Skip to comments.National Geographic Ignores The Flaws in Darwin's Theory
Posted on 11/09/2004 11:21:22 AM PST by Michael_Michaelangelo
Was Darwin wrong?
In the November 2004 issue of National Geographic, David Quammen answers this question with a resounding "NO. The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming."
In Quammen's view, most people who reject Darwin's theory of evolution do so out of ignorance, so he proceeds to lay out some of the evidence for it. But the evidence he lays out is exaggerated, and the problems with it are ignored.
Quammen explains that Darwin's theory has two aspects: the "historical phenomenon" that all species of living things are descended from common ancestors, and "the main mechanism causing that phenomenon," which is natural selection. The evidence presented by Darwin, he continues, "mostly fell within four categories: biogeography, paleontology, embryology, and morphology."
The first category includes evidence from similar species in neighboring habitats, such as finches on the Galápagos Islands; the second includes evidence from the fossil record, such as extinct horse-like animals that preceded modern horses; and the third includes evidence from similarities in early embryos that supposedly point to their common ancestry.
All three categories are rife with problems that Quammen overlooks. For example, the Galápagos finch story is complicated by the fact that many of what were originally thought to be thirteen species are now interbreeding with each other -- even though Darwinian theory regards inability to interbreed as the distinguishing feature of separate species.
The fossil record of horses is also much more complicated than Quammen makes it out to be; actually, it looks like a tangled bush with separate branches rather than a straight line of ancestors and descendants. Even worse, Quammen ignores the Cambrian explosion, in which many of the major groups ("phyla") of animals appeared in a geologically short time with no fossil evidence of common ancestry -- a fact that Darwin himself considered a "serious" problem that "may be truly urged as a valid argument against" his theory.
Finally, embryos fail to show what Darwin thought they showed. According to Quammen, the evidence for evolution includes "revealing stages of development (echoing earlier stages of evolutionary history) that embryos pass through before birth or hatching." Darwin (as quoted by Quammen) thought "the embryo is the animal in its less modified state," a state that "reveals the structure of its progenitor." This idea -- that embryos pass through earlier stages of their evolutionary history and thereby show us their ancestors -- is a restatement of German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel's notorious "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," a false doctrine that knowledgeable experts discarded over a century ago.
It is actually Quammen's fourth category, morphology (i.e., anatomical shape), which Darwin himself (as quoted by Quammen) called the 'very soul' of natural history, that provides the basis for the other three. In each category, similarity in morphology ("homology") is interpreted as evidence for evolutionary relatedness. According to Darwin, features in different organisms are homologous because they were inherited from a common ancestor through a process he called "descent with modification."
The biologists who described homology a decade before Darwin, however, attributed it to construction or creation on a common archetype or design. How can one determine whether homology in living things comes from common ancestry or common design? Simply pointing to the similarities themselves won't do, as biologist Tim Berra inadvertently showed when he used different models of Corvette automobiles to illustrate descent with modification in his 1990 book, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism. Although Berra wrote that "descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious" in Corvettes, we all know that automobile similarities are due to common design rather than common ancestry. Only by demonstrating that a Corvette can morph into another model by natural processes could someone rule out the need for a designer. Similarly, the only scientific way to demonstrate that similarities in living things are due to common ancestry would be to identify the natural mechanism that produced them. According to Darwin's theory, that mechanism is natural selection.
So the four categories of evidence on which Darwin relied to support his theory of the historical phenomenon of evolution rely, in turn, on his theory about the mechanism of evolution. But what is the evidence for Darwin's mechanism?
The principal evidence Quammen cites is antibiotic resistance. "There's no better or more immediate evidence supporting the Darwinian theory," Quammen writes, "than this process of forced transformation among our inimical germs." Perhaps so; but then Darwin's theory is in serious trouble. Antibiotic resistance involves only minor changes within existing species. In plants and animals, such changes had been known for centuries before Darwin. Nobody doubts that they can occur, or that they can be produced by selection. But Darwin claimed much more, namely, that the process of selection could produce new species -- indeed, all species after the first. That's why Darwin titled his magnum opus The Origin of Species, not How Existing Species Change Over Time.
Yet no one has ever observed the origin of a new species by selection, natural or otherwise. Bacteria should be the easiest organisms in which to observe this, because bacteria can produce thousands of generations in a matter of months, and they can be subjected to powerful mutation-causing agents and intense selection. Nevertheless, in over a century of research no new species of bacteria have emerged. Quammen cites Darwinian biologists who claim to have produced "incipient species," but this merely refers to different strains of the same species that the researchers believe -- on theoretical grounds -- might eventually become new species. When the truth of the theory itself is at stake, such a theoretical extrapolation hardly constitutes "overwhelming evidence" for it.
So the evidence Quammen presents for Darwin's theory falls far short of confirming it. Biogeography, paleontology, embryology and morphology all rely on homologies, and the only way to determine whether homologies are due to common descent rather than common design is to provide a natural mechanism. Yet Darwin's mechanism, natural selection, has never been observed to produce a single new species. Scientific theories (Quammen acknowledges) should not be accepted as a matter of faith, but only on the basis of evidence. And given the evidence, any rational person is justified in doubting the truth of Darwin's theory.
As Quammen points out at the beginning of his article, public opinion polls conducted over the past twenty years have consistently shown that only about 12% of Americans accept Darwin's theory that "humans evolved from other life-forms without any involvement of a god." The reference to "god" is significant, because it shows that science is not the only thing at stake here: Darwinism also makes religious and philosophical claims. Most importantly, Darwinism is committed to naturalism, the philosophy that nature is all that exists and God is imaginary -- or at least unnecessary. It is not surprising, then, that many people reject Darwinism on religious grounds. Nevertheless, Quammen maintains, most Americans are antievolutionists only because of "confusion and ignorance," because "they have never taken a biology course that deals with evolution nor read a book in which the theory was lucidly described."
As someone with a Berkeley Ph.D. in biology, I dispute Quammen's characterization of Darwin's doubters as confused and ignorant. On the contrary, Quammen's article makes it abundantly clear why it is quite reasonable to doubt Darwinism: The evidence for it is "underwhelming," at best.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires every state to formulate standards for science education. As a guide to interpreting the law, Congress also passed a Conference Report recognizing "that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.''
In other words, students should be encouraged to distinguish the actual evidence for Darwin's theory from the naturalistic philosophy that accompanies it. Furthermore, students should be taught not only the evidence for the theory, but also why much of that evidence is controversial. Congress recommends this; the American people overwhelmingly support it; and good science demands it.
Quammen claims that evolution is "more crucial nowadays to human welfare, to medical science, and to our understanding of the world, than ever before." Yet no country in history has made more contributions to human welfare and medical science than America. Is it just a coincidence that the vast majority of citizens in the most scientifically successful nation on Earth are skeptical of Darwin's theory? I think not. As a scientist myself, it seems to me that a healthy skepticism is essential to good science. This caveat applies to all theories, including Darwin's.
If Quammen's article had accurately presented not only the evidence for Darwin's theory, but also the problems with that evidence, it might have made a valuable contribution to scientific literacy in America. As it stands, however, the article is nothing more than a beautifully illustrated propaganda piece. The readers of National Geographic deserve better.
Jonathan Wells, Ph.D. Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture Discovery Institute
> A showcase!
No kidding. A showcase as to why so many people think of American conservatives the way they do.
> "Your kids could be learning THIS instead of real biology!"
And Hollow Earth "Theory" in astronomy class. Can't be any worse than the intellectual drool produced by the "Discovery Institute..."
If this statement is true we have nothing to argue about. f it can be demonstrated that an organism gains in complexity via natural means, evolution would be believable.
It has not been demonstrated that any organism has gained beneficial complex information that should be observable in nearly every lifeform if evolution were true. Imagine the beneficial increases in complex information that are needed to create a functioning eye.
The labaratory only observes adaptations of the existing information. Mutations are damaging to the functionality of the organism.
Try taking a sledge hammer to your car engine expecting it to consistantly improve engineering functionality. Now build the entire car that way (Living organism are far more sophisticated engneering marvels than a car engine).
> Modern "science" is based on several metaphysical assumptions that derive from Christian philosophy.
Ultimately, modern science is derived straight from the scientific methods put forward and *used* by the pagan Greek scientists such as Aristarchos of Samos, Democritus and others. Christinity glommed onto Plato and his Pythagorean mysticism, and science stagnated in the West.
> Living organism are far more sophisticated engneering marvels than a car engine
Tell me... which ones self assemble:
A) Car Parts
B) Organic Molecules
When you find car parts that put themselves together, maybe then your analogy won't be entirely silly.
Seems most Freepers on this matter have a hard time in the area of reading comprehension or just don't care about the content of the article.
The author of the article (Jonathan Wells) neither argues that Darwin was wrong nor that Darwin was right. Rather, he argues that the article in National Geographic does a disservice to its readers for its shallow and overly polemical content.
Wells points out specific ways in which the article would be unconvincing to an objective observer.
So Freepers can agree to disagree about evolutionary theory but all Freepers should agree that the National Geographic article (which I have read-though I will not subscribe) is a poor one.
Until Aquinas glommed onto Aristotle.
Can the scientific community name one species whose origin is explained by evolution? The scientific community may not be debating whether evolutionary chane is responsible for the origin of new species, but they should. For all of Darwin's important contributions, he and his followers still can't explain how life begins.
We don't want anyone to become confused!
> he argues that the article in National Geographic does a disservice to its readers for its shallow and overly polemical content.
Tell me: If the National Geographic ran an article on Newtonian physics, in which it brushed aside the arguements of those pushing antigravity and inertialess drives while at the same time brushing aside the problems with Newtonian physics (such as reletivistic issues); whoudl you still consider the article to be a poor one?
At some point, that which is clearly silly (ID) can be reasonably brushed aside in favor of that which is clearly reasonable.
Then why did it die out in Greece?
Testimonies like yours regarding the superiority of our Creator over the creature speaks volumes.
I agree that man has not overcome the engineering feats that we observe being executed in the intelligent design of living organisms.
The directed self assemblage of organic molecules is testimony of the sophistication of the intelligence of the design. Scientists are amazed by the mechanisms that regulate the chemistry of living organisms.
> still can't explain how life begins.
For about the BILLIONTH time... biogenesis is NOT about evolution. Evolution cannot explain atomic chain reactions or the photovoltaic effect either.
Indeed! You may be interested in this thread: Origin-of-Life Expert Jokes about Becoming a Creationist
> Then why did it die out in Greece?
The Platonists won... and won political power. Those who claim mysteries are always going to have a psychological advantage over those who say "I don't know yet."
Biogenesis? Talking about a non-sequitor. You should read the post to which I replied before responding. The author makes a claim that is unsubstantiated. Feel free to give it a try yourself.
> The directed self assemblage of organic molecules is testimony of the sophistication of the intelligence of the design.
Nothing of the sort. They are simply molecules that link up and form different molecules. It is no more miraculous than oxygen and hydrogen combining to form water.
> Scientists are amazed by the mechanisms that regulate the chemistry of living organisms.
Yes, many scientists are amazed at the natural, material processes of the world. There is much greater wonderment and beauty in the natural world than in the cheap gloss of supernaturalism that many wish to drape over it. The knowledge that things can be learned, understood and utilized is a greater joy than the belief that the fall of every electron is due to some omnipresent meddler.
> Biogenesis? Talking about a non-sequitor.
Ahem: Who said: "he and his followers still can't explain how life begins."
Evolution explains how life changes, not how it began.
> You should read the post to which I replied before responding.
I did. He made no mention of biogenesis. You did.
In response to the question whether there is any fossil evidence for "reptile-bird evolution," evolutionists pronounce the name of one single creature. This is the fossil of a bird called Archaeopteryx, one of the most widely known so-called transitional forms among the very few that evolutionists still defend.
Archaeopteryx, the so-called ancestor of modern birds according to evolutionists, lived approximately 150 million years ago. The theory holds that some small dinosaurs, such as Velociraptors or Dromaeosaurs, evolved by acquiring wings and then starting to fly. Thus, Archaeopteryx is assumed to be a transitional form that branched off from its dinosaur ancestors and started to fly for the first time.
However, the latest studies of Archaeopteryx fossils indicate that this explanation lacks any scientific foundation. This is absolutely not a transitional form, but an extinct species of bird, having some insignificant differences from modern birds.
One of the important pieces of evidence that Archaeopteryx was a flying bird is its asymmetric feather structure. Above, one of the creature's fossil feathers.
The thesis that Archaeopteryx was a "half-bird" that could not fly perfectly was popular among evolutionist circles until not long ago. The absence of a sternum (breastbone) in this creature was held up as the most important evidence that this bird could not fly properly. (The sternum is a bone found under the thorax to which the muscles required for flight are attached. In our day, this breastbone is observed in all flying and non-flying birds, and even in bats, a flying mammal which belongs to a very different family.) However, the seventh Archaeopteryx fossil, which was found in 1992, disproved this argument. The reason was that in this recently discovered fossil, the breastbone that was long assumed by evolutionists to be missing was discovered to have existed after all. This fossil was described in the journal Nature as follows:
The recently discovered seventh specimen of the Archaeopteryx preserves a partial, rectangular sternum, long suspected but never previously documented. This attests to its strong flight muscles, but its capacity for long flights is questionable.
This discovery invalidated the mainstay of the claims that Archaeopteryx was a half-bird that could not fly properly.
Morevoer, the structure of the bird's feathers became one of the most important pieces of evidence confirming that Archaeopteryx was a flying bird in the true sense. The asymmetric feather structure of Archaeopteryx is indistinguishable from that of modern birds, and indicates that it could fly perfectly well. As the eminent paleontologist Carl O. Dunbar states, "Because of its feathers, [Archaeopteryx is] distinctly to be classed as a bird."125 Paleontologist Robert Carroll further explains the subject:
The geometry of the flight feathers of Archaeopteryx is identical with that of modern flying birds, whereas nonflying birds have symmetrical feathers. The way in which the feathers are arranged on the wing also falls within the range of modern birds According to Van Tyne and Berger, the relative size and shape of the wing of Archaeopteryx are similar to that of birds that move through restricted openings in vegetation, such as gallinaceous birds, doves, woodcocks, woodpeckers, and most passerine birds The flight feathers have been in stasis for at least 150 million years 126
Another fact that was revealed by the structure of Archaeopteryx's feathers was its warm-blooded metabolism. As was discussed above, reptiles and dinosaurs are cold-blooded animals whose body heat fluctuates with the temperature of their environment, rather than being homeostatically regulated. A very important function of the feathers on birds is the maintenance of a constant body temperature. The fact that Archaeopteryx had feathers shows that it was a real, warm-blooded bird that needed to retain its body heat, in contrast to dinosaur
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