilizing legitimate scientific method in origins research have been slow to arrive, but the situation is changing.
Science, Religion, and Rationality
The accusation that creationism and intelligent design proposals are religion and not science is absurd. No credible mechanism has been proposed by the evolutionist to account for the Cambrian Explosion, the sudden appearances in the fossil record of dozens of phyla in a mere moment of geological time. Also unexplained are later sudden appearances of large reptiles, then birds, then mammals, and even modern humans after periods of stasis and mass extinction. Punctuated equilibrium, the step-like progression of the fossil record, is described by the champions of evolution, but there are no mechanisms proposed for the sudden bursts of new species appearing in the fossil record. Why is the hypothesis of periodic creation events rejected out of hand? Science is based upon careful accumulation of data, interpretation and integration of the observations made, and hypothesis formation, resulting in reasonable explanatory and predictive power. No creationist claims certain proof that any creation event has actually occurred, but evidence (sudden appearance with no antecedents) and the weight of inference speaks loudly from many observations of the fossil record. The claims that mutation and natural selection are the driving forces of evolution, and that transitional fossils exist proving uncounted millions of speciation events, suffer from far less convincing evidence. We are to infer such fossils. In reality, they do not exist.
Both evolutionary and creationist proposals should be put to the scientific tests of rationality, reasonableness, evidence quality, explanatory value, and predictive power. What is unscientific about that? Neither evolution nor creation/design is testable or falsifiable in the classic sense. But this rules out neither the application of sound principles of science nor the application of common sense and wisdom from our truth search. The accusation that creation/design is exclusively a religious concept and, therefore, impermissible in our efforts to “reconstruct the causes of past events,” is a lamentable ploy of naturalists. Unfortunately, the ploy has worked. Even our courts have given the philosophical naturalists their desire: possible supernatural agency in historical cause/effect events in any context is an off-limits discussion. That alternative is unacceptable to their materialist philosophical stance.
Robert Boyle, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton are some of the early giants who helped systematize scientific method, a careful, quantitative study of natural cause and effect. It meant adhering to the assumption that “the universe operates according to regularities and that through systematic investigation we can understand these regularities.” The latter is a modern statement from a National Science Teachers Association document. Boyle, Bacon, and others helped the world replace the Aristotelian view of “universal essence” with an empirical and quantitative study of nature. They championed scientific method, and we now understand and appreciate our world more fully.
More damaging to a search for the truth concerning origins and an explanation of the incredible coded instruction book directing the processes of life is the principle (also from NSTA documents) that “science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic explanations and, as such, is precluded from using any supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge.” Excluding the possible agency of an omnipotent God/Creator from the equation, along with any possibility of developing tests to confirm that agency, is tantamount to making the home run illegal in baseball, or perhaps making even winning itself illegal. Everyone understands that science operates today with this restriction, but it is a restriction artificially imposed by scientists to support their philosophical preconceptions. This results in an un-resolvable impasse in the search for real truth, along with disrespect for the potential achievements of science. Science does not serve its own interests and principles by excluding the agency of a designer from consideration as a possible causative factor in some instances, especially when rigid adherence to naturalism holds little or no promise. Some problems in historical science have been solved only by testing unusual or wild hypotheses. Intelligent design may fit these categories in the judgment of scientists, but its proposals are thoroughly plausible.
Separation of Domains
But the modern community of science overlooks an important historical element of early science methodology. Boyle and many other practitioners and champions of the scientific method did indeed presuppose divine purpose, agency, and design in creation. They expressed this belief, but it did not prevent them from enthusiastically adhering to their scientific approach to the study of the natural world. One of the false beliefs being spread about creationists is that the process of science suffers damage from creationist belief. Today’s court judges find mention of possible agency of a deity in a classroom setting a violation of the principle of “separation of church and state.” Just as this so-called “separation” doctrine has gained currency far beyond the intent of the framers of our constitution, so has the separation of the domains of religion and science gained currency in the science community far beyond the intentions of the framers of scientific method. This fact is affirmed even in the 2000 position paper of the NSTA: “The scientific questions asked, the observations made, and the conclusions in science are to some extent influenced by the existing state of scientific knowledge, the social and cultural context of the researcher and the observer’s experiences and expectations.” (emphasis mine) This amounts to an admission that the description of science and its methodology is culturally dependent.
Science today operates in a theological vacuum because many scientists since Darwin have applied their own self-serving definitions and operating schema for science. Our gullible culture has given its assent to this concept of science and to the paradigm of Darwinian evolution as a consequence. The government monopoly often lamented in our secular educational system is exemplified by the monopoly of evolutionary origins views promoted by our science educators. The monopoly really amounts to a stranglehold on the creationist/theistic worldview and a denial of God’s agency anywhere along the earth’s historical timeline. It is a major clash of worldviews.
Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and one of the world’s leading scientists, claims to be a Christian. He has written The Language of God (Simon and Schuster, 2006), in which he claims he supports “molecules to man” evolution and criticizes design theory. He believes evolution does not conflict at all with a Christian belief system. Collins makes some incredible assertions. This popular book has received much favorable press, especially among evangelical Christian reviewers. Before we discuss his proposals, let us paint a backdrop for our discussion.
Agreement on the foundational doctrines of Christian theology is far more important than settling the matter of exactly how God created. The fact of creation overwhelms the method. Truth, however, in more specific matters of theology of creation is very important, since this issue is the source of much misunderstanding and scorn among believers and in our discourse with the secular world.
Molecules to Man
Those who doubt evolution’s paradigm have many reasons: ambiguity of the fossil record, functional and design complexity of bio-systems, and huge gaps in our knowledge of evolutionary mechanisms, to name several. The fossil record is riddled with anomalies. Life processes are directed by an incredible genetic coding system possessing overwhelming evidence of a system designer. Punctuated equilibrium, proposed to account for the series of sudden bursts of life forms, is not a well developed theory, by the admission of evolutionists themselves. PE has been described, but not explained. There are no mechanisms to explain it, but believers are satisfied with creative and outlandish theories. Functional DNA, they say, is a happy accident of the blind processes of evolution’s miracle.
Belief in molecules to man evolution, sometimes called “extreme” Darwinism or the “strong” evolutionary hypothesis, is prevalent among most biologists. Even believers in the “weak” evolutionary hypothesis, who believe that variety and complexity of biological systems today have somehow resulted from biological descent according to principles of genetic inheritance with modification, find little support in the fossil record or in knowledge of theorized driving mechanisms. Belief in evolution is not generally strengthened by observations of the rocks or by verification from the laboratory.
Popular science writers constantly pull off what is known as a “snow job” in today’s vernacular. Examine the internal professional literature, however, and sometimes one finds that serious questions are raised. But commitment to the “fact” of evolution seems to be the self-supporting main beam. Many statements emanating from this “snow job” filter back, even in conversations with Christian friends who are theistic evolutionists. These conversations with Christians have proven to be animated, interesting, and respectful. Subject matter and questions raised in the discussions, however, are eerily similar to those raised in conversations with secularists:
- How could nearly the entire science establishment be wrong about this?
- Evolution is the best scientific theory of origins we have, in spite of some weaknesses
- Science is a methodology using natural explanations only (the last two statements conform to our contemporary cultural context of “science”)
- Suggesting supernatural agency is unscientific
- Creation/design explanations will lead us back to the dark ages of Aristotelian science
- Evolutionary science has provided us with a practical and powerful tool-kit
- The mechanism of evolution is such a profound foundation for the understanding of all biology that it is difficult to imagine how one would study life without it
- Creation/ID is religion; evolution is science
- Evolution is rigorously tested and proven…..rock solid!
- Science and religion are separate realms…let’s keep them apart
- Believers in creation/design aren’t scientific because they don’t propose any mechanism
- We must endorse evolution, otherwise our research funds would dry up and we would be the laughingstock of the scientific community
- Would Dr. Francis Collins lie?
And the beat goes on. Any one of the above statements could be the subject of a counter-essay.
Dr. Francis S. Collins
Let’s return to Dr. Francis Collins. In his previously mentioned book The Language of God, he approaches his thesis in a most surprising manner. Evolution is always characterized as “sound science,” but as a spokesman for evolution, Dr. Collins never mentioned scientific method or reviewed any of its principles, even briefly. Is it unnecessary that a wide-ranging phenomenon such as evolution, with its tentacles reaching into our socio-cultural bone marrow, should be held accountable to adhere rigorously to scientific method? Evolution is held to be good science because it embraces many practices scientists embrace, including careful observation, inference, and hypothesis formation. Is the target audience for his book to be kept in the dark about the necessity for rigorous adherence to all dimensions of scientific method? Collins’ expressions of faith in God and his path to faith were poignant, but his apologetic for the scientific credibility of evolution was unconvincing. Following are a few quotes from his book:
- “There is nothing inherently in conflict between the idea of a creator God and what science has revealed” – p. 81
This is a true statement. Some scientists and science writers give lip service to the principle, but the idea that one would be a support system for the other is repulsive to naturalistic scientists. Historically, there was no wall of separation.
- “Believers should be cautious about invoking the divine in areas of current mystery, lest they build an unnecessary theological argument that is doomed to later destruction. While the question of the origin of life is a fascinating one… this is not the place for a thoughtful person to wager his faith.” – p. 93
Could we not state the converse? Is it not dangerous to invoke what amounts to a religious faith in uncertain evolutionary proposals, e.g., punctuated equilibrium, a theory “not well developed” and for which no mechanism has been demonstrated? Or what about the absence of laboratory confirmation for the mechanisms of new species production, either historically or in our day? Should we not also be cautious about a fragile evolutionary proposal which may be “doomed to later destruction?”
- “No serious biologist today doubts the theory of evolution to explain the marvelous complexity and diversity of life.” – p. 99
A significant minority of serious biologists doubts the theory of evolution.
- “Evolution, as a mechanism, can and must be true.” – p. 107
Only in the context of naturalist presupposition is the word must appropriate.
- “Scientists are actually attracted to disruptive ideas, always looking for an opportunity to overturn accepted theories of the day.” – p. 187
In reality most scientists, because of their philosophical commitment to naturalism, resist offering any destructive critique of evolution even in the face of its glaring weaknesses.
- “ID theory…..also suffers by providing no mechanism by which the supernatural interventions would give rise to complexity.” – p. 188
The Creator/Designer is not subject to the mechanisms of nature’s current laws operating in our universe. Our Creator authored those laws, but divine miracles transcend those laws)
- “ID portrays the Almighty as a clumsy Creator, having to intervene at regular intervals to fix the inadequacies of His own initial plan for generating the complexity of life.” – p. 194
Only if the “fully gifted” idea of God’s initial creation is accepted as fact, i. e., the deistic position that God initially created the universe and then stepped aside to let it run. But what is the wisdom of suggesting our sovereign God could be “clumsy?”
- “Intelligent Design is ironically on a path toward doing considerable damage to faith.”– p. 195
For many, evolution has done considerable damage to faith
“…..For this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth…..” Gospel of John 18:37