February 12 was the birthday of Charles Darwin, the founding father of the theory of evolution. In recognition of Darwin’s birthday, this article will briefly examine the perceived ‘evidence’ upon which Darwin based his conjectures about the origin of species. Much more detail about this, as well as the mounting evidence contradicting the theory of evolution, is contained in my book, No More Monkey Business: Evolution in Crisis.
Most people assume that Charles Darwin’s original theory was formed on the basis of substantial scientific evidence, but this is not the case at all. Darwin’s theory of the gradual evolution of species from a single, simple biological ancestor through natural selection arose mainly out of imaginative speculation. Darwin admitted as much in a letter to a fellow biologist at the time:
“I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.”[i]
Darwin openly admitted that his theory was a work of philosophical speculation, rather than a scientific theory. Darwin imagined a ‘tree of life’ where all living species are related and evolved from a common ancestor. The following hand-drawn diagram of the tree of life is found in one of Darwin’s notebooks:
The purely speculative nature of Darwin’s tree of life is indicated by Darwin’s admission at the top of the page in his handwritten, “I think”. In fact, nowhere in any of his notes does Darwin ever give any actual evidence for his imaginary tree of life. It is a product of pure imaginative wishful thinking. Today, geneticists have rejected Darwin’s tree of life as genetically impossible. For example, the cover story in the 24th January 2009 edition of the scientific journal, “New Scientist”, made the startling admission;
“The tree of life has turned out to be a figment of our imagination.”[ii]
So, what evidence led Darwin to propose his theory?
Darwin’s theory of evolution rests upon an assortment of simple observations:
>>> Variations of features within the same species of grass and plants.
>>> The shared basic structure of all flowers (all flowers have petals, sepals, stamens and pistils).
>>> Variations of beak length in finches on the Galapagos Archipelago.
>>> The discovery, on the archipelago of Madeira, of wingless beetles living alongside winged beetles.
>>> The similarity in appearance of the early stages of embryos of almost all species.
>>> Similarities in physical structures among widely different species. (For example, the similarity in limbs between many different species).
That was it! Solely on the basis of observable superficial similarities, Darwin proposed that fish eventually turned into mice, dogs, elephants, birds and PhD scientists.
In Chapter 6 of his book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin laments his inability to support his theory with hard evidence:
“As, by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the earth’s crust? … Why, if species have descended from other species by insensible fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? I can give no satisfactory answer… Nature may almost be said to have guarded against the discovery of her transitional or linking forms”[iii]
Darwin proposed his theory in the hope that others in the future might discover the remains of these allusive transitional forms. But as we shall see in my next post, after more than 160 years of subsequent scientific endeavor, no such incontestable transition forms have been discovered. All the supposed transitional forms that were once proposed (from the 1950s to 70s) have now been discredited. This is not well known. In fact, the popular impression is given that the vaults of science are overflowing with fossilized transitional forms that prove Darwin’s theory. But the fact remains that to this very day, not one single transitional form has been discovered between any two distinct species. (More about this in the next post!). The lack of palaeontological evidence is now a major problem for the theory of evolution.
The modern science of genetics is also a major sticking point for Darwin’s simplistic theory. As we shall see in a subsequent post, it is now widely understood that it is impossible for either genetic specialization or genetic mutations to produce the vast quantities of new genes necessary for the creation of new species with new physical features.
In recognition of this genetic impossibility, there is a fascinating admission in the Introduction to the 6th edition of Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species”, 1956,[iv] written by Dr. W. R Thompson, Entomologist and Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control, Ottawa, Canada. He wrote;
“Darwin himself considered that the idea of evolution is unsatisfactory unless its mechanism can be explained. I agree, but since no one has explained to my satisfaction how evolution could happen I do not feel compelled to say that it has happened. I prefer to say that, on this matter, our investigation is inadequate.”[v]
In other words, even someone who wants to believe in evolution, and who is enthusiastic enough to be willing to write an introduction to Darwin’s book, has to concede that the theory has no plausible explanation given our current much greater understanding of genetics.
Much of Darwin’s theory rests on his observation of variations within species and his imaginative conjecture that this process could be extrapolated to explain how one species might gradually transform into a completely new species, with new physical features (such as fish growing legs, reptiles growing wings, etc). Our modern understanding of genetics, however, shows this to be an impossibility. Variations within a species such as lizards having different sizes and shapes is recognized today as simply the result of genetic specialization through genetic mixing, sometimes referred to as micro-evolution.
This involves the strengthening of existing genetic material, also often resulting in the loss or degradation of other parts of the genetic information. But for lizards to transform into birds, for example, huge amounts of new genetic material would need to created for the formation of wings, feathers, lighter bones, beaks – in fact a completely new physiology! No amount of mixing of existing genetic material can bring this about.
In regard to Darwin’s observation of the physical similarity of embryos across many species, Darwin made the extraordinary leap of logic that the reason for this similarity must be that we all originated from the same original life-form. For example, Darwin observed that almost all animal embryos, in their early stages, seem to have a tail and gill-like structures. Therefore, Darwin and his contemporaries concluded that this is evidence that we all originally descended from fish! In his “On The Origin of Species”, he writes;
“The embryonic state of each species and group of species partially shows us the structure of their less modified ancient progenitors.”[vi]
This leap of logic persisted for over 100 years, with highly inaccurate, exaggerated drawings of fish-like embryos of land animals appearing in science text books right up until the 1990s. Biologists have now completely debunked this imaginative hypothesis, by proving that the embryonic “tail” of land animals is simply the developing spinal chord and bears no similarity to the skeletal and muscular characteristics of embryonic fish tails. Biologists have also completely repudiated the idea that there are gill-like structures in embryonic land species; these were a fabrication initiated by highly stylized drawings by German Zoologist, Ernst Haeckel, a contemporary of Charles Darwin.[vii]
In regard to Darwin’s observation of the similarity in the physical structures of various species, a similar leap of logic took place. Darwin assumed, for example, that because many land animals had the same basic structure of four limbs with similar articulating joints, the only explanation of this is that they all had the same common progenitor; that mice and elephants are ultimately related to each other because they both have four legs with two joints! This is an argument from imaginative speculation, however, rather than from evidence.
WHAT DARWIN DID NOT KNOW
Charles Darwin lived at a time when the various branches of science were still in their infancy, and many crucial discoveries had not yet taken place. The science of the 1800s was ignorant of many of the simple facts that we take for granted today and was encumbered by many illogical and ill-founded beliefs. For example, some scientists believed that rotting vegetation spontaneously generated living organisms including rats and mice![viii]
Charles Darwin once stated:
“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.”[ix]
The science of genetics has now effectively done just that! It has demonstrated the impossibility of new genetic information and new physical characteristics coming into existence via natural means. The “numerous, successive slight modifications” that Darwin’s theory rests upon, are now widely understood to be a genetic impossibility (more about this is a subsequent post – and much more about this in my book).
Commenting on Darwin’s statement, Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Centre for Science and Culture, states:
“Our confidence that Darwin’s ‘criterion of failure’ has been met skyrockets towards the maximum that science allows.”[x]
If Charles Darwin was alive today, one wonders whether he would concede that his theory, according to his own defined parameters, has been refuted by contradictory scientific evidence.
If there was such pitiful evidence for Darwin’s theory when he first proposed it, how did it gain such traction within the scientific community? Quite simply because science and philosophy were more closely intertwined in the 19th century. At the time of Darwin, a set of philosophical speculations such as Darwin’s musings on the origin of species required much less hard evidence in order to be considered a valid scientific theory. Today’s stringent rules of observable, repeatable evidence were not as strictly enforced in the 1800s.
And why is it still so stubbornly upheld today, despite the growing contradictory scientific evidence? The answer is simple; because it provides atheists with an explanation for the origin of life that does away with the need for a Creator. As Richard Dawkins stated:
“Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”[xi]
Happy birthday Charles Darwin.