Wikilies: Objections to Evolution:
“An objection is often made in the teaching of evolution that evolution is controversial or contentious… …Scientists and U.S. courts have rejected this objection on the grounds that science is not based on appeals to popularity, but on evidence. The scientific consensus of biologists, not popular opinion or fairness, determines what is considered acceptable science, and although evolution is controversial in the public arena, it is entirely uncontroversial among experts in the field.” (The reader should keep this quote in mind whilst reading about the fiasco that follows.)
I wrote most of this blog in 2005 when a minor civil war was being waged in the US. The opposing armies were the evolutionary biologists and what are loosely called “creationists” 1 and both sides were steeped in politics. The war, at its heart, was about the viability of the theory of evolution as a scientific fact, or was it just a fact absolute? The battlefields were the hearts and minds of students in schools and higher education. Darwin’s name was a common subject for indoctrination in the classrooms, the media and in the courtrooms across America.
Representing those whom the Darwinists called “creationists” was the fledgling science of Intelligent Design or (ID) and the claim of its initiates that life is far too complex to have arisen by accident. The biologists claim was that ID is not a science and should not be taught as such. They insisted that as ID is allied to creationism and as creationism says that “God did it”, it cannot be science, as no empirical evidence can be derived from the actions of a god. The IDers countered that their science does not say, “God did it”. Their claim was that they are in the business of intelligent design detection, as opposed to evolution’s accidental approach, that they are pattern finders, like other branches of science. However, they admit that their method does have implications that bring their findings into the realm of religion.
One could be excused for thinking that the biological evolutionists would have it all sewn up with the passing of 150+ years since Darwin’s classic “The Origin of Species”, “The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life” written in 1859, but this is not necessarily the case. What seems to be missing from this theory is connected with the origin of the first life form on earth and from whence came the genetic material (abiogenisis or biogenesis? 2). After all, the original life-form would need only sufficient genetic material to feed and reproduce, yet it must have acquired more RNA/DNA in order to become the immense and varied biosphere that we witness today.
Abiogenesis: Where did the extra RNA/DNA come from?
The bio scientists argue that abiogenesis is not a part of the study of evolution and as such is not part of the argument for or against evolution. The problem with this argument is that without information about the first life, it is impossible to say when evolution started, or even if it ever did. The basis of the evolutionary theory is mutation and natural selection; mutation causes damage to the genetic material. The idea being that some rare mutation will be beneficial and will be passed down to succeeding generations. And given enough time, these changes will accumulate and lead to evolution from simple to more complex life. It has been suggested that what biologists call “gene duplication” is the answer and Japanese biochemist Susumu Ohno has used this as a possible vehicle for evolution. But it appears to be inadequate for our first cell. It seems that for the first cell the duplication of the genetic material coupled with mutation would drive the cell into a genetic dead end or even kill it. The most simple cell with genetic material for only feeding and reproducing is going to die from a single mutation.
Fred Hoyle, one of the foremost scientists of his day said, “It is possible that tandem duplication (gene duplication) of one or several genes could produce a marked increase in the amount of genetic material over only a few thousand generations, but it is doubtful that any marked functional diversity could arise in this way. Indeed, quite the reverse.
S. Ohno remarked that what happened to the lungfish also happened to salamanders and newts…. `By establishing such a system [tandem duplication] the organism effectively forfeited an opportunity for further evolution. In a manner of speaking, the genome became frozen, while containing enormous genetic redundancy. It is clear that in doing so, such a lineage reached an evolutional dead end. Indeed, this side branch stopped dead at the amphibian stage.’ (Ohno S., “Evolution by Gene Duplication”, 1970, in Hoyle F. & Wickramasinghe C., “Evolution from Space”, 1983, p105).
Hoyle comes to the rescue with his theory that life on earth is seeded from space, something that is back in the news as I write. Panspermia arguments here
He postulated that there are comet-bound viruses out there and that they are an almost unlimited source of genetic material. It transpires that the said viruses are not only infectious, but can also pass on their genetics to the infected host causing permanent change. It would seem that we have a candidate to bolster an evolutionary theory – but not Darwin’s version? This would answer many problems that are the target of detractors. For example: there are gaps in the fossil record and it has been suggested that contrary to the smooth transit from simple to complex entity (re: Dawinian theory), the evolutionary process moves in fits and starts; (the punctuated equilibria theory of Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould 3. (The cometary hypothesis would seem like the ideal candidate.)
Not so fast! Remember that evolution is based on mutation and would crumble without it, not to mention the loss of prestige… all of the 150 year-old textbooks would need to be changed.
As someone who has absolutely no religious affiliations I find it daunting to be classified as a creationist just because I don’t treat evolution with the religious fervour of some. But the truth of the matter is, that some of the creationists do a good job of debunking in their own right – they do their homework rather than shouting-down others, hand-waving or attempting to destroy the computers of those who have alternate opinions.
A creationist web site called Pathlights has recorded a remarkable series of meetings that took place from 1966 to 1985 under their heading of “Wistar destroys Evolution”. See also my own page on the subject here
At these meetings were recorded and catalogued over 4,000 statements from well known and accredited scientists of which only 164 are known to have creationist leanings. (recall the Wiki quote at the start) The following are extracts and give an idea of the atmosphere:
Newsweek for November 3, 1980, carried an article on the Chicago meeting: The large majority of evolutionists at the conference agreed that the neo-darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection could no longer be regarded by professionals as scientifically valid or tenable. Neither the origin nor the diversity of living creatures could be explained by evolutionary theory.
Of the scientists attending that meeting, some in desperation decided that the only solution was to join *Gould and *Stanley 4 in viewing hopeful monsters as the means by which species change occurred! To coin a phrase that might be worthy of Shakespeare: “Ah, desperation, thou hast made men mad.”
“[Evolution] is undergoing its broadest and deepest revolution in nearly 50 years . . Exactly how evolution happened is now a matter of great controversy among biologists. . No clear resolution of the controversies was in sight [at the meeting].”—*Boyce Rensberger, “Macroevolution Theory Stirs Hottest Debate Since Darwin,” in The Riverside (California) Enterprise, p. E9; *Roger Lewin, and “Evolutionary Theory under Fire,” Science, November 21, 1980, pp. 883-887.
The most amazing statement was: “It was decided that no record would be kept of the sessions, in order not to give ammunition to the creationists. The rapid accumulation of evidence against evolutionary theory had brought a crisis of such proportions that most of those in attendance decided to repudiate a cardinal darwinian doctrine; they agreed that small changes from generation to generation within a species could never accumulate to produce a new species”
. “An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists, argue that darwinian evolutionary theory is no genuine scientific theory at all. . Many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials.”—*Michael Ruse, “Darwin’s Theory: An Exercise in Science,” in New Scientist, June 25, 1981, p. 828.
Commenting on the crisis that had come to the evolutionary camp, *Niles Eldredge, head of the Department of Palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History, later wrote this: “The doubt that has infiltrated the previously smug confident certitude of evolutionary biology’s last twenty years has inflamed passions . . There has been a total lack of agreement even within the warring camps . . Things are really in an uproar these days. . Sometimes it seems as though there are as many variations on each [evolutionary] theme as there are individual biologists.”—*Niles Eldredge, “Evolutionary Housecleaning,” in Natural History, February 1982, pp. 78, 81.
And so the controversy continues. The mystery is why it does so. The potential damage to a biological science that is based on a likely flawed evolutionary theory that insists that it is fact and not theory is large. The question that springs to mind: Has all this made any difference?
Weeell, in the time that has passed since then it has ALL been forgotten. There seems to be something chiselled in stone in some hall of academe that says science will collapse without darwinian evolution. My suspicion is that it is a test for students: ‘If they believe all this, then they will believe everything we say’ – and so it stays – it’s about scientific insecurity, politics. Not about science per se, but the monster political machine that science has become.. It’s about biologist’s jobs… and some of them were about to become redundant – lose their funding grant for refusing to teach mythology.
I personally think there is an answer to all this and I’m surprised that no one else has thought of it: It is to remove that which offends both sides of the argument. Remove both Darwin and religion from the concept of a creation that cannot be denied and we would have a science that agrees with the main points of both sides? There is obviously a mechanism that brought life to its present ubiquity, but neo-darwinism is not the cause and the biosphere is not the effect of Darwin’s evolution.
Fred Hoyle, a biologist who became an astronomer and who we encountered above had this to say: “Because the old believers said that God came out of the sky, thereby connecting the Earth with events outside it, the new believers were obliged to say the opposite and to do so, as always, with intense conviction. Although the new believers had not a particle of evidence to support their statements on the matter, they asserted that the rabbit producing sludge (called soup to make it sound more palatable) was terrestrially located and that all chemical and biochemical transmogrifications of the sludge were terrestrially inspired. Because there was not a particle of evidence to support this view, new believers had to swallow it as an article of faith, otherwise they could not pass their examinations or secure a job or avoid the ridicule of their colleagues. So it came about from 1860 onward that new believers became in a sense mentally ill, or, more precisely, either you became mentally ill or you quitted the subject of biology, as I had done in my early teens. The trouble for young biologists was that, with everyone around them ill, it became impossible for them to think they were well unless they were ill, which again is a situation you can read all about in the columns of Nature.” (Hoyle F., 1999, pp3-4).
If you don’t believe that evolutionists are mad then spend a few days on the Talk.Origins forum:
1 The word “Creationist” is used as a blanket description by Darwinists and is applied to all dissenters. If you don’t go along with neo-darwinian evolution you are a religious crank even if you are an atheist.
2 Abiogenesis is spontaneous generation of life from non-living (inorganic) matter and biogenesis is life originating only from living matter. Neither is proven in any genuine scientific sense.
3 It has been argued that this idea is an observation rather than a testable theory, and that the observation is of eroded strata and is what is expected, but this seems to be a circular argument. Notwithstanding, this is what is observed. Also called “hopeful monsters”.
4 The article explains that an asterisk ( * ) next to a name, indicates that person is not known to be a creationist and it is implied that he has no axe to grind other than scientific.
I will give the complete list of references when I find them.