EVOLUTION PAGE OF WAS DARWIN RIGHT?
Introduction Current theory of evolution Darwin's theory of natural selection Theory of ecology into theory of origins Darwinism in crisis Neo Darwinism Conclusions Suggested reading and videos
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Introduction. The famous Harvard palaeontologist George Gayford Simpson summarized the result of evolution as "man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind". This phrase neatly sums up the process of evolution as taught in most Schools and Universities across the World.
Although Darwin is generally thought of as the originator of a theory of evolution that has become the backbone of today's theory, many such theories existed before Darwin's time (Green, Stout and Taylor, 1990). In fact, Thales of Miletus (640 to 546 B.C) over 2000 years ago proposed that water developed into other elements and these elements developed into plants, then into simple animals and finally into more complex animals like man (Thompson, 1981).
Since that time evolutionary concepts were handed down through Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristostotle (Sunderland, 1998). Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin assembled a surprisingly modern list of arguments in favour of evolution, although Charles Darwin does not give his grandfather recognition in his own work (Sunderland, 1998). See also at this site "evolution of evolution".
Current beliefs in evolution are built up on data from a range of sources (Green, Stout and Taylor, 1990) such as comparative embryology or embryonic recapitulation, fossil evidence, the order of fossils in the geological column, homology in anatomical structures, proteins and DNA sequences, knowledge of mutations in DNA etc.
However, those who believe in Creation may argue that some of these factors merely point to intelligent design and comparative embryology or embryonic recapitulation has been widely discredited. To top
Current theory of evolution. The following account of evolution is taken from the book “Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals” by Dr Michael Benton.
According to the Theory of evolution, life begins in the early seas also know as the primordial broth. This spontaneous appearance of complex living cells is also know as Abiogenesis.
This ongoing process, according to the theory of evolution, has led to all life as we know it on our planet, including species that are now extinct, and this view is supported by the interpretation commonly given to the fossils in the geological column.
This whole process according to the theory of evolution has involved the selection of favourable characteristics (natural selection) and mutation is generally considered the way in which new gene sequences give rise to new characteristics. To top
Darwin's theory of natural selection. Darwin and Wallace proposed that natural selection was the mechanism that behind how new species arise from pre-existing species (Green, Stout and Taylor, 1990). This hypothesis / theory is based on three observations and two deductions which may be summarised as follows:-
The remainder of this page is taken with kind permission from the Biblical Creation Society website and an article entitled "Darwinism and Neodarwinism in evolutionary change", by David J. Tyler and Arthur J. Jones (1992).
Observation 1: Offspring outnumber parents. Sometimes this is marginally the case - as when a pair of birds raise just one chick per year - but after three years, the observation becomes true. Many more animals produce large numbers of offspring - consider, for example, the number of caterpillars coming from a cabbage white butterfly, or reflect on the population of tadpoles appearing in the local pond.
Observation 2: Species numbers remain approximately constant. There are good years and bad years for all the animals we know - but we are not being overrun by robins or cabbage white butterflies or frogs. These observations lead to an:
Deduction: Observations 1 and 2 suggest that there is a struggle for survival. Some offspring die without descendants of their own. There are losers in the game of life.
Observation 3: Individuals differ in small ways, and many of these differences are inherited from parents. The observation applies to people, as we can confirm by looking at parents and children known to us. In fact, it applies to all organisms - wherever we can look closely enough.
Conclusion: Those individuals whose variations adapt them to their environment will be the most likely to survive and reproduce. This conclusion is commonly described as the principle of natural selection. To top
Evolution or Ecology. The above proposal of natural selection is non-controversial and not particularly complex to understand. Only after this point in the argument comes a divergence of view: some think that the above analysis is a theory of origins, whereas others consider it a theory of ecology. Darwinists take the former view, asserting that we have here a sufficient explanation of the origin of all biological species. Non-Darwinists, including creationists, are not convinced. They argue that crucial evidences relevant to any theory of origins are totally lacking.
The points made so far can all be illustrated by reference to one of the classic examples of natural selection: the Peppered Moth. Like all moths, this particular species lays numerous eggs which develop into large numbers of caterpillars (observation 1). Over the years, the Peppered Moth has maintained its population level reasonably well (observation 2) which implies that predation and death are important factors affecting overall numbers. The Moth has a variable appearance and exists in three forms: dark-coloured, light and speckled. These differences are inherited from parents (observation 3). The conclusion, that `those individuals whose variations adapt them to their environment will be the most likely to survive and reproduce' , has been tested by observations of predation. In environments where dark surfaces predominated, the light-coloured moths were found more easily by birds and eaten. In such cases, the population came to be dominated by the dark form. This was natural selection in action. Conversely, in environments where there was a dominance of light surfaces, the light form was more numerous. Changes in the environment over time, due to the effects of industrial pollution, resulted in changes in the relative numbers of light and dark forms.
The conclusion is interpreted in different ways: Darwinists hail the Peppered Moth as an important example of evolution by natural selection; non-Darwinists accept that natural selection of an inherited characteristic is occurring, but resist the thought that this has any bearing on the origin or ancestry of the Peppered Moth. The non-Darwinian argues that adaptation potential is a necessary component of any theory of ecology, where populations respond in some way to their environment. Why is this part of a theory of ecology? It is related to the fact that the environment continually changes. If organisms are to be robust, with some powers of endurance through the generations, there must be some `oscillation potential' . This is exactly what we see in the Peppered Moth (Tyler D. and Jones A., 1992). To top
Theory of ecology into theory of origins. What more is needed to make a theory of ecology into a theory of origins? Three assumptions are required, and it is vitally important for science that the assumptions be recognised and subjected to investigation.
Appropriate variations constantly arise, introducing fresh information to the genetic composition of organisms. Observable variations which do not affect genetic information are not appropriate for evolutionary theory.
There is no limit to the succession of variations that can occur, so that major evolutionary transformations are possible.
Natural selection is the mechanism for preserving novel adaptive variations. Predation removes information represented by prey; extinction erases genetic information permanently; and reproduction transmits information to the next generation. The assumption is that selective forces act to preserve new information in survivors.
Assumptions 1 and 2 relate to the character of the variations that occur, allowing the possibility for new information to be introduced to an organism, and assumption 3 is concerned with the preservation of that new information.
These assumptions are necessary to convert the non-Darwinian theory of ecology into a Darwinian theory of origins. Consequently, only evidence for these assumptions can count as evidence for evolution. This requirement for proof is one that must be addressed by Darwinists if they are to persist in describing their theory as a scientific approach to the study of origins. (Tyler D. and Jones A., 1992). To top
Darwinism in crisis. Darwinism went through a crisis in the early part of the Twentieth Century, because the science of genetics was developing, and it appeared to explain away most, if not all, of Darwin's evidences of variation. Observed variations due to artificial selection, such as in dogs or pigeons, are irrelevant to evolutionary change, as no new information is introduced and the range of variation is limited. The three assumptions appeared to be groundless. Some biologists abandoned Darwinism and embarked on a quest for alternative explanations (Tyler D. and Jones A., 1992). To top
Neo Darwinism. In the 1930s, leading geneticists found a way of preserving the theory of evolution by natural selection. They discovered that a variety of errors occurred in the copying of genetic information during reproduction. These errors are known as mutations. The 3 assumptions were revived: the blending of Darwinism with genetics became known as neo-Darwinism. It is our task to enquire whether these assumptions can now be regarded as proved (Tyler D. and Jones A., 1992)..
Enormous effort has been devoted to researching this area, partly to elucidate the mechanisms of evolution, and partly to explore the potential for speeding up evolutionary change to breed plants and animals with characteristics suitable for commercial exploitation. As a result, we know a great deal about different types of mutation, and the changes they bring to organisms.
Very little attention has been given to the three Darwinistic assumptions! In most cases, they have been assumed as part of the framework of knowledge of the researcher. Consequently, very little testing of the theory has taken place. Although this may seem surprising to those outside science, it is actually a very common phenomenon. Much scientific research takes place in the context of particular presuppositions, and it is rare for the foundations to be tested in formal ways.
Nevertheless, it is possible to make some assessment of the assumptions of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. The key word in Assumption 1 is `appropriate' . The implication is that some mutations will be beneficial to the organism. Unfortunately for the theory, this is not confirmed. The list of harmful mutations is long; the list of beneficial mutations is short - and questionable! In human beings, known mutations are all harmful. One case - that of sickle cell anaemia - provides some protection against malaria. However, apart from that one asset, the condition is not recommended. Sickle cell anaemia represents an assault on the way blood cells work. There is one beneficial effect, but this is counteracted by harm done to the human physiology system. A vivid demonstration of this claim has come from observations of humans (with sickle cell anaemia) operating under extreme conditions, where some have been known to collapse and die. All examples of supposedly `beneficial mutations' fit the general pattern: the trend is downward. Organisms experience the process of `death by instalment' . Our conclusion is this: the first Darwinistic assumption is retained, not by scientific evidence, but by appealing to chance over extended periods of time - `given long enough, favourable mutations must occur' .
The second assumption: that `there is no limit to the succession of variations that can occur', is similarly safeguarded only by an appeal to theory and long periods of time. No scientific investigation has ever confirmed the assumption, and all the substantial evidence suggests the contrary. One reason is that all organs of animals and plants are extraordinarily complex, and are composed of many interrelated elements. Whether we think of the eye, the ear, the nose, or any part of the body - a few mutations can be allowed, but too many leads to the complete loss of function. The mysterious complexity of living things is an indicator that unlimited variation is not possible.
We come to assumption 3: `natural selection is the mechanism for preserving novel adaptive variations' . There is no doubt that natural selection can be understood as a force in ecology: moulding organisms according to their innate potential for variation. It can lead to the emergence of new species. The problem for neo-Darwinists is that not a single case can be identified where new genetic information has been demonstrably preserved by natural selection. All the examples are of oscillation, with no loss or gain of information.
You may have been impressed by seeing computer models of evolutionary variations - but they are all committed to these assumptions. It is relatively easy to create a theoretical world which evolves according to the rules and assumptions of neo-Darwinism. The key question is: does this theoretical world adequately represent the real world? The only way to find out is to subject the theory to scientific investigation - and the evidence shows grave mismatches between this theory and reality. (Tyler D. and Jones A., 1992). To top
Conclusions. So where does this discussion leave us? The dominant explanation of origins rests, not on a scientific foundation, but on philosophical and metaphysical presuppositions. What about the scientific evidences? Those that relate to the observed variations in living things are consistent with the teaching of the Bible: that God created all the different kinds of living thing, and that they reproduce after their own kind. A good foundation for the science of biology is to be found here. The concept of a created kind maintains the existence of discontinuities between the life-forms that emerged from the hand of God, and at the same time allows for limited variation. The concept of a created kind leads to the recognition of intelligent design in the way organisms are made. A creationist biology will develop tools - which are sadly lacking from the repertoire of contemporary biologists - that assist in these studies of discontinuity and design. (Tyler D. and Jones A., 1992). To top
Suggested reading and videos
Books - These do not focus specifically on the contents of this page, but all will have some content of direct relevance to this page. All these books can be bought on-line.
Creation Facts Of Life, by Dr Gary Parker.
Darwinism And The Rise Of Degenerate Science, by Dr Paul Back.
Darwin's Black Box, by Professor Michael Behe..
Darwin's Enigma, by Luther Sunderland
Evolution, A Theory In Crisis, by Dr Michael Denton.
Evolution, The Fossils Still Say No, Dr Duane Gish..
Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution is Wrong, by Jonathan Wells
In six days, by fifty different scientists.
Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, by John Woodmorappe.
The Fossil Book (Wonders of Creation), by Gary Parker, Mary Parker.
The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed, by Antony Latham
Argument: Some mutations are beneficial
Beetle bloopers, even a defect can be an advantage sometimes
Insect leg development
Is Your Dog Some Kind of Degenerate Mutant?
Lost world of mutants discovered
Protein mutational context dependence: a challenge to neo-Darwinism theory
Speedy species surprise
The birds of the Galapagos
Variation within created kind
What biology textbooks never told you about evolution
Introduction: Overview of the Theory of Evolution
Agreements: Between Evolutionists and Creationists
The Anthropic Principle: Is the Earth Fine-Tuned for Life?
Chemical Evolution: Spontaneous generation; Stanley Miller Experiment
Evolution: Protein Molecules and "Simple" Cells
Evolution of the Bacterial Flagellum
Biological Evolution: Darwin's Finches
The Fossil Record: Intermediate Links
Archaeopteryx: A Feathered Reptile?
The Ape-Man: Missing Link
DNA: Human & Chimpanzee DNA
Scientific Foreknowledge in the Bible
Videos to buy
Origin of the races
The education debate
The World Of Living Fossils
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