Darwinian Evolution: science or philosophy?

Evolution: Claims and Evidence Part 1.

Animal Diversity, Wikipedia “Animal” entry

To true believers in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, it means that all creatures have descended from one or a few single-celled ancestors by random gradual genetic modification over long periods of time, and that only the fittest survive through “natural selection,” which is made up of factors such as competition, predation, disasters, isolation and environmental changes. In the words of the Theory it is descent with modification through natural selection. The claim of the Theory of Evolution is not just variability of offspring within a species as seen in breeding practices, from dogs to flowers to food crops, but the creation of totally new unique species (and advancing up the “evolutionary tree” from species and genus to phylum and kingdom) as far removed from each other as the whale and the hippopotamus. Some refer to within-species variation as microevolution, and Darwinian Evolution, by contrast, as macroevolution. In arguments supporting Evolution, proponents often equivocate; that is, they interchange definitions in the middle of an argument to win by illegitimately adding an air of legitimacy. In particular, micro- and macroevolution are often used interchangeably as Evolution although they are two different phenomena.

“If I have erred in giving to natural selection great power, which I am far from admitting, or having exaggerated its power, which is in itself probable, I have at least, as I hope, done good service in aiding to overthrow the dogma of separate creations.”

  — Darwin in Descent of Man

In this quote, we see the political tactics used to argue for the theory. Scientists of the day did not argue for creation from nothing (ex nihilo) for each creature, but Darwin sets it up as a straw man argument, rather than address the still unknown means. Others agreed that change had happened, but did not have any evidence of a mechanism. Neither did Darwin.

We know that Evolution’s assumed means is defined as common descent with modification through natural selection, but is it science? Our aim here is not to argue the merits of one theory over another, but to decide whether it is merely a scientifically based belief or science in pursuit of the truth. Remember, science is the pursuit of truth about the predictable, repeatable and measurable aspects of the universe with which we can or could conceivably interact. To be science, it must be testable, verifiable and falsifiable. It should also make predictions about future outcomes.

Even if it is true that today’s animals are descended from extinct animals of the past, is Darwinian Evolution science or philosophy? Is it founded on experimental and observational evidence for and against, or is it a belief system based on faith? What are the mechanisms? Is the evidence for them valid and sufficient? Is there reason to believe that the conclusions drawn from experimentation are plausible? The fact that there is no other viable theory that excludes a creator as a possibility doesn’t make it true or even science[2]. A Theory is generally an educated guess that fits observation better than any other explanation. In historical sciences[3], it is called inference to the best explanation. But, is it plausible and can it pass the tests outlined above?

I have concluded that Evolution is not fully science because it relies too heavily on deduced conclusions that are not well connected or supported by the facts or experiments. Proponents argue that there is sufficient evidence to prove that it is true. Some others have said that the statement “natural selection through survival of the fittest” is merely a tautology or truism because the conclusion is self-evident within the statement. By definition, those that survive are the most fit to survive or they wouldn’t survive. How is that anything but a statement with circular reasoning?

The Theory of Evolution relies heavily on rationalism rather than empiricism, on deductive reasoning rather than induction from experiment or observation of the phenomenon at work. Empiricism is all about experimentation and facts. Rationalism is all about drawing conclusions about what must have happened, based on mental or logical principles. In science, rationalism must always be supported by empirical results. A theory based on observation must be the starting point followed by experimentation to support or disprove it. In this case, there is not enough observational information to call it a theory. It is a hypothesis. Since we cannot go back in time to recreate or test events, Evolution is necessarily more about conclusions drawn from forensics than about facts revealed through experimentation.

“I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous — You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the true method of induction—& started up a machinery as wild I think as Bishop Wilkin’s locomotive that was to sail with us to the Moon. Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved.  Why then express them in the language & arrangements of philosophical induction?”

  — Adam Sedgewick, noted geologist who had taught Darwin, after reading Origin of Species

What about descent with modification? Is there direct evidence of that? The only directly connected evidence of descent with modification is in modern experimental genetics and breeding. Both of these have failed to produce a single new species, much less a new genus, despite more than a hundred years of breeding experiments on short life span species (e.g. fruit flies, plants, yeasts, bacteria). They have only produced varieties of a given species. Breeders, including Darwin, have long known that the spectrum of such variation is limited about a norm and often returns to original type. For example, breeding fruit flies may result in red or black eyes, short or long wings, etc. but not another fly species. Species, by definition, are sterile with respect to natural breeding with other species. Hybridization is the artificial crossing of distinctly different species. Hybrids are generally sterile, and new crossings of the original species must be made to produce viable seeds or offspring. Many of our modern commercial crops are hybrids so that new hybrid seed must be purchased each year. Crossing a horse and a donkey produces a sterile mule, not a fertile half-horse, half-donkey. To produce more mules, more crossings are necessary.

One important source of indirect evidence is the fossil record, which is anything but a continuous series of small modifications from one species to another. In contrast, new species seem to arise without precedent, presumably due to the incompleteness of the fossil record. Darwin knew of this discontinuous fossil record, but assumed that the gaps would eventually be filled by more exploration. This never happened.

The fossil record shows that animals existed in the past that were different from those that live today, but there is not one, even remotely, complete series showing gradual change into another species. Despite the attempts to connect fossils to living species, such as the famous horse or man lineages, none have really been connected by discrete small changes from one to another. Similarity of form and large leaps are said to prove small changes and direct connections. It is all inference from incomplete data to fit the preferred theory. This is not to say that there have not been connections, but that they are far from being proven.

Instead, Darwinists have always relied on similarity of form (homology) to imply descent from one to the other. It is interesting to note that there are countless species living today that have remained relatively unchanged for most of earth’s history. Yet this is not seen as a falsification of the theory. They are merely assumed to have been extraordinarily fit for all of the changes the earth has seen. These Panchronic species include such delicate creatures as frogs and algae and are supposed to have survived ice ages, meteorite strikes, volcanoes, etc. Yet, today we are told that pollution or a couple of degrees shift in temperature will cause their extinction. What’s wrong with this picture?   See the box below for a short list of Panchronic species.

Panchronic species include some members of the following groups          (short list):

Dragonfly, cockroach, ant, termite, fruit fly, mosquito, beetle, flea, spider, scorpion, centipede, crocodile, frog, snake, shark, jellyfish, coral, squid, starfish, horseshoe crab, bony fish, lung fish, fern, ginkgo, mushroom, bacteria, yeast, mold, single cell and colony organisms, algae and lichens.

Recently, biochemists have compared DNA gene sequences and the proteins for which they encode. These do seem to track with homology in that similar animals living in similar circumstances have similar genes and enzymatic proteins. To imply a date of separation from a common lineage, they estimate the (assumed) rate of mutation and count the differences in the molecules. Unfortunately, these projected dates do not agree within the same organism for different gene markers. Such estimates rely, at least in part, on the age of assumed fossilized common ancestors to set the assumed mutation rates. This is circular reasoning. The link is assumed and then the differences are fitted to it afterwards.

Only about 1% of genes encode for proteins that make up the thousands of enzymes and cell structures. Most of the rest of the DNA is poorly or not understood at this time[4]. Because internal metabolic functions at the cellular level must necessarily be similar in all species for life to exist, and enzyme systems involved in these processes are so structurally specific to their functions, it is not surprising that they are so similar; it is surprising that there are any differences at all in these DNA sequences and the proteins (enzymes) they encode.

It was easy to believe in Evolution when our knowledge of the world, the nature of cells and the fossil record was sketchy. When Charles Darwin first proposed his theory, cells were thought to be simple bags of gelatin. No one knew of the complex molecules like DNA, RNA, and metabolic enzymes, or structures such as mitochondria, Golgi apparatus or genes that carry on a galaxy of mind-bogglingly complex processes inside each cell.

Darwin believed that hereditary information was passed down through “gemmules” that each cell in the body shed and that then migrated to the reproductive cells. This belief is called pangenesis because every cell in the body got a vote in the outcome. By this scheme, inheritance of acquired characteristics seemed plausible. Darwin emphasized use and disuse as causing Evolutionary changes. Advances in the knowledge of the biology and biochemistry of the cell make it harder and harder to believe in Evolution as it had originally been presented. In recognition of this uncomfortable situation, in the twentieth century a revision of the theory was agreed upon among evolutionists. It is known as Neo-Darwinism, and included biochemical similarities and concepts of molecular Evolution.

“I am actually weary of telling people that I do not pretend to adduce direct evidence of one species changing into another, but I believe that this view is in the main correct, because so many phenomena can thus be grouped and explained.”

                                                         — Darwin, letters (emphasis added)

Could Evolution be true? Maybe. Is it fact or belief? At this point, it is a belief. Only the atheist NEEDS it to be true to “prove” that a creator is not needed. However, those who believe in a higher power don’t NEED it to be false, because a being that could create a universe and life itself could surely use this means to create new species. Is it science? No, it is a scientifically based belief system, a philosophy.

Continued in Next Blog Post

[2] This is a logical fallacy known as Argument from Silence (argumentum ex silentio) whereby an argument is deemed valid due to the absence of a theory or evidence to the contrary. Also Argument from Ignorance whereby absence of another explanation is used to validate a premise.

[3] Historical science is the study and attempted reconstruction of events that occurred in the past, as contrasted by science that studies existing phenomena.

[4] Most of the other 99% is called “junk DNA” and is only now beginning to yield its functions. Just because scientists have “read” the entire sequence in man and some other creatures, that doesn’t mean they understand it. It would be like unearthing a large library of books written in an extinct language that no one understands and declaring that the contents have actually been understood.