Conversation on Evolution

Are you a creationist?

If you mean by that, do I believe in a supernatural explanation for life, the answer is no, although I do not rule it out. Gods are invented to explain those things that we do not understand. As we learn more about the world and how it works, there are fewer mysteries to explain, and therefore less of a need for gods. I think that as time goes on, we will learn more and more about the universe and the life in it. Whether we will ever be able to completely understand it is not known at this time. For now, I will accept that there is a natural, knowable explanation for the universe and for the existence of life.

Almost all scientists accept evolution as fact. How do you reconcile your views with the overwhelming opposition of mainstream science?

It is constantly a source of wonder and amazement to me that highly competent scientists, whom I otherwise hold in high regard, have not come to these same conclusions. The other, far worse possibility is that they have come to these conclusions, but will not speak out for fear of being shunned by the establishment, upon whom they depend for their financial support. But this is nothing new. It permeates the entire history of science from Galileo to Copernicus to Barbara McClintock.

What are these conclusions that you speak of?

The conclusion that life could not have arisen de novo on a barren earth and that all of the life forms that we see today could not have appeared as a result of the darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection.

What evidence do scientists present to support their belief in evolution?

The evidence for evolution is broken down into three broad catagories. The first is direct evidence of small-scale changes in controlled laboratory experiments. The second is direct evidence based upon sequences in the fossil record. The third is the vestigial argument, the idea that the signs of history are preserved within every organism which record pathways of historical descent.

Hasn't natural selection been seen in both laboratory and natural settings?

I have never denied for a moment that mutations occur, or that natural selection occurs. What I'm saying is that it is a trivial effect, with no creative power to produce new forms. Evolution correctly is defined as a change in the frequency of genes in a population. The leap of faith, which I refuse to take, is that these changes can accumulate to the point where new species, genera and classes are formed. Artificial selection experiments in laboratories have demonstrated that there is a point beyond which you cannot go. Why should it be any different in nature?

Let's start at the beginning. Could life have arisen de novo on the primitive earth?

I won't rule it out, but I consider it very unlikely given what we know. It is becoming more clear as time goes on, that the primitive atmosphere contained little, if any, ammonia, methane and hydrogen. This puts all of the experiments of Fox and Miller in question. A much more likely scenario, is that the primitive atmosphere was rich in carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor. No one to my knowledge, has proposed any believable mechanism that would cause these perfectly stable molecules to combine together into RNA, DNA, proteins, cells, tissues and organisms. You can't even get past the first step. In addition, the oldest cells date back to around 3.45 billion years old. The earth probably only became habitable for life at around 3.8 billion years ago. This leaves you with only 350 million years for the processes of photosynthesis, replication, cell respiration and all of the enzymes needed by these processes to evolve. I just don't think that's enough time.

What do you think happened?

It seems much more likely to me that life came to earth from elsewhere, with all of these processes already in place. I think the key to it all is the water. The earth appears to be the only planet in the solar system with large quantities of water, which is necessary for life to flourish.

That's all well and good, but it only postpones the question. Where did the space life come from?

Well, now you've come to the question of primary cause. Stated another way, we may well ask "why is there anything, instead of nothing?" At some point in time, you've got to get to something that has always existed. Conventional thinking calls this something God. But it may just as well be the universe as God, in my mind. We must consider the possibility that the universe, and the life in it have always existed. It may just be that the question "why is there life?" is no different from the question "why is there matter?"

Getting back to evolution, scientists claim that there is a "mountain of evidence" for evolution. Do you deny this?

Well, I just don't see it. There is a "mountain of evidence" that all living forms are related. Of that there can be no doubt. In fact, this relatedness is profound. I think this is the evidence that they are talking about. The similarities in genes found across the spectrum of living things is astounding. The same genes are present in all kinds of animals, and even in plants. There is a gene in the bean plant that codes for hemoglobin, which is never used by a bean plant. Why is it there? But this profound relatedness, does not mean that one organism is ancestral or descendant to another. And furthermore, this relatedness says nothing about the mechanism by which these forms appeared, certainly it does not support the mechanism of mutation and natural selection.

Doesn't the fossil record show that organisms have evolved from simple forms to complex forms over time? How can you deny this?

Even if the fossil record did show this, which it doesn't, this would say nothing in support of the darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection. The fact is, the fossil record falsifies the darwinian mechanism. From the time of the first eukaryotic cells, around 1.4 billion years ago, up to the Cambrian period which began around 600 million years ago, life did not progress beyond the single-cell stage. This is 800 million years available, and no move towards multicellularity. Then in a period of time which may have been as short as 5 million years, all of the known animal phyla appear at once. After that, no new animal phyla apppear for the next 500 million years. This is not consistent with a darwinian view that evolution occurs by the slow accumulation of beneficial mutations. Another profound observation is that there appears to have been little or no evolution in the 40 million years between the Burgess fossils and the Chengjiang fossils. Why?

Aren't there lots of transitional fossils to prove evolution?

There are transitional fossils and there are transitional fossils. First of all, there is an almost complete absence of transitional fossils between classes. This is a very important distinction. This had been known by paleontologists for a long time and Gould and Eldridge tried to neutralize the problem with their theory of punctuated equilibrium. There are no intermediate forms between invertebrates and vertebrates. There are no intermediate forms between birds and reptiles. There are no intermediate forms between amphibians and reptiles, or between fish and amphibians. These forms are not still hidden in the fossil record. They never existed. The hierarchy of living organisms is profoundly discontinuous. Hardly what we would expect if life evolved gradually by the slow accumulation of beneficial mutations.

I've heard it said that humans did not evolve from gorillas, but rather that gorillas and humans had a "common ancestor". What about this?

All of these so-called "common ancestors" are hypothetical. Look at the time lines in any textbook. The lines converge at the base, but these lines of convergence are usually dotted lines. Why? Because the convergences to a common ancestor are hypothetical. In my opinion, they never existed.

What about this idea of historical evidence. Why does our body display the vestiges of an arrangement better suited to quadrupedal life, if we are not descended from four-footed creatures?

lets assume for a moment that we are descended from quadrupeds. What does that say about mutation and natural selection? Nothing at all. We may have changed from quadrupeds to bipeds by the addition of a small chunk of DNA that was incorporated into our genome from a virus that came from space. This argument only addresses the question of relatedness, which is clear and profound. It says nothing whatsoever about the mechanism by which these changes occurred. Nor does the fossil record. The key to the whole question is, "where did the genes come from?" Where did the instructions that produce these structures and behaviors originate? I do not believe that they arose by chance as a result of mutations.

I recently saw an advertisement in a magazine for a car. The caption said "Mr. Darwin, your car is ready." The implication is that this was an example of how the car evolved over time into its present state. Aren't technological advances, such as have occurred in the aircraft industry examples of evolution?

The analogy between biological evolution by natural selection and technological advances is a false analogy. I know that some people have drawn an analogy between biological evolution and the evolution of, say, an airplane or car. The analogy is false because at no point in the development of the automobile or airplane was any element of design achieved by chance. Only by the most strict application of the rules of engineering and aerodynamics was the final result obtained. There is no way that a random search could ever have discovered the design of the internal combustion engine. In all cases, the search for function is intelligently guided. Evolution by the method you propose is analagous to problem solving without any intelligent guidance. In the case of every kind of complex, functional system, the total magnitude of all combinational possibilities is nearly infinite. Meaningful islands of function are so rare, that to find even one would be a miracle.

There has been much talk about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. You say evolution violates this law. Evolutionists say that this law only applies to a closed system, and that the earth is not a closed system, it receives large amounts of energy from the Sun. How do you answer this?

First of all, there is no such thing as a closed system anywhere in the universe. The only closed system is the universe itself, as far as we know. Secondly, the earth radiates back into space an amount of energy equal to that which it receives from the sun, minus that which is stored in the process of photosynthesis. The question is, can this energy from the sun cause molecules of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water to aggregate into amino acids and proteins? I don't think so. The only effect it would have, as far as I can see, is to make the earth warm. If anything, it would create more disorder by increasing the average kinetic energy of the molecules. No one to my knowledge, has proposed a plausible mechanism by which order comes from disorder under these conditions.

It seems logical to me that small improvements might accumulate gradually over time to produce new adaptations. Why don't you see this?

The biological world is filled with numerous examples of processes and structures that do not work unless they are complete. Examples would include the flagellum of a bacterium, the biochemistry of vision, the blood clotting system, the cilium, the immune system and the cellular transport system. Many biochemical pathways in the body are "cascade" reactions in which a series of intermediate steps leads to the final result. How can these processes and structures be found by natural selection? They would have no selective value at their intermediate stages of development. In fact, they might even prove fatal to the organism. How many random mutations would have to occur before all of the correct steps are in place? 50% of an eye might not be 50% of vision, if the missing part was the optic nerve. It would be 0% of vision.

How do evolutionists view the appearance of new adaptations?

According to evolutionary theory, every adaptive advance discovered during the course of evolution, along every phylogenetic line has been found by a gigantic lottery by using a purely random search strategy. This has been shown by mathematicians to be a hopelessly inefficient process.

But hasn't Richard Dawkins proposed something called "cumulative selection" to get around this problem?

There is a fatal flaw in Dawkins example. For cumulative selection to work, there must be selective advantage at every step in the process or, the outcome must be known in advance. Otherwise, how can the "worth" of each small change be judged so that the beneficial mutations can be kept? We saw previously that many processes and structures are irreducibly complex so they have no worth at intermediate steps of evolution. My name has 13 letters and one space. How long would it take to find it by selecting random combinations of 13 letters and one space? The only way to be successful is if the target string is known in advance. If the outcome is known in advance, then we have intelligent design.

Do you think that living organisms show evidence of intelligent design?

Considering the ingenuity with which living organisms are assembled, and the deepening layers of complexity that are found therein, I cannot ascribe it to any random process that is driven by chance. I do see evidence for intelligent design.

So you ARE a creationist?

Intelligent design does not imply a supernatural creator. I can conceive of a higher intelligence which operates within the confines of natural law.

If the observational and experimental evidence doesn't support darwinian evolution, why does it persist as a theory?

The main reason, I think, is that science can offer no alternative. People expect scientists to have answers. Scientists don't like to say "I don't know". This would create an information vacuum that would quickly be filled by religious creationists who believe that God created the universe and all of the life in it. Another reason, is that there are a whole generation of evolutionary biologists who have grown up with this theory, believed in it, promoted it and defended it. How would it be for them, at the twilight of their careers to have to admit that their life's work was incorrect? It is also clear that Darwinism is on the road to becoming an established religious belief with Darwin as the diety. There are new groups of "ultra-darwinists" who seek to explain everything in the world including psychology, in terms of darwinism.

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