Evolution – Decades of Disappointment

darwin evolution of life
Courtesy of Henry Chapman, part of Darwin’s library, from Wikipedia Commons

Richard Dawkins has said that evolution is as much a fact as the fact the earth goes around the sun. It therefore stands to reason that evolution should be observable as the earth going around the sun. This is obviously not true.  Frequently it has been said by many an author, both creationist and anti-creationist, that evidence is sparse or missing, and this has remained true to the current day. (When I refer to evolution, I refer to a materialistic molecules-to-man theory via common descent.)

Darwin, in his Origin of the Species, said that, according to the theory of natural selection, numerous intermediate forms must have existed.  The lack of intermediates puzzled Darwin who suggested that the geological record is far more imperfect than most geologists believe.[i]   The situation has not changed to this day, and other evolutionists have argued similarly as I’ll detail later. Moreover, they have also argued, both in Darwin’s day and today, that the experimental evidence, or evidence gained from simply studying animals, that one type of animal can evolve into another (the plasticity of species) is missing as well. I have found that in other areas of research, other than these two, the evidence is also often missing or non-existent.

Nicholas Gillham’s article in Perspectives (published in 2001 by the Genetics Society of America) reflects on Francis Galton (1822-1911) who believed that “the small, incremental steps by which natural selection supposedly proceeded would be thwarted by a phenomenon he had discovered, which he called regression (or reversion) to the mean.” A graph featured in Gillham’s article demonstrates this in the size of sweet pea seeds. Hence, Galton reasoned, evolution must proceed via discontinuous steps. In other words, small steps won’t accomplish much evolution; only large ones would, and these large changes must happen to a degree that keeps reversion from occurring.[ii] As I’ll show later, this problem keeps cropping up in evolutionist literature.

Darwin’s contemporaries were often unimpressed with his arguments just as some were completely loyal to them. This, most likely, reflected the ideological diversity of thought on origins then just as it does today. An article in the Harvard Gazette suggests Louis Agassiz(1807-1873) had an objection to Darwin that was not based on theological grounds. Instead, according to Janet Browne, Aramont Professor of the History of Science, Agassiz’s objection was that there was no fossil evidence to support Darwin’s ideas. Agassiz characterized Darwin’s book as “a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its methods, and mischievous in its tendency.”[iii]

Agassiz was not the only author of Darwin’s era to cast stones at evolution. Charles Hodge was born only twelve years before Darwin and had an opportunity to review Darwin’s Origin of the Species for his book What is Darwinism?  Hodge concluded that Darwinism is atheism. Near the end of his book, he listed several authors who could not accept Darwin’s theory primarily because they found it difficult to believe and accept that natural selection alone could bring about all life.[iv]  Similarly, Benjamin Wiker’s book The Darwin Myth lists several authors from Darwin’s day who were very skeptical of his ideas.[v]

larson book in gifScience historian Edward Larson notes that, during the 1860s and 1870s, there were increasing doubts about the adequacy of natural selection, and, by 1900, biologists were speaking of Darwin’s demise. Fellow evolutionist Alfred Russell Wallace, for instance, could not believe that natural selection could explain the great leaps forward needed for the appearance of matter, life, animals, and humans.  British astronomer John Herschel dismissed Darwinism as the “law of higgledy-pigglety,” a phrase Darwin did not fully understand but felt it was “evidently very contemptuous.” Herschel, invoking some action by God in the development of life, maintained that “an intelligence, guided by a purpose, must be continually in action to bias the direction of the steps of change – to regulate their amount – to limit their divergence – and to continue them in a definite course.”[vi]

Writing during the World War II era, Jacques Barzun noted that, by 1909, when scientists were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Darwin’s Origin, the evolutionist orthodoxy showed an “open rift.” The chief problem was that natural selection “seemed incapable of taking enough hold on small creature-variation to get started.” Citing the work of geneticist William Bateson, Barzun suggested that nature would have to operate on large changes in form because “small random changes did not accumulate through long ages and were in fact irrelevant to evolution.”[vii]

Edward Larson furnishes additional material on this era. In 1903, German botanist Eberhard Dennett said, “We are now standing by the death-bed of Darwinism, and making ready to send the friends of the patient a little money to insure a decent burial of the remains.” Stanford entomologist Vernon Kellogg, adding to Dennett, said, in 1907, that “Mutations seem to be too few or far between; for orthogenesis we can discover no satisfactory mechanism; and the same is true for the Lamarckian theories of modification.” (By “orthogenesis” Kellogg is referring to the theory that evolution proceeds along a path and direction and is not undirected, and by “Lamarckian” theories he is referring to the outdated idea that animals develop physical changes that lead to the evolution of species instead of the changes being based in DNA.) What is so important in Larson’s rendition of this is his statement that for biologists, “doubts about Darwinism and other mechanisms for forming species did not discredit the fact of evolution” because, as Kellogg says, “the descent of species is looked upon by biologists to be as proved a part of their science as gravitation is in the science of physics.” The challenge, Larson says, is then to show how evolution happens.[viii]

This is a stunning admission and explains the dogmatism of current-era evolutionists like Stephen Gould, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins and why evolutionists can quite often say evidence for evolution is sparse, missing, or nonexistent while continuing to maintain evolution is fact. Say what you want about the factual basis for evolution, to evolutionists their beliefs are true regardless of presence, or lack of, evidence.

goldschmidt bookBy 1940, when Richard Goldschmidt wrote his book The Material Basis for Evolution, the experimental evidence for change, or simply observation of it, from one group of animals to another (large macroevolutionary events) was still missing. Goldschmidt wrote that “The change from species[ix] to species is not a change involving more and more additional atomistic changes, but a complete change of the primary pattern or reaction system into a new one, which afterwards may again produce intraspecific variation by micromutation.” Goldschmidt was no lightweight in biology. Stephen Gould, who wrote the introduction to the revised 1982 edition, characterized him as “one of the world’s great geneticists.” Gould summarizes Goldschmidt’s arguments by pointing out that “Microevolution does not lead . . . to the origin of species. True species are separated by ‘bridgeless gaps.’ Microevolutionary change leads local populations into ‘diversified blind alleys.’” Large changes, must occur by macromutation of “hopeful monsters” – that is, animals with such larges changes that hopefully can reproduce and form new species since smaller microevolutionary changes cannot do the job.[x]

 In 1955, John Klotz, writing from the Christian perspective, revealed numerous problems with evolution including problems with mutation as evolution’s driving force. Klotz said that most mutations are harmful, and those that are supposedly helpful still decrease viability. For instance, when the purple eye and arc wing mutations are combined in the fruit fly Drosophila, the life expectancy does not match that of the wild fruit fly. Some mutations just have not been studied enough to warrant a conclusion. Klotz quoted E. B. Ford, in Mendelism and Evolution, as saying that it is highly doubtful that any mutations have survival value.

In summary we must say that mutations appear at first glance to supply a very promising mechanism for evolution. It does look very much as if this may be the mechanism for supplying the variety on which natural selection may work. A more careful analysis of this phenomenon, however, shows a great many problems and casts serious doubt on the idea that mutations supply the necessary mechanism for evolution. For one thing, most mutations are either lethal or semilethal. There is real doubt that any are really favorable. The chance, moreover, that a mutation will be preserved in the stock, even if favorable, is very slight. Mathematical calculations show this very clearly. Reverse mutations, which seem to occur rather frequently, would certainly slow down evolution. Moreover, there are many restrictions on mutations: restrictions on the direction of mutation, mutation suppressors which reduce mutation rate, restrictions imposed by parthenogenesis, and the like.[xi]

After Darwin’s Century

Despite these problems, by 1961, Julian Huxley was triumphant in his opinion of Darwin whom he called the “Newton of biology.” The “evolutionary vision,” Huxley said, enables us to discover the makeup of a “new religion” that “illuminates our existence in a simple but almost overwhelming way” and “frees us from subservient fear of the unknown and supernatural.”[xii] Huxley was clearly displaying the attitude mentioned by Larson that the scarcity of evidence does nothing to dissuade evolution’s true believers even to the point evolution is their own personal religion.

Norman Macbeth and Jeremy Rifkin, both evolutionists, writing in 1971 and 1983 respectively, surveyed breeding experiments and found evidence for evolution missing.[xiii]  Macbeth ran into the works of evolutionist Ernst Mayr who notes that animal populations display a persistence to change he dubbed “genetic homeostasis.”  In Mayr’s account of breeding experiments with the fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster, experiments were run to increase and decrease the number of bristles.  The number decreased to 25 but then the line of flies became sterile and died out.  The number of bristles increased from an average of 36 to 56, but then sterility set in and eventually the numbers fell down to 39. According to Macbeth, Mayr regards these results as normal and concludes that “obviously any drastic improvements under selection must seriously deplete the store of genetic variability” and this plagues every breeding experiment.  Rifkin adds to Macbeth by noting bacteria “offer still another compelling example of the stasis of species.”   Peppered moths do not fare any better.  Rifkin quotes evolutionist Loren Eiseley and Douglas Scott Falconer, former chairman of the Department of Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, for support.

It would appear that careful domestic breeding, whatever it may do to improve the quality of race horses or cabbages, is not actually in itself the road to the endless biological deviation which is evolution. [Eiseley]

The improvements that have been made by selection in these [domesticated breeds] have clearly been accompanied by a reduction of fitness for life under natural conditions, and only the fact that domesticated animals and plants do not live under natural conditions has allowed these improvements to be made. [Falconer]

Notice that what both Rifkin and Macbeth say is the same as that echoed by Galton. Despite the announcement by evolutionists such as Julian Huxley that evolution is a confirmed fact, by the 1970s it was anything but that as far as evidence for change between species[xiv].

 In that same decade, Peter and Rosemary Grant spent part of each year since 1973 studying some of Darwin’s finches on a 100-acre island called Daphne Major in the Galapagos. During a severe drought in 1977, vegetation withered and only tough seeds were left.  Natural selection favored larger birds with tough beaks that enabled them to open the hard seeds.  Yet, unusually rainy weather in 1984 to 1985 resulted in soft seeds, and in this case the birds that survived were the ones best suited to eat the smaller ones.[xv] In this case, evolution proceeded toward a change in beak size but no further and in fact reversed its tracks. This certainly doesn’t confirm that major morphological changes are possible despite PBS, here, declaring this is an example of Darwinian evolution unfolding before our eyes.

Over 100 years after Darwin wrote his Origin, Stephen Gould was aware of limits to which small changes in morphology could lead to new types of animals. Gould admitted that missing transitional fossils are the trade secret of biology and also that “few systems are more resistant to basic change than the strongly differentiated highly specified complex adults of the ‘higher’ animal groups.”  How could you ever convert a rhinoceros or a mosquito into something different, he asked.  Gould quoted D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson as agreeing by saying you could never convert a helicoid (a spiral form) into an ellipsoid (a three-dimensional ellipse). It’s the same with animals. We would never think of transforming an invertebrate into a vertebrate, for instance. “Nature,” he said, “proceeds from one type to another.” Yet, Gould, echoing the never-ending faith in evolution, concluded that “transitions between major groups have occurred in the history of life.”[xvi]

Gould wrote these words on the tail end of an admission that the fossil evidence does not show evidence of gradual evolution between major groups of animals. In 1972, he and Niles Eldredge proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium that explained away those gaps.  Gould, in the book Punctuated Equilibrium, quoted himself and Eldredge as suggesting that, in 1977, they “wondered why evolutionary paleontologists have continued to seek for over a century and almost always in vain, the ‘insensibly graded series’ that Darwin told us to find” and that it was time for evolutionary theory to “confront the phenomenon of evolutionary non-change.”[xvii] Gould quoted George Gaylord Simpson, whom Gould said is “the greatest and most biologically astute paleontologist of the 20th century,” as saying, at the 1959 Chicago centennial celebration for the Origin of the Species, that

It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution. A great many sequences of two or a few temporally intergrading species are known, but even at this level most species appear without known intermediate ancestors, and really, perfectly complete sequences of numerous species are exceedingly rare. . . . These peculiarities of the record pose one of the most important theoretical problems in the whole history of life: is the sudden appearance . . . a phenomenon of evolution or of the record only, due to sampling bias or other inadequacies?[xviii]

One of the more difficult reads of that era is chapter nine of Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker. In this chapter, Dawkins explained the differences between gradualism (the idea evolution proceeds via small continuous steps), punctuated equilibrium (rapid bursts in evolution leaving gaps in the fossil record) and saltations (large macroevolutions). This chapter is a word salad, but the most interesting paragraphs come several pages into the chapter where Dawkins reflected on the work of paleontologists Eldredge and Gould who suggested that the fossil record gaps are a true reflection of what happened and not a reflection of an imperfect fossil record.  In other words, they are suggesting that animals evolved that quickly leaving no intermediate links. Even though Dawkins has, at times, suggested that evolution can be falsified, it’s clear from this chapter that all evolutionists want to massage the meaning of the fossil record to keep evolution from being falsified. The reason that Dawkins and fellow evolutionists might not want to allow evolution to be falsified comes in his admission that the sudden appearance of animals in the Cambrian fossil record, as if they were just planted there, delights creationists. Gradualist evolutionists and punctuationists both, he said, despise scientific creationists equally. Furthermore, “both schools of thought agree that the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation, and both would reject this alternative.”[xix]

Dawkins is not the only evolutionist to admit what the gaps mean to creationists. In 1981, Steven Stanley informed us that “myriads of species have inhabited the Earth for millions of years without evolving noticeably.” But, he said, “major evolutionary transitions have been wrought during episodes of rapid change, when new species have quickly budded off from old ones.” However, “there is no doubt that the new punctuational movement will bring joy to the hearts of creationists,” he said. His critique of these creationists is rough: they are “well funded” and “zealous” and quote respected scientists “out of context and from outdated literature.” Creationism also, he said, poses a threat to American schools.[xx] I suggest he, as Dawkins, has every reason not to put Darwin to the test as the falsification of evolution would create cannon fodder for the creationists he despises.

So, the gaps that are real, as far as Dawkins’ writing in the late 1980s, can only be filled by divine creation, but Dawkins, the enlightened atheist, cannot admit that is a valid explanation and neither can his fellow evolutionists. As Stephen Gould said, the reason to believe in the ability of one well-defined group of animals to evolve into another is also missing.

Denton and Johnson Stir the Pot: 1980s and Beyond

phillip johnson tribute

In the latter half of 1980 and the beginning of the 1990s, two authors, Michael Denton and Phillip Johnson, argued that the standard evolutionist explanation for life’s existence is false. Johnson, a Christian lawyer who became interested in the creation/evolution debate, listed evidence presented by evolutionist Douglas Futuyma whom he says “has done the best job of marshalling the supporting evidence . . . that confirm the effectiveness of natural selection.” This evidence includes bacterial resistance to antibiotics, survival of larger sparrows and finches with larger beaks, survival of different colored peppered moths, and human resistance to malaria. Johnson quotes evolutionist Pierre Grassé as being unimpressed with the evidence, and Johnson quotes Grassé as saying that the “evolution in action” of Julian Huxley and others is simply the observation of demographic facts, local fluctuations of genotypes, and geographical distributions. Often, Grassé says, “the species concerned have remained practically unchanged for hundreds of centuries.”[xxi]

denton bookDenton, an Australian molecular biologist, medical doctor, but a non-creationist, began his book Evolution: a Theory in Crisis by arguing that “Darwin’s special theory was largely correct.” Furthermore, it is possible to explain in great detail the exact sequence of events that lead to species formation.[xxii] Denton gives examples of this including the Hawaiian honeycreeper – a bird unique to Hawaii. The bird has diversified into twenty-two distinct species and forty-five subspecies in general morphology, beak morphology, and behavior. Despite this, “not all biologists have shared Darwin’s confidence and accepted that the major divisions in nature could have been crossed by the same simple sorts of processes.” These dissenters, Denton says, cannot be dismissed as cranks or creationists because they are among many first-rate biologists. Extrapolations may not explain the “macro” changes in biological systems any more than they may explain them in other physical systems.[xxiii]

Denton is the host of a Youtube video pushing some type of design in the world and that Darwin’s theories are false. Click here to visit page.

Also, the diversity of animal life reflects what he calls the “typological nature of life” rather than that of Darwin’s evolutionist vision. Scientists before Darwin adopted the view, based on scientific evidence and not religious predispositions, that there were distinct types of animals without transitions between them. The fossils supported that contention as of Denton’s writing. Denton, in summarizing the evidence, said “It is a remarkable testimony to the almost perfect correspondence of the existing pattern of nature with the typological model that, out of all the millions of living species known to biology, only a handful can be considered to be in any sense intermediate between other well defined types.” Some fossils, like that of the lungfish, for instance, seem intermediate because some of its organs are fishy whereas others are amphibian. However, none of the organs are themselves transitional between the two animal groups.[xxiv]  It’s possible these features may be convergent, and I’ll go into more detail on that later.

 Many evolutionists (maybe all of them?) have based their belief in evolution on homologous structures (similar structures shared among several animals because they are descended from a common ancestor). However, Denton says homologous structures are not specified by homologous genes, and this means, to me, that the structures did not come from those genes.  Denton suggests evolution’s explanation of homologous structures would be more persuasive than Christian creationism’s explanation for them except for the fact evolutionist claims about them aren’t true.

Finally, regarding the fossil evidence, Denton said “The fossils have not only failed to yield the host of transitional forms demanded by evolution theory, but because nearly all extinct species and groups revealed by paleontology are quite distinct and isolated as they burst into the record, then the number of hypothetical connecting links to join its diverse branches is necessarily greatly increased.”[xxv] In other words, the more fossils we discover the greater the number of links we need to validate the theory of evolution.

time magazine big bang gif

In 1995, Time magazine featured a cover story on the Cambrian explosion (the explosion of life in the Cambrian rocks after very little Precambrian rock fossils). Speaking of these jumps, J. Madeleine Nash mused that:

The more scientists struggle to explain the Cambrian explosion, the more singular it seems. And just as the peculiar behavior of light forced physicists to conclude that Newton’s laws were incomplete, so the Cambrian explosion has caused experts to wonder if the twin Darwinian imperatives of genetic variation and natural selection provide an adequate framework for understanding evolution. “What Darwin described in the Origin of Species,” observes Queen’s University paleontologist Narbonne, “was the steady background kind of evolution. But there also seems to be a non-Darwinian kind of evolution that functions over extremely short time periods and that’s where all the action is.” [xxvi]

So, as late as 1995, nothing has really changed from Galton’s day when scientists invoked discontinuous change to explain the jumps between species, but instead here Nash invokes non-Darwinian evolution. Same idea with a different name masquerading as something new discovered.

As late as 2001, Richard Morris wrote that Darwin expected missing intermediates to be found but

the fossil record has remained full of gaps to the present day. To be sure, some intermediate forms, such as whales and snakes with legs, have been discovered. However, more often than not, new forms are still seen to appear suddenly in the geological strata. The slow changes that Darwin’s theory of gradualism seems to require are generally not observed. One species may appear to be descended form [sic] another, but the fossil record generally does not show how one evolved into another.[xxvii]

 In 2016, Denton revisited the evidence for evolution to declare that the evidence was still missing. Life, for instance, is dominated by “novelties” and “innovations” that are not filled by intermediate forms. Evolutionist Ernst Mayr’s paper “The Emergence of Evolutionary Novelties” is cited as an example detailing this phenomenon, and I have found from a Google search that there is more literature on this topic. Günter Wagner and Vincent J. Lynch’s article in Current Biology is a case in point.  They explain that “How novel traits arise in organisms has long been a major problem in biology.” Denton argues, there is no empirical support for assuming that various structures like the pentadactyl limb came about through adaptation.[xxviii]

Denton also explains how evolutionists like Jerry Coyne can find evidence for intermediate links while Stephen Gould can find gaps. Coyne claims that we have many examples of transitions between different types of animals (fish and amphibians, for instance) while Stephen Gould says we cannot invent a reasonable sequence between ancestors and descendants in major structural transitions. Who’s right? Denton explains that when Coyne talks about intermediates between fish and amphibians he is talking about the fact some animal groups are closer to others physically without the existence of intermediate forms explaining the origin of, say, an evolutionary novelty that defines a particular group of animals. In much the same way, I could say find intermediate links between a car and scooter in a bicycle, but nobody would legitimately say a bicycle was a true evolutionary intermediate between the two because all of them belong to mechanistic novelties that are independent of each other.

Finally, after Denton lobbed his missiles at Darwinism, Michael Behe, in his most current book, wrote that mutations are not the engine of evolution they were once thought. Rather, “random mutation and natural selection are in fact fiercely devolutionary” because “mutation easily breaks or degrades genes, which, counterintuitively, can sometimes help an organism to survive, so the damaged genes are hastily spread by natural selection.” Not only that, but Darwinian mechanisms are “self-limiting” and prevent evolutionary change at the biological classification level of family and above.[xxix] Behe says

And the fundamental principle seems very likely to be this: minor random variations around a designed blueprint are possible and can be helpful, but are severely limited in scope. For new basic designs such as those at the biological level of family and above, additional information is necessary, information that is beyond the ability of mindless processes to provide.[xxx]

The shocking thing about this is that Behe’s arguments confirm what creationist scientists have talked about for years. Behe is no scientist looking to match his ideas to what the book of Genesis says. Yet, his idea of a limit to change at a particular level beyond which change can occur matches the Biblical idea of “kinds” perfectly.

Evolution Revealed in Macromolecules and Morphology

Evolutionists have also sought evidence for transitions between animals in molecular biology (DNA, RNA, proteins, and so forth), but have run into problems. Creationist Duane Gish discusses the work of evolutionists Christian Schwabe and Gregory Warr who argue against monophyletic evolution (where life originates once from one cell and evolves into multiple species) and in favor of polyphyletic evolution (where life originates from multiple cells and evolves into multiple species). If we could draw a diagram of the difference, monophyletic evolution would look like a tree whereas polyphyletic evolution would look like a bush.

If evolution were true, then the amount of molecular divergence between different unique types of animals should agree with evidence from paleontology and morphology, but it doesn’t. For instance, Schwabe’s interest is the hormone relaxin which is used in different species as an aid in giving birth successfully. Pig and rat relaxin is as different from each other as shark relaxin is from pig and rat which places their divergence at a different time than paleontologists believe.[xxxi]

 In a 1986 article in Trends in Biochemical Sciences, Schwabe states that as a molecular scientist, he should find evolutionary relationships among animals.  However, “it seems disconcerting that many exceptions exist to the orderly progression of species as determined by molecular homologies; so many in fact that I think the exception, the quirks, may carry the more important message.”[xxxii] In a review of another of Schwabe’s works, Gert Korthof was even more blunt: “Schwabe’s hypothesis that all species on earth have an independent but natural origin, is a remarkable, non-creationist, unorthodox theory of the origin of life. To describe his theory as a ‘multiple origins’ theory is an understatement, because we are talking about a billion living and extinct species. That means a billion independent origins. Clearly this means a complete rejection of the fundamental Darwinian principle of Common Descent, which postulates there was only one origin of life.” Korthof then creates a table citing fifteen differences between “Schwabe’ism” and Darwinism.[xxxiii]

Gish says Schwabe and Warr point out that if the idea of monophyletic evolution is abandoned, then every conclusion we make regarding how molecules or species are related is doubtful. Also, one has to abandon the idea that similarities imply common descent. Creationists, he says, agree with Schwabe and Warr.[xxxiv]

A similar problem crops up with the idea of convergence (alluded to earlier). The Science Daily web site defines it as so:

In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.[xxxv]

What this means is that normally evolutionists assume that if animals A, B, C, and D have trait H, that trait would have come from a common ancestor they all share. However, if trait H would arise in animals A, B, C, and D who do not share a common ancestor, then the trait would be due to convergent evolution.

The problem with convergent evolution is explained by Casey Luskin in his chapter “The Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution” from the book More than Myth.

the main assumption underlying all phylogenetic trees is that biological similarity is the result of inheritance from a common ancestor. The problem for evolutionary biologists faced with conflicting evolutionary trees is that biological similarity often appears in places not predicted by common descent. In other words, everyone recognizes that biological similarities often appear among species in cases where they cannot be explained as the result of inheritance from a common ancestor. This means the main assumption fails.[xxxvi]

George McGhee, who wrote an entire book on this, declares that convergent evolution is “ubiquitous” and that it “occurs on all levels of evolution, from tiny organic molecules to entire ecosystems of species, and even in the way in which we think.”[xxxvii] Numerous charts displayed in the book show just how common it is. This brings up the obvious question of how evolution can come upon the same design repeatedly by blind luck. However, if we accept that an intelligent designer created life the problem would go away.

The problem for me – and what should come to any unbiased researcher – is where to separate animal traits that come about through common ancestry from those that come about through convergent evolution. His discussion of the porpoise early in the book is a case in point. McGhee says the porpoise inherited its traits from its mammalian ancestor because it’s a mammal, but it has fins that look fishlike. However, he says, the fins are not those of a fish but those of a mammal (mammal fins?). Later he admits that “evolutionary relationships are not known beforehand, and we must carefully analyze all traits that we see are shared by different species.”[xxxviii] Do species share particular traits because they inherited them from a common ancestor or because they are convergent, he asks.

There is also the phenomenon of reverse evolution which is loss of function in body parts instead of their increasing complexity.  Jenny Morber suggests that penguins are an example of reverse evolution in that they are birds that lost their flight ability. However, these birds have larger muscles and denser bones for strength which allow them to swim. Snakes, she suggests, lost their legs although they do have the structures needed to hear prey. Birds no longer have teeth although Morber suggests the loss of teeth helped beaks grow as a precursor to flight.[xxxix] It should appear to anyone these animals are excellently designed for their habitats, but evolutionists think that, if their theory is true, these animals should have more limbs and organs than they do that point to greater ongoing complexity, not regression.

Furthermore, there are many genes that are present only in some animals but not in others. These are called “orphan genes.” Richard Buggs suggests orphan genes are common and should diminish with time, but they haven’t. They represent a problem for evolution because if “we can’t find other genes similar to them in other species, we can’t build family trees for them. We cannot hypothesise [sic] their gradual evolution; instead they seem to appear out of nowhere.”[xl]

So sometimes organs imply descent from a common ancestor except when they don’t – in which case evolutionists call them “convergent.” Other times they imply evolution in “reverse” or imply something unique which is an “orphan.” Evidence against Darwin’s central theory of common descent is relabeled to be only an exception to the theory and not evidence against it. No matter what, the theory takes precedence.

The continual reappearance of specific animal traits can also imply purpose – something atheists abhor. When Simon Conway Morris wrote Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe he, like McGhee, argued there are limited pathways that evolution can follow, and this is the reason we see the same biological features repeatedly. Morris even introduces preplanning into his explanations for these biological coincidences. Hayden Thomas, reviewing this book for the pages of U.S. News and World Report, notes that Conway Morris’ idea of “purposeful directionality” is “anathema to most biologists” because “the essence of Darwinian evolution is that organisms survive or die based on what happens on any given day, not according to a preordained plan.” Thomas notes that some of Conway Morris’ colleagues worry that he “offers free ammunition to fundamentalist Christians who insist on a literal reading of biblical Creation” with one unnamed paleontologist worrying that Conway Morris is giving them a whole from which to quote. Thomas notes that “while he flatly rejects creationism, Conway Morris argues for not just the possibility but the likelihood of divine agency in the history of the universe, as Christians always have.”[xli]

I look at it this way. If multiple body designs show up consistently in the same way multiple body designs show up many times in automobile designs, computers, bicycles, and other manufactured objects, then it’s evidence of a creator instead of the creative ability of a mindless process.  As I’ve shown before in this essay, the priority of the theory and bias against God and creationism makes evolutionists adjust the evidence to fit the theory instead of subjecting it to proof or falsification.

Given what I’ve written above, I don’t see much success for evolution. There are, and have been, continued efforts at suggesting intermediate links between various groups of animals, and as of my brief reading on this topic many of them have been disproven. I suspect this will continue. What does prove a worthy scientific pursuit is the search for meaning and design, and the list of what I’ve seen that suggests there is design in the universe grows continually. If evolutionists were to reframe scientific debate to test evolutionist theory, allowing it to pass the test or fail, as well as testing intelligent design theory, better scientific conclusions would come. I don’t, however, see this will ever happen because the philosophical stakes are too high. Instead, evolutionists will continue to periodically find evidence lacking with the assumption that we should continue to believe in evolution while missing evidence will be found someday.

Jeffrey Stueber

Email the author

View Table of Contents

View about the author page

Read the Wastelands of Unbelief – an edited version of my book published by Tate Publishing


[i] Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species, Mentor ed. (New York, New American Lib., 1953), 429-430.

[ii] Nicholas Gillham, “Evolution by Jumps: Francis Galton and William Bateson and the Mechanism of Evolutionary Change,” Perspectives, Genetics 159, December 2001, 1383-1392; https://www.genetics.org/content/159/4/1383.

[iii] https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/05/a-tale-of-two-scholars-the-darwin-debate-at-harvard/.  Browne is Aramont Professor of the History of Science at Harvard.

[iv] Hodge’s book is reproduced in Mark Noll and David Livingstone, What is Darwinism? Charles Hodge: and Other Writings on Science & Religion (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994).

[v] Benjamin Wiker, The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin (Washington D.C.:Regnery,2009)

[vi] Edward Larson, Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (New York: Modern Library,2006), 107, 119, 125.

[vii] Jacques Barzun, Darwin Marx Wagner: Critique of our Heritage, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1941), chap. 7

[viii] Larson, 128-129.

[ix] By “species” here I refer to groups of animals that share basic morphological similarities where some basic changes may be allowed, however. Finches that only differ in the shapes of their beaks are examples of a single species.

[x] Richard Goldschmidt, The Material Basis of Evolution, 2nd ed. (London: Yale University Press, 1982), xxi, Xxviii, 390.

[xi] John Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, (St. Louis, Concordia, 1955), 262-265, 288.

[xii] Julian Huxley, Evolutionary Humanism (New York: Prometheus, 1992), 9, 87-88.

[xiii] Jeremy Rifkin, Algeny, (New York, Viking, 1983), p. 130 ff.;Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried, (Boston, Harvard Common Press, 1971), p. 29 ff.

[xiv] For “species” here see previous note on the definition of this word.

[xv]  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/6/l_016_01.html

[xvi] Stephen Gould, The Panda’s Thumb, (New York, Norton, 1980), p. 192-193

[xvii] Stephen Gould, Punctuated Equilibrium (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 22. Material comes from chapters one and nine of Gould’s book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

[xviii] Gould, 26.

[xix] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1987), chap. 9.

[xx] Steven Stanley, The New Evolutionary Timetable (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 3, 165. Chap. 8.

[xxi] Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 1993), 25-27.

[xxii] It is clear that when Denton refers to a new “species,” he is referring to an animal that shares the same morphological features of other animals but may differ in some minute features, such as coloration or beak size. A new coloration in finch, for instance, would be considered a new species of finch even though it is still a finch.

[xxiii] Michael Denton, Evolution: a Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MA, Adler&Adler, 1986), 84-87.

[xxiv] Ibid, 109.

[xxv] Ibid, 165-166.

[xxvi] J. Madeleine Nash, “When Life Exploded,” Time, (December 4, 1995)

 [xxvii]  Richard Morris, The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin’s Soul, (New York, Henry Holt and Co., 2001), 100.

[xxviii] Michael Denton, Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2016). Günter Wagner and Vincent Lynch, “Evolutionary Novelties,” Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 2, 26 January 2010, Pages R48-R52, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982209019459

[xxix] Michael Behe, Darwin Devolves (New York: HarperCollins, 2019), 10-11.

[xxx] Ibid, 169.

[xxxi] Duane Gish, Creationists Answer Their Critics (El Cajon: CA, Institute for Creation Research, 1993), 282-283.

[xxxii] Christian Schwabe, “On the Validity of Molecular Evolution,” Trends in Biochemical Sciences, Volume 11, Issue 7, July 1986, Pages 280-283, https://www.sciencedirect.com/sdfe/pdf/download/eid/1-s2.0-0968000486900241/first-page-pdf

[xxxiii] Gert Korthof, “A Chemist’s View of Life: Ultimate Reductionism & Dissent”: A review of Christian Schwabe’s The Genomic Potential Hypothesis, http://wasdarwinwrong.com/korthof56.htm

[xxxiv] Gish, 285.

[xxxv] https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/convergent_evolution.htm

[xxxvi] Casey Luskin, “Problem 7: Convergent Evolution Challenges Darwinism and Destroys the Logic Behind Common Ancestry,” https://evolutionnews.org/2015/02/problem_7_conve/.

[xxxvii] George McGhee, Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011), xi.

[xxxviii] Ibid, 1-5.

[xxxix] Jenny Morber, “5 Times Evolution Ran in ‘Reverse,’” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/10/reverse-evolution-explained-hagfish-penguins-snakes-science/

[xl] Richard Buggs, “The Evolutionary Mystery of Orphan Genes,” https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/users/24561-richard-buggs/posts/14227-the-unsolved-evolutionary-conundrum-of-orphan-genes

[xli] Thomas Hayden, “Divining Nature’s Plan,” U.S. News & World Report (9/29/2003, Vol. 135 Issue 10), 62-64.