Myths of Evolution - Part 2

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Myths of Evolution - Part 2

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As we saw in the first part of this series in the last issue, Charles Darwin presented in his book, The Origin of Species, what he thought were numerous examples from the animal world to support his theory of evolution. But do they? Let's examine some other supposed proofs and see how well they have fared some 150 years later.

Pigeon breeding: artificial versus natural selection

In the beginning of The Origin of Species, Darwin stressed the importance he attributed to domestic breeding as a proof from analogy for his theory.

"At the commencement of my observations," he notes, "it seemed to me probable that a careful study of domesticated animals and of cultivated plants would offer the best chance of making out this obscure problem [of how evolution works]. Nor have I been disappointed; in this and in all the other perplexing cases I have invariably found that our knowledge, imperfect though it may be, of variation under domestication, afford the best and safest clue" (1958, p. 29, emphasis added throughout).

Darwin himself bred pigeons and was impressed with all the varieties that domestic breeders could develop. He explained in the first chapters of his book how pigeons could be bred to have a large variety of tails, beaks and colors. He then proposed that if breeders, using artificial selection, could come up with such great changes in such a short time, how much more could nature, using natural selection and eons of time, produce wholesale changes in plants and animals.

He admitted it was only a hunch, for he had no direct evidence. Yet from this limited evidence of variation within species (today called microevolution) he went on to extrapolate complex changes that theoretically could lead to the formation of new species (macroevolution).

Darwin believed this was possible because he accepted the erroneous theory of the blending of characteristics of different species. He thought that given enough time, a virtually infinite variety of completely different species could arise. But he did not understand Mendelian genetics, as yet undiscovered in his day, which limits how much an animal or plant kind can truly vary.

This was one of Darwin's greatest blunders—supposing life had an almost infinite capacity for change when submitted to strong environmental and reproductive pressures. Understanding the laws of genetics, scientists today understand that variety exists, but it is limited.

This is what Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University, calls "the edge of evolution." Animals and plants can "evolve" or vary up to their genetic edge, beyond which no more true variation is possible because genetic "walls" prevent further adaptation.

Genetics can also be compared to having a great number of marbles in a bag. Shake them around and you can pull different marbles out every time—in this case, representing the different varieties possible. But there is only a specific number of marbles in the bag and you cannot create any more without ruining the product.

You can only select from the different mix inside the bag. This is the same with genetics—only a specific number of genes, or information packets (the marbles), are contained within the genetic code of each creature. You can, through mutations or genetic engineering, manipulate the genetic data in different ways (damaging, splicing, deleting or multiplying it) but no new genetic information
is created. Similarly, only a fixed number of feasible combinations is possible within each animal or plant kind.

Behe now says in his new book, The Edge of Evolution (2007), that science can actually determine mathematically exactly where that genetic borderline exists. This is another devastating blow to Darwinian evolution.

Darwin lost his gamble that nearly an infinite variety of possibilities exist among species and that quite different kinds of plant and animals could arise out of a common ancestor. Despite the wide variety of dogs, from the tiny Chihuahua to the giant Great Dane, they are all still dogs —no dogs are "evolving" into different creatures. In the same way, you can't change the "dog" marbles into "cat" marbles, no matter how many genetic reshufflings you do.

Darwin's finches fail the test

One of the famous examples of evolution is that of the finches Darwin collected when he visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835. In his honor, these Galapagos birds are now called " Darwin's finches."

Back in England, as he and others examined these specimens, they noticed slight variations in their sizes and beaks. He briefly speculated in a later edition of The Origin of Species how natural selection could modify the beak and body sizes of these birds and mused that, given enough time, such changes could eventually transform them into different birds altogether.

"It was ten years since he had visited the Galapagos," biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore note, "and he was still reconceptualizing the islands. By now he had had ample time to reinterpret the fauna in the light of John Gould's work on the birds and his own theory . . .

"But finches were still a minor part of his evolutionary proof. Admittedly he now illustrated the various types, showing their range of beaks. 'Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds,' he hinted, 'one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.' It was a broad clue, and as much as he would ever say on finch evolution" (Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, 1991, pp. 327-328).

Although he did not emphasize this evidence about the finches in his theory of evolution, in the 20th century his followers would present it as one of the major proofs of Darwinism.

In the 1970s, biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant conducted studies on the beak sizes of the finches in the Galapagos. They focused primarily on one particular island, Daphne Major, and noticed that when a severe drought took place from 1976 to 1977, most of the finches died. But those that survived were the ones with larger beaks and bodies. They could consume the large, tough fruits that are virtually impossible for smaller-beaked birds to eat.

The textbook Biology by John Kimball notes: "Here, then was natural selection at work. But did it produce evolution? The answer turned out to be yes. As the population of G. fortis [the finch species] recovered after the rains returned, the average body size and beak depth of their offspring was greater than before (an increase of 4–5% for beak depth). The bell-shaped curve had been shifted to the right—[evidence of] directional selection" (updated 2006 online edition).

Yet this textbook, as many others, fails to mention that during the next decade of average rainfall, the beak sizes returned to normal! There was no directional selection in the long run. Moreover, the change in beak sizes had been infinitesimal—on average, less than a millimeter! Further, finches with beaks in that size range existed on the island both before and after the drought, so where is the evolutionary change?

Again, some evolutionists seem to be so desperate to confirm their theory that they will perhaps unwittingly resort to deception. For example, a booklet published in 1998 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences mentions Darwin's finches as "a particularly interesting example" of Darwinian evolution. It explains how the experiments conducted by the Grants and their associates on the Galapagos finches demonstrated "that a single year of drought on the islands can drive evolutionary changes in the finches," and "if droughts occur about once every 10 years on the islands, a new species of finch might arise in only about 200 years" (Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, p. 10).

As biologist Jonathan Wells points out about this booklet: "Rather than confuse the reader by mentioning that selection was reversed after the drought, producing no long-term evolutionary change, the booklet simply omits this awkward fact. Like a stock promoter who claims a stock might double in value in twenty years because it increased 5 percent in 1998, but doesn't mention that it decreased 5 percent in 1999, the booklet misleads the public by concealing a crucial part of the evidence.

"It makes one wonder how much evidence there really is for Darwin's theory. As Berkeley law professor and Darwin critic Phillip E. Johnson wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 1999, 'When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail, you know they are in trouble'" (Icons of Evolution, 2000, p. 175).

Archaeopteryx—the missing link that wasn't

Shortly after Darwin's The Origin of Species came out in 1859, a spectacular fossil was found that at first glance seemed to be a transitional species, or a missing link, between reptiles and birds. Discovered in Germany in 1861, it was called Archaeopteryx, meaning "ancient wing." It had wings and feathers, but it also had teeth, unlike modern birds, a lizard-like tail and claws on its wings. Several more specimens were found during the last century.

Darwin added it to his "proofs" of evolution in a later edition of The Origin of Species. He commented: "Even the wide interval between birds and reptiles has been shown by the naturalist [Thomas Huxley] to be partially bridged over in the most unexpected manner, on the one hand, by the ostrich and extinct Archeopteryx, and on the other hand, by the Compsognathus, one of the Dinosaurians" (1872 edition, p. 325).

Noted Harvard evolutionist Ernst Mayr called Archaeopteryx "the almost perfect link between reptiles and birds" (The Growth of Biological Thought, 1982, p. 430).

Yet in the last 25 years this supposed proof of evolution has been quietly demoted. On further examination, scientists now classify it not as a transitional species but as an extinct bird. Ornithologist Alan Feduccia, an expert on Archaeopteryx, stated: "Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of 'paleobabble' is going to change that" (quoted by Virginia Morell, "Archaeopteryx: Early Bird Catches a Can of Worms," Science, Feb. 5, 1993, pp. 764-765).

Professor Feduccia went on to predict that the dinosaur-bird theory would become "the greatest embarrassment of paleontology in the 20th century" (quoted by Pat Shipman, "Birds Do It . . . Did Dinosaurs?" New Scientist, Feb. 1, 1997, p. 28).

Why the drastic change of mind? It was due to the evidence that now points to the similarity of Archaeopteryx with ancient and modern birds and not with reptiles.

Fossils of ancient birds have been found to have teeth like Archaeopteryx—very different from the reptilian types. Some modern birds have claws on their wings, such as the hoatzin of South America and the turaco and the ostrich from Africa. Some modern bird embryos have more tail vertebrae than Archaeopteryx, and the swan's tail structure is strikingly similar. Also, it has now been shown that Archaeopteryx was fully feathered, had no reptilian scales, could fly and had hollow bird bones.

Jonathan Wells again points out, "The world's most beautiful fossil, the specimen Ernst Mayr called 'the almost perfect link between reptiles and birds,' has been quietly shelved, and the search for missing links continues as though Archaeopteryx had never been found" (p. 135).

The strange saga of the peppered moth

As I glanced at an updated biology book, I noticed that an example of "evidence" for evolution that I had read about decades ago in high school biology is still being used today—even though it has long been discredited.

Back then I was taught about peppered moths in Britain changing their color from light to dark due to industrial pollution. This, the textbook asserted, showed how natural selection can change a species into another type, and eminent scientists have emphasized the importance of this supposed proof of evolution.

"We should expect to find the most rapid evolutionary changes in populations suddenly exposed to new conditions," declared paleontologist John Maynard Smith in the 1966 book The Theory of Evolution. "It is therefore natural that one of the most striking changes which has been observed in a wild population . . . is the phenomenon of 'industrial melanism,' the appearance and spread of dark forms of a number of species of moths" (p. 137).

Sir Gavin De Beer, writing in the 1974 edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica, said, "One of the most striking examples of observable evolution is the phenomenon known as industrial melanism" (Vol. 7, "Evolution," p. 14).

Here is a summary from the textbook Biology, by John Kimball (online version), updated in 2006: "Many species of moths in the British Isles began to become darker in color in the 19th century. The best-studied example is the peppered moth, Biston betularia. The moth gets its name from the scattered dark markings on its wings and body.

"In 1849, a coal-black mutant was found near Manchester, England. Within a century, this black form had increased to 90% of the population in this region.

"The moth flies at night and rests by day on tree trunks. In areas far from industrial activity, the trunks of trees are encrusted with lichens . . . The light form [of the moth] . . . is practically invisible against this background. In areas where air pollution is severe, the combination of toxic gases and soot has killed the lichens and blackened the trunks. Against such a background, the light form stands out sharply.

"The moth is preyed upon by birds that pluck it from its resting place by day. In polluted woods, the dark form has a much better chance of surviving undetected. When the English geneticist H.B.D. Kettlewell . . . released moths of both types in the woods, he observed that birds did, indeed, eat a much higher fraction of the light moths he released than of the dark.

"Since pollution abatement programs were put in place after World War II, the light form has been making a comeback in the Liverpool and Manchester areas."

And now, the rest of the story

It's regrettable that much of the information given in this biology textbook and in others turns out to be grossly inaccurate. It shows why it's so important to get both sides of an argument and not just one. As the Bible tells us, "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17 Proverbs 18:17He that is first in his own cause seems just; but his neighbor comes and searches him.
American King James Version×
).

Under scrutiny, this so-called "proof" of the evolution of the peppered moth reveals even supposedly careful and impartial scientists cannot be trusted to leave their bias aside when it comes to teaching Darwinian evolution.

Further investigation on the peppered moth phenomenon has shown that Kettlewell's classic experiments with these moths are deeply flawed. Here is what Dr. Jerry Coyne, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago, candidly explained in a prestigious British scientific journal:

"From time to time, evolutionists re-examine a classic experimental study and find, to their horror, that it is flawed or downright wrong … The prize horse in our stable of examples has been the evolution of 'industrial melanism' in the peppered moth, Biston betularia, presented by most teachers and textbooks as the paradigm of natural selection and evolution occurring within a human lifetime.

"The re-examination of this tale is the centrepiece of Michael Majerus's book, Melanism: Evolution in Action. Depressingly, Majerus shows that this classic example is in bad shape, and, while not yet ready for the glue factory, needs serious attention . . . Majerus notes that the most serious problem is that B. betularia probably does not rest on tree trunks—exactly two moths have been seen in such a position in more than 40 years of intensive search.

"The natural resting spots are, in fact, a mystery. This alone invalidates Kettlewell's release-recapture experiments, as moths were released by placing them directly onto tree trunks, where they are highly visible to bird predators. (Kettlewell also released his moths during the day, while they normally choose resting places at night.)

"The story is further eroded by noting that the resurgence of typica [light-colored moths] occurred well before lichens recolonized the polluted trees, and that a parallel increase and decrease of the melanic form also occurred in industrial areas of the United States, where there was no change in the abundance of the lichens that supposedly play such an important role.

"Finally, the results of Kettlewell's behavioural experiments were not replicated in later studies: moths have no tendency to choose matching backgrounds. Majerus finds many other flaws in the work, but they are too numerous to list here. I unearthed additional problems when, embarrassed at having taught the standard Biston story for years, I read Kettlewell's papers for the first time.

"Majerus concludes, reasonably, that all we can deduce from this story is that it is a case of rapid evolution, probably involving pollution and bird predation. I would, however, replace 'probably' with 'perhaps.' B. betularia shows the footprint of natural selection, but we have not yet seen the feet.

"Majerus finds some solace in his analysis, claiming that the true story is likely to be more complex and therefore more interesting, but one senses that he is making a virtue of necessity. My own reaction resembles the dismay attending my discovery, at the age of six, that it was my father and not Santa who brought the presents on Christmas Eve" (Nature, Nov. 5, 1998, pp. 35-36).

"Proofs" are full of holes

What conclusions can we draw today about the supposed evolution of peppered moths?

Both specimens of moths already existed at the time of the experiments—no new species appeared in response to changes in the environment.

• Only the population ratio of the dark and light moths changed over the 19th and 20th centuries due to a number of conditions, not all well understood. There was no new creation or an evolution to a new species.

• The photographs of moths on tree trunks were staged according to researchers' inaccurate assumptions, and further investigation showed these moths do not normally perch on trunks.

• The increase of the dark moths and the decrease of the light moths were likely due to various environmental factors, including bird predation, but these examples also show how resilient God's creatures are when faced with changing conditions.

• In the beginning of the 20th century, the dark moths predominated perhaps due in part to the darkening of the environment through industrial pollution. When the environment was cleaned up, the lighter moths became the dominant type. Yet there was no change in color or structure of the moths—both had existed before industrial contamination began and both existed after.

Regrettably, in their desperation for presenting evidence of their molecule-to-man theory of evolution—which effectively removes from the scene the Creator God described in the Bible—many scientists writing biology books or presenting information on science channels continue to promulgate these myths of evolution to millions of unsuspecting people.

So, given the evidence on both sides, let's mothball another false claim of evolution and instead give glory to God for having created variety within moths that have shown in recent history how they can adapt and survive under different circumstances.

"The great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century"

Various other supposed "proofs" of evolution have fallen by the wayside: Haeckel's famous drawings of embryos turned out to be false representations; progressions of fossils demonstrating horse, whale and human evolution have been discredited; and antibiotic-resistant bacteria only show a diminished and not an increased amount of genetic information—so nothing new has been created in this case.

As the agnostic geneticist Michael Denton concluded after thoroughly going over Darwin's supposed evidence of evolution: "One might have expected that a theory of such cardinal importance, a theory that literally changed the world, would have been something more than metaphysics, something more than a myth. Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century" (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1985, p. 358).

Don't be fooled by all the smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand by those who want to pawn off Darwinian evolution as a fact—for there is far more at stake than just a scientific theory. It comes down to believing God's evidence in the Bible about creation as a carefully designed product or this humanistic alternative based on an undirected process of random mutation and natural selection—a theory riddled with great holes that has caused so much unbelief and grief. GN

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