Author: Joshua Thompson Publisher: A Creationist's Response to Shawn Tyler Publication date: 1996
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Philosophies of Life
Should evolution be taught as fact in public schools, especially high schools? This is a question under heavy debate between Darwinian scientists and creation scientists, as well as parents and teachers. Currently it is common practice to present evolution as fact and creation as an alternative form of belief grounded in myth. Questions about evolution are often discouraged. However one must not be complacent and allow their questions to go unanswered, or to let others answer the question of how their children will be taught. One must do research and study the supporting evidence, or lack of, for both sides of the argument. The following is a brief look at the two theories, using a more liberal and generally view of creation, and the mainstream evolutionary theory, and examination of the supporting evidence, or lack of supporting evidence, for both sides of the argument.
Creation and evolutionary theories differ from the very start with the theories both propagate to explain the origins of the universe. Of course nearly everybody living in the Western society has heard of the Genesis story of how the universe and time began. As the book of Genesis puts it beginning with verse one of chapter one: When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was at first a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors. Then God said, 'Let there be light.' And God was pleased with it, and divided the light from the darkness. So he let it shine for awhile, and then there was darkness again. He called the light 'daytime,' and the darkness 'nighttime.' Together they formed the first day. (1, v. 1-5) And so the account continues on through the creation of the sky and the heavens, the oceans and the land, the plants, the stars, sealife, animals of the land, and finally mankind. The account of the creation of the universe ends with God taking the seventh day to rest.
Many evolutionists think that creationists believe that the universe and everything contained therein was created in a period of just six days. It is generally believed however that the "days" are meant to represent ages, or large periods of time. Obviously, people of the time of the Genesis account's authorship could not comprehend amazingly large spans of time, so the author had to condense it into terms people could understand.
Evolution also has its own theory as to how the universe came into being. Popularly known as the "Big Bang," evolutionary scientists believe that the universe was once the size of a single period, and a force known as inflationary universe caused the universe to expand. The origins of this force are not yet known and the theory goes in the face of science because supposedly energy can neither be created or destroyed, Of course the creation version has its own flaws, namely that it goes against the laws of science in that it is a divine, rather than a naturalistic way of explaining the origins of the universe.
Next we come to the origin of life. The preceding biblical quote explains the creationist's standpoint, but more information is needed to understand the evolutionist's view. Here we come to the different kinds of evolution: microevolution and macroevolution. According to David Lane, a professor at Mt. San Antonio College, "Microevolution is ... evolution within a species, and macroevolution would simply be the evolution into another species." A third type of evolution exists, known as saltations, that involves extreme single generation mutations, the existence of which is highly debated among scientists today. For now, however, saltations will not be included in our study, but will be brought up at a future point.
Microevolution is the change within a particular species, such as occured with a species of moth in England. During the Industrial Revolution in England, the ash that filled the air also covered the trees. In order to protect themselves from attacks from predators, some moths evolved, turning from white to gray, and therefore blending in with their surroundings. Microevolution is highly documented and is one of the few points on which evolutionists and creationists agree.
Macroevolution is a different story, however. This is where Darwinian scientists and creation scientists depart company. There is not much evidence to suggest that macroevolution is the cause for life on this planet. Most of the research done on macroevolution rests solely in theory and this faith in theory is precisely what the debate over the teaching of evolution as fact centers on. Let us look at the different ways in which theory is used to reconcile the differences between what evolution says should happen and what actually occurs.
A very large problem that evolutionary theory has to overcome is the fossil problem. In macroevolution a long chain of evolutions should lead to the species that exist today. And this chain of transitional forms should be able to be seen in the fossil record. But this is not the case, and paleontologists have known this to be true for the last forty years. Instead, what the fossil record does show is that species appear fully formed, with very few, if any, hints of transitional forms. If there are transitional forms, this is the exception, not the rule. To clarify, an example of a transitional form should be looked at. In this case, the Archaeopteryx will do. The Archaeopteryx is an ancient bird with some reptilian features, and is believed to be an ancestor of modern birds. Because birds lead a way of life that naturally makes fossilization difficult, one should expect that if there is a transitional form of avians, there should be at least some transitional forms of species that lived a life more conducive to fossilization. But, as stated earlier, this is not the case.
Several theories have been put forth to explain away the absence of intermediate forms within the fossil record. Some are plausible, others not so plausible. One theory, made up by Stephen Jay Gould is the concept of punctuated equilibrium, meaning that in a large interbreeding population, gene flow hinders evolution. For a better explanation, Philip E, Johnson explains punctuated equilibrium much better in his book "Darwin on Trial": What this means is simply that the effect of favorable mutations is diluted by the sheer bulk of the population through which they must spread. This factor explains why species seem so unchanging in the fossil record: the population as a whole is not changing. The important evolutionary change occurs only among the peripheral isolates, who rejoin the stable ancestral population "suddenly" after forming a new species. (52)
This may sound unbelievable, and to many it is. Most evolutionary biologists do not take Gould's theory seriously, and scientist Douglas Futuyma has said "few if any"examples have been recorded of an ancestral form surviving in the same region as a modified form.
Another theory for the absence of transitional forms is the rarity of good fossils in the first place. Due to the millions of years and the conditions needed for fossilization to occur, it is extremely difficult to find good fossils. This theory has more credibility than punctuated equilibrium because it can be seen by the present circumstances.
Another argument against evolution comes from the time line. Even from an evolutionist's time line, there is not enough time for species to evolve to their current state. It is estimated that the bat and the whale evolved from a common ancestor with a period of only ten million years in which to do so. Johnson quotes scientist Steven Stanley: Let us suppose that we wish, hypothetically to form a bat or a whale. .. by a process of gradual transformation of established species. If an average chronospecies lasts nearly a million years, or even longer, and we have at our disposal only ten million years, then we have only ten or fifteen chronospecies to align, end-to-end, to form a continuous lineage connecting our primitive little mammal with a bat or a whale. This is clearly preposterous. Chronospecies, by definition, grade into each other, and encompass very little change.. . (51) In short, what Stanley is saying is that there is not enough time for the whale or the bat to evolve from their common ancestor. The chain of ten or fifteen chronospecies may form a new species, but certainly not a whale or a bat.
To counter this argument many scientists have developed computer programs showing how evolution wass not only possible, but inevitably occured, leading to the present results. Richard Dawkins, one of the preeminent evolutionary scientists recalls a program done by a pair of Swedish scientists, Dan Nilsson and Susanne Pelger in his book "River Out of Eden," in which Nilsson and Pelger showed how the eye evolved, by a series of one mutation for every generation. This also helped to quiet another argument used by creationists, that the eye could not evolve because natural selection relies on each mutation being beneficial, and every organ of the eye would need to be operational otherwise the trait would not be passed on. Nilsson and Pelger's program also showed that each mutation would be an improvement and that the eye would work properly. And to answer the question as to how long it would take for the eye to evolve, Dawkins says: ... the time taken to evolve a fish eye from flat skin was miniscule: fewer than four hundred thousand generations. For the kinds of small animals we are talking about, we can assume one generation per year, so it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye. (82-83) Dawkins' argument can sound very convincing, and indeed, upon first glance it is. But it should be noted that such computer programs are not trusted by the general scientific community they are often based on complex and abstract mathematics.
As stated before, the evolution of complex organs such as the eye or the wing are heavily debated. Another theory exists though. Whereas natural selection relies on each subsequent generation being an improvement on the preceding one, no matter how slight the improvement is, sexual selection merely relies on mutations being good enough. Two examples can be found easily in nature. The first is the panda's thumb, which is very much underdeveloped when compared to the human thumb. According to sexual selection, the thumb does not need to be improved upon if it is good enough for the panda gene pool to survive, and indeed it is. Another example is the peacock's tail feathers. While very attractive to the human eye, it makes the peacock an easy target for predators by drawing attention to the peacock and by slowing the peacock down while trying to make its escape. But, the peacock's tail is also beneficial because it attracts female peacocks, ensuring that its gene pool will be passed on.
Another way to solve the dilemma of the eye is saltations. An extreme, if not absurd, example of a saltation would be the hatching of a duckling from a snake egg. What a saltation amounts to is a miracle, a despicable and unacceptable event to Darwinists. Darwin once said that if saltations were ever proven, it would destroy his theory. Saltations are under heavy debate among members of the scientific community, and many members refuse to acknowledge the possibility of their occurrence.
Finally, one of the biggest obstacles for evolutionary theory is experimental evidence. By far, this poses the most danger to the theories of macroevolution. Punctuated equilibrium, and computer programs of the development of the eye may sound convincing, but until they can be proven in the lab, most scientists wil not endorse these theories. One of the most famous lab experiments in support of the theory of evolution was the 1950's experiment done by then graduate student at the University of Chicago, Stanley Miller. By sending a spark through a mixture of gases thought to simulate the atmosphere of early earth, Miller obtained small amounts of two amino acids. This experiment partially validated a theory proposed by two scientists, Alexander Oparin and J.. B. S. Haldane, which said that the early earth's had a "reducing" atmosphere made up of methane, hydrogen, and ammonia. Next, into this atmosphere entered various forms of energy, such as electric sparks, forming the essential elements of life. Finally, the compounds accumulated into the early oceans made up of hot dilute soup, or prebiotic soup, as it is more commonly known. Geochemists have now shown that the early earth's atmosphere was not of the strongly reducing nature as Miller believed it to be. Johnson says: Even under ideal and probably unrealistic conditions, the experiments failed to produce some of the necessary chemical components of life. Perhaps the most discouraging criticism has come from chemists, who have spoiled the prebiotic soup by showing that organic compounds produced on the early earth would be subject to chemical reactions making them unsuitable for constructing life. (105) It is likely that the prebiotic soup never existed, and without it there is no reason to believe that the induction of an electric shock into a reducing atmosphere would produce small amounts of amino acids, or would have anything to do with the origin of life. Now we have come full circle, finally arriving at the question we asked from the start: should evolution be taught in high school as fact? Because microevolution is undoubtedly a real phenomenon, a better question should probably read: should macroevolution be taught as fact? There are three answers to this question. The Darwinists' answer is summed up best in /l Montagu's book "Science and Creationism." As Montagu puts it, "evolution is a fact, not a theory." The creationists' response would obviously be "no." But there is a middle ground. As Lane puts it: "Do I think that macroevolution should be taught, clearly so. But, does that mean that I should teach it as a dogma, and the answer is no." Clearly, evolution is the best naturalistic way of explaining life and the origins of the universe, but evidence is steadily mounting against it, and the theory is becoming on a par with creationism in that it appears to be more a philosophy of life than fact. But since science depends on naturalistic ways of explaining the universe, then it should be taught, but only as a possibility. Because, a school of study that prides itself as regarding nothing as infallible, should not regard anything as fact.
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