Evolution, Part V: Other Challenges for Evolution

Cell Structure and Function

Read Part IPart IIPart III, Part IV

Answering “Other Evidences”

We ended Part I by discussing several other arguments used to support evolution beyond fossil and genetic evidence.  We will now briefly address those here.

The presence of supposedly “vestigial” organs that are leftover from previous ancestors is a common argument.  However, it is one that also assumes evolution rather than proves it.  The basic problem with vestigial organs is the same as that faced by supposedly “junk DNA.”  Just because we don’t know what something’s function is does not mean there is no function.  The perfect poster child of this is the human appendix.  For years it was assumed to be useless.  However, we now know that the appendix has multiple functions, serving both as a part of the immune system and a storehouse of beneficial bacteria that aids gut function.1  So the description of the appendix as vestigial is actually evidence of our ignorance, not our evolution.

A final point about vestigial organs is that they wouldn’t prove evolution anyway.  If an organ has lost function, that is evidence of devolution.  Everyone accepts that mutations, biological change, and loss of function occurs.  What evolution requires is a progressive and continual gain in function and morphology.  That is the opposite of what we see with supposedly vestigial organs.

As with vestigial organs, supposed “atavisms” also presuppose evolution vs. prove it.  Biologists assume that certain mutations are a reactivation of formerly dormant genes from a previous ancestor.  But this assumption is philosophically vs. evidentially based.

Furthermore, most examples of atavisms are significantly exaggerated.  Humans supposedly born with tails are no such thing.  These “tails” are typically small deposits of skin-covered fat with some blood vessels, nerves, and muscle.2  There are no bones or vertebrate,3 nor are they connected to the coccyx, so they are not in any way actual tails.  In fact, such structures are now recognized as birth defects without reason to be associated with “any sort of ‘evolutionary regression.’”4  Such is the case with other supposed instances of atavisms as well.  They only become evidence of evolution when they are assumed to be!

Perhaps the most popular “other” argument used by evolutionists is that of “bad design.”  The argument is that there are many examples of bad design throughout the biosphere that argue against an intelligent designer and argue for evolution.  Bad design supports evolution because evolution does not require perfection, only “good enough” for survival.  While bad design sounds convincing, there are a host of problems with this argument.

First, evolutionists admit that design appears evident in life.  There is no way to avoid this conclusion because it is so clear.  Richard Dawkins admits that life has the “appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”5  Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA’s double-helix structure, acknowledges the strong appearance of design when he says “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.6”  It is hard to deny the need for a designer when there is so much clear indication of design!

Secondly, bad design is arguably just as much a problem for evolution to explain.  Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins both contend that natural selection is extremely effective at “rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good.”  Mutation and selection supposedly work together, over thousands of generations, creating and preserving new features that aid in survival, eventually building complex new structures.  How then can “bad design” result and be evidence for it?  If it is so bad, how did it provide a competitive advantage and survive at each of countless steps in the very long process?  Bad design is the ultimate example of evolutionists trying to have their cake and eat it too.  Natural selection is unparalleled at creating great design, except for when it is needed to explain bad design!

The argument of bad design also makes some unsupported assumptions about design in general.  Evolutionists seek to impose a false standard of perfection on biology before accepting that it is designed.  How is this standard defined?  Does a structure have to be “perfectly” designed for a particular purpose or “perfectly” designed as a compromise that best fits within the rest of the organism.  The answer appears to be “whichever definition lets me say the design is bad!”

Finally, the most egregious error of the “bad design” argument is that it is simply wrong.  Like vestigial organs, supposed examples of bad design tend to illustrate our ignorance vs. our evolution.

The human eye is a favorite example of bad design, despite the fact that it is a marvel of complexity and can actually detect a single photon of light!7  Many evolutionists decry the eye as poorly designed, but that is because they are biologists and not engineers.  The eye’s inverted retina design is actually necessary to ensure a proper flow of nutrients in and waste out of the metabolically hungry eye.8  Were the eye to be redesigned as evolutionists desire, its vast capillary network would have to be relocated in front of the retina, blocking most of the incoming light!  Instead, nerve cells that are “stupidly” located in front of the retina are relatively transparent and block very little light.9

The eye’s blind spot is also not a problem since it is very small and the right eye’s blind spot is not in the same area as the left eye’s.  Consequently, a person with two functioning eyes has no blind spot.10  In other words, this example of “bad design” only occurs when the eyes don’t function as designed!

Another example of supposedly bad design is the fact that humans share the same tube for breathing as for swallowing, leading to the very real possibility of choking to death simply by eating.  Supposedly, we would be better designed with two separate tubes.  However, this example illustrates the above point about how to define “perfect” function.  Is something supposed to do one thing best or fit into the whole best?

If humans were designed by evolutionists, and had two separate tubes, the number of problems this “good design” would cause is legion.11  First, two tubes would require much more space to accommodate.  Furthermore, breathing would be compromised since the nose can take in much less air than the mouth.  Also, if we could not breathe through both our nose and mouth via a shared tube, anything that creates nasal congestion (e.g. a cold, allergies) could seriously impact breathing and potentially cause suffocation!  In addition, we need the ability for air to move through our throats to enable speech, so different tubes would either prevent talking or require a whole new system.  Obviously, evolutionists should leave design work to someone else!

We now turn our attention to the many other challenges facing the theory of naturalistic evolution.

Origin of Life

Evolution only offers a supposed model for how life changes over time.  It offers little insight into how life actually began.  In fact, science has repeatedly demonstrated that life only comes from other life.  Yet the evolutionist must assume that life came from non-life at least once in the past.  More likely, life would have had to come from non-life many times for it to ultimately survive and thrive.  And it must have done so in a rather inhospitable environment on the early earth.  Consequently, the naturalist is left with the ultimate “chicken or the egg” problem.

Adding to the challenge is that, according to modern science, life appeared on earth approximately 3.8 billion years ago, almost at the instant that it became possible.12  Despite the evolutionists’ battle cry that “given enough time, the impossible becomes inevitable,” there was not much time at all.  Life did not have billions of years to develop.  It appears to have begun almost instantly.

Further, despite decades of research by biology’s best minds, science has been unable to create life from non-life, or even generate a viable theory for how it can happen.  Ironically, even if and when scientists do succeed in creating life, they will not have proven evolution.  Rather, they will have proven that life can be created by highly intelligent beings, under heavily controlled circumstances, working against a definite plan and purpose with a specific design in mind!  That is pretty much the exact opposite of a natural, undirected process.

Complexity of Life

Life is incredibly complex.  The workings of a single, “simple” cell can be compared to that of a city.  There is a construction department that builds onto and repairs the cell, a police force that protects it, a mayoral office that directs it, a transportation department that moves goods and services, a sanitation department that removes waste, and more.  The list goes on and on.  In fact, the functioning of each of these departments is itself very complex and consists of multiple, interdependent coordinated steps.

When we move up from “simple” cells, to more complex life, the problem of explaining all of it naturally increases exponentially.  For instance, human DNA contains the same amount of information as contained in 2 million pages of text!13  Regarding the earlier quote about DNA from Bill Gates, how is it that evolutionists believe unintelligent, undirected forces have created something “far more complex” than the best and brightest minds of humanity?

However, we don’t have to go all the way to a living cell to appreciate the complexity of life and the extreme improbability of it having evolved by random chance.  All we have to do is look at proteins.  The simplest cells require hundreds of proteins to function.14  But even a single protein is vastly too complex to arise by chance.  And since proteins are not alive, and not subject to natural selection, evolutionists have no tool at their disposal except chance to create them.

Proteins are made from 20 different amino acids.  These amino acids have to be arranged and then folded in specific ways to be functional.  Given the vast number of combinations available, the chances against amino acids ordering themselves and folding correctly are astronomical.  Scientists and mathematicians have estimated the odds of forming a single, functional protein by random assembly of amino acids at anywhere between 1 x 1063 (15) and 1 x 10120 (16)!  For reference, there are an estimated 1 x 1080 atoms in the observable universe.17  And yet, despite these unbelievable odds, there are millions of different functional proteins in earth’s biosphere!

To illustrate how astronomical the odds discussed above are stacked against naturalistic evolution, let’s consider all the lifeforms (including single-celled bacteria) that have ever existed on earth, allowing for billions of years of geologic time.  Scientists estimate this number to be approximately 1 x 1040 life forms.18  To get one mutation, that effectively codes for one new functional protein, every single one of these life forms would have to experience at least 1 x 1023 random mutations!  That is a hundred billion trillion tries to get one new protein.  Keep in mind that to get a “simple” single celled organism, you would need hundreds of these proteins, at the same time, in the same place, combined in a particular way!  How can these odds possibly be overcome to explain a single protein, let alone a “simple” cell or the vast multitude of complex and varied life throughout earth’s history?

To refute the above reasoning, evolutionary atheists have grasped at some pretty amazing straws.  A favorite, cited in a 2002 Scientific American article19 is that complex information can easily be created with the combination of randomness and selection.  For instance, consider the 13-letter sequence “ToBeOrNotToBe.”  The article claims “A million hypothetical monkeys, each typing out one phrase a second on a keyboard, could take as long as 78,800 years to find” that phrase.  However, Richard Hardison from Glendale College wrote a computer program that “generates phrases randomly while preserving the positions of individual letters that happened to be correctly placed (in effect, selecting for phrases more like Hamlet’s).  On average, the program re-created the phrase in…just 90 seconds.”  The implication of the article is that random mutation, combined with natural selection, can easily overcome the odds of randomness alone that are so often, and mistakenly, quoted by creationists.

However, the argument from Scientific American is completely worthless.  First of all, as stated earlier, proteins are not alive.  So natural selection cannot function on them.  The analogy completely falls apart from the beginning.

Secondly, natural selection, by evolutionists’ own admission, is a directionless, unguided process.  It does not design with an “end” in mind.  So when Hardison’s program randomly builds toward a certain phrase, keeping only the letters that are needed for the target phrase and discarding the rest, it is moving toward a specific end from the very beginning.20  In the real world, how would natural selection know what letters are “good” and which are “bad” if it does not know the final word being created?  This is a very important point.  Natural selection can keep the “good” and discard the “bad,” but only at each stage of development.  Each letter must be “good” and provide a benefit at the moment it is generated in order to be retained.  The one thing it absolutely cannot do is deem it good because of some future benefit that will be realized when the final word is completed!

In essence, the only way evolutionists overcome the insurmountable probabilities is to start with a particular end in mind and work towards it.  In other words, they smuggle intent, planning, and intelligence into the system to show that intent, planning, and intelligence are not necessary!  Of course, these are the very factors their theory denies.

Genetic Entropy

Another problem the theory of evolution faces is that of “genetic entropy,” as described by Dr. John Sanford in his book of the same name.  Basically, Dr. Sanford argues, on the basis of accepted biological facts, that random mutations will inevitably degrade the genome regardless of natural selection.  In essence, we can and do experience devolution, but progressive evolution is impossible.  He bases this theory on the following key points:

  1. Mutations are mistakes. Consequently, the vast, vast majority of them are deleterious in the sense that they destroy genetic information and/or function.21  Even “beneficial” mutations, which may be as rare as one in a million22, result in a loss of function or information.
  2. Even though most mutations are deleterious, they are “nearly neutral” in their individual impact. In other words, the negative impact is typically insignificant and therefore too small to be influenced by natural selection.  Consequently, most negative mutations are not “selected out” of the gene pool and therefore spread.23
  3. Over time, given the overwhelming proportion of deleterious mutations, and the fact that most are not selectively removed from the gene pool, there is a gradual but constant and unavoidable loss of total genetic information.24
  4. Consequently, random mutation inevitably pushes genetics in the opposite direction required for progressive evolution.

To refute the concept of genetic entropy, one must demonstrate that 1) most mutations do not destroy information, 2) natural selection can and will effectively remove most negative but “nearly neutral” mutations, and 3) there is a reliable and consistent natural means of creating new genetic information.  Unfortunately, the first two points are clearly refuted by genetic science.  And the third point is what is causing so much debate within the evolutionary community.  It is the lack of a clear mechanism for creating genetic information that has evolutionists scratching their heads.  So genetic entropy seems to be valid.

One simple illustration of genetic entropy is the process of aging.25  Our cells constantly reproduce throughout our lives.  And occasionally, mutations occur.  However, with the exception of things like cancer, most of these mutations are relatively insignificant.  However, the cumulative effect of them, over decades, is what causes aging and eventual death.  In effect, there are over seven billion human evolutionary experiments going on around the world right now.  And after reaching maturity, we do not see, in even one instance, a human being getting healthier with age!  So genetic entropy appears to be a valid issue.

Notes:

  1. Wells, Dr. Jonathan. Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution. Seattle, WA:  Discovery Institute 2017.  116.
  2. Pg. 122.
  3. Pg. 122.
  4. Pg. 123.
  5. Dawkins, Dr. Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. New York, NY: W. Norton & Company 1986. Pg. 1.
  6. Groothuis, Dr. Douglas. Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press 2011.   298-299.
  7. Wells, Dr. Jonathan. Cit. Pg. 144
  8. Pg. 145.
  9. Pg. 145.
  10. Pg. 145
  11. http://reasonableanswers.blogspot.com/2009/09/design-flaws-in-human-breathing-system.html
  12. http://www.reasons.org/explore/publications/rtb-101/origins-of-life
  13. Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden. New York, NY: Random House 1977.  25
  14. Brown, Dr. Walt. In The Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood.  Phoenix, AZ:  Center for Scientific Creation 2008 (8thedition).  17
  15. Meyer, Dr. Stephen. Darwin’s Doubt.  New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers 2013.  183
  16. DVD ORIGIN: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth; Illustra Media 2016.
  17. Villanueva, John Carl. http://www.universetoday.com/36302/atoms-in-the-universe/#
  18. Meyer, Dr. Steven. Cit. Pg. 203
  19. Rennie, John. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-answers-to-creationist/
  20. Sarfatti, Dr. Jonathan. Refuting Evolution 2.  Green Forest, AR: Master Books, Inc. 2005.  156-157.
  21. Sanford, Dr. John. Genetic Entropy.  FMS Publications 2014. Pg. 29
  22. Pg. 24
  23. Pg. 78
  24. Chapter 4
  25. Pg. 15, 79-80
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