Actually, there are many different theories of evolution. In 1801, Lamarck proposed that evolution is caused by two mechanisms: 1) use and disuse and 2) the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The animal that Lamarckians often paraded to illustrate evolution by these mechanisms was the giraffe. They imagined the giraffe coming from a horselike animal that habitually endeavored to obtain the luscious fruit on trees. The result of his constant upward stretching was that in each generation his neck became slightly longer. Finally, he became the giraffe.
Although once taken seriously, this account of the giraffe's origins is easy to refute. The giraffe's neck, so useful for reaching food, is very prone to injury and very inconvenient for drinking water. The giraffe has his long neck not so much for adaptive reasons as for aesthetic reasons. The Lord loves variety. So, to please Himself and to display His ingenuity He has populated the world of nature with a vast number of improbable but delightful forms of life.
Today we know from genetics that the characteristics a person will bequeath to the next generation are determined at his conception, when he receives genes from his mother and father. These same genes are what he passes on to his offspring. Between his conception and theirs, the genes he carries are wholly unchanged by any of his successes in coping with the demands of life.
Darwinism, dating from 1859, postulated two mechanisms for evolution. One was the inheritance of acquired characteristics and the other was natural selection. Darwin used the first to explain the appearance of new attributes and the second to explain which attributes survive.
Darwin was an egomaniac who callously took credit for the ideas of other men. From Lamarck he borrowed the theory that acquired characteristics are inherited, but he failed to acknowledge his source. He took the other fundamental concepts of his theory from his own grandfather Erasmus Darwin, but he mentions his grandfather only once, in a footnote.
Darwin is historically important because he was the first to popularize the idea of natural selection, also called survival of the fittest. This is the idea that the fittest animals in any animal population are the ones that survive and transmit their special characteristics to the next generation. The result is the perpetuation of characteristics making animals fit for survival and the elimination of characteristics making them unfit. "Natural selection" is the term Darwin used to describe this weeding out process, which undoubtedly exists. The two most famous examples are the changes evident in the finches of the Galapagos Islands and the peppered moth of England.
Finches. On these islands are found finches of various kinds. Darwin argued that a single parent stock had long ago come to the islands from South America and, in the absence of competition from other birds, had evolved into many distinct species, each able to take advantage of a different habitat. Some lived in the jungle, some in the desert. One fed on insects that it dug from cacti. Each species was fitted for its own unique habitat by special adaptations. For example, those that obtained food by probing the bark of trees had longer, more pointed beaks.
Peppered moth. This moth exists in two color phases, light and dark. About one hundred years ago, about 99% of the specimens collected near London were light. Some years later, after pollution had killed the light-colored lichen on the trees, the balance shifted in favor of the darker moths because predators could not see them as readily on the dark-colored trunks, and at one time about 99% of the collected moths were dark.
Our response is that neither example of natural selection shows evolution toward greater complexity. It shows microevolution or speciation but not macroevolution—that is, movement from lower to higher forms of life.
Microevolution occurs in animal husbandry. Breeders create novel forms by artificial selection of certain characteristics. If they want goats with longer hair, they choose a male and female with long hair and mate them. By deriving successive generations from parents selected for the same trait, they eventually produce a new race with long hair as an outstanding characteristic.
Human beings have for ages practiced the breeding of dogs. And look at the result. The variety that exists today is so great as to seem impossible. Yet they are all derived from ancestors which looked pretty much alike. Has the dog evolved? No, for two reasons:
- The genetic potential for all the modern varieties of dog existed in the very first dogs. The genes of two parent dogs could even then have combined in such a way as to produce an offspring that looked like a Chihuahua or Saint Bernard. Such a result was statistically very improbable, but the probability was by no means zero. By way of contrast, the probability that the genes of two parent fish could combine and produce a man is exactly zero, although man supposedly evolved from the fish.
- Artificial selection has definite limits, and when these limits are reached, the resulting animal still has all the defining characteristics of his species. A dog, for example, can be as little as a Chihuahua or as large as a mastiff, but it is impossible to breed one as small as a mouse or as large as a horse. Moreover, both the Chihuahua and the mastiff are unmistakably dogs and nothing else. Again, the development of such diverse breeds is not evolution, for evolution imagines that a fish gradually changed into such radically dissimilar life forms as bats and dinosaurs.
Thus, the Galapagos finches and the peppered moth are clearly examples of microevolution. The parent stock of finches that originally migrated from South America could in the first generation of offspring have produced all the varieties we see now. Yet after all the adaptive changes which have taken place, the finches of the Galapagos Islands are still finches. Also, in the history of the peppered moth, light-colored and dark-colored phases have existed all along, and shifts in their relative percentages have not produced a new species. (Incidentally, today with pollution controls, the light-colored phase is coming back.)
Biblical creationists do not deny the existence of microevolution, as in these cases. Nor do they deny natural selection. Natural selection is usually a conservative process, sorting out defective individuals so that a species will not deteriorate genetically. Thus, it accounts for the fixity of the species—the fact that every species is substantially the same now as when it first appeared in the fossil record.
Occasionally, natural selection produces some adaptive specialization in response to environmental changes. But in itself it is not capable of producing new species. It cannot generate profoundly new organs or structures or behaviors. The reason these do not appear is simply because natural selection operates on existing genes. It cannot create new ones.
This impotence of natural selection to drive evolution has long been recognized even by evolutionists. Around sixty to seventy years ago, recognizing that classic Darwinism was a failure, they espoused a new form of evolutionary theory that discarded Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics and hypothesized another mechanism for the creation of new genes.
In 1900, Hugo de Vries suggested that new genes could be the result of random mutations. Mutations have been most intensively studied in the fruit fly, a convenient subject for research because one mating produces hundreds of offspring. Also, the interval between generations is only sixteen days, and maintaining the exploding population is very easy. Hundreds can be kept in a bottle and fed for a lifetime on one piece of mashed fruit. Scientists studying the genetics of fruit flies have, as a result of subjecting them to various radiations and chemicals, seen many genuine mutations; that is, totally new characteristics which could not be produced by existing genes, characteristics such as deformed eyes, curly wings, and missing legs.
It is now known that mutations regularly occur in every species. In human beings, for example, mutant genes are responsible for such conditions as sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, and albinism. It is estimated that about 2,500 mutant genes are perpetuated in the human race. A typical mutant gene is not perpetuated because the individual who receives it cannot survive. Either the embryo does not form or the zygote dies quickly. Genetic mutation is a major cause of miscarriages.
But evolutionists say that mutations can be beneficial—that is, decidedly useful to the organism. They hypothesize that a beneficial mutation will gradually accumulate in a breeding population and become pervasive. Its establishment over time therefore brings a small step forward in evolution. In combination with a multitude of other small steps forward through mutational change, a wholly new species finally evolves.
This is all nonsense, for numerous reasons.
1. Favorable mutations are extremely rare if they exist at all. Julian Huxley, a leading exponent of evolution, said,
A proportion of favorable mutations of one in a thousand does not sound much, but is probably generous, since so many mutations are lethal, preventing the organism living at all, and the great majority of the rest throw the machinery slightly out of gear (1).
Another scientist wrote,
Accordingly, mutations are more than just sudden changes in heredity; they also affect viability, and, to the best of our knowledge, invariably affect it adversely. Does not this fact show that mutations are really assaults on the organism's central being, its basic capacity to be a living thing (2)?
In fact, no altogether beneficial mutation has ever been indisputably documented.
Mutations by their very nature cannot create better organisms. A mutation is exactly comparable to noise in the transmission of information, such as by an electrical signal. Noise is random variation in a highly structured communication. Does noise ever improve the signal? If you are listening to music over the radio, does static ever make the music better? Of course not. Neither do mutations improve the genetic code. Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe said,
Every competent space-mathematician would assure you that such a Darwinian idea had no chance of working, nothing at all would happen. Every computer expert will in fact assure you that throwing random mistakes into a computer program is no way to improve it (3).
Mutations are destructive and disorganizing. The effect of mutagenic radiation and chemicals is to damage the genetic material. The mildest damage they can cause is the substitution of one chemical for another. But what would be the result if I randomly changed one word in a book? If the book is well written, how often will the change make a real improvement, producing greater thoughtfulness or meaningfulness? Virtually never. Occasionally, the change might communicate some new sense, but only at the cost of losing the more coherent message of the original. In the same way, a mutant may sometimes be better adapted to a unique environment. An albino, for example, might get along better at the north pole, but only as a result of losing some of his refined genetic programming. As another example, someone with sickle cell anemia is immune to malaria and is therefore in one way better fitted for the tropics than other people, but still he suffers from a crippling disorder that may be fatal.
2. Neo-Darwinism says that once a beneficial mutation occurs, it quickly becomes established in a population. A mutation is usually recessive, however, and a recessive new gene would never be expressed except through inbreeding, and then the advantage to the population is so marginal that it would take a long time to spread through the whole population. At a symposium of leading evolutionists in 1966, a leading evolutionist and authority on genetics, Nobel prize winner George Wald said,
If you make a rough estimate, . . . it looks as if something of the order of ten million years is needed to establish a mutation. that is, each of these single amino acid changes appears relatively frequently in individuals as pathology; but to establish one such change as a regular characteristic in a species seems to take something of the order of ten million years (4).
Now, ten million years is a long time if evolution is to proceed by mutations, each being only a tiny step forward.
3. Just how many mutations would it take to make a new species? One of the world's leading evolutionists, Julian Huxley, said,
And a total of a million mutational steps sounds a great deal but is probably an understatement (5).
Thus, when you consider the improbability of any mutation being favorable, the length of time needed to establish one mutation, and the number of mutations needed to establish one species, any theory ascribing evolution to mutational change is out of the question. The odds against nature furnishing and preserving one million beneficial mutations in one breeding population are overwhelming. Huxley estimates the odds as one in ten to the three millionth power (6).
4. Relying on natural selection as a device for concentrating favorable mutations raises another insurmountable problem. If the unique structures and behaviors of a species develop gradually by small mutational changes, the intermediate stages must all be useful to the organism, or else natural selection will eliminate them. Evolution could not have produced any complex structure that was useless until fully developed. Yet it is generally impossible to imagine useful intermediates.
- Wing of a bat. Supposedly the precursor of a bat was a mouselike animal, and the wing of a bat was originally a foot. The transition from foot to wing cannot be made genetically in one big jump, however. In between there must be a series of mouselike animals with increasingly floppy feet. For this process to go on, floppy feet must be somehow useful to the animal. But for what? They would not help it to fly. Certainly they would be a hindrance to running.
- Eye of a cephalopod. Almost any complex structure of any group raises the same question. For example, the eye of an octopus or squid. Of what use was it before it was fully developed for seeing? Yet cephalopods have marvelously intricate eyes. Nothing like them is possessed by any near relative, although they closely resemble the eyes of a mammal. So, do they demonstrate evolution or God's design?
- Whales. Supposedly whales came from an animal like a cow. But how could some sort of animal intermediate between them have been well suited to life either on land or in water? No one has ever proposed an intermediate that is anything but comical. Did a cow gradually develop flippers, blowholes, etc. and then go live in the water? But how could a cow use flippers? Did a cow go live in the water and then develop flippers and blowholes? But how could a cow live in the water without them?
5. Many organs and attributes of the species involve components that, if evolution occurred, must have evolved separately. Yet without the other components in the finished structure, they would have been useless. An example is the two wholly unrelated enzymes required to make the light of a firefly. They are luciferin and luciferase. They are unrelated, so if they evolved, they must have evolved independently. Yet neither by itself can produce light, and there is no known combination of possible precursors to these enzymes that can produce light. Thus, they were useless until they fully evolved and somehow found each other. But according to evolutionary theory, useless proteins should be eliminated by natural selection.
Today it is widely recognized that Neo-Darwinism is a failure. David Raup, curator of Field Museum and head of the department of geology at the University of Chicago, said,
All of the authors of the neo-Darwinian theory which they formulated back in the thirties and forties are losing their influence. They are getting old and dying off. I predict that that whole concept will be thrown out in the next ten years and a new theory will be devised to take its place. A new wave of thinking is sweeping the field (7).
Peter Medawar, a Nobel prize winner, made the following statement at a 1966 symposium of leading evolutionary thinkers, assembled to examine the crumbling edifice of Darwinism:
The immediate cause of this conference is a pretty widespread sense of dissatisfaction about what has come to be thought of as the accepted evolutionary theory in the English-speaking world, the so-called neo-Darwinian Theory. . . . These objections to current neo-Darwinian theory are very widely held among biologists generally; and we must on no account, I think, make light of them (8).
At the same conference, Schutzenberger from the University of Paris said,
We believe that there is a considerable gap in the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, and we believe this gap to be of such a nature that it cannot be bridged within the current conception of biology (9).
In other words, neo-Darwinism cannot account for the emergence of the species, and leading scientists around the world today are desperately looking for an alternative. Not surprisingly, something new has been suggested to fill the vacuum.
Evolution by Punctuated Equilibria, or Quantum Speciation
This theory, proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1977, says evolution is not gradual, but occurs by means of great leaps forward in isolated populations. The change is so rapid and the numbers of animals involved are so small that there is no fossil record of the process. What mechanism does this theory offer to account for such explosive change? It offers no mechanism whatever. While admitting that natural selection of random mutations is an inadequate vehicle for evolution, the proponents of the new theory do not pretend to know how evolutionary changes occur. The mechanism is just as much a question mark for Gould and Eldredge as it is for other evolutionists. No evolutionist today can point to any mechanism within the realm of biology or chemistry that is capable of generating upward-moving evolutionary changes.
The authors of the theory of punctuated equilibria were respectable academics. Gould was a professor at Harvard University and Eldredge was curator of invertebrate paleontology at American Museum in New York. Yet both were avowed Marxists, and their evolutionary theory was a reflection of their political views. They believed that just as rapid revolutionary change is the way to achieve progress in society today, it is also the way evolution occurred in the past. Their Marxism and their evolutionism were just two outgrowths of an underlying commitment to the idea that history is a series of great leaps forward. In the species, the forward leaps are evolution; in society, revolution.
A sensible outsider might suppose that such a peculiar and politically motivated theory would never catch hold in the world of serious science. But he would be wrong. Gould in fact became a hero of those retreating from the obvious absurdities of Darwinism. He was voted "Man of the year in science" by Discover magazine, and his picture appeared on the cover of Newsweek. His theory has not yet percolated down to the textbooks, which are still Darwinist, no doubt because textbook writers balk at trying to convince students that the theory of punctuated equilibria has any merit. The theory offers no fossil evidence and postulates no believable mechanism.
How is it possible that brilliant, educated men could endorse something as desperate and deluded as the theory of punctuated equilibria? The reason is that we are seeing the demise of philosophical materialism—the world view assuming that the real universe is simply a universe of matter-energy interacting according to the laws of chemistry and physics. From this foundational outlook arises the belief that there is neither a God nor any spirit or mind apart from matter. For a hundred years, materialism has been the dominant view of intellectuals. But it is becoming more and more obvious that a strictly material universe could never have generated life, much less the complex intelligent life we see just on planet Earth. The materialistic theories of evolution, like Darwinism, which suppose that evolution was a blind process involving chance accretions of molecules to form the first life and random mutations thereafter to produce higher forms of life, have been thoroughly discredited. More and more intellectuals are therefore looking for alternatives to materialism, but they are not turning to the God of the Bible.
Some are looking with fascination at every kind of mysticism, exotic religion, and occult philosophy imaginable. Many of the bizarre doctrines they are dabbling in have the same outlook. They have in common the view that within the universe there is a supreme mind or will or force which is somehow directing evolution and lifting life upward toward ever greater complexity. It is a pantheistic, Hinduistic world view, and many of its adherents are attracted to the theory of Gould and Eldredge because they imagine that the evolution directed by the universal mind occurs in great leaps forward.
Others, like Antony Flew, the prominent atheist who recently jettisoned atheism because, in his words, science has proved the existence of God, are turning to deism. Yet others are turning to theistic evolution, presuming the kind of God imagined by Catholics and new evangelicals. We cannot offer an exhaustive critique of these views here. We will say only that deism has to deny all the evidence that God is a moral being, and theistic evolution has to deny all the evidence that God cares so passionately about truth that, in His self-revelation through the Bible, He is scrupulous to say only those things that are true. He does not bend truth to gain some pragmatic objective.