We have been exploring the misrepresentations and logical fallacies in the evolutionist article entitled “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.” We have seen in parts 1 and 2 that the critic is very unfamiliar with what creation scientists actually teach; this is common among evolutionists. Finally, in part 3, the critic mentions some actual scientific evidence. But unfortunately for him, the evidence confirms biblical creation and challenges Darwinian evolution. I will put the critic’s article in purple font, with my comments in black.
12. [Creationists claim that] Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.
Again, creation scientists do embrace speciation. So this, again, is a straw-man fallacy. Most evolutionists like this critic just don’t bother to read creation literature in which we discuss speciation. But speciation is not evolution because (1) the organisms remain the same kind and (2) they do not gain brand new genetic information.
Speciation is probably fairly rare and in many cases might take centuries.
Actually, speciation happens even today, just as biblical creationists expect.
Furthermore, recognizing a new species during a formative stage can be difficult, because biologists sometimes disagree about how best to define a species. The most widely used definition, Mayr’s Biological Species Concept, recognizes a species as a distinct community of reproductively isolated populations–sets of organisms that normally do not or cannot breed outside their community. In practice, this standard can be difficult to apply to organisms isolated by distance or terrain or to plants (and, of course, fossils do not breed). Biologists therefore usually use organisms’ physical and behavioral traits as clues to their species membership.
This is true – and perfectly consistent with biblical creation. Speciation always results in organisms of the same created kind.
Nevertheless, the scientific literature does contain reports of apparent speciation events in plants, insects and worms. In most of these experiments, researchers subjected organisms to various types of selection–for anatomical differences, mating behaviors, habitat preferences and other traits–and found that they had created populations of organisms that did not breed with outsiders. For example, William R. Rice of the University of New Mexico and George W. Salt of the University of California at Davis demonstrated that if they sorted a group of fruit flies by their preference for certain environments and bred those flies separately over 35 generations, the resulting flies would refuse to breed with those from a very different environment.
This is a great example of speciation. The created heterozygosity that the Lord built into organisms along with natural processes can result in variations that are classified as separate species. Yet, flies remain flies. Which view of origins does this confirm?
13. [Creationists claim that] Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils–creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.
More accurately, creationists would claim that there should be countless millions of fossils that cannot be taxonomically classified because they are in between the major categories; and yet, evolutionist can only point to a handful of disputed specimens. Creationist expect to find variation within a kind. So, we do expect to find transitional fossils between the species level and genus level.
But if Darwinian evolution were true, there should be a continuum of fossils documenting the evolution between the major categories, such as between invertebrates and vertebrates. Where are the fossils of organisms that are 80% invertebrate, 20% vertebrate, and then 60% invertebrate, 40% vertebrate, and so on? Since there are billions of vertebrate fossils, and billions upon billions of invertebrate fossils, shouldn’t evolutionists reasonably expect to find at least a few million in-between forms?
Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups.
Actually, they don’t. The well-studied fossils fall neatly into discrete taxonomic categories. I will grant that evolutionist always have a handful of disputed specimens that they claim to be transitional between the major categories, which are inevitably disproved over time. But the rule in the fossil record seems to be the same rule that we find today: variation within a kind.
One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx, which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs.
Actually, as we will see below, archaeopteryx is 100% bird made of 100% non-transitional features, and therefore cannot be a transition between dinosaurs and birds. Why then do some evolutionists parade it as something between a dinosaur and bird? Archaeopteryx had some unusual characteristics that evolutionists claim are reptilian. But are they really? Or are they also found in other birds?
For example, archaeopteryx had teeth. Modern birds do not have teeth, but there are other extinct birds that had teeth. So teeth are features found in some birds, and are not unique to reptiles. Moreover, some reptiles have teeth and some don’t; many mammals have teeth as well. So the presence of teeth is not a dinosaur feature, unless you think that human beings are dinosaurs. Archaeopteryx had an unusually long bony tail (in proportion to the bird’s size) for a bird. But a long tail is not a uniquely reptilian trait.
Archaeopteryx had claws on its wings. But some modern birds have clawed wings, such as the ostrich, and the juvenile hoatzin. So this is a characteristic found in birds and is therefore not intermediate. Archaeopteryx fossils lack evidence of feathers on the head and scales are visible instead. (It is possible that living Archaeopteryx did have feathers on their head, but that those feathers were not preserved in fossilization.) But are scales unique to reptiles? No. Modern birds do have scales; most have scales on their legs. Hence, scales are a feature commonly found in birds. And some modern birds, like vultures, lack feathers on their head. So these characteristics of archaeopteryx are bird features, and none are transitional.
Archaeopteryx had all the defining characteristics of a true bird, including perfectly functional flight feathers. These feathers had an asymmetric quill – a characteristic of flying birds, as opposed to flightless birds which tend to have a symmetric quill. Archaeopteryx had full wings, a wishbone, just like any other bird, and perching feet. Archaeopteryx had long, powerful forelimbs (wings), and much smaller hind limbs. This is the exact opposite from the theropod dinosaurs from which birds supposedly evolved. Archaeopteryx had the hip structure of a bird, totally different from the hip structure of a theropod dinosaur. So when we examine the actual evidence, we confirm that archaeopteryx was fully bird, and not some sort of in-between form.
Apparently, archaeopteryx also had the avian lung system common to birds but very different from reptile lungs. This deserves some explanation. Reptile lungs work much like ours – a bellows system in which air is pulled in and then pushed out the same way. But birds have a high metabolism and require much more oxygen. So their lungs are designed so that air flows in one way, and flows out a different way, virtually doubling the intake of fresh air. Furthermore, unlike reptiles, in avian lungs the blood flows in the opposite direction as the air, in order to maximize the transfer of oxygen. Now how could a reptile lung system possibly gradually evolve into an avian lung system? They are opposite! And breathing organisms can’t live very long without air, giving the organism very little time to switch from one system to another. How could one system – even in principle – gradually evolve into the other?
If Darwinian evolution were true, what would we actually expect to find in the fossil record? In the evolutionary view, the feathers of birds evolved from scales. But flight feathers are highly complex structures, with a central shaft, barbs that branch from it, and barbules that branch from the barbs. The barbules have microscopic hooks that link the barbules to those on the adjacent barb, giving the feather its strength. If scales gradually evolved into these complex structures, then we should find fossils of creatures with structures intermediate between scales and feathers.
But that’s not what we find. Archaeopteryx had 100% feathers. Where are the creatures with 50% feathers? If birds (which have wings) gradually evolved from dinosaurs (which do not have wings), then where are the bird-o-saurs with 50% wings? Clearly, a bird such as archaeopteryx doesn’t give any credence whatsoever to the notion that birds evolved from dinosaurs or other reptiles.
A flock’s worth of other feathered fossil species, some more avian and some less, has also been found.
That’s just not true. We do not find fossils with half-wings, 50% feathers, or evidence of a lung system intermediate between reptile lungs and avian lungs. Instead, we find birds, and we find reptiles.
A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus.
You may have seen a sequence of horses from small to larger in textbooks and promoted as fossil evidence for Darwinian evolution with names like Merychippus, Pilohippis, and the modern Equus. But in fact, these are all 100% within the horse kind. Someone may say, “but they were different sizes!” Sure, and so are different breeds of horse today. Extinct varieties had variations in the foot structure, variations in the number of ribs, and so on. But these are all variations within the horse kind. Variation within a kind is a prediction of biblical creation, not evolution. Where is the evidence for Darwinian evolution between the major kinds, such as invertebrates to vertebrates?
Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus helped to make that transition [see “The Mammals That Conquered the Seas,” by Kate Wong; Scientific American, May].
Again, we have a story presented as fact, but no actual evidence to support it. There is no fossil evidence that whales have ever been anything other than whales. There is every indication that Ambulocetus was a land-animal, in no way related to whales. When it was first discovered in 1993, the key fossil bones that would help determine whether this was primarily a walking or swimming creature, namely, the pelvis, fibula, and tail, were not found.
I have noticed that many evolutionists love to label very incomplete fossils as their best case for evolution, with the key transitional features being the parts that were not found. When you believe in evolution it is nice to be free to speculate unfettered by inconvenient evidence. Conversely, complete, fully articulated fossils invariably confirm variation within created kinds: biblical creation.
Some of the bones missing from the first Ambulocetus fossil were found later, and suggest that the creature was a land animal – not something transitional to a whale. Whale’s eyes are positioned on the side of their head. However, Ambulocetus’s eyes were on top of its head, much like a crocodile. In fact, whales are found in rock layers lower than Ambulocetus, which challenges the notion that it can be a whale ancestor, unless it was able to time-travel.
Likewise, Rodhocetus was also a land-animal and not transitional to a whale in any way. It was originally portrayed as having a tail like a whale – but this was before any tail fossils were found. It was also originally displayed as having legs changing into flippers. This was before the forelimbs were discovered; we now know that it does not have the kind of limbs that can spread out like the flippers of a whale. Nor is there any fossil evidence of the flukes that are present in a whale’s tail.
Fossil seashells trace the evolution of various mollusks through millions of years.
Actually, fossil seashells show variation within kinds. In fact, some sea shells today look virtually identical to those in the fossil record. We do not find seashells evolving into non-seashells.
Perhaps 20 or more hominids (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans.
No. The well-articulated, complete fossils of primates show variation with kinds, but there is just no fossil evidence that humans share a common ancestor with apes. As I wrote earlier, humans have unique skeletal characteristics (rib cage, teeth arc, hip structure, nasal protrusion) that apes just don’t have. Marvin Lubenow’s book Bones of Contention masterfully documents the fossil evidence of humans and apes.
Creationists, though, dismiss these fossil studies.
Incorrect. Actually, creation scientists have examined these fossils very carefully, and have shown that they do not support Darwinian evolution for the reasons I outlined above.
They argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds–it is just an extinct bird with reptilian features.
It would be more accurate to say that archaeopteryx is an extinct bird with bird features. It has some unusual characteristics, but they are within the bird kind and none support the notion that it is becoming a bird. It’s already 100% bird with fully designed flight feathers, a wishbone, perching feet, etc. Where is the intermediate form, with partially formed feathers, and partially formed wings?
They want evolutionists to produce a weird, chimeric monster that cannot be classified as belonging to any known group.
This sounds like, “Those silly creationists want us to produce a fossil that is actually in between two major groups rather than falling neatly into one or the other!” Well, yes. If reptiles gradually evolved into birds over millions of years, then there ought to be millions of fossils of creatures with traits that are clearly in between these two very different kinds. Why can’t evolutionists produce any legitimate examples? The handful of disputed specimens they produce inevitably turn out to support variation within a kind.
Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record.
Incorrect. No one is asking the evolutionists to produce an infinite number of fossils. We would just like to see a few that are genuine transitions between the major groups. (Again, biblical creation predicts speciation events; we hold to fixity of kinds, not fixity of species.) If bird feathers evolved from reptile scales, then we ought to find some fossil creatures with structures that are 20% feather-like and 80% scale-like, a few with structures that are 40% feather-like, then 60%, and 80%. That’s just four fossils, but evolutionists can’t even produce that.
The fossils we find have 100% feathers, or none. Considering that scientists have found over 100,000 fossil dinosaurs, and 200,000 fossil birds, you would think that a few thousand of these would show a nice progression of intermediate features – partial wings with partial feathers. But no. The fossil evidence always shows variation within a kind.
I will close this section by pointing out that even genuine transitional forms would not actually prove what many evolutionists think they would. The existence of the spork does not prove that forks evolved from spoons. Nonetheless, if Darwinian evolution were true, and lifeforms were constantly evolving, then transitions between the major kinds should be the rule – not the exception. If life is in a constant state of flux, would taxonomical classification even be possible? The fossil record strongly challenges the notion that Darwinian evolution has happened on earth.
Nevertheless, evolutionists can cite further supportive evidence from molecular biology. All organisms share most of the same genes, but as evolution predicts, the structures of these genes and their products diverge among species, in keeping with their evolutionary relationships.
Here we have another spectacular example of a common evolutionist mistake: failure to consider the null hypothesis. The critic has not bothered to read any significant creationist literature, and so he doesn’t even think to ask, “What would biblical creationists predict about the relationship between genetics and taxonomy?” If he had, then he would have learned that we make largely the same prediction as the evolutionists. Namely, biblical creationists recognize that (1) genes code for traits, (2) organisms are taxonomically classified by their traits, (3) therefore, closer taxonomic categories should be more genetically similar than distant categories.
Organisms with similar traits tend to have similar genes. That is not because of evolution. It is because genes are the instructions to produce traits! This really should be obvious. Evolutionists construct their imagined evolutionary relationships on the basis of taxonomic classification, which is based on similarity of traits, which are determined by genes. So, it is hardly surprising that evolutionist’s inferred phylogenic relationships correlate roughly with genetic similarities. That must be so if genes code for traits.
It is amazing to me that most evolutionists haven’t thought this through. Anyone arguing that similarities in DNA support the notion of descent from a common ancestor has made this very mistake in reasoning. If they were logically consistent, then they should believe that all articles similarly evolved from a common source, as explained here [https://biblicalscienceinstitute.com/apologetics/on-the-origin-of-articles/].
Geneticists speak of the “molecular clock” that records the passage of time.
Although such molecular clocks depend on various assumptions, nevertheless, they strongly confirm recent creation and challenge evolution. You can think of mutations as being like genetic “wrinkles.” The longer a species has existed on earth, the more genetic wrinkles it will have accumulated. By measuring the rate at which mutations occur, and by observing the number of mutations in various organisms, we can estimate how long they have been on earth. And what result do we obtain? Do genetic clocks support the notion that organisms have been evolving over hundreds of millions of years? No. Genetic clocks give age estimates of a few thousand years – consistent with the biblical timescale. For more information, see this article.
These molecular data also show how various organisms are transitional within evolution.
No, they do not. Biologist Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson has done extensive studies comparing the mitochondrial DNA similarities of 2700 organisms. He has found that organisms fall into certain natural “boxes” suggestive of discrete biblical kinds, not continuous Darwinian evolution. His results are published here.
14. [Creationist claim that] Living things have fantastically intricate features–at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels–that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.
This “argument from design” is the backbone of most recent attacks on evolution, but it is also one of the oldest. In 1802 theologian William Paley wrote that if one finds a pocket watch in a field, the most reasonable conclusion is that someone dropped it, not that natural forces created it there. By analogy, Paley argued, the complex structures of living things must be the handiwork of direct, divine invention.
So far, so good. Paley’s argument has never really been refuted, as we will see below.
Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species as an answer to Paley: he explained how natural forces of selection, acting on inherited features, could gradually shape the evolution of ornate organic structures.
Darwin may have thought that he was refuting Paley and that natural selection could account for the apparent design in living organisms. But he wasn’t, and it can’t. All natural selection does is remove organisms and their corresponding genes. It does not create new features, it does not shape organic structures, it does not improve the probability of adaptive mutations, it does not push evolution forward, and therefore it cannot provide a naturalistic explanation for the design found in living organisms.
Think about it this way: natural selection does not explain why we find animals that are well-suited to their environment. Rather, it explains why we do not find animals that are not well-suited to their environment. That’s a huge difference. Suppose we come across some well-designed animal that is perfectly adapted to its environment, and ask, “How can we explain the existence and origin of this creation?” The proper response would not be this: “Because natural selection eliminated all the animals that were not well-suited to this environment.” This doesn’t answer the question about why the successful organisms do exist; it only answers the very different question of why unsuccessful organisms do not exist.
Generations of creationists have tried to counter Darwin by citing the example of the eye as a structure that could not have evolved. The eye’s ability to provide vision depends on the perfect arrangement of its parts, these critics say. Natural selection could thus never favor the transitional forms needed during the eye’s evolution–what good is half an eye? Anticipating this criticism, Darwin suggested that even “incomplete” eyes might confer benefits (such as helping creatures orient toward light) and thereby survive for further evolutionary refinement.
The major problem that no evolutionist has been able to answer is that many of the intermediate stages necessary to produce something like a human eye would have no adaptive value, and some of them would actually be counter-productive. Therefore, these stages would tend to be eliminated by natural selection. Evolutionists seem to miss the fact that natural selection does not anticipate any future goal, nor preserve traits that will eventually become useful in the future. It only serves to eliminate those traits that are not currently useful.
For example, the human eye has a flexible lens, ligaments that pull that lens into a flattened state, and a ciliary muscle that can counteract the pull of the ligaments (among countless other cellular machinery). The ciliary muscle relaxes when you view something that is far away. When you look at something nearby, the ciliary muscle contracts, which changes the shape of the lens, bringing the image of the nearby object into focus. This process is called accommodation. The problem for evolution is that these co-dependent parts would be actually counterproductive without the others.
If your eyes had a lens but no ligaments, your vision would be extremely nearsighted – much worse than if you had no lens at all. So natural selection would tend to eliminate such a lens, not preserve it. On the other hand, if the ligaments evolve before the lens, then they are useless and convey no survival advantage at all. They would tend to be eliminated since they convey no adaptive advantage. Likewise, the ciliary muscle is useless without both the lens and ligaments. Yet, it requires energy, and so would be a disadvantage for the organism. Natural selection would tend to eliminate rather than preserve it.
So the precursor steps to the human eye would be eliminated by natural selection – not preserved. And we haven’t discussed the countless other mechanisms that make sight possible. Many of these mechanisms would be counter-productive unless all the other mechanisms are in place. And since they reduce the survival value of the organism, they would be selected against. This mitigates against an evolutionary origin for the eye. It seems that the human eye was designed so that all its parts work together to allow vision.
Biology has vindicated Darwin: researchers have identified primitive eyes and light-sensing organs throughout the animal kingdom and have even tracked the evolutionary history of eyes through comparative genetics.
There is no support for evolution here. The Lord has created different organisms with different types of eyes with varying levels of sophistication. Some creatures have eyes that are simply light-sensors, but form no image. Other organisms have very sophisticated eyes that can adjust their focus. The critic has arbitrarily assumed that these represent the various stages of eye evolution. But there is no evidence for this.
More importantly, it does not answer the objection raised previously. Namely, to change a simple light sensor into something like a human eye would require many intermediate steps that actually reduce the survival value of the organism, and therefore would be eliminated by natural selection. The different varieties of eyes found in the biological world all appear to be well designed for what they do. None appear to be in the process of becoming a different type of eye.
(It now appears that in various families of organisms, eyes have evolved independently.)
This is a very revealing comment. As we saw earlier, evolutionists sometimes fallaciously argue that similarity in traits or genes is evidence for common descent, and thus organisms with similar traits are more closely related than others. But sometimes, similar traits show up in organisms that are widely separated on the evolutionist’s phylogenic tree – a phenomenon called “convergence.” Since this is contrary to the evolutionist’s most basic premise (that similarity implies close ancestry), you might think an evolutionist would admit that this is evidence for creation. But instead, they claim that it is evidence that such structures evolved independently. So, apparently if you find evidence of similar traits in supposedly closely related organisms, that’s evidence for evolution; and if you find the exact opposite, well that’s even better evidence for evolution! If evolutionists are going to pretend that their beliefs are scientific, then they need to do better than this.
Today’s intelligent-design advocates are more sophisticated than their predecessors, but their arguments and goals are not fundamentally different.
Why abandon a cogent argument that has never been refuted?
They criticize evolution by trying to demonstrate that it could not account for life as we know it and then insist that the only tenable alternative is that life was designed by an unidentified intelligence.
How dare anyone question evolution and point out the fact that it cannot account for life as we know it! How crazy to conclude that if something cannot come about by chance, then it must be designed! At least, that’s what it seems like the critic is saying. But it seems to me that if Darwinian evolution cannot account for the life as we know it, is contrary to genetic evidence, and is contrary to fossil evidence, then perhaps we ought to be skeptical about it. Furthermore, it seems that if life was not unplanned, then it was planned. What alternative is there?
We should also note that the critic has again blurred the distinction between (biblical) creationists and members of the Intelligent Design Movement. Of course, some of the former are part of the latter, but most are not. Biblical creationists do not appeal to an “unidentified intelligence” as the designer of life. The Creator has clearly identified Himself, and He is the Lord Jesus. God has revealed Himself inescapably to man, such that when we look at the world we instantly recognize it as the creation of God (Romans 1:18-20). It takes a great deal of effort and many years of brainwashing to learn to effectively suppress that truth.
15. [Creationists claim that] Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.
“Irreducible complexity” is the battle cry of Michael J. Behe of Lehigh University, author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. As a household example of irreducible complexity, Behe chooses the mousetrap–a machine that could not function if any of its pieces were missing and whose pieces have no value except as parts of the whole. What is true of the mousetrap, he says, is even truer of the bacterial flagellum, a whiplike cellular organelle used for propulsion that operates like an outboard motor. The proteins that make up a flagellum are uncannily arranged into motor components, a universal joint and other structures like those that a human engineer might specify. The possibility that this intricate array could have arisen through evolutionary modification is virtually nil, Behe argues, and that bespeaks intelligent design. He makes similar points about the blood’s clotting mechanism and other molecular systems.
This is a pretty good summary. I will just add a couple of points of clarification. First, Michael Behe is an evolutionist, not a creationist. He states in his book (Darwin’s Black Box), “I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it.” What he questions is the particular mechanism to which most evolutionists appeal; namely, mutations and natural selection appear to be insufficient to account for the molecular complexity of life. On this latter point, I would certainly agree with Behe.
Second, I highly recommend Behe’s book. Though he believes in evolution, he is honest about its weaknesses. And his book illustrates these quite masterfully.
Yet evolutionary biologists have answers to these objections. First, there exist flagellae with forms simpler than the one that Behe cites, so it is not necessary for all those components to be present for a flagellum to work.
The critic’s argument does not follow logically. An irreducibly complex system may contain some components that are not irreducibly complex. That is, it may have non-essential components in addition to its essential components. The existence of non-essential components does not invalidate the need for all the essential components. Again, an analogy may be helpful:
A car is an irreducibly complex system. It has a number of essential interdependent parts that work together, and if any one of them fails, the car no longer functions as a car. But a car may also have non-essential features, such as cup holders, power-windows, rear window wipers, a built-in stereo, power steering, automatic transmission, heated seats, and so forth. And some cars lack these extra niceties and yet still function as cars. Should we therefore conclude that cars are not irreducibly complex, but are the result of evolution?
The fact that some cars have extra features that other cars lack does not mean that the essential features of a car are not irreducibly complex. Some cars have a simpler design than others; but that doesn’t mean that either of them could have evolved by gradual modification from a common ancestor. They are still irreducibly complex. Likewise, differences in the flagellae of microbes do not remotely refute the notion that they are irreducibly complex, even if some are “simpler” than others. They all still have some essential interdependent parts, which if removed cause the flagellum to fail.
The sophisticated components of this flagellum all have precedents elsewhere in nature, as described by Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University and others.
And cars have sophisticated components that are found in other machines as well. Does that mean that cars are not irreducibly complex? The fact that both cars and airplanes have wheels does not remotely mean that wheels are not an essential component for a car, nor does it imply that cars and airplanes share a common ancestor.
In fact, the entire flagellum assembly is extremely similar to an organelle that Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium, uses to inject toxins into cells.
This is true, but does this imply that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex? The Yersinia pestis has a structure similar in some respects to the flagellum, but is missing the filament and hook, and about 20 or so proteins that would be necessary to form a functional flagellum. Yet, the structure is useful because it allows the microbe to inject toxin into another cell. So, is this structure an evolutionary precursor to the flagellum? It has an adaptive advantage, despite the fact that not all of the flagellum’s parts are there. Therefore, shall we conclude that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex?
There are two problems with such a conclusion. First, an irreducibly complex structure might contain an irreducibly complex component that could be used for something else. A car is irreducibly complex, yet it contains an engine which is also irreducibly complex. That is, the car will not function as a car without its engine, and the engine will not function as an engine without all its essential parts. And car engines can be used in other machinery; car engines have been used to create very powerful chainsaws and snow-blowers, for example. Would it be rational to conclude that a car is not irreducibly complex, and that it came about by gradual modification of chance events that conveyed survival value? More on this below.
Second, further study indicates that the structure in question is actually evidence of design. The Yersinia pestis is the same genus and thus almost certainly the same Genesis kind as the Yersinia enterocolitica – so they are biologically related. The Y. enterocolitica also has the structure to inject toxins – a structure which lacks the filament and hook and ~20 proteins necessary for a functional flagellum. It has this structure unless the temperature drops to 68° F in a low saline environment; in that event the Y. enterocolitica produces the remaining proteins, and hook and filament, resulting in a fully functional flagellum!
So, all the genetic information to produce a fully functional flagellum is already present in the Yersinia enterocolitica. However, some of these genes are suppressed, depending on the environment, resulting in a modified structure with a different function! Duel functionality is the hallmark of the best intelligently designed machines. It seems likely that the Yersinia pestis, being a close relative of the Yersinia enterocolitica, lost the ability to produce the complete flagellum perhaps due to mutation. But this would have been devolution – a loss of genetic information.
The key is that the flagellum’s component structures, which Behe suggests have no value apart from their role in propulsion, can serve multiple functions that would have helped favor their evolution. The final evolution of the flagellum might then have involved only the novel recombination of sophisticated parts that initially evolved for other purposes.
The problem with this conjecture is that each step of the process must convey a survival advantage if Darwinian evolution is to be possible. It does no good to claim that step 207 of 500 might convey a selective advantage, when steps 1-206, and 208-499 do not. Think of it this way. What were the last three steps in the supposed evolution of the flagellum? What purpose would the flagellum serve if it were missing one essential component, or two, or three? It is one thing so say that a large part of a structure might be useful for something else and have survival value. It is quite another to say that every small change in the structure conveyed a survival advantage until it became something very different. For the complexity to be reducible, one must show that every stage of its assembly increases survival value. Evolutionists have not been able to do this.
An essential part of a car (such as the engine) can be used in a different machine for a different purpose. But that doesn’t suggest that a car naturally evolved by gradual random changes that were preserved because they had value. Can you imagine building a car one part at a time with the requirement that after adding each part the entire machine has to function in a way that is more useful than the previous step? That is the challenge for evolution. Yes, a car engine can be used in other machines. But that doesn’t change the fact that a car is irreducibly complex. It doesn’t mean that a car could self-assemble by incremental changes, each of which conveyed a survival advantage.
Similarly, the blood-clotting system seems to involve the modification and elaboration of proteins that were originally used in digestion, according to studies by Russell F. Doolittle of the University of California at San Diego. So some of the complexity that Behe calls proof of intelligent design is not irreducible at all.
Again, part of an irreducible system might be used for a different purpose. But this doesn’t solve the evolutionists’ problem unless every step along the process is adaptively useful. Only then would the system be reducible.
The chemistry of the blood clotting mechanism is astoundingly complex with great inter-dependency. And if any one component fails, your blood either doesn’t clot, or it clots within your blood vessels and you die. If one essential component is missing, all the other essential components have no value at all in the blood-clotting process. It is irreducible. It makes no difference to say that some of those mechanisms are used in an entirely different process, such as digestion. Just because a car engine can be used to power a snow-blower does not mean that a car gradually evolved by minuscule random changes that were preserved by slightly improving the survival value of the car.
Complexity of a different kind–“specified complexity”–is the cornerstone of the intelligent-design arguments of William A. Dembski of Baylor University in his books The Design Inference and No Free Lunch. Essentially his argument is that living things are complex in a way that undirected, random processes could never produce. The only logical conclusion, Dembski asserts, in an echo of Paley 200 years ago, is that some superhuman intelligence created and shaped life.
Specified complexity is that which is produced by information – an encoded symbolic message containing an expected action and an intended purpose. Something has specified complexity if it takes instructions to make it. Manmade structures like cars, buildings, airplanes, and so on, are based on information that encodes how to build them. Living things also contain instructions on how to build their form – genetic information encoded in the organism’s DNA. As far as we know, creative information does not arise by chance. Science therefore confirms the creationist explanation for life’s origin, not the evolutionist one.
Dembski’s argument contains several holes. It is wrong to insinuate that the field of explanations consists only of random processes or designing intelligences. Researchers into nonlinear systems and cellular automata at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere have demonstrated that simple, undirected processes can yield extraordinarily complex patterns.
Natural processes can result in complex patterns, but never patterns with specified complexity. Specified complexity comes from information. Are there any examples of brand new information arising naturally, apart from a mind? The critic’s mistake here is an example of a red herring fallacy – a distraction from the issue. The critic is supposed to be giving evidence that the specified complexity of living organisms can arise naturally. But instead, he just mentions examples of non-specified complexity. These are irrelevant because both creationists and evolutionists agree that non-specified complexity can arise naturally, such as in crystal formation.
Some of the complexity seen in organisms may therefore emerge through natural phenomena that we as yet barely understand.
Evolutionists pin their hopes on that which we do not yet understand. They hope that, in the future, scientific discoveries will vindicate their wishful thinking. On the other hand, our confidence in creation is based on what we do understand in the present. It is consistent with the science we observe now (life always comes from life, information always comes from a mind, etc.).
But that is far different from saying that the complexity could not have arisen naturally.
Science is about what we can repeatedly test and observe in the present. All our tests and observations in the present show very consistently that specified complexity never arises by natural processes but always comes from a mind. And organisms possess loads of specified complexity. Therefore, our scientific conclusion must be: organisms did not arise by natural processes, but were designed by a mind. So it is with great irony that we read the critic’s next statement.
“Creation science” is a contradiction in terms.
This statement would be surprising to the many founders of modern fields of science who were creationists. Isaac Newton the father of physics was certainly a creationist. So was the brilliant physicist James Clerk Maxwell. Johannes Kepler who discovered the three laws of planetary motion was a biblical creationist. Kepler even computed the age of the universe at approximately 6000 years. So were many others of the past, and many excellent scientists today as well. Louis Pasteur, father of microbiology, was a creationist, and adamantly against Darwinian evolution. This conviction didn’t hamper his scientific studies; on the contrary, it led him to disprove the popular (evolutionist) belief of spontaneous generation.
Science is predicated upon biblical creationist presuppositions: the fact that God upholds the universe in an orderly way, and has promised to continue to do so (e.g. Genesis 8:22), the fact that our sensory organs are well designed and able to probe the external world (Proverbs 20:12), and that we are made in God’s image and thus have the capacity to think rationally, emulating God’s character (Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 32:8, Ephesians 5:1). We are able to do science because we are not chemical accidents, and the universe is not chance. Science is about discovering the patterns in nature that have been imposed on nature by God. If biblical creation were not true, then there would be no rational reason to believe that science is a reliable way to understand the universe. Thus, biblical creation alone explains the success of science.
A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism–it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms.
This is an extremely revealing error. Having failed to provide any actual evidence for Darwinian evolution, the critic here attempts one more desperate maneuver: redefining terms. In particular, he wants to redefine science as his belief in methodological naturalism. Methodological naturalism is the belief that we should conduct our studies as if God does not exist, as if there is nothing beyond nature. It doesn’t strictly deny that God exists, but only postulates that we should pretend God doesn’t exist when we do science. Of course, if God does exist (and indeed He does), then isn’t it fallacious to pretend He doesn’t?
Of course, there is absolutely nothing in the definition of ‘science’ that requires us to pretend that God doesn’t exist. Indeed, the Meriam-Webster dictionary defines science as “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” There is nothing about denying God or assuming naturalism in the definition. Rather, the scientific method involves testing hypotheses and observing the results repeatedly.
Ironically, the scientific method works only because God does exist and upholds creation in a consistent way. In a chance universe, why expect that you will get a similar result under similar conditions? There is no basis for such consistency. But in biblical creation there is. Consistency is a promise from God (e.g. Genesis 8:22).
The critic’s error here is called the fallacy of the rhetorical definition. This is when a person attempts to persuade someone by redefining a term in a way that is not found in the dictionary. It is an unethical approach, but it is becoming increasingly common in evolutionist circles. And it can be emotionally effective. Rather than making an actual scientific argument for your view of life’s origins, simply redefine science to exclude your opponent’s view.
Sadly, this tactic sometimes fools people. We all recognize the power of science. The technological marvels of our modern world owe their existence to scientific reasoning. So, we rightly respect the scientific method. Many secularists attempt to usurp our well-placed respect in science in order to persuade us of their beliefs; they do so by tacitly redefining science to match their beliefs. If I didn’t have a moral center, I could equally well do this, and declare “Science is defined as the fact of biblical creation. So, if you deny creation, then by definition you are denying science!” But that is not the definition of science, and so I wouldn’t do that. Don’t fall for the critic’s rhetorical definition.
Instead, ask if the scientific evidence is really consistent with what the person is claiming. Ask, “if this person’s claims were true, would that make sense of the scientific method? Would it make sense to trust my mind, my sensory experiences, in that view of origins? Would we expect to find patterns in nature if that view were true?”
Thus, physics describes the atomic nucleus with specific concepts governing matter and energy, and it tests those descriptions experimentally. Physicists introduce new particles, such as quarks, to flesh out their theories only when data show that the previous descriptions cannot adequately explain observed phenomena. The new particles do not have arbitrary properties, moreover–their definitions are tightly constrained, because the new particles must fit within the existing framework of physics.
The reason particles do not have “arbitrary properties” is precisely because the universe was created and is upheld by the mind of God. God determines what happens in the universe – not chance. Hence, particles behave according to specified laws, and do not act arbitrarily as if by chance. Both creationists and evolutionists can do science. But we can only do it because creation is true.
In contrast, intelligent-design theorists invoke shadowy entities that conveniently have whatever unconstrained abilities are needed to solve the mystery at hand. Rather than expanding scientific inquiry, such answers shut it down.
On the contrary, methodological naturalism shuts down scientific investigation. If you follow naturalistic thinking through to its logical conclusion, you would find that there is no reason to expect patterns in nature, no reason to expect that the human mind is able to discover patterns in nature, no reason to trust that our sensory organs are basically reliable, no reason to think that our minds are capable of rational thought, and therefore absolutely no reason to think that science is possible or worthwhile. Fortunately, most evolutionists don’t follow that thinking through consistently. They happily do science as if the universe were controlled by God, while simultaneously professing that God is irrelevant to science. But if they were logical about their naturalistic worldview, they would lose all confidence in the scientific method. Why would you bother to study a chance universe when you cannot trust any of your observations or conclusions?
Notice also that the critic again conflates biblical creation with the Intelligent Design Movement. Biblical creationists do not invoke “shadowy entities” with unconstrained abilities. Rather, we recognize that we are able to solve many mysteries precisely because God is who He claims to be in His Word. The astronomer Johannes Kepler said that doing astronomy was like “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” We study science to understand the consistent way that God upholds His creation. We are motivated to do science because of our love for God, we are able to do science because God has constructed the universe and man such that science is possible, and we have confidence in the scientific method because God has revealed Himself to us.
(How does one disprove the existence of omnipotent intelligences?)
How does one disprove any true thing? The answer, of course, is that one does not. Some claims are potentially false, but unfalsifiable by man due to the nature of the claim. Other claims cannot be falsified because they are true. The critic has arbitrarily decided that God’s existence falls into the first category. But has it occurred to this critic that the claim might fall into the second category?
The existence of God is a transcendental necessity, like the existence of laws of logic. No one can disprove laws of logic because he or she would have to use those laws in order to make the argument. Laws of logic must exist because the alternative is absurd. Likewise, God must exist because He provides the rational justification for the existence and properties of laws of logic, as well as science, morality, human freedom, and so forth.
Intelligent design offers few answers.
Again, the critic’s title indicates that he is supposed to be refuting creationist claims. But once again he conflates creationists with members of the Intelligent Design Movement.
For instance, when and how did a designing intelligence intervene in life’s history? By creating the first DNA? The first cell? The first human? Was every species designed, or just a few early ones? Proponents of intelligent-design theory frequently decline to be pinned down on these points.
Biblical creationists have answered all these questions and have published articles in the technical literature showing how science confirms our answers. It is a pity that most evolutionists won’t bother to read them.
They do not even make real attempts to reconcile their disparate ideas about intelligent design. Instead they pursue argument by exclusion–that is, they belittle evolutionary explanations as far-fetched or incomplete and then imply that only design-based alternatives remain.
Although I am a biblical creationist, and not a member of the Intelligent Design Movement, I must point out that there is nothing illogical about refuting a position without providing a specific alternative. I don’t have to know who murdered the victim in order to know that it was not the guy who has an alibi verified by 500 eyewitnesses. It is not logically necessary to prove any particular version of creation in order to show that evolution is not a feasible conjecture.
Furthermore, if life is not the result of unplanned, chance processes, then necessarily it must be the result of planned, deliberate processes. There is a law of logic called the law of the excluded middle. It basically says “Either A or not-A”. If life is not unplanned, then it is planned.
Logically, this is misleading: even if one naturalistic explanation is flawed, it does not mean that all are.
Darwinian evolution is considered to be the best naturalistic explanation for the variety of life we find on earth. Therefore, if the best naturalistic explanation is without any merit, would it not make sense to at least consider a non-naturalistic explanation? The critic’s comment shows his philosophical / religious commitment to naturalism. For him, it does not matter how much the scientific evidence confirms biblical creation. He refuses to consider any option that does not align with his bias. His objection to biblical creation is obviously not a scientific objection. It is philosophical or religious in nature.
Moreover, it does not make one intelligent-design theory more reasonable than another. Listeners are essentially left to fill in the blanks for themselves, and some will undoubtedly do so by substituting their religious beliefs for scientific ideas.
Again, the critic conflates biblical creation with the Intelligent Design Movement. Biblical creationists have provided a very specific model of earth history that happens to align very well with our scientific observations. We have seen that there is nothing scientific about Darwinian evolution. Our repeatable observations in the present confirm that organisms reproduce after their kind. They show that brand new creative information always comes ultimately from a mind. But the critic dismisses this view from the outset because of his philosophical bias.
Time and again, science has shown that methodological naturalism can push back ignorance, finding increasingly detailed and informative answers to mysteries that once seemed impenetrable: the nature of light, the causes of disease, how the brain works.
Actually, it was scientific thinking and not naturalism that resulted in such discoveries. Scientific thinking presupposes that there are patterns in nature to be discovered since the Creator has imposed rational order on creation. Scientific thinking presupposes that our senses are reliable, as if designed by God to probe the external universe, and not merely the result of unplanned mutations. Scientific thinking presupposes that we have the rational ability to consider the various options and then choose the best, as if we have genuine freedom endowed to us by our Creator, and are not simply the outworking of chemistry.
Naturalism on the other hand has stifled scientific discovery and continues to do so. Why study the purpose of a biological organ if you believe that such an organ is simply an accident with no intended purpose? Indeed, many organs in the human body were once considered useless vestigial leftovers of evolution. Scientific studies have revealed that these have important functions, as if they were designed by the Lord for our benefit. But why expect to find patterns in a chance universe? Yet, scientists proceed as if the universe were designed and upheld by God in a consistent way that we can probe and discover.
Evolution is doing the same with the riddle of how the living world took shape. Creationism, by any name, adds nothing of intellectual value to the effort.
Again, creation is the backbone of science. Biblical creation provides the rational justification for our expectation that the universe is rational and orderly, that our senses can accurately probe it, and that our mind can rationally discover new truths. Evolution provides none of these things.
If human beings really were the result of billions of unplanned, chance mutations that happened to convey some survival value, there really would be no rational reason to expect our senses or mind to be reliable. Some people mistakenly think that since accurate sensory organs would have survival value, we can trust that our sensory organs are reliable. But this begs the question because how do we know that we actually have sensory organs without presupposing their reliability? In other words, how does an evolutionist know that his apparent observations of the world are nothing more than a byproduct of photosynthesis? How does he know that he is not a plant, and that what he thinks he has observed and experienced are merely internal chemistry that allows the plant to grow? In such a case, these chemical reactions would indeed have survival value, but the “thoughts” that result from them would have no connection whatsoever to reality.
Everyone assumes that his senses and mind are basically reliable of course. But this assumption is only justified in the biblical worldview. God has created us in His own image, and given us access to His laws of logic by which we reason. God has created sensory organs that are basically reliable, and a universe that is full of order and patterns. Biblical creationists therefore expect that science will be a reliable method for discovering things about nature. Evolutionists also rely on science, but they are relying upon something that is only justified in the biblical creation worldview. In this way, they show that in their heart of hearts, they really do know that creation is true (Romans 1:18-20).
We have seen in this series that the critic is horribly misinformed about what it is that biblical creationists actually teach. He clearly has not read much creation science literature, nor has he thought through the implications of his own belief system. Sadly, we have found that this is quite typical for critics of biblical creation. We at the Biblical Science Institute exist to push back the ignorance so rampant in our world, to expose and correct the misconceptions of our critics, and to show how science confirms what the Bible teaches.