Paul Hughes

The evolving story of a hopeful skeptic.

November 13, 2012 Religion, Science , , , By Paul Hughes

Creation Today, on Evolution – Part I

Creation Today

Image taken from Creation Today’s Twitter Page

I wanted to write a shorter blog today, as I had a very long work day and I really didn’t feel like thinking too hard after my brain had already exhausted all but a few particularly athletic cells. Pity was, I had no clue what to write about, so I started surfing the internet to find some material. In fact, I didn’t have to look far before I stumbled across something that energized those brain cells that had previously clocked out for the day. I am referring to an article I ran into on Creation Today’s website. The article is titled “Creationists Point To Huge Holes In Evolution ‘Theory,’” and it attempts to pose questions to evolutionists that it believes they cannot answer without admitting the theory’s shortcomings. I read the article as I, a skeptic, am always looking for points that might prove or disprove something, and the article’s title piqued my interest like few have done recently. However, the article left me with only answers to the questions they asked about evolution and I would like to share those answers in this post.

Now, I’m in the process of building a reader base for my blog, and I can’t think of people I would more like to read it than the fine people at Creation Today. So, I have tweeted them @creationtoday on Twitter, and hopefully they will do me the honor of reading (and critiquing!) the following post. Since I do want to keep my posts a bit shorter, this post will be the first in a two-or-three part series critiquing the article linked above. Don’t worry, though, I’ll post other things in between the pieces of my series, and I’ll keep Creation Today posted regarding my progress.

The first section of the article is called “Fossils Disprove Evolution.” This obviously made my eyes get big, as I had always been told the opposite—that the fossil record does nothing but support Darwin’s theory of evolution. So I read the section and here is a quote, and following is my response.

“One of the most powerful pieces of evidence against evolution is the fossil record. If evolution occurred by slow, minute changes in living creatures, there would be thousands of times more transitional forms of these creatures in the fossil beds than complete forms. Since the billions of fossils that have been found are all complete forms, the obvious conclusion is: Evolution never occurred! Though evolutionists have stated that there are many transitional forms, this is simply not true. What evolutionists claim to be transitional forms all have fully functional parts. A true transitional form would have non-functioning parts or appendages, such as the nub of a leg or wing.”

Oy, where to begin? I tried to pull a single quote out from this paragraph, but discovered that the paragraph only made sense when taken as a single chunk, so I was forced to include all of it. They say that they want “transitional forms.” They are correct in saying that evolutionists claim there are many transitional forms (and there are), but Creation Today postulates that if evolution were to happen there should be transitional forms with non-functional parts. Why, you ask? If natural selection works by the concise, albeit simplistic, phrase “survival of the fittest,” the members of species with non-functional parts would not survive, as they were not as fit for survival as members of the species with fully functional parts or, perhaps more importantly, without non-functional parts. You can see the obvious hole in my defense: if those without the intermediary non-functioning part are more likely to survive than those who have the non-functional part, how could the creature ever evolve?

Interesting that you should ask. In 1871, St. George Jackson Mivart posed an applicable question to Darwin and evolutionists: “What use is half a wing?” Kenneth P. Dial wondered the same thing,1 and so he, and his team, sought out the answer. He discovered, in experiments, that many juvenile birds, before they have developed the ability to fly, nonetheless flap their wings as the run up a steep incline—and it actually helps them to get up the incline faster. Their wings are “non-functional” in that they cannot fly with them, but a “non-functional” wing can clearly still be of use to an animal as it is growing to adulthood or, as might be the case with natural selection, while it is evolving. Eventually, under Dial’s theory, the wing that was previously used just for faster running was wing-like enough to start gliding, and then, of course, flying. All of these stages of the wing are stages that would help a given member of a species to escape a predator. The more developed its wing was, the more likely to escape a predator it was, and so evolve it did. There is no non-functional intermediary, because the part was always functional in some way. But how did the standard limb evolve into a limb before it even started evolving into a wing? Ok, I can’t give examples of everything in a single blog post, but the means to the end is no doubt an analogous process that, given time and space, an evolutionist could explain, just as I did the evolution of the wing.

The second section in the article is titled “Too Many Questions and No Answers.” The section actually delves into chemistry and the elements, and asks evolutionary scientists to explain the existence of the elements and why they function the way they do. This post will not honor that section with much of a response, as this post is in defense of the biological process of evolution, not elementary chemistry. Ask evolutionists questions about evolution, and chemists questions about chemistry. I will say just one thing, which is that science is not the act of knowing all things and having an answer to all things; it is the act of asking the question and searching for an answer. Just because an answer has not yet been discovered or agreed upon (as is the case with the discussion of how life came from non-living matter) does not mean that an answer does not exist. As I said in a comment on a previous post, not knowing an answer and automatically blaming the unexplained on God is not science—it is a cop-out. We used to wonder how the neutrons and protons of an atom are kept together (since you wanted to talk chemistry, here you go); did we automatically say that it was God holding them together at all times? No, we looked for an answer, and discovered the nuclear strong and weak forces.

I’ve already met my quota of your time-spent-reading today, so I’ll continue my critique of the article in future posts at some point, but in closing I’d like to thank the folks at Creation Today for encouraging skepticism in students when you say at the end of the article, “… you have a right to be skeptical that what [your teachers] are teaching about evolution is true.” I cannot agree more. We have a right, even duty, in my opinion, to be skeptics regarding all things—evolution included. We should look at evidence and form our own opinions. I hope the answers I’ve provided above, and will provide in my future posts, begin to help you see the evidence that does indeed exist for the existence of evolution by natural selection, and I would encourage you all to read about it further.

As one who is always open to discussion, whether you agree with me or not, I encourage you to share your voice with the comment form below!

9 to “Creation Today, on Evolution – Part I”

  1. Kevin Fitzgerald says...

    I want to comment on just that second to last paragraph. It is precisely because there are gaps in scientific knowledge that faith in God is necessary – -(and as scientific knowledge increases, faith is refined, not necessarily shrunk, as seems to be the threat feared by strict creationists) because faith is not required in the face of perfect knowledge. Is it really a cop out to have faith in such situations? To trust in God that whatever is unknown currently through science, that you will be able to navigate with integrity because of your faith? Can’t you do that, while also seeking out scientific truth? Or is that trying to have it both ways? I think they both belong together, as part of the same processes. They should not be threatening to each other.

    • paul says...

      Kevin! Thank you for your insight. :-) I absolutely agree that religion and science should not be threatening to each other. They shouldn’t be exclusive at all! And why should they be; they are two things based in two different domains entirely: one on fact, and the other on faith. But you outline one of the exact problems I have with the article, which is that arguing that God is the explanation for scientific processes *is* in its nature threatening to science. Science has never said that it is sure God does not exist. Religion that denies fact, however, in favor of savoring the mystery is, in its very nature, threatening to science.

      I will say that the people at Creation Today are at least trying to combat the science with almost scientific arguments, which is more than many evolution deniers do. The problem with Creation Today’s scientific arguments is that they are based on misinformation and a general lack of informedness. The arguments they put forward show that they know very little about the process of evolution itself, and so their arguments end up coming across as weak and old-fashioned.

      – P

  2. Kevin Fitzgerald says...

    Creation Today, seems to suffer from the same problem as most other apologetics writing, which is to say, in an attempt to plug holes in a preconceived conclusion, leaks end up springing up in other places! Leaks that wouldn’t have to be there with a full and fair approach to the topic.

  3. John Smith says...

    Evolution has a difficult time explaining existence.
    I.e. “You can’t get something from nothing.”

    Something has to exist for other things to evolve from them. Why is it so difficult to accept that God, who is ever-existing and always the same, simply put all things into place. Of course this renders useless the need for evolution as we try to explain it.

    Take your analysis above: “We used to wonder how the neutrons and protons of an atom are kept together; did we automatically say that it was God holding them together at all times? No, we looked for an answer, and discovered the nuclear strong and weak forces.”

    We may have “discovered” the strong and weak forces but they were already there to discover. Where did these forces come from? What is it that gives this order to the atom?

    I struggle when you say, ask evolutionists about evolution and chemists about chemistry. The problem is that you try to dychotomize things that are naturally linked together; i.e. living beings and their chemistry.

    The beauty of God’s creation is that all things work together. Unfortunately, man screwed that up when he allowed sin into the world.

    • Carter Stevens says...

      I’d like to start by recommending the wiki articles on Physical Cosmology and the Chronology of the Early Universe(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Big_Bang), as well as Sean Carroll’s Cosmology Primer (http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/cosmologyprimer/index.html) as explanations of how fundamental forces evolved in the early universe.
      With regards to your issue about the separating of the fields of evolutionary biology and chemistry/physics:
      It is obvious that the fields of chemistry and physics are fundamentally intertwined with the field of biology. However, it is hardly fair to ask an expert in the field of evolutionary biology to explain the processes that occurred in “Big Bang” nucleosynthesis in order to produce heavier elements from an abundance of hydrogen. Furthermore, it is unreasonable to use the biologist’s lack of cosmological knowledge as any form of evidence being used to “disprove” evolution.
      I’m not suggesting that this is what you intended by your statement, but it seems in line with the challenge posed by the authors of the original article in their closing paragraph.

    • paul says...

      Wow, thank you, guys, for your comments; it’s very exciting to me getting these discussions going. :-)

      Yes, John, while I can see where you’re going with your point “You can’t get something from nothing,” (Joey McCabe would agree with you in the comments section on my other post), there is a major problem with what you’re saying, “Evolution has a difficult time explaining existence.” The problem isn’t that you’re wrong, because you’re not; the problem is that you’re absolutely correct, but the reason is that evolution doesn’t try to explain the existence of everything. It explains the existence of complex (and simple) life, and where different species came from. It by no means claims to explain the (currently) secrets of the universe. ;-)

      I will also say really quickly that I don’t have any problem accepting God’s existence. As I say many times around this blog (and in real life!), I don’t find religion and science as exclusive. You may be right, and as I believe it could be, perhaps God caused the “Big Bang” (see Carter’s links for more info) and thus started the ball rolling for the rest of His natural laws to take place. Then again, I’m starting to look more like a deist than a believer. So be it—that’s what spiritual journeys are all about; I’m sure I’ll find my way to a satisfactory conclusion in the end.

      Carter’s response pretty much covers the rest as I would, so definitely read his reply if you didn’t (although… I can’t imagine why you would just skip over it, so uh… read it again, or something heh).

      – P

    • southstar says...

      14Nov12
      @1am
      John Smith says…

      >Evolution has a difficult time explaining existence.
      >I.e. “You can’t get something from nothing.”

      there are two mistakes here:

      1) You are confusing theory of evolution with origin of life (OOL) theories. Explaining origin of life is quite outside the scope of the theory of evolution.
      2) In no part of the theory of evolution or OOL do they require “something from nothing”. Conversely creationists do require that stuff is created from nothing.

      >Something has to exist for other things to evolve from >them. Why is it so difficult to accept that God, who is
      >ever-existing and always the same, simply put all things >into place. Of course this renders useless the need for >evolution as we try to explain it.

      Evolution theory does not refuse God, it just explains how things are. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can happily believe in that God made the game to work in a specific way, that way is called evolution.

      >We may have “discovered” the strong and weak forces but >they were already there to discover. Where did these >forces come from? What is it that gives this order to the >atom?

      You risk hiding God behind very fine walls. Science is answering these questions…

      >I struggle when you say, ask evolutionists about evolution >and chemists about chemistry. The problem is that you try >to dychotomize things that are naturally linked together; >i.e. living beings and their chemistry.

      I agree with you on this one.

      >The beauty of God’s creation is that all things work >together.

      No they don’t or trees wouldn’t exist, and 99,8% of species that have existed but gone extinct would be around.

      >Unfortunately, man screwed that up when he allowed sin >into the world.

      This last statement cannot be proved or disproved. Everyone is free to believe what he or she wants.

  4. Andrew says...

    Hi Paul,
    I just wanted to say that it you have a very nice blog and i’m glad I found it. As a chemist, it seems really silly to me that people would ask the following question
    “Where did all the 90-plus elements (iron, barium, calcium, silver, nickel, neon, chlorine, etc.) come from? How was it determined how many bonds each element would have for combining with other elements?”
    This questions indicates a total disregard for even the most brief skim of wiki.
    I’ll take a stab. 90 plus elements – come from the fusion of protons and neutrons in the center of stars. elements heavier than iron must be created in a type II super nova, making them much more rare (gold, silver, uranium). Rules for bonding are determined by how many electrons these atoms have captured and the complicated attraction and repulsion modeled by the Schrodinger eq. This may sound magical, since it cannot be observed, but it is rooted in simple probability and series calculations that can make predictions on how these electrons will behave when repulsed by one another and attracted buy one or more nuclei.
    and elements are anything but precision design. if you cool them to 0 Kelvin, yes, they are precision.
    however, they should research two really smart guys. their names are Boltzmann and Einstein. They described the mess that is atoms at normal temperature by simplifying this all the way down: about X% is in ground state, Y% is in excited state #1…. on to infinity. this does not even attempt to model individual atoms, because they are beyond our powers of observation at this time.
    the compounds arise from solutions to the Schrodinger eq. Rather than thinking of this as a precision orchestra, like many creationist would postulate, you must have a conductor to get everything to agree properly. However, I would say most compounds are more like jazz combos or homeless people playing music on a sidewalk. simple circumstances bring components together to make something more profound than any individual component.
    Now this is not to say i don’t believe in God. However, faith can blind you, anyone who refutes this just needs to look at the many holy wars fought in God’s name. People who refute science with the name of God are blinded by faith. Science may simple be understanding the universe that God created, and if there is a god, he is not of this dimension, as he is allegedly omnipotent and omniscient. this indicates he resides somewhere in a dimension that includes our universe as a 4 dimensional slice (the equivalent of a 2 D piece of paper in our universe) my point is the possibilities are endless, and you can have faith in whatever you like, but you shouldn’t impose your own opinion on scientists who tackle these problems for a living.

    • Andrew says...

      sorry if that got rushed, getting ready for work… typing real fast.

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