Once in a while an evolutionist will say that any farmer who practices selective breeding is practicing evolution. But as one farmer put it, “Mister, when I cross pigs, I get pigs. I don't get dogs and cats and horses.” If the point is that obvious, then even scientists who believe in evolution ought to see it. And they do.
Harvard’s Stephen Gould16 quite clearly recognizes the difference between evolution and mutations. Evolution, he says, involves “profound structural transitions,” such as a change from fish to philosopher (macroevolution). Mutations, he says, produce only minor variations, like those we see in experiments with “flies in bottles” that start as flies and end up as flies. Then Gould chides his fellow evolutionists for illogical extrapolation. He says that “Orthodox neo-Darwinians extrapolate these even and continuous changes to the most profound structural transitions … .” For the old line mutation-selection evolutionist, “macroevolution (major structural transition) is nothing more than microevolution (flies in bottles) extended.”
But then Gould asks himself, “How can such processes change a gnat or a rhinoceros into something fundamentally different?” Answering his own question in a later article, Gould17 simply says: “That theory [orthodox neo-Darwinian extrapolationalism], as a general proposition, is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy.”
Gould believes our knowledge of genetics is now sufficient to reject the explanation of evolution as the slow, gradual selection of small mutational changes. He prefers to believe instead that evolution occurs in giant steps, radical restructuring of whole DNA sets, producing what he himself calls “hopeful monsters.” But he admits that no such hopeful monster has ever been observed. His new theory, then, is not any sort of logical inference from observations, but a fantastic faith in the future of a theory that the facts have failed.
And Gould is far from an isolated example. Back in October of 1980, the world’s leading evolutionists met in Chicago for a conference summarized popularly by Adler and Carey in Newsweek18 and professionally by Lewin in Science19 According to the professional summary,
The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macro-evolution.
That is, the processes of mutation, selection, and sexual recombination all produce variation within kind (microevolution—or creationist adaptation), but can these processes be logically extended (extrapolated) to explain the presumed evolutionary change generally from simpler to more complex types (macroevolution)?
At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.
Just plain No! One cannot logically extrapolate from mutation-selection to evolution. Creationists pointed out a series of logical and observational limits to that gross over-extrapolation decades ago, and we are pleased, of course, that the world’s leading evolutionists now agree with us—without giving us any credit—that the textbook and television pictures of minuscule mutations being slowly selected to produce elaborate evolution are just, flatly, false.
At this point, many evolutionists say, in effect, “Well, at least we agree that evolution is a fact, even though we are not certain about the mechanism.” Although I used to say that myself, it now sounds almost comically incongruous, both to me and to Colin Patterson,20 leading paleontologist at the British Museum. Evolutionists used to accuse creationists of affirming the fact of diversity without offering any mechanism to explain it, says Patterson, but now, he says, that is what evolutionists are doing. A theory that simply accepts the diversity of life without offering a mechanism to explain how that diversity came into being, adds Patterson, cannot be considered a scientific theory at all!
Evolutionists ultimately believe, to use an example from secular television,21 that frogs turn into princes. But if the mechanism turned out to be the kiss of a princess, rather than time, chance, and the properties of matter, then the evolutionary explanation for change would be wrong, and the theory falsified in this instance. Whether it’s the changing of frogs into princes, fish into philosophers, or molecules into man, calling evolution a fact without at least broadly specifying a mechanism is both non-science and non-sense—unless evolutionists are willing to consider the kiss of a princess a potentially valid evolutionary hypothesis!
Creationists don’t believe that frogs turn into princes at all, of course, but rather, that frogs and people were separately created from the same kinds of molecular “building blocks.” Remember the tumbled pebble and the arrowhead (Fig. 1)? Both were shaped from the same substance, one by the mechanism of time and chance acting on the inherent properties of matter, the other by the mechanism of plan and purpose, producing properties of organization. Mechanism—the explanation of how—is, therefore, the heart of the creation-evolution issue. Substance, adaptations, and change are the “givens” or “facts” shared by those on both sides. The central question is: how—by what means or mechanism—did these patterns of order come into being, by time and chance like the tumbled pebble, or, like the arrowhead, by plan and purpose?
The large majority of evolutionists at the Chicago conference agreed that the neo-Darwinian mechanism of mutation-selection could no longer be regarded as a scientifically tenable explanation for the origin and diversity of living things. Unfortunately, many of the evolutionists, some quite reluctantly, seemed willing to put their hope, instead, in the “hopeful monster” mechanism resurrected by Gould and others. A few were willing to fight what Newsweek called a “rearguard action” on behalf of otherwise-defunct neo-Darwinism. But some scientists are willing to look for truly new hypotheses that have the promise of stimulating more fruitful research.
One such scientist is Pierre Grasse’. He has been called “the dean of French zoologists,” yet he rejects mutation-selection as a means of evolutionary change22 in scathing words. Mutations are “merely hereditary fluctuations around a median position; a swing to the right, a swing to the left, but no final evolutionary effect.” He goes on to say that mutations “are not complementary … , nor are they cumulative.” That is, they don’t work together, and they don’t add up to anything. “They modify what pre-exists,” says Grasse’, which means you can get no more from mutations than variation within kind. In fact, you get even less, because mutations are mostly harmful, says Grasse’, producing “downhill” changes, not “upward-onward” evolution. He strongly condemns attempts to use selection to salvage a few favorable mutations for evolution:
Directed by all-powerful selection, chance becomes a sort of providence [i.e., “God”] … which is secretly worshipped.
Grasse’ is not (yet) a creationist. But he does say that his knowledge of the living world convinces him that there must be some “internal force” involved in the history of life. That may remind you of Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Nobel-prize winner, who said that the origin of complex traits by random mutation has the probability of zero. In the first chapter, I mentioned that his observations of living things forced Szent-Gyorgyi, like Grasse’, to postulate at least a creative force.
Maybe you also remember Garrett Hardin from the first chapter. Because of “nature’s challenges to evolutionary theory,” he asked, “Is the [evolutionary] framework wrong? Was Paley right?” That is, can we infer creation from the kind of design we see among living things? “Think about it.”
That’s why it’s so vital that our students be given every opportunity to explore all aspects of the origins’ issue, including all the scientific data. (In my experience, by the way, Canadian and Australian students have much greater academic freedom in this area than students in America, the so-called “land of the free.”) After all, it is only those students who have access to all the relevant information on a topic who are truly free to “think about it.”
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