Evolution Denial

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The correct title of this article is Responses to Evolution Denial. It appears incorrectly because of technical restrictions.
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Christians, Muslims and other sceptics should proceed with caution.
Evolution Denial is a wide variety of arguments that oppose evolution by natural selection. Upon Fraggle Rocker's recommendation[1], these arguments are no longer dignified by granting them any cachet of authenticity. Hence, they are no longer referred to as creationism or intelligent design. This is another example of an atheist takeover of academia and science.

Evolution is an atheist conspiracy to undermine religion

Actually only a small minority of religious people object to the teaching of evolution. The Catholic Church and virtually all mainline Protestant denominations embrace evolution and teach it unremarkably in their high schools and universities. The belief that the universe was created by a supernatural being is not inconsistent with the evidence that one of the ways that universe was designed to operate is via the mechanism of evolution.

Religious rejection of the theory of evolution falls into two categories.

1. The "young earth" model. Some strict fundamentalist Protestant Christians take the Bible as a factual account of history. In that model the earth sprang into existence approximately 6,000 years ago, with all species of animals and plants in their current form. But even this objection falls in the face of logic without challenging religious beliefs. If God had the power to do that, then it means he also created the lightwaves from the distant stars with all the characteristics of being in transit for as long as twelve billion years. He created concentrations of radioactive elements with a distribution of decayed atoms that perfectly matches a point millions or billions of years along their half-life curve rather than only 6,000 years. He created archeological evidence of our own species having existed in its modern form and even taking the first steps toward civilization more than 10,000 years ago. If he had the power to perform those feats and many others like them, then sprinkling the earth with fossils and crafting our DNA with tantalizing evidence of relationships between existing species and mutations from older species would have been child's play for him. To have given us this evidence to contradict the Biblical account of the Creation, giving us reason to doubt it, would have been nothing but a test of faith, something he often did in the Old Testament.

2. A confusion between evolution and abiogenesis. Even many Christians and other religious people who don't take the biblical creation account literally still believe that God created the first lifeforms. This belief, however, does not contradict evolution. The theory of evolution merely tells us that existing species are replaced by new ones. It says nothing about where the very first living matter came from. The hypothesis that living matter arose naturally out of non-living matter is called abiogenesis, and is not part of the theory of evolution. If a supernatural being created the very first lifeforms, and for the billions of years afterward they evolved in exact conformance with the scientific evidence, then the theory of evolution and the supernatural creation hypothesis are both true and there is no conflict.

It should be noted that while evolution is a canonical scientific theory, meaning it is accepted as true beyond a reasonable doubt, abiogenesis is only a hypothesis. The evidence for it is weak and our understanding of its underlying details is very incomplete. The only reason it is regarded by most scientists as a more compelling explanation than the biblical creation hypothesis is that the former has at least some proper scientific supporting evidence (i.e. evidence in accordance with the scientific method) while the latter has none.

Mutations are extremely rare - only certain areas of the genome can mutate.

Mutations are not extremely rare, and they happen all over. Certain areas of the genome are more effectively checked for mutations (and then fixed) than others, but no section of the genome if protected".[2].

Life is very complex! There no way that it could form by accident

Otherwise known as the "airplane formed by a tornado in a junkyard" argument. Chemistry is not random. Biology is not random. While evolution via natural selection currently suggests that random mutation in the genome are the source of variation, the driving forces behind selection are decidedly NOT random.[3][4][5][6]

The objection that life is too complex to have formed by accident is an illustration of the innumeracy that has been sweeping across America, accompanying and supporting a fashionable scientific illiteracy, since the late 1970s. Americans, most of whom can no longer make change for a dollar without a calculator, are hopelessly unable to deal with the conceptual issues raised by enormous numbers such as a timespan measured in billions of years. Even dogs can breed more frequently than once a year, so the 15,000 years that is generally accepted as the time period during which humans and dogs have lived together represents roughly 20,000 dog generations, plenty of time for mutations, genetic bottlenecks, selective and directed breeding to bring about striking changes in this subspecies of wolf.

Bacteria can reproduce more than once a day. A billion years is one trillion bacteria generations. Even for a scientist it's difficult to determine what scope of evolutionary change can be accomplished during that time without challenging the limits of the mechanism. For a layman, especially the average 21st-century American, it's impossible.

Proteins need DNA to form, DNA needs Proteins to form

This is not the genetic material you are looking for....[7]

Abiogenesis is untestable

Not quite. The claim here is misleading, suggesting that we need to be able to have 100% certainty in every idea for it to be useful science.[8]

Abiogenesis is not a critical component of the theory of evolution. If a "cosmic watchmaker" dumped the raw materials down here a few billion years ago, he included with them a program--the "watch"--that they followed in order to end up where we are today. That program is evolution. This is the reason that the leaders of all the major religions find no conflict between the science of evolution and the faith in divine creation. Their god created a universe that is sufficiently orderly and logical that we can make our way in it without having to stop every ten minutes and ask for divine inspiration in dealing with this or that anomalous natural phenomenon, and being gobbled up by it while waiting for said divine inspiration. The universe runs rather elegantly on a set of natural laws and evolution is one of the many corollaries of those laws. Somewhere there may be a universe built on Lobachevskian geometry where there is no gravity, no entropy and no lightspeed limitation, and that god had to design a different set of natural laws for his creatures. (Hey, I read fantasy and sci-fi too, I just don't try to pass it off as religion.)

Abiogenesis as a distinct hypothesis (it has not been tested sufficiently to be elevated to the status of a theory) is difficult to disprove. It awaits the corroboration of finding evidence of non-DNA based life having arisen on earth and either hiding in some deeply buried cracks or being out-competed to extinction. Or of finding that same evidence on another planet. As such it's a work in progress and has not achieved the status of evolution itself, relativity, heliocentrism or gravity.

Still, disprovability is only one element of the scientific method. Another is that extraordinary assertions require extraordinary substantiation. Which assertion is more extraordinary: abiogenesis, or the existence of creatures external to a universe that reveals itself to be more orderly with every generation of scientist, which violate all the rules of that universe? The theory of abiogenesis can safely be used as a working hypothesis while we await the exploration of our solar system and then the next one. The "theory" of supernatural creation requires extraordinary substantiation before we have any obligation to treat it with respect.

Microevolution has not been seen

Deniers argue that variation in populations is only the selection from a set of existing traits already in the population.

Speciation HAS been seen, frequently[9]. This is repeatedly shown to be inaccurate in lab experiments, the most obvious of which is bacterial cultures created from a single parent cell. Variation in that population is from a single starting chromosome.

Macroevolution has never been seen

Deniers arguethat variations can only occur within set limits

As to observing macroevolution on the human time scale- nor would we expect to, given the time frames involved. This does nothing to promote or discredit either side of the argument. Would you expect to see a new moon pop into existence from accumulated space debris within your lifetime?[10][11]. Variations in "kind":[12].

While empirical observation and experimentation are the preferred types of evidence to support scientific hypotheses, they are not the only acceptable types of evidence. The circumstantial evidence of macroevolution in the fossil record and in the DNA of living and fossilized species is prolific and consistent. Furthermore, there is absolutely no credible evidence against macroevolution, so it's not as though we have two sides arguing the issue. The only "evidence" against evolution is based in religion and is hopelessly flawed when peer-reviewed in accordance with the scientific method.

The evidence for evolution, while it does not fall into either of the preferred types, is still more than adequate to elevate it to the status of a canonical theory, one which is accepted as true beyond a reasonable doubt and becomes part of the scientific canon.

Like any scientific theory, evolution has not been and can never be proven true. Nonetheless the probability of it ever being proven false is accepted as small enough that it can be safely used as the basis for advancing science. Canonical theories are disproved so rarely that they do not bring the entire canon down.

Speciation has been seen, but the creation of a new genus has not

Deniers argue that speciation does not mean that macroevolution is possible. They are different.

They are? Why? One is change in a population due to the collective change in allele frequency over time. Once that accumulation is large enough, why can it not be macroevolution? Genera/Phyla, etc are all human constructions anyway, to describe the animals that exist; why would they care if they cross our imaginary boundaries?[13][14]

Both the fossil record and the DNA record show clear evidence of the creation of new genera, families, orders, classes and phyla. To say that this has not been "seen" places too much reliance on human vision, which as any trial lawyer will tell you, is far from reliable. Considering that during the entire existence of our species only one new species of large animal is known to have arisen, the polar bear, to insist that evolution must be supported by eyewitness testimony is merely a tactic to prevent its ever being accepted at all. This insistence will also void most of the science of cosmology.

Irreducible Complexity

Deniers argue that if you remove one part of a complex system, it stops working. How can such a system evolve bit by bit?

This assumes that the structure in question always did what is does now. A television doesn't work as a television when it's not plugged in, but it still makes for a great doorstop, mirror, cloths hanger, bookshelf, fish tank, and more![15].

We keep discovering the functionality of "incomplete systems." Birds bred in captivity to be flightless give us a window into the lives of the "birds" whose feathers were not sufficiently developed to provide enough lift for flight. We were thinking "inside the box" and not considering negative lift. Domestic chickens use their feathers to flap in the "wrong" direction, creating negative lift with which they can climb up walls that are not just vertical but negative in slope. This is a feature that is available incrementally for predator evasion and does not require feathers to spring up fully developed.

Debiers argue that the eye, flagella, wings, etc are too complex/not useful in the supposed "stages" of their own evolution.

This is simply an incorrect claim, based on the same idea as seen in - a "partially formed" eye still works great - just not as great as other eye designs. Ask anyone wearing glasses whether their not 100% perfect eyes are still useful.[16][17][18]

Lower animals have much simpler light sensing organs that still help them navigate. Primitive wings are very useful for fanning oneself in hot weather and as they become less primitive airfoils they incrementally increase the distance an animal can jump, giving it an advantage over arboreal predators.

Belief in evolution destroys any basis for a moral foundation in life.

Moral beliefs are not so fragile that one needs the threat of punishment from an omniscient being in order to be civil with other people.[19]

Instinctive behavior is only "moral" in a very narrow context. In our species that context is the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer. We are hard-wired with synapses to care instinctively only about our pack-mates, a band of a few dozen people whom we have been with since birth, and to distrust anyone outside that extended family as competitors for the scarce resource of our hunting and gathering territory.

Evolution gave us the resource to ascend beyond this. It gave us a uniquely large forebrain with so many synapses that it can successfully compete with the more primitive synapses in our generic vertebrate midbrain. Our cognitive ability is so great that it can literally override instinctive behavior with learned and reasoned behavior. This is why we were able to test the idea that building a permanent settlement where several once-rival packs could live together, practicing agriculture, division of labor and economy of scale, would make all packs more prosperous than wandering through the forest at the mercy of nature's bounty. This is why we were able to test the idea that combining several settlements into a single city, even though it meant having to live in harmony and cooperation with complete strangers, would increase our health, safety and comfort even further.

This overriding of natural instinct is morality! And we only have it because of evolution.

Notwithstanding all of this cheerleading for evolution, the fact remains that nature is amoral. There is no requirement for a natural phenomenon to provide "a basis for a moral foundation in life." It is possible for a belief to have value without having truth. Santa Claus has helped many young children have a happy Christmas.

Mitochondrial DNA proves that there was an 'Eve'

mDNA does show that all currently living humans had a common female ancestor that lived roughly 200,000 years ago. This is no way suggests that this female ancestor was the first human, however. The last common male ancestor lived roughly 116,000 years ago[20].

The theory of evolution says it is quite possible that one pair of individuals carrying a set of mutated genes may be the only ones to survive a crisis and live to reproduce. Lucy may have been a member of a large clan of early hominoids who were wiped out by disease or disaster. She may have been the sole survivor because she alone had the one gene that made her able to resist the disease or outrun the disaster. Or it could have been plain dumb luck: Review my earlier remark about the workings of the Law of Averages in million-year time intervals.

Where are all the middle-of-the-road animals?

Animals change over time, and diverge from each other. Even though they may be related, that does mean that all individual versions of the transition will continue to sire offfspring identical to themselves. Did your father produce a clone of himself that is alive today? What will happen to him, as a transition version between your grandparents and yourself after he dies? Yeah, it's just like that.[21].

Deniers ask - where are the croco-pigeons?

Sophomoric questions like this simply reveal the questioner's ignorance and prove what we suspected all along: that his education in biology is not advanced enough to understand the topic he claims to be prepared to debate and he's making a fool of himself in the attempt. Almost all birds are "croco-pigeons"! Turn one over and look carefully at his feet: they are covered with scales. (Don't grab a penguin, their feet have feathers because they need them.) While you're down there stick your proctoscope into his butt. They have cloacas like reptiles, a single tract that serves for urination, defecation and copulation. We have fossils of "missing links" that are even more reptilian and less avian, "birds" with teeth and tail vertebrae.

No completely new features have been seen evolving.

Of course not. The likelihood of a wing spontaneously forming is pretty much 0. The chances of an existing structure changing over generations due to new uses for that structure is much more likely.[22]

The hominid fossil record is crap, and the overall fossil record is inadequate.

There is still a fair amount that we do not know about human ancestry. But there is a lot that we do know. The fossil record for humans is fairly well put together at this point, with many transitional fossils of man-like apes that no longer live today.[23][24][25]

Deniers usually trumpet the huge gaps in the fossil record and state that if there were transitional species we should have fossils of them. This argument does not take into account the fact that conditions must be perfect for a fossil to form at all. The bones must be protected from predation, decay, weather, geologic forces, etc., and ultimately land in calm water where the organic solids can be slowly replaced by minerals. It's remarkable that we have any fossils at all, not that there aren't more. Very possibly more organic material has been fossilized as "fossil fuel"--peat, coal, petroleum and natural gas. The rest of it was eaten, decayed, smashed, eroded or buried. Not all species carefully bury their dead for the delight of future archeologists the way modern humans do.

If humans came from apes, why are apes still around?

Because we didn't come from the "great apes" that currently live (humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, the two species of gorillas) - humans and the other apes evolved from a common ancestor. If you and your cousins both came from the same great-greatgrandparent, then why isn't that great-greatgrandparent still around? [26]

The theory of evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

No it doesn't. the 2nd law says that the total entropy of a closed system will not decrease. The earth is not a closed system.[27].

One of the characteristics generally included in the definition of "life" is: feeding on negative entropy. Living creatures greatly decrease the complexity of the things around them, in order to consume them and to fashion them to suit their needs, slightly increasing their own complexity but leading to an aggregate increase in entropy of the entire system. The only reason earth survives the existence of its massive biosphere is that it is constantly replacing its lost complexity with extremely high-energy solar radiation. As we all know, the sun is burning out, and that increase in entropy is what's keeping us going.

Deniers argue that information theory says that information in genes will only decrease over time, via the second law of thermodynamics. This argument completely confuses similar terms used in different ways in different fields. Hot dogs are not made of dog, despite the similarity in names.[28] This argument is all about entropy and the rules of entropy only apply to a closed system.

Darwin recanted on his death bed

This is not a true event.

Even supposing it was a true event it leads to the following questions:



So what?


  • Evolution and denial of evolution: add your posts here.[29]
  • The TalkOrigins Archive[30]