Darwinists Deny the Obvious


by Mark Hartwig

The Hemet Unified School District in Southern California doesn't teach creationism. It teaches Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. And that's got some people up in arms.

But it's not the creationists who are upset. It's the Darwinists.

Why? Because Hemet wants to teach evolution as science, presenting evidence both for and against it. The school board mandated that the teaching of evolution include not only a "forceful presentation of well-established scientific data and conclusions," but also a "candid scientific discussion of anomalous scientific data, and unsolved problems and unanswered questions."

To many Darwinists, that's heresy. Testifying before the Hemet school board, University of California-Berkeley paleontologist Kevin Padian, president of the National Center for Science Education and co-author of California's science education guidelines, said, "If I can say just one thing about the teaching of evidence against evolution, there's a big secret: There is no evidence against evolution."

Surprised? You should be. Not by the secret, but by the audacity of Padian's claim. Indeed, the evidence against evolution is probably stronger than ever. But unlike students in Hemet, most kids will never hear this evidence. Here's a quick primer on Darwinism and its woes:

Darwinism 101

The essence of Darwin's theory is that all life can be traced to a single ancestor through purely natural means. The plants, animals and other organisms that surround us are products of random mutation and natural selection -- or "survival of the fittest."

According to Darwin, nature acts like a breeder, scrutinizing every organism. When useful new traits appear, they are preserved and passed on to succeeding generations, while harmful traits are eliminated. Over time, these small changes accumulate until organisms develop new limbs, organs or other parts. Eventually, organisms may change so drastically that they bear no resemblance to their original ancestor.

All this happens, of course, with no purposeful input. Chance and nature run the whole show.

The Fossil Evidence

For decades, students have been taught that the fossil evidence buttresses Darwin's theory. Far from being a bulwark of support, however, it's always been a problem that Darwin and his followers have had to explain away.

According to Darwinism, the fossil evidence should show plenty of gradual changes. In theory, it should be hard to tell where one species ends and another begins. But that's not what the evidence shows.

Darwin himself acknowledged the problems. In his 1859 book, The Origin of Species, he noted:

"The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [should] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory."(1)

Despite scientific advances since Darwin's day, for evolutionsists the situation has not improved. If anything, it's gotten worse. As the distinguished paleontologist David Raup pointed out in 1979:

"We are now about 120 years after Darwin and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded.... Ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information."(2)

Two features of the fossil evidence refuse to go away: sudden appearance and stasis. Sudden appearance refers to the fact that most fossil species did not develop by the gradual transformation of their ancestors; rather they appeared all at once, fully formed. Stasis, meanwhile, refers to the fact that most fossil species change very little throughout their appearance in the fossil record.

The discrepancy between these two observations and Darwinism comes to a head with the Cambrian Explosion, which paleontologists claim took place about 540 million years ago. In a flash of geological time, perhaps 5 to 10 million years, almost every animal phylum seemed to pop into existence from nowhere, they say.

The word explosion aptly describes what paleontologists say happened. In the language of zoology, a phylum (phyla for plural) is the broadest category of animals that exist. As opposed to a single species -- like a cheetah, a cardinal, or a Mediterranean fruit fly -- a phylum encompasses a vast array of creatures.

The phylum that contains humans, for example, also contains newts, gerbils, hippos, buzzards, and trout. It contains every animal with a backbone -- and then some.

The differences between phyla are even more extreme. For example, as much as humans differ from catfish, they differ even more radically from squid or slugs. In fact, organisms in different phyla are built according to entirely different architectural themes.

What paleontologists find in the Cambrian Explosion, therefore, is not the appearance of a few new animals, but the appearance of animals so utterly distinct that they belong to separate phyla. Stranger yet, according to evolutionist chronologies, this biological "Big Bang" is followed by another half billion years in which almost no new phyla appear.

This is poles apart from what Darwin would have predicted. In Darwin's scheme, new phyla are produced as species become more dissimilar. As species split off from each other, they gradually become so dissimilar as to constitute new genera, families, orders, classes and phyla -- the progressively inclusive categories of living beings. Instead, the whole picture seems to contradict Darwin's plan directly.

Darwin blames his fossil woes on the fact that there are so many gaps in the anticipated fossil discoveries. Many of his followers do, too. And there may be many such gaps. But it raises the question: If it weren't for Darwinism, how much reason would there be to doubt the adequacy of the fossil record?

At any rate, Darwinists can hardly argue that the fossil evidence is a bulwark of support for Darwinism.

Irreducible Complexity

An even greater challenge to Darwinism comes from recent advances in biochemistry.

In The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote:

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case."(3)

In Darwin's time, however, no one appreciated the excruciating complexity of living things. Cells, for example, were thought to be little more than tiny blobs of gel. But electron microscopes and advanced research techniques have revealed a level of complexity in even the humblest bacterium that makes a microprocessor or compact disk player seem primitive.

Biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, points out that "the simplest self-replicating cell has the capacity to produce thousands of different proteins and other molecules, at different times and under variable conditions. Synthesis, repair, communication -- all of these functions take place in virtually every cell."

What's more, Behe said, many systems in the cell are irreducibly complex.

"An irreducibly complex system," Behe said, "is one that requires several interacting parts to function, where if you remove or destroy one of the parts, then the function is also destroyed."

An everyday example is a mousetrap. A mousetrap has five parts: a platform, holding bar, hammer, catch, and spring. When assembled there's no gradual improvement of function. It doesn't work until every part is in place.

The same thing is true inside a living cell. Many of its systems just won't work unless every part is there. One such system is that which moves proteins from one part of the cell to another.

Proteins don't just float around freely inside of cells, Behe said.

"It turns out that eucaryotic cells [cells that make up most living things] have a number of different compartments, like rooms in a house. When a protein is made it has to get from the compartment where it's made to the compartment where it's supposed to be."

Consider what's involved in simply moving a protein through a compartment wall. Cells have two fundamentally different ways of doing this: gated transport and vesicular transport.(4)

In gated transport, the compartment wall is equipped with a "gate" and a chemical "sensor." If a protein bearing the right "identification tag" approaches, the sensor opens the gate and allows the protein to pass through. If one with the wrong tag approaches, the gate stays shut.

Note the irreducible complexity in even this simple example. All three components -- the gate, the sensor, and the tag -- must be in place. There's no way to produce the system in a gradual, Darwinian fashion.

If the tag is missing, the gate won't open. The same is true if there's no sensor, or if there's just a solid wall. And if there's a hole where the gate should be, proteins will pass through haphazardly.

Vesicular transport is even more complicated. As with gated transport, the compartment wall is equipped with sensors. In this case, however, there's no gate. Instead, when a protein bearing the right identification tag comes along, the wall grabs it and then bulges outward, pinching off into a little "bubble" (vesicle) with the protein inside.

The vesicle, which has it's own identification tag, travels to its destination -- another compartment. There, a sensor on the compartment recognizes the vesicle and lets it merge with the compartment, spilling the protein inside.

Here we have two sensors, two identification tags and the vesicle. The vesicle itself is a complex object made of fats and special proteins that allow it to bud off from the original compartment. And that's not to mention the other proteins that help it merge with the destination compartment.

Furthermore, this complexity is not limited to cell transport. In his forthcoming book, Behe discusses several other examples, including blood clotting, the chemistry of vision, the immune system, and the structure of cilia -- little hairlike contraptions that some cells use as oars.

In the face of irreducible complexity, Darwinism falls mute. Because there is no simpler level to which they can appeal, Darwinists can't explain how these systems arose.

"If you look in the professional science literature about how such systems arose, it turns out that nobody has published anything," Behe told Citizen. "Scientists simply assumed that it happened through evolution. But if you try to call them on it they can't produce anything. They just kind of wave their hands."

Evidence? What Evidence?

Many Darwinists, of course, are unfazed by the evidence against evolution. Like paleontologist Kevin Padian, who is fully aware of the Cambrian Explosion, they persist in saying that there is no evidence refuting their position.

According to Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, a critic of Darwinism and the author of Darwin on Trial, this denial is not surprising, given Darwinists' philosophical commitments.

"The heart and soul of Darwinism is its unquestioning allegiance to naturalism," Johnson told Citizen. "To a Darwinist, nature is all there is.

"If God exists at all, He's more of an onlooker than a creator. That being the case, Darwinism must be true, because nothing else works. God is out of the picture, and the other naturalistic theories are even worse than Darwinism."

Thus, in the minds of Darwinists, there's no such thing as evidence against Darwinism -- only minor problems that science will eventually solve.

"Obviously we can't expose children to this evidence, because they might be confused and think that there really is evidence against Darwinists," Johnson said wryly. "That's how the reasoning goes."

In addition, Darwinists often muddy the water in public debate by using varying defintions of the word "evolution." According to John Wiester, chairman of the American Scientific Affiliation's Science Education Commission, Darwinists use the word "evolution" in many different ways.

"Sometimes it simply means 'change over time,' " Wiester said. "Other times it refers to minor changes, like changes in the size and shape of bird beaks, or the color of moths."

Still other times, Wiester said, it refers to the grand Darwinian view that the living world is a product of natural forces and chance. And they could be using any one of these definitions when discussing evolution.

"Just when you think you've nailed them with the evidence, they shift ground and say, 'Oh, I was only talking about change over time' or something like that. Then when the heat is off, they go right back to talking about Darwinism. It's a shell game. You have to make them define their terms up front," Wiester said.

Darwinists think their theory is an indisputable fact. They'd like everyone else to think that, too. But it's not a fact, and students should have a chance to weigh the evidence for themselves -- all the evidence. []

Endnotes:

  1. Darwin, C. (1979). The Origin of Species. (Reprint of first edition.) New York: Avenel Books, p. 292.
  2. Raup, D. (1979). "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 50, no.1, p.25.
  3. Darwin, C., p. 219.
  4. There are three different ways a protein can cross a compartment wall. The third way is called transmembrane transport. For the purposes of this article, however, it can be considered a form of gated transport.

Mark Hartwig, Ph.D., former associate editor of Citizen, is managing editor for the Dallas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics. Hartwig's e-mail address is mhartwig@rmii.com.

"Darwinists Deny the Obvious" appeared in Focus on the Family Citizen magazine.

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