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Don Stewart :: What Is the Theory of Evolution?

Don Stewart
For the past one hundred years, the general theory of evolution has held the day in the scientific community, as well as having an enormous impact on the public. The word evolution simply means the "unfolding or orderly development of something." The theory of evolution, however, teaches much more than that, for it has far reaching implications in many fields of study. This theory, which was systematized and popularized by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, attempts to explain the way all life has come to be in its present form.

Life Developed By Chance

The general theory of evolution teaches that planet earth suddenly appeared about 5 billion years ago. About 1.5 to 2 billion years after earth appeared, life began to spring forth. On the earth was a primeval ocean in which primitive single- cell organisms developed by chance. Through mutation, chance variation, and natural selection, these single-celled creatures evolved over millions of years into fish. The fish, in turn, gave rise to amphibians, which evolved into reptiles. One line of reptiles gave rise to birds and another line to mammals.

Finally, man developed from a common ancestor with the ape. The plant kingdom, somewhere along the line, developed distinctly from the animal kingdom.

The theory of organic evolution teaches that all life, plants, animals, and man gradually developed over millions of years by natural processes from an original single cell. Spontaneous generation, which caused life to arise from non-life, happened only once and does not happen now.

The theory of evolution explains things in terms of processes that are still continuing to the present. Thus, evolution can be studied as an ongoing process.

Development Without God

The theory of evolution explains life without appealing to God or the supernatural. Julian Huxley explains:

In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created: it evolved. So did all of the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul, as well as brain and body. So did religion. All aspects of reality are subject to evolution, from atoms and stars to fish and flowers . . . to human societies and values indeed . . . All reality is a single process of evolution (Julian Huxley, Essays of a Humanist, New York, Penguin: 1966, p. 128).

Michael Denton writes:

It was because Darwinian theory broke mans link with God and set him adrift in a cosmos without purpose or end that its impact was so fundamental. No other intellectual revolution (with the possible exception of the Copernican) so profoundly affected the way men view themselves and their place in the universe (Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Bethesda, Maryland: Adler and Adler, 1985, p. 67).

Accepted As Fact

The theory of evolution is accepted as fact in many places today. The late well-known evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote:

The occurrence of the evolution of life in the history of the earth is established about as well as events not witnessed by human observers can be (T. Dobzhansky, Science, 127:1091, 1958).

Most textbooks, as well as popular writings, treat evolution not as a theory, but as a fact. Consider the following statements from Time-Life Books:

That foundation is evolution, the concept that there is a kinship among all forms of life because it evolved in an amplitude of time from one common ancestry, and that there are differences between them because they have diverged from that ancestry in taking over the earth, its air and its waters. Darwin did not invent the concept. But when he started his career, the doctrine of special creation could be doubted only by heretics. When he finished, the fact of evolution could be denied only by the abandonment of reason. He demolished the old theory with two books . . . On the Origin of Species . . . The Descent of Man (Ruth Moore, Evolution, New York: Time-Life Books, Time, Inc., 1962, p. 10).

Macroevolution

Evolution generally means a process of change in a certain direction. When we refer to evolution in the history of earthly life, we mean life as we know it today has come through a process of development from simple to more complex, "lower" to "higher" forms of life. These beneficial changes produce order and complexity in the different life forms. Evolutionists believe this process is still happening. Major changes from one species to another, or changes in other major categories of organisms is often referred to as macroevolution.

Microevolution

Scientists also use the term evolution to refer to individual variations within a "family" grouping or particular species. Those smaller changes are often referred to as microevolution.

Microevolution, or micromutation, can be defined as a small change in a plant or animal. This can be in size, change, or color. There is a considerable amount of evidence that microevolution occurs. This does not, however, contradict biblical teaching, for the Bible, as we shall see, allows for plants and animals to adapt and change. Evidence for microevolution is not evidence for macroevolution.

Cannot Be Proven Scientifically

Scientific proof calls for repetition, observation, and the possibility of falsification. The theory of evolution cannot be repeated, observed or falsified. It is beyond the realm of the experimental scientific method.

Too Slow

The evolution model demands that change took place over a long period of time. From the original primeval sea until the present, a time span of tens of millions of years have elapsed. Even though the processes are supposedly still going on, they are too slow to observe. This puts it out of the realm of scientific proof. The evolutionary scientist Dobzhansky wrote:

These evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable and irreversible. It is impossible to turn a land vertebrate into a fish as it is to effect the reverse transformation. The applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted . . . by the time intervals involved, which far exceeds the lifetime of any human experimenter (T. Dobzhansky, American Science, 45:388, 1957).

Macroevolution must be accepted on faith. Evolution, at least in the sense that Darwin speaks of it, cannot be detected within the lifetime of a single observer.

Unfalsifiable

Another major problem with the theory of evolution is that in practice it is unfalsifiable. John Moore writes:

No matter what is observed, there usually is an appropriate evolutionary explanation for it. If an organ or organism develops, it has positive survival value; if it degenerates, it has negative survival value. If a complex biological system appears suddenly, it is due to preadaptation. Living fossils (contemporary representatives of organisms expected to be extinct) survive because the environment did not change. If the environment changes and an evolutionary lineage survives, it is due to adaptation. If the lineage dies, it is because the environment changed too much, etc. Hence the concept cannot be falsified (John Moore, How To Teach Origins, Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1983, p. 47).

Gaps

There is also the matter of major gaps for which the theory of evolution has no clear explanation. Emery Bancroft writes:

1. The first and greatest gap which confronts the evolutionist is that between the living and non-living. The entire world of living creatures is assumed to have emerged, sometime and somehow, through "resident forces," out of the inorganic realm. Yet no trace of this marvelous process remains, and the inorganic world exhibits no progressiveness at all, no power or disposition to advance one hairs breadth.

2. The next gap is that between the vegetable and animal kingdoms. If the latter, in its entirety, arose out of the former through gradual and infinitesimal changes, no trace of that marvelous development remains; nor can there be found in the vegetable kingdom anything from which the characteristic features of animal life could have evolved.

3.
Next we encounter the great gap between the vertebrates and the invertebrates; then between the mammals and other vertebrates; then the gaps between each of the million or so distinct species of organisms and every other; and finally the immense gap between man and the highest of the brutes.

In considering these great gaps, and the many lesser ones, it should be borne in mind that evolution is set forth expressly as a theory of origins, that is to say, as an explanation of how all the infinite varieties of things, living and non-living, came into existence. But origins, including those of the very broadest kind, are just what the theory conspicuously fails to explain. The evolutionist makes no pretense that his theory can explain the origin of either matter or force. The existence of these he must take for granted, attributing them to an unknowable First Cause (Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2nd Revised edition, 1961, pp. 184,185).

Charles V. Taylor notes:
Evolution is in the peculiar position that it:

-- has no way of observing significant, species-changing mutations of the past
-- has no way of observing cataclysmic past events
-- cannot apply present laboratory experiments to the past, a process sometimes known as extrapolation
-- has no written records to support changes in organisms, which are crucial to the support of its theories.

(Charles V. Taylor, The Oldest Science Book in the World, Slacks Creek, Queensland, Australia: Assembly Press, Pty. Ltd., 1984, pp. 128,129).

Evolution Requires Great Faith

Accepting the theory of evolution requires an inordinate amount of faith. Dr. R. L. Wysong comments:

Evolution requires plenty of faith: a faith in L-proteins that defy chance formation; a faith in the formation of the DNA codes which if generated spontaneously would spell only pandemonium; a faith in a primitive environment that in reality would fiendishly devour any chemical precursors to life; a faith in experiments that prove nothing but the need for intelligence in the beginning; a faith in a primitive ocean that would not thicken but would only hopelessly dilute chemicals; a faith in natural laws including the laws of thermodynamics and biogenesis that actually deny the possibility for the spontaneous generation of life; a faith in future scientific revelations that when realized always seem to present more dilemmas to the evolutionist; a faith in probabilities that treasonously tell two stories - one denying evolution, the other confirming the creator; faith in transformations that remain fixed; faith in mutations and natural selection; faith in fossils that embarrassingly show fixity through time, regular absence of transitional forms . . . a faith in time which proves to only promote degradation in the absence of mind; and faith in reductionism that ends up reducing the materialists arguments to zero and forcing the need to invoke a supernatural Creator (R.L. Wysong, The Creation-Evolution Controversy, Midland, Michigan: Inquiry Press, 1981, p. 455).

Evolutionists Inconsistent

David Rosevear notes the inconsistent and illogical thinking of evolutionists:

In 1990 the Hubble Telescope was launched into orbit and began to send back pictures to earth from space. One of the declared aims of the project was to look for other planets outside our solar system, and to try to find extra-terrestrial life. How are we to recognize signs of life? We must look for coded messages by scanning the sky at various frequencies to try to pick up intelligent signals. The signals would have a non-random sequence (a design) and would carry information. Design and information are recognized as the product of intelligent life. Yet here on earth we look at the simplest cell, with its incredible miniaturized design and information, and wonder if it could somehow have arisen by chance! The reason for this double standard is that scientists, like other mortals, look for evidence which will support their philosophical world-view. If life has evolved on earth by chance, then surely it has evolved in many other places in this vast universe. While it is recognized that intelligent life-forms would send non- random messages, it is not accepted that non random sequences in genetic material here on earth can only be the product of an intelligent Designer. Evolutionism is not so much a science, more a philosophical world-view, with all the dogmatic assertions of religion (David Rosevear, Creation Science, Chichester, England: New Wine Press, 1991, p. 43).

Charles Darwin And The Evidence

A final point that should be raised concerning the theory of evolution concerns the man whose name is equated with it - Charles Darwin. It is important to note that Darwin was not drawn to the theory of evolution so much by the evidence, as he was desiring to reject the biblical account of creation. Robert Clark and James Bales write:

There are some who think that Darwin accepted the theory of evolution only after many, many years of studying the subject. This, however is not the case. As his religious faith ebbed his faith in evolution developed. It came to fill up the void that was being left by his rejection of creation (Robert Clark and James D. Bales, Why Scientists Accept Evolution, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966, p. 35).

Problems Recognized

Darwin recognized the problems his theory had with the evidence. Two particular things bothering him were: (1) the fossil record, and (2) complicated organisms, such as the eye, that seemed to show design.

Fossil Record

If the theory of evolution is true, we should expect to find evidence of fish evolving into amphibia, reptiles to birds, a common ancestor with apes and man, etc. There should be literally millions of these transitional forms if evolution occurred as Darwin believed. The theory of evolution, therefore, can be demonstrated to be correct if this evidence is found in the fossil record. At Darwins time the fossil record did not show this. He wrote:

As by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed. Why do we not find them imbedded in the crust of the earth? Why is all nature not in confusion instead of being as we see them, well-defined species? Geological research does not yield the infinitely many fine gradiation between past and present species required by the theory; and this is the most obvious of many objections which may be argued against it. The explanation lies, however, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Vol. 2, 6th Ed., p. 49).

When Darwin proposed his theory of evolution he realized the fossil record did not support it. He believed that once the fossil record was uncovered it would support his theory. The fossil record is no longer incomplete as it was in Darwins day and it reveals that his idea of a gradual evolution is wrong!

Dr. David Raup, Dean of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, observed:
Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasnt changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwins 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-what appears to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwins problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection (David M. Raup, "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Vol. 50, No. 1, Jan. 1979, p. 15).

Scientist Luther Sunderland asked Dr. Colin Patterson, a senior paleontologist at the British Museum (Natural History), why no evolutionary transitions were included in his book Evolution. Dr. Patterson replied:

I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be asked to visualize such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it, and if I were to leave it to artistic license would it not mislead the reader? . . . Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say that there are no transitional fossils. As a paleontologist myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of identifying ancestral forms in the fossil record. You say that I should at least show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism was derived. I will lay it on the line - there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument (Dr. Colin Patterson in a personal letter to Luther D. Sunderland, April 10, 1979).

The fossil record continues to be a major source of embarrassment for evolutionists.

Design

Darwin was also bothered by organisms, such as the human eye, that seemed to show intricate design. He did not have an explanation how it could all happen by chance. Evolutionary critic Francis Hitching writes:

Now it is quite evident that if the slightest thing goes wrong en route - if the cornea is fuzzy, or the pupil fails to dilate, or the lens becomes opaque, or the focussing goes wrong - then a recognizable image is not formed. The eye either functions as a whole, or not at all. So how did it come to evolve by slow, steady, infinitesimally small Darwinian improvements? Is it really possible that thousands upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens and the retina, which cannot work without each other, evolved in synchrony? What survival value can there be in an eye that doesnt see? Small wonder that it troubled Darwin. To this day it makes me shudder, he wrote to his botanist friend Asa Gray in February, 1890 (Francis Hitching, The Neck of the Giraffe, London: Pan Publishers, 1982, pp. 85,86).

Other examples could be given. The point is that Darwin did not embrace evolution because of indisputable evidence. On the contrary, he realized that the evidence contradicted his theory, yet he held it anyway. This again illustrates that it is not because of clearcut evidence that people hold on to the idea of mindless evolution.

Summary

In our brief overview we have seen that the theory of evolution attempts to explain the development of life from a single cell until the present complex universe. This evolution, or change, took millions of years to occur. The theory of evolution explains man and the universe apart from the need for God.

The theory of evolution, which is generally accepted as fact in the scientific world, cannot be proven scientifically. Furthermore, there are great problems with the theory when compared to the facts of science. Darwin saw some of these problems and had no answer for them. Thus, the evolutionist must believe the theory because of faith, not because of compelling scientific evidence.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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