Get Answers: Evolution

The word evolution (sometimes called Darwinism) has a variety of definitions, from simply “change” to “the natural process by which all life derived from a single ancestor,” and is referred to alternately as “hypothesis,” “theory,” “law,” and “fact.” Because of its imprecise nature, the term is often used ambiguously to imply that the processes we can observe in the present (e.g., natural selection) “prove” that the processes we cannot observe in the past must have happened as well (e.g., the change of dinosaurs into birds). In fact, the term evolution can also be used to denote the philosophy of naturalism, which depends upon unobserved events in the past (including in astronomy, chemistry, and geology).

In scientific terms, evolution generally means the change in genetic material between generations, which is also referred to as “descent with modification.” These changes are attributed to mutations, gene flow and drift, and natural selection, which are examples of observational science and can be shown to occur. However, the other aspect of evolution is the belief that all animals descended from one original ancestor. Evolutionists sometimes claim this “fact” is established in the fossil record, homology (similar structures), and genetic evidence. However, any evidence involving historical science (one-time events that cannot be retested) is subject to interpretational bias on the part of the scientist.

Mutations and genetic drift are often cited as the source of heritable traits from one generation to the next. While mutations do cause changes in the genome and genetic drift changes the frequency of those traits, neither process is capable of changing one kind of animal into another. More often, mutations have either no noticeable impact or cause degeneration.

When evolutionary scientists claim that evolution is a fact, they are relying upon a fallacy known as “bait and switch” (define a term one way, but use it in a completely different way later). Often the claim is that since one can observe natural selection, then descent from a common ancestor must also be true. However, this presupposes that the current processes we observe could cause the origin of completely novel structures (e.g., giving rise to lungs or complex brains). Such a claim is contrary to information theory and the laws of nature.

Description

Heredity

Evolution is claimed to occur through inherited alterations of traits via genetic changes. These changes are caused mainly by mutations and the fluctuations in allele frequencies (different forms of genes) from generation to generation. Natural selection then acts upon these changes by selecting for those that improve the sexual fitness of a species.

However, the observed fluctuations in allele frequencies are insufficient to give rise to the various kinds of animals found in the fossil record and today. While such changes may cause finch beaks or the color of peppered moths to fluctuate, they are not capable of the mass changes evolutionists claim happened since the first life appeared. Knowing this, evolutionists often appeal to mutations as the driving force of the evolutionary process.

Mutations, which are heritable changes to DNA, cannot add the information needed for original structures to appear (e.g., lungs, scales, brains). They do, however, play a part in revealing and controlling the variation within each kind—and also in a number of diseases (an aspect of the Curse). There is some debate among creationists as to the randomness of certain mutations.

The observed evidence in the present concerning genetic changes supports the Genesis text that God created all the animal kinds and human kind during the Creation Week. God gave the animal kinds a robust enough genetic foundation to form numerous species and to adapt to changing environments (e.g., the length of finch beaks). None of the observed processes (e.g., natural selection, mutations, genetic flow) can ever cause one kind (baramin) of animal to transform into another kind.

Evolution as Theory and Fact

In practice, evolution is neither fact nor theory. A theory is a well-supported—but falsifiable—body of interconnected statements that has explanatory and predictive power (e.g., the theory of gravity). Evolution, however, does not fit this definition because it is assumed prior to the research being conducted and because it assumes many one-time events that can neither be tested nor verified (nor have eye-witness confirmation). Evolutionists fit all evidence into the framework of evolutionary naturalism (the belief that there are no supernatural causes). As a corollary to this, evolution cannot be used to make predictions because all results are filtered through the prior belief in evolution.

Evolution is better referred to as a tenet of naturalistic philosophy or humanism (a belief system). Most evolutionists presuppose a worldview that demands the removal of any supernatural agents acting in a knowable way (e.g., miracles, special creation). Calling it a theory and/or fact is a disingenuous attempt to hide the underlying beliefs and to discourage debate by ridiculing those who disagree.

Evolution and Abiogenesis

Abiogenesis is the supposed process by which life arose from organic compounds in a primordial climate. For example, the Miller-Urey experiment is one such claimed “evidence” that this happened. Abiogenesis is not, strictly speaking, evolution, since evolution requires life to already be present (i.e., natural selection, mutations, and gene flow cannot act upon non-living matter). Thus, for the sake of precision, the two processes should be differentiated in technical resources.

However, both abiogenesis and evolution are part of the naturalistic belief system for the origin and development of life. They are connected in philosophical assumptions and are not entirely separate as some evolutionists claim.

Punctuated Equilibrium

Punctuated equilibrium is the idea that species remain mostly unchanged for much of their history and then experience short bursts of rapid changes (which can still take thousands or millions of years). Contrary to popular belief, punctuated equilibrium does not replace, but instead is an aspect of, the slow-and-gradual process of evolution.

However, punctuated equilibrium is untestable in the present because it is a supposed one-time historical event in each given species. The fact that such an additional postulate is required suggests the embarrassment caused by huge gaps in the fossil record. Rather than acknowledge that these gaps refute the claims of evolution, some evolutionists see punctuated equilibrium as a way to save the idea in spite of the evidence.

Darwinism

Many critics of evolution refer to evolution as Darwinism (a term derived from Charles Darwin, the man who is most closely associated with the modern movement of naturalistic origins). This term is useful for distinguishing evolution as the belief that all life descended from a single ancestor (the improvable assumption) from the observed aspects that have been conscripted into the idea (e.g., natural selection).

Darwinism is not an entirely comprehensive term, since Darwin’s ideas have been much expanded upon since the publication of his books On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. However, because of the ambiguity of the word evolution, the term is still useful.

Claimed Evidence for Evolution

Homology/Common Descent

One of the most often cited evidences for common descent and evolution is the belief that the similarity of structures (homology) among various animals proves that those structures arose from ancestral species. For example, the bones in the forelimbs/hands of mammals and other vertebrates are commonly referred to as such in science textbooks and evolution websites. Such similarities are claimed in a number of areas: DNA, embryonic development, bone structure, behavior, and others.

However, homology in and of itself proves only that there are similarities. Any reason as to why these similarities exist is subject to the observer’s prior beliefs. Those who believe that evolution is the explanation for the descent of all life will see these similarities as evidence for that. In fact, it is important to note that the selection of what is a homology and what is convergent evolution (similar structures that arose independently) is often arbitrary, depending on the assumptions about when and how such structures/behaviors arose.

On the other hand, creationists see similarity as the hallmark of our Creator. Designers often employ similar structures and techniques on various projects—even if the projects are in different fields. In a similar fashion, great design in one animal kind being carried over to other kinds is better explained by common design, since it is not arbitrarily restricted by supposed relation and times.

In addition, God created many original kinds during Creation Week, and we would expect the various descendants of each created kind to share many similar traits. This would explain similarities in sheep and goats, for example, as they descended from one kind.

Order and Relation in the Fossil Record

The geologic column displays a definite general order of various animal kinds. Evolutionists often point to this as evidence for the history of descent. They also claim that radiometric dating proves that the order is based upon a history of billions of years.

These claims, however, ignore the irregularities in the geologic column. Evolutionists rely on the assumption that order in the fossil record can only be attributed to evolutionary history and the assumption that radiometric dating proves the age of these layers and fossils. Neither of these assumptions are required of the data.

In fact, the global Flood offers a better understanding of why there should be order in the geological record that we have today (and the exceptions to it). Thus, the evidence is not in dispute; the reason that we have the evidence is.

Transitional Fossils

Although evolutionists have often downplayed the need for transitional forms in the fossil record (since the record is imperfect and it is difficult to judge what is in “transition”), there are several claimed evidences of fossil series and transitional forms that supposedly show one form leading to another.

Some popular examples are as follows (each linked to an article refuting the claim):

Fossils, however, do not show transition. They only reveal characteristics about the animal, some of which must be inferred from the analysis of the fossil. Biases and beliefs play an important role in the interpretations of where fossils fit into the history of life. Where evolutionists see “transition,” creationists see the amazing variation within animal kinds that allow them to speciate depending upon their environments and other factors (the creationist “orchard”).

In addition, claims of “transitional” fossils are often made without all the evidence and are sometimes based upon only one specimen. Many supposed “missing links” have been abandoned when new evidence came to light (e.g., the coelacanth).

Pseudogenes (“Junk DNA”)

More recently, evolutionists have pointed to pseudogenes (or “junk DNA”) as “non-functional” leftovers of the evolutionary history of life. These pseudogenes (a term that is, in fact, a misnomer) are often touted as useless because they can resemble functional genes and appear to have no known function.

As with many other supposed evidences for evolution, the purpose or lack of function of pseudogenes depends upon the scientist’s worldview. Many evolutionists expect there to be leftovers in the genome, and since there seem to be areas of the genome without function, this is the proof they seek.

However, the lack of function for pseudogenes is still very much in debate. New discoveries continue to reveal that areas of the genome that were once considered non-functional do, in fact, have function (e.g., regulation and redundancy). This trend will likely continue.

In addition, areas that presently have no known function and no longer perform the role they once did are not evidence for evolution. A loss of function is expected in a world suffering from degeneration after the Curse.

For more, see “Junk” DNA—past, present, and future, part 1 and “Junk” DNA—past, present, and future, part 2.

Evolution in Action (Natural Selection, Peppered Moths, Finch Beaks, and Antibiotic Resistance)

Many observed examples of natural selection are often claimed as evidence for evolution in the broader sense (a common ancestry of all life). According to these types of arguments, since one can see natural selection acting upon an observable trait, this proves that one animal kind can change into another.

Examples of this type of claim are:

However, these claims of “evolution in action” are simply evidences of natural selection in action. Natural selection is observed and established as a theory, but this is in no way evidence that all life arose from a common ancestor or that one kind of animal could turn into another kind (e.g., fish to land animals). After all, natural selection (even when coupled with mutations) is incapable of causing the major transformations required of common descent.

See also Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution?

Problems

Gaps in the Fossil Record

The most glaring problem with the belief that all life arose from a common ancestor is the lack of fossil evidence of the millions of transitional forms that should be evident if evolution had happened.

It must be noted that this argument is often dismissed through two lines of reasoning: 1) the lack of a complete fossil record and 2) the problems inherent in identifying what is transitional. However, this does not diminish the problem, as some evolutionists suppose, since the types of changes evolution requires to give rise to the various animal kinds over millions of years would be expected to provide ample examples in virtually every layer of the geologic record. This is not the case.

Instead, most of the geologic record is better explained by the catastrophic processes during the global Flood and the subsequent localized catastrophes after the Flood (e.g., that formed the Grand Canyon).

The Origin of Genetic Information

The genetic material in all living things contains information that makes life possible. According to evolution, this information arose spontaneously, not just with the first living system, but continuously throughout the history of life. Evolution requires that the information to code for new organs and structures must have been added to the genome time and time again through mutations or pleiotropy. This, in fact, is not incorrectly called a series of “miracles,” as the spontaneous generation of such complex information has never been observed.

Information can only come from an intelligent source, since it requires not only bits of data, but also the ability to decode and understand that data. Without both the data and the understanding, information is useless. Thus, living systems could not have arisen through genetic mistakes and must have been created to function as complete systems.

Presuppositional Bias

Evolution is not foundational to any scientific field. Instead, it is a part of the naturalistic framework through which secular scientists view the world (i.e., no matter the evidence or record, no supernatural causes can be allowed). Naturalists have a presuppositional bias (a belief system) that forces them to interpret all data through the lens of evolutionary history.

Evolutionists examine the evidence within this framework of naturalism, and only through that framework does the evidence lead them to the conclusion that evolution is the best explanation. All scientists, both creationist and evolutionist, filter results through foundational beliefs. No one can be completely objective in examining evidence.

Science and Natural Laws

Evolution fails as a framework because it violates several known laws of the universe we inhabit. In order for evolution and abiogenesis to occur, several “miracles” (violations of natural law) would had to have occurred, thus undermining the very premise of naturalism.

Laws that naturalism and evolution violate include the following:

  • The law of biogenesis (life only comes from life)
  • The uniformity of nature (uniformity cannot exist or be expected without a creator)
  • The laws of physics (the big bang requires the suspension of the laws of physics, nor could those laws exist without a creator)
  • The laws of probability (the fine tuning of the universe requires a creator)
  • The laws of logic (logic requires a logical source)
  • The laws of chemistry (the logical properties of the elements require intelligence)

For more, see God & Natural Law.

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