The discussion of origins continues unabated in America today. From classrooms and school board meeting rooms to newsrooms and courtrooms, this hot topic remains in the forefront of the American consciousness. "How did life begin", "How is there such diversity of life on the planet", and "Where did man come from" are typical debate questions. Some believe that science already has all the answers in the theory of evolution. Others claim that the Biblical account of creation better explains the laboratory and field evidence available today. Whos right? Lets take a closer look at the various models, the predictions they make, and the available evidence.
The Models Contrasted. In actuality, "the" theory of evolution is a misnomer. There are several different, competing models (Darwinian evolution, Punctuated Equilibrium, Gaia, life from extraterrestrial sources, etc.). In general, they share some common predictions, including the introduction of new genetic material via mutations, migration of one "kind" of life into another", an "old earth", etc. On the "creation" side, there are also several different models ("literal Genesis", Gap Theory). In general, they include the introduction of various "kinds" of life via supernatural intervention, no migration of one "kind" of life into another, a global cataclysmic flood that devastated the planet, etc. In addition, there are various models under the umbrella of "theistic evolution" that combine aspects of both natural evolution and supernatural intervention.
Evidence from Biology. While both evolution and creation models attempt to describe things that happened in the distant past that cannot be reproduced today, there is laboratory evidence that can contribute to the "plausibility" of a model. From a biology perspective comes evidence associated with mutations and a concept called "irreducible complexity". Genetic mutations are the only known source of new materials to increase genetic variability. Those observed today tend to be harmful, not helpful. As suggested in numerous fruit fly and E. coli bacteria experiments, the genetic code is observed to deteriorate or degrade over time, not get better. There are fatal or harmful effects with some variation, but always within a bounding limit of viability and never any new organs.
Most evolutionary models indicate that "natural selection" or "survival of the fittest" is the mechanism that filters out the many "bad" mutations in favor of the few "good" mutations. However, the observed evidence from biology shows numerous organs, systems, and functions that function only when totally complete. Having only a portion of the whole conveys no evolutionary advantage to the individual. In fact, in some cases, the organism cannot survive without all the proper elements working together. Per Darwin: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modification, my theory would absolutely break down."
Examples of this "irreducible complexity" include single-celled life, vision, the immune system, blood clotting, circulation system, reproduction, flight, metamorphosis, and many others.
Regarding single-celled life, there is the mutual interdependence of DNA and protein-based replicating machinery that requires at least several hundred different specific biological macro-molecules. To that must be considered the required combination of DNA, messenger RNA, ribosomes, cell membranes, enzymes, lipids, amino acids, etc. into functional cellular structures, energy systems, long-chain proteins and nucleic acids.
Regarding vision, consider the various layers, nerves, muscles, and other cellular mechanisms that permit the eye to sense light, adapt to different light levels, focus near & far, integrate two separate images into a perceived 3-D scene, be self-cleaning, be self-repairing, and so on. As Darwin said, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
Regarding the metamorphosis of certain caterpillars into butterflies, consider not only the silk gland & instinct for spinning a cocoon, but also the complete disintegration of most internal organs and reintegration of the resulting "goo" into completely different structures (mouth, eyes, wings, antennae, legs).
Regarding the supposed transition of a land mammal into a ocean-dwelling whale, how would the transitional form survive for "millions" of years with a partial tail fluke that was too weak to swim, legs too weak to walk, partially formed blowhole, partial ability to drink sea water, etc.?
Evidence from the Fossil Record. For events that happened in the distant past, the fossil record is the only source for evidence of geological and biological activity on the planet. Most evolutionary models would predict numerous transitional forms throughout the fossil record as various "kinds" mutation into other "kinds" and a fairly orderly sequence of simpler organisms in deeper deposits gradually becoming more complex in shallower deposits. The creation model would predict a lack of transitional forms with the sudden appearance of fully mature & stable "kinds". The geologic record would be somewhat disorderly based on the cataclysmic events surrounding the Great Flood. The evidence from the fossil record generally shows a lack of transitional forms and a lack of order.
The "Cambrian Explosion". Between the youngest geologic strata without life signs ("Precambrian") and the oldest strata with life ("Cambrian") is a figurative explosion of life, over 5000 fully formed and distinguishable kinds of animals, including single cell, multi-cell, invertebrates, vertebrates/fish), over 95% of the roughly 30 known living phyla present. Where did they come from? Where are the expected innumerable transitional forms?
Living "fossils". During the time that early reptiles were evolving into man, some kinds appear relatively unchanged for millions of years (per evolutionary dating methods). Examples include the coelacanth fish (80-100 M years), dragonflies (170 M years), cockroaches (300 M years), squid (400 M years), and starfish (500 M years).
Troubling inconsistencies. The geologic column is not as pristine as some textbook illustrations would have the reader believe. In the field, there are numerous examples of layers being out of the expected "sequence", layers that are "missing" at a given location with multiple million year gaps that show no signs of weathering, fossils that extend through multiple strata that allegedly took millions of years to deposit, and more complex fossils in strata that predate their simpler "parents".
As Darwin says "Why, if species have descended from other species by fine graduations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined ? Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology surely does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain. And this is perhaps the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory."
Evidence from Physics. From the world of physics come the various dating methods. The evolutionary models require many millions of years for life to evolve. The creation models are generally more consistent with a younger earth.
Evidences for a young sun. According to some sources, there are some observed anomalies with the sun that are more consistent with a much younger star. These include its rate of shrinkage, a relatively light core, an unexpected low neutrino flux, and other evidence that suggests a young star being powered mostly by gravitational contraction rather than nuclear fusion.
Evidences for a young earth. Likewise, there are some observed anomalies with the earth & moon that are more consistent with a much younger planet. These include a relatively thin layer of accumulated meteoric dust, the rate of earths magnetic field decay, insufficient sediment on the ocean floors and sodium in the oceans based on present-day accumulation rates.
Problems with radioactive decay methods. Such methods generally measure the relative ratio of various elements related by the decay of "parent" elements into "daughter" elements. However, the reliability of these methods depends on several unverifiable assumptions: no daughter element must be present when the sample was formed and no addition or loss of parent and daughter elements can occur throughout the life of the sample. The first assumption can be easily disproved by the dating of modern lava flows (within the last 200 years) that produces 10s to 100s M year "ages" because of daughter products already present.
Many of the uniformitarian assumptions underlying various dating methods are having to be reexamined in light of recent observations, especially associated with the eruption of Mount St. Helen. 200-600 feet of sorted layers deposited by catastrophic mud and ash flows with 140 foot deep canyons cut in a day point to the potential cataclysmic effects of short-term phenomena that produce "old" looking deposits.
Summary. Many would claim that any sort of creationism and/or young earth model belongs solely in the realm of religion. But does a closer look at the available evidence from biology, the fossil record, and physics indicate strong correlation with the predictions of the various evolutionary models? Or are there major areas that evolutionary theory does not have the ability to explain and that a creation model better accounts for? Weigh the evidence and decide.
Addendum: For further study, please read, "Evolution, an Empty Philosophy," click on to visit. There are numerous sources for additional information, both on the Internet and in print. Here is a short sampling. Inclusion in the following list does not indicate endorsement of everything they contain. Exercise caution and wisdom.
Interesting Internet sites:
http://www.AnswersInGenesis.orghttp://www.bible.ca/tracks.htm (evidence for co-existence of humans & dinosaurs)
http://www.carm.org/devolve.htm (debates on various creation/evolution topics)
http://www.carm.org/dresources.htm (see entries for web sites associated with apologetics in general and evolution specifically)
http://www.church-of-christ.net (search for "evolution" to get individual web pages)
http://www.egophoria.net/evolution/BlackBox.htmlfor Behes "Darwins Black Box"
Michael J. Behe, Darwins Black Box
Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science
Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985)
Dr. Steven Austin, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (1994)
Dr. Duane Gish, Evolution: Challenge of the Fossil Record (formerly Evolution, the Fossils Say No!)
John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, The Genesis Flood (1961)
Batsell Barrett Baxter, I Believe Because (1971)