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The Theory of Evolution Is Bad Philosophy, Not Good Science

 

By Eric V. Snow

 

Modern Western Civilization’s most important myth, or unproven collective belief, is the theory of evolution.  Seemingly dressed up in the authoritative attire of objectively proven biological science, evolution’s presumed truth presides over the thinking of most of the West’s political, academic, media, and even religious worlds.  Darwinism is the leading reason why modern man believes he is the accidental product of blind, purposeless material forces, not the special creation of a loving, almighty God.  Declaring itself to be scientifically true, Darwinism is actually based on bad philosophy, not good science.  The robe of evolution’s claims to being a scientific fact, not a philosophical myth, is stripped off below. 

 

Using unacknowledged philosophical assumptions, evolutionists frequently assert that their theory is a “fact,” or an easily verified, objectively true statement.  The famous theorist of evolution, Stephen Jay Gould, once reasoned:  “Facts are the world’s data.  Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts.  Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. . . . And human beings evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be identified.”[1]  No evolutionist, however, lived millions of years ago to witness this alleged set of events take place.  After all, purported developments such as the first cell’s spontaneous generation are unrepeatable, unique past events that cannot be subjected to future further experimental investigation.[2]  Evolutionists suppose their theory is a “fact” because they philosophically rule out in advance special creation as impossible or “unscientific.”  In order to pull this off, they use a philosophically rigged definition of “science.”[3]  They covertly equate “naturalism” or “materialism” with “science.”  To them, evolution must be a fact since neither the supernatural nor God exists.  Without having actually observed macroevolution or special creation, they are certain the former happened, and equally certain the latter did not.  Because they liken “science” to the “systematic study of physically sensed forces,” Darwinism is virtually true by definition.  Then when informed critics attack macroevolution’s grand claims on empirical grounds, evolutionists dismiss any anomalous evidence by labeling belief in a Creator or any miracles as “unscientific.”  Obviously, if “God” is ruled out in advance while setting up the premises of scientific reasoning, “God” could never be in any conclusion.  But this is a matter of free philosophical choice before experience, not compelling scientific results after experience. 

 

In addition, Gould’s statement overlooks science’s core function, which requires it to provide explanations of the “efficient cause” or “how” something happened, including the purported mechanism for evolution.  By contrast, so long as written revelation’s details do not deal with the “how,” religious explanations primarily account for the “final cause” or “why” an event took place.  So why should anyone believe in the “fact” of evolution if science cannot give specific reasons about “how” it occurred?  Then Darwinism is no more empirical (i.e., based on data from the senses) than any ancient pagan creation myth.

 

Scientific knowledge is based upon reasoning using direct observations.  By contrast, historical knowledge, which is derived by interpreting old written records, is a sharply different method for knowing something.  For example, the theory of gravity can be tested immediately by dropping apples and measuring how fast they fall.  But the natural evolution of fundamentally different kinds of plants and animals has never been observed scientifically at a level higher than the “species” classification.[4]  Macroevolution, or large-scale natural biological changes, cannot be tested directly in a laboratory or witnessed clearly in the wild.  Belief in macroevolution is a matter of historical reasoning and presumptuous extrapolation, not scientific observation and personal experience. 

 

Now another philosophical prop behind the reasoning of evolutionists should be kicked down.  Often evolutionists conceitedly criticize perceived flaws in the structure, number, geography, and/or inter-relationship of plants and animals in order to claim God could not have created them.  For example, the philosopher Philip Kitcher argued the panda’s “thumb,” used for stripping bamboo shoots before eating them, is a clumsy, inefficient design:  “It does not work well.  Any competent engineer who wanted to design a giant panda could have done better.”[5]  First of all in response, evolutionists have a hard time proving a specific anatomical structure is really “poor” (i.e., unambiguously hinders survival).  For example, does a male cricket’s chirp help its species to survive?  Chirping gives away its position to both prospective mates and potential predators.[6]  The only “hard” evidence that the “fittest” organism survives to leave the most offspring is (well) it is an organism that leaves the most offspring.  Such a “tautology,” or repetitious statement, explains nothing specifically about how mono-cells became men.[7]  Second, evolutionists fail to realize that they are philosophers, not scientists, when making these kinds of arguments.  For if it is “unscientific” to conclude that a particular complex wonder of nature proves God’s existence, it is equally philosophical to argue purported defects in nature disprove God’s creative power.  The Apostle Paul taught that the existence and design of the universe confirm God’s existence and characteristics (Romans 1:20, NASB):  “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  Theologians call this kind of reasoning “natural theology,” since it avoids using the Bible (i.e., written revelation) in order to find out truths about God.  Evolutionists are engaged in negative natural theology, not empirical scientific research, when skeptically complaining about “nature’s defects.”  They are philosophizing in order to support materialism under the cover of “science.”  Third, they mistakenly believed certain natural organs and structures were “defective” and “unnecessary” before further scientific research revealed their value and importance.  For instance, by the year 1900 evolutionists had drawn up a list of around 180 vestigial organs in the human body.  Today, all these supposedly “useless” organs, even the appendix and the tailbone, are medically known to have a helpful function.[8]  Ironically, the theory of evolution’s belief in these supposedly unneeded organs retarded medical research about their actual functions, thus showing by actual experience how scientifically dysfunctional this theory is.

 

Many evolutionists, seeing all the pain, cruelty, and death in nature, also complain about God’s allowing so much evil.  Charles Darwin himself denied that “a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created . . . the cat [to] play with mice.”[9]  Here Darwin wrote as a disbelieving theologian, not an empirical scientist. From what field study’s investigation could have the following reasoning emerged?  “Evolution is true because a good, almighty God never would have made nature full of suffering.”  Because the problem of evil in nature drives so much of the emotional rationalizing that justifies faith in evolution as a replacement for faith in God, their complaints still deserve a detailed response.  First of all, suffering in the natural world is a temporary intruder, not a permanent resident, before Christ returns (Romans 8:18-22).  The Bible prophesies that animal predation is only a passing condition of the world, not the original intent of God (Isaiah 11:6-7), “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat . . . the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”  Second, this world’s evils resulted originally from the free choices of people and angels who should have chosen more wisely.  Satan’s great revolt (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 14:12-15), Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 3:17-18), and God’s great flood for punishing humanity’s sins (Genesis 6:5-17) all combined to damage terribly the physical world’s environment.  As a result, nobody should look out at nature today, and then believe the Creator originally planned to leave it as it is today.  Third, people should humbly admit how much greater God’s knowledge is than mankind’s own.  Evolutionists fail to perceive that the “improvements” that could be done to natural structures if they were God may result in unanticipated, unintended consequences.  For instance, a larger brain size for men and women sounds great until it is realized that babies with larger skulls pose bigger problems for mothers giving birth.  Like Job, the evolutionists ignorantly question the Creator’s wisdom and righteousness.  In principle, God replies to them (Job 38:2), “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”  Finally, if evolutionists do not believe in moral absolutes, they cannot criticize God for allowing evil into the world.  For if moral relativism is true, then evil does not exist.  Most serious evolutionists are atheists and agnostics who deny objective values or moral commands that are true in all places at all times.    Ironically, only moral absolutists, who are a rare breed among unbelievers, can use the problem of evil to deny God’s existence. After all, if you do not believe in evil, you cannot condemn God for permitting it![10]  So in general, evolutionists should ask scientific questions instead of questioning God’s motives if they are to be regarded as scientists instead of as philosophers.  Blasphemy should not be misidentified with scientific reasoning.[11]

 

Evolutionists make a prime analytical error when they extrapolate from small biological changes within species or genera (related groupings of species) to draw sweeping conclusions about how single cell organisms became human beings after so many geological eras go by.  In short, it is illegitimate to infer from microevolution that macroevolution actually happened.  Just because some biological change occurs is not enough to prove that biological change has no limits.[12]  As law professor Phillip Johnson comments (“Defeating Darwinism,” p. 94), evolutionists “think that finch-beak variation illustrates the process that created birds in the first place.” Despite appearing repeatedly in textbooks for decades, does the case of peppered moths evolving from a lighter to darker variety on average really prove anything about macroevolution?  Even assuming that the researchers in question did not fudge the data, the moths still were the same species, and both varieties had already lived naturally in the wild.[13]   Darwin himself leaned heavily upon artificial breeding of animals, such as pigeons and dogs, in order to argue for his theory.  Ironically, because intelligent purpose guides the selective breeding of farm animals for humanly desired characteristics, it is a poor analogy for an unguided, blind natural process that supposedly overcomes all built-in barriers to biological variation.  After all the lab experiments and selective breeding, fruit flies and cats still remained just fruit flies and cats.  They did not even become other genera despite human interventions can apply selective pressure to choose certain characteristics in order to produce changes much more quickly than nature does. As Johnson explains, dogs cannot be bred to become as big as elephants, or even be transformed into elephants, because they lack the genetic capacity to be so transformed, not from the lack of time for breeding them.[14]  To illustrate, between 1800 and 1878, the French successfully raised the sugar content of beets from 6% to 17%.  But then they hit a wall; no further improvements took place.  Similarly, one experimenter artificially selected and bred fruit flies in order to reduce the number of bristles on their bodies.  After 20 generations, the bristle count could not be lowered further.[15] Clear empirical evidence demonstrates that plants and animals have intrinsic natural limits to biological change.  The evolutionists’ grand claims about bacteria’s becoming men after enough eons have passed are merely speculative fantasies.

 

Normally evolutionists assert that small mutations, natural selection, and millions of years combined together to slowly develop complicated biological structures and processes.  This theory is called “neo-Darwinism.”  But gradual evolution can never convincingly leap the hurdle termed “irreducible complexity” by Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry.   Basically, all the related parts of an entirely new and complete anatomical structure, such as the eyes of humans or the wings of birds, would have to mutate at once together to have any value.  Even Darwin himself once confessed, “the eye to this day gives me a cold shudder.”  He remained uncomfortable about explaining the human eye’s origins by the gradual processes of natural selection alone.[16]  In order to function, these structures must be perfect, or else they will be perfectly useless.  Even Stephen Jay Gould, an ardent evolutionist who questioned gradual evolution, once asked:  “Of what possible use are imperfect incipient stages of useful structures?  What good is half a jaw or half a wing?”[17]  Partially built structures resulting from minor mutations will not help a plant or animal to survive.  In order to explain the problem with gradual evolution developing intricate organs, Behe makes an ingenious analogy between a mousetrap and an organ’s successful functioning.  In order for a snap mousetrap to work, all five parts (the spring, hammer, holding bar, catch, and platform) must be present together and connected properly.  If even one part is missing, unconnected, or broken, the rest of mousetrap is completely worthless for catching mice.[18]  In light of this analogy, consider how slight flaws in the immensely complicated hemoglobin molecule, which carries oxygen in the bloodstream, can cause deadly blood diseases.  Sickle cell anemia and hemophilia, which can easily cause its sufferers to bleed to death when their blood fails to clot properly, are two key examples.[19]  Therefore, either an incredibly unlikely chance set of mutations at once created the whole hemoglobin molecule, or God created it.  The broad, deep canyon of functioning complex organs cannot be leaped over by the baby steps of microevolution’s mutations.[20]   Indeed, if the time-honored biologists’ saying “nature makes no jumps” is historically true, then complex biological designs prove God’s existence.

 

Now the reason why mutations were so unlikely to produce such complex structures deserves more specific attention.  In the time and space available in earth’s history, useful mutations could not have happened often enough to produce fundamentally different types of plants and animals.  Time cannot be the hero of the plot for evolutionists when even many billions of years are insufficient.  But this can only be known when the mathematical probabilities involved are carefully quantified, which is crucial to all scientific observations.  That is, specific mathematical equations describing what scientists observed need to be set up in order to describe how likely or unlikely this or that event was.  But so long as evolutionists tell a general “just-so” story without specific mathematical descriptions, much like the ancient pagan creation myths retold over the generations, many listeners will find their tale persuasive.  For example, upon the first recounting, listeners may find it plausible to believe the evolutionists’ story about the first living cell arising by random chance out of a “chemical soup” in the world’s oceans.  But after specific mathematical calculations are applied to their claim, it is plainly absurd to believe in spontaneous generation, which says life comes from non-living materials.  The astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe once figured out that even the most simple single cell organism had to have 2,000 enzymes.[21]  These organic catalysts help to speed up chemical reactions within a cell so it can live.  The chance of these all occurring together was a mere 1 out of 1040,000.  That is equal to one followed by 40,000 zeros, which would require about five pages of this magazine to print.  By contrast, using the largest earth-based telescopes, the number of atoms in the observable universe is around 1080. [22]   At one academic conference of mathematicians, engineers, and biologists entitled, “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution,” (published 1967) these kinds of probabilities were applied to evolutionary claims.[23]  One professor of electrical engineering at the conference, Murray Eden, calculated that even if a common species of bacteria received five billion years and placed an inch thick on the earth, it couldn’t create by accident a pair of genes. Many other specific estimates like these could easily be devised to test the truthfulness of Darwinism, including the likelihood of various transitional forms of plants and animals being formed by chance mutations and natural selection. 

 

Furthermore, even bad mutations themselves only rarely happen.  One standard estimate puts it at one in a hundred million to one in a billion per base pairs of the DNA molecule.[24]   As a result, the possibility is very low for a truly good mutation’s occurrence that is helpful under all or most survival conditions.  For example, the gene that causes sickle cell anemia is somewhat helpful in climates where malaria is common, but it is serious genetic defect everywhere else.

 

At this point, knowing how unlikely even seemingly simple biological structures could arise by chance, many evolutionists will resort to yet more philosophical dodges.  For example, they might assert that the universe is infinitely large and infinitely old.  So then enough time and space for anything to happen by chance would exist, even for life itself.  Of course, they have no observational proof for their philosophical assertion.  Furthermore, their claim clashes with the big bang theory, which presently dominates astronomers’ explanations about the universe’s origin.  This theory often has estimated that the universe is somewhere around 12 to 14 billion years old and has said it is still expanding.[25]  If the universe had a beginning and is still getting bigger, it cannot be eternal in age and infinite in size. 

Evolutionists may declare that their Christian opponents only believe in a “God of the gaps.”  But do Christians only believe God created what cannot be now naturally explained?  And as scientific knowledge advances, will their belief in what God did miraculously by His creative power correspondingly shrink?  In actuality, the gaps in scientific knowledge have been getting much larger, not smaller.  As more is discovered, more is known to be unknown.  For instance, after over 150 years of intensive searching, very few, if any, transitional forms have ever been found between fundamentally different types of plants and animals.[26]  Even the ardent evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould admitted, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.”[27]  Along with Niles Eldredge, Gould even dismissed the well-known purported reptile/bird transitional form archaeopteryx as a “curious mosaic” that didn’t count. After all, after carefully evaluating its anatomy, it is clearly a bird with a few unusual characteristics, not a “half-bird/half-dinosaur.” [28]  Back in 1859, Darwin himself used the excuse that the “extreme imperfection of the geological record” resorted from a lack of research, but that explanation wears very thin nowadays.  For example, of the 329 living families of animals with backbones, nearly 80% have been found as fossils. [29]   Furthermore, when Victorian scientists accepted Darwin’s theory almost wholesale, they hardly knew anything about how complex single cell organisms were.  Behe notes that after World War II scientists who used newly developed electron microscopes found out how much more complex bacteria were than when they had seen them before under the older light microscopes.[30] 

 

As the knowledge of biochemistry has increased, such as about DNA and protein, the difficulties of explaining the origins of such complex structures by random chance increased correspondingly.  The gaps that evolutionists have to account for have grown larger and larger, not smaller and smaller.  The faith that they need in their paradigm has ironically grown greater as scientific research has turned up increasing numbers of anomalies that need to be explained away.  They distract others from realizing the flaws with their theory by attacking Christians who account for nature’s miraculous origins by God’s power by asserting that is not a “scientific” explanation.  If evolutionists claim that they wish to explain as much as possible without resorting to God as the answer, that is a philosophical claim about the nature of knowledge, not scientific work itself.[31]  To assert, “natural processes can always be explained materialistically,” requires unbounded blind faith.  In general, Darwinists have not realized a crucial principle:  “Nature cannot always explain nature.”  The complexity of the information encoded in biological processes cannot be explained by any slowly developing natural process itself.  Therefore, in order for living things to have orderly design, they needed a still greater Creator with an orderly mind to cause them to exist.

 

As shown above, the theory of evolution is based on philosophical assumptions, not scientific evidence.  Although evolutionists will intellectually intimidate their critics into silence by commanding all the prestige of modern science that they can muster, their theory is like a mighty fortress built upon conceptual quicksand.  They claim the evils of the natural world prove that no God exists, but as moral relativists, they contradict themselves by generally asserting that evil does not exist either.  They also define “science” in materialistic terms so that any supernatural explanations of nature have to be rejected in advance for philosophical reasons only.  But above all, the Darwinists irrationally attempt to explain nature’s complex designs by random natural processes alone.  Although Paul was describing how ancient pagans rejected the true God, his words fit equally well the Western scientists who rejected God as the Creator over the past two centuries (Romans 1:21-22):  “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools.”  May we reject the theory of evolution’s false declaration that our lives have no meaning when the God of the Bible will fill them with true purpose!

 

 

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[1] Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, as quoted in Philip Johnson, Darwin on Trial (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1991), pp. 66-67.

[2] Michael Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MD:  Adler & Adler, Publishers, 1986), p. 75.

[3] Phillip E. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1997), pp. 43-44.

[4] Frank Lewis Marsh, Evolution or Special Creation? (Washington, DC:  Review and Herald, 1963), pp. 12-13, 42, discusses a number of arbitrarily scientifically labeled, even created, “species” of animals and plants that are still inter-fertile.  Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis of Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI:  1984), p. 374, believes that the “family” level roughly corresponds with the basic created Genesis “type.”

[5] Philip Kitcher, Abusing Science:  The Case Against Creationism (Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press, 1982), p. 139, as quoted by Duane T. Gish, Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics (El Cajon, CA:  Institute for Creation Research, 1993), p. 226.

[6] http://www.psu.edu/dept/nkbiology/naturetrail/speciespages/cricket.htm

[7] Johnson, Darwin on Trial, pp. 20-22.

[8] Jerry Bergman and George Howe, “Vestigial Organs” Are Fully Functional (St. Joseph, MO:  Creation Research Society Books, 1990), p. x; Gish, Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics, p. 219.

[9] Letter to Asa Gray in 1860, as quoted in Greene, Science, Ideology and World View, p. 138, as quoted in Hunter, Darwin’s God, p. 140; see also pp. 17-18.

[10] Hunter, Darwin’s God, p. 154.

[11] Citing Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, Hunter, Darwin’s God, p. 155.

[12] Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, p. 87.

[13] Henry M. Morris, “Evolutionists and the Moth Myth,” Back to Genesis, August 2003, pp. a-d; Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, pp. 79-80.

[14] See Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, p. 44; Darwin on Trial, pp. 17-18.

[15] Examples taken from Duane Gish, Evolution:  The Challenge of the Fossil Record (El Cajon, CA:  Master Books, 1985), pp. 33-34.

[16] As quoted in Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited, p. 73.

[17] Stephen Jay Gould, “Return of the Hopeful Monsters,” Natural History 86(6), as quoted by Dwayne Gish, Evolution:  The Challenge of the Fossil Record (El Cajon, CA:  Creation-Life Publishers, 1985), p. 236.

[18] Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (New York:  The Free Press, 2003), pp. 39-45; see also pp. 111-112).

[19] W.R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited  The Theories of Evolution and of Abrupt Appearance (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 74, 81; Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, p. 267; http://www.chemguide.co.uk/organicprops/aminoacids/dna6.html; http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/20hist12.htm; http://www.occc.edu/biologylabs/Documents/Real/Gene_Mutation_script.htm

[20] See Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, pp. 13-14.

[21] Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space (London:  J.M. Dent & Sons, 1981), p. 24.

[22] http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_atoms_are_in_the_observable_universe

[23] See Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, p. 314; http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/20hist12.htm

[24] Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, p. 267.

[25] http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/uni_age.html

[26] Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, pp. 345-346.

[27] Gould, “Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History, May 1977, pp. 12, 14, as quoted in Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited, vol. 1, p. 58.

[28] Paleobiology, 3:147 (1977), as quoted by Gish, Evolution:  The Challenge of the Fossil Record, p. 115; see generally pp. 110-117.

[29] Denton, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, pp. 189, 191.

[30] Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 10; See also p. x.

[31] Ibid., pp. 238-239.