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Defending Evolution

By Merle Hertzler

Clifford Bean wrote to me with a challenge to evolution. (Click here). I address his arguments here.

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Clifford,

As I understand it, your basic argument is that evolution seems impossible to you, and therefore must be impossible. But does your intuitive insight prove that evolution can't happen? Sometimes things that we originally think to be impossible are actually quite possible. For instance, at first sight it seems impossible that big, heavy jet airplanes can fly. And yet they can. As another example, consider that at one time it seemed impossible that the earth was a sphere that was spinning in space, thus making the sun appear to be moving across the sky. But we now know this is how the world works. Things that seem impossible at first sight are sometimes possible. So even though it appears to you that evolution is impossible, could it be that there are aspects of nature that you do not fully understand that make evolution possible? Is it possible that the vast majority of scientists who believe that evolution happened know something that you don't know? Is it possible that further study will prove to you that evolution is possible?

A second response to the evolution-must-be-impossible-because-it-appears-impossible-to-me argument is to ask for an alternative to evolution  that does appear possible to you. Creatures exist. There is no denying that. So how did they get here? Science has an answer: We evolved from simple creatures. If you don't like that answer, what do you propose as an alternative? How, for instance, was the first zebra made? Did it suddenly appear, created instantly out of nothing? Okay, can you understand how some might argue that the spontaneous emerging of zebras from nothing is impossible? You might agree that spontaneous animal creations are normally quite impossible in nature, but that they are possible with God.  Ah, so you are bringing God into the picture? Are you saying that your proposed method of creation is just as impossible as you perceive evolution to be, but that once you bring God into the picture, this otherwise impossible creation event can happen? Do you agree with me that the idea of zebras spontaneously popping into existence is completely ridiculous, unless, of course, one postulates that an all-powerful God did it? Okay, if your view of origins is completely ridiculous unless you postulate that God did it, could your God not also have evolved a zebra from an early horse (if he really wanted to)? Surely you think God has enough power guide evolution, don't you? For if that is too hard for your God, then he seems to be quite powerless. But if your God has the power to guide that type of evolution, your evolution-is-impossible argument completely disappears! For if you need to bring an all-powerful God into the picture to explain creation anyway, do you not then have all the driving force needed to accomplish evolution? So evolution then becomes quite possible. Your evolution-is-impossible argument disappears.

So even if you think that God created life, this still does not answer the question of whether God used evolution to create. And that is a very interesting question. How did we get here? Since the argument from the perceived impossibility of evolution can easily be defeated by the two arguments that I presented above, it seems to me that we ought to look at the evidence, and find out if the evidence supports evolution or not.. If the evidence supports evolution, let's believe it. If it supports another means of creation, let's believe that method.

Can you accept that God might use evolution as his tool to create? If not, why not?

So can we agree to first look at the facts, to see if they support evolution? If we find evolution true, we could then go on to ask if a God directed every step of the way, or if there are aspects of nature that could have guided evolution on their own. But that is getting ahead of the game. We must first determine if evolution occurred.

Okay, Clifford, let's look at your comments, which are shown below in red. My responses are in black.

I would like to discuss with you your position as an atheist, which I consider as being indefensible and illogical as well.  I will not go into supposed Bible errors, as many others have already covered most of them in your blogs.  Bear in mind, I am not a scientist nor a deep thinker – I am just using common sense reasoning and generally known facts and quoted statements.

You are not a scientist, and yet you condemn what they have found? Is it not possible that these experts in their fields know something that you don’t? Can you simply dismiss all their findings without studying their reasoning?

I'm curious: Would your God be upset if you would read a book about evolution written by a mainstream scientist? Or does your God want you to condemn the opinions of mainstream science without ever taking the time to read what the scientists have to say?

Atheists love to stand behind evolution as one of the main planks to prove the non-existence of God – let’s discuss that issue.

But could not God exist and use evolution as his tool? Many believe evolution happened, and still believe in God. The two ideas are not incompatible. So belief in evolution would not eliminate God, would it?

One of the main tenets of evolution is that all things proceed now as they have from millennia past – in other words, observation of what happens now is an indication of what has happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. If that is so, why do we not see evolution in process at this time? If evolution is to take many thousands of years to make minute changes, we should see that process in action today.

But we do see evolution in our time. All of the current varieties of dog have evolved from common wild dogs. And bacteria have evolved resistances to antibiotics. Of course the changes we see today are small, but that is because we are looking at only a very small portion of the millions of years required for macro-evolution.

Evolutionists love to line up many creatures to show the progression of evolution, but what they are showing is fully developed animals, with no existing examples of in-between creatures to prove evolution – either living or in fossil form.  In other words, the lined-up animals on an evolution chart represents a stair-step pattern of supposed development, with no in-between examples, whereas evolution if it exists should show animals in a steady incline of progress upward, and being alive today.

But hundreds of intermediate creatures have been found. See Transitional Vertebrate Fossils for examples.

And why would there be a need for the known fossils of past animals to show a steady incline of progress? Jumps in evolution are believed to have occurred in small isolated populations over a number of generations. The newly evolved creatures then spread out into other areas and dominated. We might never find any trace of the gradually changing creatures leading up to the next species. But we do find many incremental transitional fossils.

How can you explain all of those transitional fossils we find? How can you explain all of the mammal-like reptiles, for instance? Why do mammal-like reptiles appear in the fossil record before mammals appeared, and then disappear? Could it be that they were transitionals leading up to mammals?

In other words, we should be able to observe every step of every minute change of evolution walking on the earth now, from the earliest protozoa to man, with no gaps in development.

But what if those intermediates are no longer viable creatures? For instance, the first vertebrates to start leaving the sea are believed to be small fish that used their fins to push into shallow waters to escape larger predators. Over time their fins evolved into legs, and their swim bladders evolved into lungs. The survival strategy of those fish worked well when there were no land predators. Today, such fish would be easy prey to land-based predators. So those intermediate fish are no longer around. Evolution does not predict that they would stay around forever.

Since we still have protozoa in existence today, there still should be evidence of them beginning the process of evolving to higher beings today.

Why so? The evolution to multi-cellular life probably required many millions of years. The intermediates that were alive when life evolved from single-celled creatures might not be viable in today’s world, which is filled with advanced creatures. But protozoa still inhabit a niche that multi-cellular life cannot fill. So both protozoa and modern multi-celled creatures survive today, but the intermediates are gone.

  May I quote CharlesDarwin himself –?

Charles Darwin commented on this problem over a century ago. Geological research, he acknowledged in Origin of Species, 'does not yield the infinitely many fine gradations between past and present species required on the theory.'

Have you read the passage in question, or have you simply copied what somebody wrote? Would you object to reading Darwin’s book for yourself to find out what he said? Would God be upset if you read Darwin before you criticized him? Or does your God require that you criticize him without first taking the time to read what he had to say in context?

In the section that you quote, Darwin was recognizing your objection to his theory. He then went on to explain why he thinks this objection is not valid. Perhaps we should see how Darwin answered this objection before claiming that there is no good answer. (See his book here.) And you may also want to remember that Darwin lived a long time ago, and many new advancements in the theory have occurred since his time.

There are none, because evolution never happened.  And by the way – since protozoa have existed and thrived very well in millennia past, for what reason do they need to evolve into something higher??!?

There is no “need” for protozoa to evolve into something higher. But there is a constant force of nature that drives creatures to fill every available niche. Since some of these niches require complex animals, some—but not all—simple creatures tend to evolve into more complex creatures.

Lets now discuss the eye. Any scientist knows that the eye is an incredibly complex organ. How many millennia did it take for creatures to run around blind, until ‘something’ figures out how to develop the clear lens through which light enters the eye? How many more millennia did it take for the eye to develop the millions of rod and cone cells, which have specific purposes and uses for sight? – And also placed in exactly the right places in the eyeball according to its purpose?  How many millennia did it take to develop the muscles that move the eye up, down and sideways, not to mention focusing? Man in all his wisdom did not invent the lens until perhaps 400 years ago – mere seconds in evolutionary time.

It took many millennia for the eye to evolve, yes. But remember that a million years is a thousand millennia. And a billion years is a million millennia. And the earth was around for 4.5 billion years.

There were plenty of millennia available.

We could go on forever describing every organ of the body – the 4-chambered heart, the liver, kidneys, stomach lymph nodes, the brain, the central nervous system - all have very complex, specialized functions that could not work or sustain life during the millennia it took for them to get their act together into a fully functional organ.

You may want to study the theory of evolution, and see how organs are believed to have evolved. Creatures were not running around without essential organs while they waited for them to evolve. Rather, the basic organs and creatures evolved together.

You should read upon how very complex the body is – and see that there is just no way it could have just evolved into its present form. What if someone told you that the Eiffel Tower in France was formed when a monster storm ran through a junkyard, sucked up a lot of metal laying around, and ended up with the Eiffel Tower! That idea is ludicrous to say the least. 

Yes, things like the Eiffel Tower do not suddenly appear out of nothing. Even if one postulates a God, one still does not find that Eiffel Towers or animals suddenly appear out of nothing.

Wait! You seem to be shooting down your own view! For the view that creatures were suddenly created out of nothing is very similar to this analogy of the sudden appearance of Eiffel Towers. And we both agree that such things just don’t happen. You have destroyed your own view!

Your Eiffel Tower analogy is not even close to the way evolution occurs. A better example is the way antibodies evolve in our bodies to fight disease. When a disease first strikes a person may have no immunity. But the antibodies gradually evolve to the point where they can effectively fight the disease. And the means by which they evolve is very similar to biological evolution. (See The Evolution of Improved Fitness by Random Mutation plus Selection)

So use the right analogy, please. Evolution is like evolving antibodies in the immune system, not like sudden appearances of Eiffel Towers. Creationism, on the other hand, is very much like sudden appearances of Eiffel Towers.

To believe that evolution could form ANY animal or insect from a blob of protoplasm is beyond ludicrous!  

Ah, but the evidence clearly indicates that evolution did indeed happen. (See 29 Evidences for Macroevolution )

Evolutionists love to point to the big bang to remove God from the creation process of bringing the universe into being."

No, we do not point out the Big Bang to remove God. We point it out because there is evidence for it.

  I see a lot of big bangs in the news lately, and there certainly is no order created from any of them!

Ah, but you haven’t seen the Big Bang. Could it be that the Big Bang was quite different from the bangs you have seen?

Since scientists agree that the universe is expanding at a very rapid pace, I see no problem believing that God could have used a big bang to create the universe if He so chose to, but He controlled it to create the planets, moons and stars that evolve around their suns or central point in their galaxies.

Okay, so you have no problem with stellar evolution. Your God could have guided the galaxies as they evolved?

Could not your God do the same thing to animals and plants?

That also explains where the materials came from, how they were collected, and what set off the big bang in the first place, (God did it all); whereas the evolutionist cannot explain how it came to pass.

Ah, but you cannot explain where God came from. And the God whose origin you cannot explain is far more complex than the universe. So it seems to me that this does nothing to solve the ultimate question of why anything exists.

Certainly does not fit the theory of ‘all things proceed now as they have for millennia past.'

"All things proceed as they have for millennia past" is not a good description of what scientists say. Rather, they tell us the present is the key to processes of the past, but that there were different circumstances as the universe progressed.

As for the beginning of life itself, how ‘bout a quote from –

    The late Sir Fred Hoyle, one of Britain’s most well-known mathematicians and astronomers, investigated the probability that life could arise from nonlife. He declared in 1981 that the idea that 'a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.  

Fred Hoyle believed some things you do not believe. Do you quote him as an authority on such issues, thus proving that you are wrong? Why do you use Hoyle as an authority only when he agrees with you, and not when he disagrees? And why do you ignore the thousands who disagree with Hoyle, and you quote only the people who agree with you?

True science is not based on quotes from authorities. Arguing by quoting an authority is considered a logical fallacy.

And are you aware that studies into the origin of life have progressed a long way since 1981? So why do you use a quote from 1981?

There is more and more scientific evidence out there PROVING that evolution is a bankrupt theory that has no clothes. Think of DNA, genes, and hundreds of other known factors that give evolution no basis for support.  

But DNA actually verifies evolution. For instance, we find different DNA to encode for the same protein in many species. Now it turns out that the more closely related two creatures are, the more closely their DNA matches for creating such protein. Why would God want an elephant and horse to use similar DNA to produce the same protein, but a bird would to use very different DNA to do the same job? Could it be that the reason is that the elephant and horse had a recent common ancestor, and there has been less time for their DNA to vary?

If evolution is to work, what is the ‘guiding light’ that controls the direction for it to take? What decides what changes are an improvement? Where is the ‘think tank’ that decides how to come up with – for example – a cell that is transparent to create a lens? What decides how to come up with the formula that makes bone cells become bones?

The guiding light of evolution is natural selection. See Evolution and Chance

What developed DNA? DNA cannot work in intermediate forms progressing from, say, apes to man."

Why do you think DNA cannot work in intermediate forms? One would think DNA could work in any life form.

DNA is far too complex to have formed by accident and chance.

That is why scientists believe that natural selection was involved in the development of DNA..

It is far more reasonable for me to believe that that ‘guiding light’ is a sovereign God who had the power and wisdom to create all things with His spoken voice.

Okay, you believe there was a God who guided the path of creation. But what path did your God use? Why could not your God have used evolution?

You spend a considerable amount of time trying to destroy the Bible, because you say it is not true. If it is not true, and God does not exist, why do you spend any much time on it – it’s as if you are afraid of its power and influence?"

No, I do not come to destroy the Bible. I come to help people think about religion for themselves. I hope I can help people find a better life.

I believe the Bible and everything that is in it. I don’t believe the Koran, I’m not afraid of it, and I will not waste any time bothering with the Koran – I have far more important things to do with my time than to waste it on a book that espouses a false religious system."

Ah, you do not waste time with a book that espouses false religion. Fine. Is it okay with you if we examine the Bible to see if it espouses a false religious system? After all, how can we know if it is true unless we first examine it?

If you study history, you will find that wherever the Bible has a prominent place in a country or society, invariably the entire culture is lifted up into a higher plane of existence – education is much more widespread, and science moves forward with many great inventions and discoveries, medical advances occur on a regular basis. Look at Europe, the United States, just as a few samples."

Did you ever hear of the Dark Ages? That was a time where Bible teaching was prominent, and culture deteriorated.

And the modern western advancements came after the Enlightenment, in which people turned to sources other than the Bible.

 Women, children andthe disadvantaged are treated much better than in countries where the Bible is not allowed."

Have you read what the Bible says about women? Do you not see that it can be quite downgrading? And have you read about the Bible’s condoning of slavery? Is that how your God wants us to treat the disadvantaged?

Look at Cuba, the USSR, Poland, and innumerable other countries where Bibles are not allowed or believed.>  These countries are not usually known for great discoveries, medical advances, or concern for the downtrodden.

Fanatical clinging to an ideal, such as religion or radical Marxism, leads to disaster. Radical Marxism is not the answer. I prefer secular humanism.

Now, why does man continue to believe in an evolutionary system that has no clothes? That has no scientific basis at all to support it? That has no evidence to show it ever happened?"

Ah, but evolution does have clothes.  See Evidence for Evolution.

Academics have been known to admit that evolution has no supporting scientific fact behind it, but they flatly refuse to submit to the truth that a divine Creator did it all; for then they would have to recognize that if they were created, then they are accountable to that Creator – and that they will never do!"

Uh, evolution does not prove there is no Creator.

I believe in evolution, not because I am trying to avoid a creator, but because I found the evidence overwhelming.

Sir Julian Huxley states this position with unusual honesty –

…A public television interviewer had just asked Sir Julian Huxley, a leading defender of evolution until his death in 1975, why he thought Darwin’s idea caught on so quickly. His answer astonished me. '[I suppose the reason] we all jumped at the Origin [Darwin’s On the Origin of Species],' Huxley said, 'was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.'

Okay, so now you turn to urban legend for support? The claim that Julian Huxley said this has not been verified.  (see The Julian Huxley Lie) Can you see how unsubstantiated claims like this do not prove anything?

And even if you can prove that Huxley was motivated in this way, that does not prove all believers in mainstream science are motivated by evil . I, for instance, came to believe in the fact of evolution because of the overwhelming evidence for it.

Belief in evolution is not a scientific issue – it is a heart issue – the heart that refuses to believe that man is accountable to the God of the universe, and he must pay for his actions and sins unless he is forgiven and cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

I believe evolution happened. And so you blame it on my heart? But I have found overwhelming evidence. (See Did we Evolve?) What is wrong with my evidence?

You try to tie belief in evolution to disbelief in forgiveness through shed blood. Those are totally different issues. Some people believe in both evolution and the shed blood.

Since you mention the subject, why would the shedding of the blood of God’s son make it easier for God to forgive? Wouldn’t Calvary make it harder for God to forgive?

If God indeed works in such a way that he forgives after his Son sheds his blood, well, so be it, are we not all then forgiven? Or must we believe that this is the way that God forgives before we are forgiven? If so, why would God require a certain belief before he can forgive?

If the penalty for not believing in the shed-blood story is eternal punishment in hell, then you must be highly motivated to believe, for if you did not believe you would face hell. If you believe that belief in Creationism is important to maintaining belief in the blood—and thus to escape hell—are you not highly motivated to believe in Creationism regardless of the evidence? Can you understand how your motivation might make it hard for you to approach this topic objectively? Could it be that your motivation makes it hard for you to see all of the facts?

I urge you to study the facts of evolution from the mainstream science side. And I urge you to question your beliefs in origins. Will not your God continue to accept you even if you ask such questions?

I think you will be surprised at the sense and reason of mainstream science's case for evolution. See more information at http://www.talkorigins.org/.

Regards,

Merle

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I invite Clifford to provide a response that could be posted at this site.

 

Copyright ÓMerle Hertzler 2006. All rights reserved.

 

 

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