A Different Kind of Blog

news and things sacred and irreverent put together by opinionated people.

Fact of Evolution

In the words of Harvard biologist-paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, “Creation science is an oxymoron.” An oxymoron (lit., “a wise fool”) is a contradiction in terms. Just as it is impossible for a fool to be wise, so too is it impossible for creationism to be science. Anyone concerned about the meanings of words must concur with Professor Gould in his judgment.

 

Because any intelligible use of the term creation must imply the existence of a creator, and because the creator of all of nature must be, quite literally, super-natural, we see that the fundamental force operating in “creation science” is a super-natural force – which is a polite term for magic. Science, however, involves the study of natural forces only, and ceases to be science when it attempts to explain phenomena by means of super-natural forces.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

Creationism, far from being a science, is actually a special department of fundamentalist apologetics. Its commission is to defend the biblical book of Genesis, which posits the magical and sudden creation of all forms of life on the planet just a few thousand years ago [1], teaches that all human beings are descended from one pair of white people, and claims that all but one boat-load of the living things on this planet perished in a world-wide flood in the year 2,348 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). As believers in the literal truth of Genesis, creationists attack any discipline which, in its discovery of truth, exposes the absurdity of the biblical mythology. Despite the camouflage of speciously scientific terminology, the real raison d’être of “creation science” apologetics is the defense of the fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis. Creationism exists for religious, not scientific, reasons. 
It should not be surprising, therefore, that creationists do almost nothing at all that even imitates scientific research [2]. Almost all their “research” is done in libraries, not laboratories, and all their “evidence” for creation is really nothing more than intentionally or unintentionally garbled evidence against evolution – as if they could prove the Genesis mythology by disproving Darwin!
As a matter of fact, most creationists are so devoid of any understanding of logic that it is not at all rare to hear one claim, “If I can disprove Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the only thing left is the biblical theory.”

 

At least three things are wrong with this statement: 
(1) It confuses the question, “Has evolution occurred?” with the question, “What is the mechanism of evolutionary change?” Darwin’s theory concerning how evolution takes place is but one of several attempts to account in natural terms for evolutionary change (descent with modification). Disproof of Darwin’s theory, which identifies natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change would still leave other naturalistic (i.e., scientific) theories, such as the theory of genetic drift. It would also leave certain almost-scientific explanations, such as theistic evolution, which accepts the fact of evolutionary change but posits divine acts of alteration as its motive force. Of course, even if one could show that all available explanations for how evolutionary change occurs were incorrect, the evidences showing that evolution has occurred would remain.

 

(2) It falsely presumes that the Genesis creation myths (there are two!) are the only existing supernatural accounts of origins, and ignores the contradictions between these two accounts. Of course, every primitive culture in the world has produced its own account of human origins, and creationists are obliged, after they “disprove” naturalistic, evolutionary theories, to show that their own mythology is true. They must produce evidence that green plants existed before the sun was “created,” and that all life and all of nature came into existence in six days. [3] They should show the superiority of their myth to the Native American story about 
Old Man Coyote and the Chinese myth of the cosmic egg. If they wish us to accept the notion that any type of supernatural account is to be taken seriously, they must be willing to show how the Jewish “theory” is superior to the Egyptian “theory” that the world began with masturbatory activity on the part of the sun god. Indeed, once they abandon the canons of proof standard in the natural sciences and allow the possibility of supernatural shenanigans, it would seem that they are obligated to show that all other mythologies known are false. However the logicians may come down on this question, the fact remains that the creation myths recorded in the first and second chapters of Genesis are but two of a myriad of such myths, and creationists must find evidence to support one or the other of the mutually exclusive biblical accounts. The burden of proof now rests with the creationists. 
(3) It misuses the term theory. Creationists either use the term pejoratively (“evolution is only a theory”), or they misapply the term to creationism. In scientific usage, a theory is the highest form of scientific understanding. A theory is an explanatory hypothesis which has passed test after test, and is still the best available explanation of the facts in question. In the case of creationism, however, those components of the apology which can be tested (e.g., the idea that the earth is only six thousand years old and was covered by a shell of water in the year 2,348 B.C.E.) have been tested and found to be demonstrably false – showing that creationism is not a viable theory, because viable theories have to pass tests. On the other hand, those components of creationism which involve certain types of magical events (e.g., the divine creation of a young universe with all of its components bearing the false imprint of great age) make the claims of creationism untestable – making creationism not a theory at all, because theories must be testable!
We have pointed out that creationists confuse the question “Has evolution occurred?” with the question “What is the cause of evolution?” The scientific answer to the first question is, of course, “yes,” and the answer to the second question (at least in part) is “natural selection.” What logic and evidence leads scientists – and Atheists – to these answers?

 

The Logic Of Evolution
The conclusion that evolution has occurred is drawn from two simple observations:
 
Observation 1: Living things come only from living things. Spontaneous generation is not possible when living things are already in existence [4].

 

Observation 2: Fossil remains show that living things in the remote 
past were very different from living things today. 
THEREFORE:
Conclusion: Life has changed through time (evolved).

 

A dramatic proof of the thesis that life has changed through time is seen in the fossil record of the vertebrates, animals having a segmented backbone. At the beginning of the Cambrian Period (570-500 million years ago), there were no vertebrates at all. Later in the Cambrian, problematic forms appeared which seem to have been related to the vertebrates, but showed distant affinities with the echinoderms as well. (Echinoderms today are represented by starfish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, etc.; embryologically they appear to compose the phylum most closely related to the Chordata, the phylum to which vertebrates belong.) Toward the end of the Cambrian Period, the first vertebrates appeared: the ostracoderms, jawless fishes possessed of a bony armor plate and having flattened bodies apparently adapted to a bottom-feeding way of life. 
According to the fossil record, vertebrates went without jaws for many millions of years. Finally, at the beginning of the Devonian Period (395-345 million years ago), the first fish with jaws entered their remains into the record in the rocks. At the very end of the Devonian or the beginning of the Carboniferous Period (345-280 million years ago), the first primitive amphibians arose. These fish-like animals differed from their air-breathing fish ancestors mostly in their elaboration of the bony structure of the paired appendages – converting fins into hands and feet – and in reinforcement of the structures attaching the paired appendages to the spinal column. The first reptiles did not appear until the last half of the Carboniferous Period.

 

To give the lie to creationist claims that there are no connecting-link fossils to join the vertebrate classes, the Permian Period (280-225 million years ago) saw the appearance of an entire order of animals, the mammal-like reptiles (Therapsida), which can be seen to change with time from typical, primitive reptiles, into primitive mammals. It was not until late in the Triassic Period (225-190 million years ago) that the therapsid-mammal transmutation was complete. Contrary to the first chapter of Genesis, which claims that the first mammals appeared on the earth a mere twenty-four hours after the first fish, the first mammals did not appear on earth until more than 300 million years of fish evolution had transpired! 
Birds, which, according to both creation myths in Genesis, were created on the same day as fish, do not enter the fossil record until the Jurassic
Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

past were very different from living things today. 
THEREFORE:
Conclusion: Life has changed through time (evolved).

 

A dramatic proof of the thesis that life has changed through time is seen in the fossil record of the vertebrates, animals having a segmented backbone. At the beginning of the Cambrian Period (570-500 million years ago), there were no vertebrates at all. Later in the Cambrian, problematic forms appeared which seem to have been related to the vertebrates, but showed distant affinities with the echinoderms as well. (Echinoderms today are represented by starfish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, etc.; embryologically they appear to compose the phylum most closely related to the Chordata, the phylum to which vertebrates belong.) Toward the end of the Cambrian Period, the first vertebrates appeared: the ostracoderms, jawless fishes possessed of a bony armor plate and having flattened bodies apparently adapted to a bottom-feeding way of life. 
According to the fossil record, vertebrates went without jaws for many millions of years. Finally, at the beginning of the Devonian Period (395-345 million years ago), the first fish with jaws entered their remains into the record in the rocks. At the very end of the Devonian or the beginning of the Carboniferous Period (345-280 million years ago), the first primitive amphibians arose. These fish-like animals differed from their air-breathing fish ancestors mostly in their elaboration of the bony structure of the paired appendages – converting fins into hands and feet – and in reinforcement of the structures attaching the paired appendages to the spinal column. The first reptiles did not appear until the last half of the Carboniferous Period.

 

To give the lie to creationist claims that there are no connecting-link fossils to join the vertebrate classes, the Permian Period (280-225 million years ago) saw the appearance of an entire order of animals, the mammal-like reptiles (Therapsida), which can be seen to change with time from typical, primitive reptiles, into primitive mammals. It was not until late in the Triassic Period (225-190 million years ago) that the therapsid-mammal transmutation was complete. Contrary to the first chapter of Genesis, which claims that the first mammals appeared on the earth a mere twenty-four hours after the first fish, the first mammals did not appear on earth until more than 300 million years of fish evolution had transpired! 
Birds, which, according to both creation myths in Genesis, were created on the same day as fish, do not enter the fossil record until the Jurassic
Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

Old Man Coyote and the Chinese myth of the cosmic egg. If they wish us to accept the notion that any type of supernatural account is to be taken seriously, they must be willing to show how the Jewish “theory” is superior to the Egyptian “theory” that the world began with masturbatory activity on the part of the sun god. Indeed, once they abandon the canons of proof standard in the natural sciences and allow the possibility of supernatural shenanigans, it would seem that they are obligated to show that all other mythologies known are false. However the logicians may come down on this question, the fact remains that the creation myths recorded in the first and second chapters of Genesis are but two of a myriad of such myths, and creationists must find evidence to support one or the other of the mutually exclusive biblical accounts. The burden of proof now rests with the creationists. 
(3) It misuses the term theory. Creationists either use the term pejoratively (“evolution is only a theory”), or they misapply the term to creationism. In scientific usage, a theory is the highest form of scientific understanding. A theory is an explanatory hypothesis which has passed test after test, and is still the best available explanation of the facts in question. In the case of creationism, however, those components of the apology which can be tested (e.g., the idea that the earth is only six thousand years old and was covered by a shell of water in the year 2,348 B.C.E.) have been tested and found to be demonstrably false – showing that creationism is not a viable theory, because viable theories have to pass tests. On the other hand, those components of creationism which involve certain types of magical events (e.g., the divine creation of a young universe with all of its components bearing the false imprint of great age) make the claims of creationism untestable – making creationism not a theory at all, because theories must be testable!
We have pointed out that creationists confuse the question “Has evolution occurred?” with the question “What is the cause of evolution?” The scientific answer to the first question is, of course, “yes,” and the answer to the second question (at least in part) is “natural selection.” What logic and evidence leads scientists – and Atheists – to these answers?

 

The Logic Of Evolution
The conclusion that evolution has occurred is drawn from two simple observations:
 
Observation 1: Living things come only from living things. Spontaneous generation is not possible when living things are already in existence [4].

 

Observation 2: Fossil remains show that living things in the remote 
past were very different from living things today. 
THEREFORE:
Conclusion: Life has changed through time (evolved).

 

A dramatic proof of the thesis that life has changed through time is seen in the fossil record of the vertebrates, animals having a segmented backbone. At the beginning of the Cambrian Period (570-500 million years ago), there were no vertebrates at all. Later in the Cambrian, problematic forms appeared which seem to have been related to the vertebrates, but showed distant affinities with the echinoderms as well. (Echinoderms today are represented by starfish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, etc.; embryologically they appear to compose the phylum most closely related to the Chordata, the phylum to which vertebrates belong.) Toward the end of the Cambrian Period, the first vertebrates appeared: the ostracoderms, jawless fishes possessed of a bony armor plate and having flattened bodies apparently adapted to a bottom-feeding way of life. 
According to the fossil record, vertebrates went without jaws for many millions of years. Finally, at the beginning of the Devonian Period (395-345 million years ago), the first fish with jaws entered their remains into the record in the rocks. At the very end of the Devonian or the beginning of the Carboniferous Period (345-280 million years ago), the first primitive amphibians arose. These fish-like animals differed from their air-breathing fish ancestors mostly in their elaboration of the bony structure of the paired appendages – converting fins into hands and feet – and in reinforcement of the structures attaching the paired appendages to the spinal column. The first reptiles did not appear until the last half of the Carboniferous Period.

 

To give the lie to creationist claims that there are no connecting-link fossils to join the vertebrate classes, the Permian Period (280-225 million years ago) saw the appearance of an entire order of animals, the mammal-like reptiles (Therapsida), which can be seen to change with time from typical, primitive reptiles, into primitive mammals. It was not until late in the Triassic Period (225-190 million years ago) that the therapsid-mammal transmutation was complete. Contrary to the first chapter of Genesis, which claims that the first mammals appeared on the earth a mere twenty-four hours after the first fish, the first mammals did not appear on earth until more than 300 million years of fish evolution had transpired! 
Birds, which, according to both creation myths in Genesis, were created on the same day as fish, do not enter the fossil record until the Jurassic
Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

past were very different from living things today. 
THEREFORE:
Conclusion: Life has changed through time (evolved).

 

A dramatic proof of the thesis that life has changed through time is seen in the fossil record of the vertebrates, animals having a segmented backbone. At the beginning of the Cambrian Period (570-500 million years ago), there were no vertebrates at all. Later in the Cambrian, problematic forms appeared which seem to have been related to the vertebrates, but showed distant affinities with the echinoderms as well. (Echinoderms today are represented by starfish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, etc.; embryologically they appear to compose the phylum most closely related to the Chordata, the phylum to which vertebrates belong.) Toward the end of the Cambrian Period, the first vertebrates appeared: the ostracoderms, jawless fishes possessed of a bony armor plate and having flattened bodies apparently adapted to a bottom-feeding way of life. 
According to the fossil record, vertebrates went without jaws for many millions of years. Finally, at the beginning of the Devonian Period (395-345 million years ago), the first fish with jaws entered their remains into the record in the rocks. At the very end of the Devonian or the beginning of the Carboniferous Period (345-280 million years ago), the first primitive amphibians arose. These fish-like animals differed from their air-breathing fish ancestors mostly in their elaboration of the bony structure of the paired appendages – converting fins into hands and feet – and in reinforcement of the structures attaching the paired appendages to the spinal column. The first reptiles did not appear until the last half of the Carboniferous Period.

 

To give the lie to creationist claims that there are no connecting-link fossils to join the vertebrate classes, the Permian Period (280-225 million years ago) saw the appearance of an entire order of animals, the mammal-like reptiles (Therapsida), which can be seen to change with time from typical, primitive reptiles, into primitive mammals. It was not until late in the Triassic Period (225-190 million years ago) that the therapsid-mammal transmutation was complete. Contrary to the first chapter of Genesis, which claims that the first mammals appeared on the earth a mere twenty-four hours after the first fish, the first mammals did not appear on earth until more than 300 million years of fish evolution had transpired! 
Birds, which, according to both creation myths in Genesis, were created on the same day as fish, do not enter the fossil record until the Jurassic
Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

Period (190-136 million years ago). Representing an ultimate variation on the dinosaur theme, birds trace their descent from reptiles quite different from those ancestral to the mammals. Contrary to the claims of some creationists, evolutionists do not claim that reptiles evolved into birds, and birds evolved into mammals! 
Even though the first mammals appeared in the Triassic Period, forms for which the English language has names would not appear until the late Cretaceous (136-65 million years ago), when opossum-like forms appeared, the Eocene Epoch (60-40 million years ago), when primitive whales originated, and the Oligocene Epoch (40-25 million years ago), when apes, monkeys, and primitive grazing mammals appeared.
The record in the rocks, thus, is evidence either for fishes evolving into birds and mammals, or it is evidence of thousands of successive “special creations” – magical replacements of successive faunas by slightly different ones. Curiously, the latter interpretation is as unbiblical as it is unscientific.

 

If either of the biblical myths were true, all types of vertebrates – living types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – would be found along with bacteria and trilobites at the very beginning of the fossil record and would be extractable from all rock layers of later ages. But of course, nothing could be farther from reality. The infamous “gaps in the fossil record,” adduced by creationists as evidence against evolution, are actually a devastating refutation of the idea that all forms of life were miraculously zapped onto the earth at the same time! 
The Logic Of Natural Selection
Since creationists in their attacks of evolution in general, and of natural selection in particular, usually obfuscate the scientific principles involved and generally substitute a straw man which is easier to ridicule, it is important that we state clearly just what it is that science has to say on the topic of how new species come to be. The modern (“synthetic”) theory of natural selection consists of a tightly interwoven fabric of observations and logical conclusions drawn from them. In a nutshell, the structure of the theory is the following:

 

Observation 1: All living things tend to reproduce in geometric progression, so that if all offspring survived, the entire earth would be overrun by them. 
Observation 2: In fact, however, the earth is NOT so overrun. The populations of various species remain approximately constant in size from century to century, due to the finite resources of the environment.

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion A: There must be a competition for the available resources of the environment, a “struggle for existence.”
Observation 3: Heritable variations (mutations) are observed to occur spontaneously, from time to time, in populations of all species.

 

Observation 4: In a given environment, some of these variations are helpful in the struggle for existence, and others are harmful or neutral. 
THEREFORE:

 

Conclusion B: A natural selection of individuals will result. Those with helpful mutations will survive and expand in numbers, and those with harmful mutations will tend to perish and be reduced in numbers. 
Observation 5: The source of inheritable changes is either (1) change in the sequence of chemical “bases” in the DNA molecules making up an organism’s genes, (2) rearrangement of genes on chromosomes, or (3) multiplication or deletion of genes or chromosomes.

Observation 6: Physically and chemically speaking, there is no limit to the amount of base changing possible in DNA or the amount of gene rearrangement which can take place.

THEREFORE:

Conclusion C: There will be no limit to the amount of variation possible in any given species. Given enough time, and changing environmental conditions [5], mutation will add to mutation, and any species will gradually change into one or more new species. As mutations cause greater and greater cumulative change, and as sexual recombination assembles novel hereditary ensembles, species will turn into new genera, genera into new families, etc.

With the exception of the observations concerning changes in DNA and chromosomes as the source of evolutionary variation, the theory above was discovered by Charles Darwin in the middle of the last century. Darwin came to his theory grudgingly – he had originally been a creationist himself. But the facts of nature which he uncovered in his trip around the world on H.M.S. Beagle forced him to give up the Genesis mythology in favor of evolutionary science, and made him formulate the theory of natural selection.

It is not often remembered that Darwin was not the only person to

discover the principle of natural selection. At the same time that Darwin was formulating his theory, Alfred Russell Wallace – completely independent of Darwin, and half a world away – was forced by his study of the plants and animals of the Malay Archipelago to conclude that evolution had occurred, and that natural selection was the motive force! 
The lesson to be learned from this is that the facts of nature compel unbiased minds to conclude that evolution has occurred, and that natural selection is at least a part of the cause of evolutionary change. (Population size and genetic isolation of populations are also important factors affecting the degree to which evolutionary change will occur.)
As we examine the bizarre details of the Genesis creation myth, however, we must ask: Is it conceivable that any person not already aware of the first Genesis myth could go out into the world of nature and conclude that green plants came into existence before the sun? That birds existed before reptiles? Without knowledge of the second Genesis myth, who would come up with the idea that man is older than both plants and animals, but that woman did not come into existence until the last animal species had appeared? Without being brainwashed by the Noah’s Ark tale, what geologist would conclude that the whole planet was covered by a shell of water 4,334 years ago? What independent observer would conclude that the kiwi, which can neither swim nor fly, came to New Zealand from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, but couldn’t make it to Greece or Australia? Could anyone conclude that there was once a “firmament” in the sky — with windows in it, and water above it?

 

Of course not. But we can be quite sure that even if the creationist legions of darkness should succeed in eradicating all knowledge of Darwin’s theory, honest men and women of the future studying the facts of nature would discover it anew. This is because evolutionary science is science, and is true in the sense that it is testable and accords with the facts of nature. The creationist dogmas, however, are not science and – to the extent that they are testable – are contradicted by the testimony of nature. 
Theistic Evolution
While it is nothing less than scandalous that creationist beliefs have survived into the Twentieth Century, we must also express our embarrassment at the fact that there are many people who, despite the fact that they are relatively well schooled in evolutionary science, believe in something known as theistic evolution. This is the view that evolution has, in fact, occurred, but it has been directed by a supernatural power. The long road from jawless fishes, to fishes with jaws, to amphibians, to reptiles, to mammal-like reptiles, to mammals, to Adolf Hitler or the Ayatollah Khomeini was, they must avow, all the unfolding of a divinely guided plan. Theists must accept the plagues produced by evolution as part of their god’s plan. Not only can such a view be a bar to progress, it can be a direct road to madness of the type exemplified by the case of Simon “Stylites,” the quintessential “saint” who lived atop a pillar until he developed maggoty, purulent wounds in his flesh. When a maggot got pushed out of one of the pullulating wounds in his body, he put it back into the wound and preached it a sermon. God had given the “worm” his flesh to eat, he admonished, and the creature should not be ungrateful!

 

The best thing that can be said about the theistic evolution idea is that it is not contradicted by the facts of nature. But of course, it could not be contradicted by any facts, if all the facts of nature are precisely what a god has ordained. Alas for the theistic evolutionists, this places the “theory” outside the realm of science, since scientific statements must be testable. 
The idea of theistic evolution suffers from still another serious defect: it violates Ockham’s Razor. This is the principle in logic that basic assumptions should not be multiplied beyond necessity. If natural forces alone are adequate to account for the course of evolution, why posit additional supernatural forces? Such forces are superfluous. It is simpler to stick with the observable, measurable forces of nature.

The idea of theistic evolution is associated, it would appear, with an emotional immaturity that makes men and women unable to accept the fact that they are probably alone in the universe, that they must find meaning and fulfillment among the comrades – both human and nonhuman – with whom they share the planet. Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious. Constrained only by the limits of the laws of nature, the mature mind may do all in its power “To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,” and then “remold it nearer to the heart’s desire” [6]. Atheists know that cancer and tapeworms are not parts of a divine plan. Atheists are completely free to do something about such plagues – and they are doing it!

NOTES

[1] According to Bishop Ussher’s chronology, often printed in the margins of King James Bibles, this occurred in the year 4,004 BC. Recently, however, Ussher’s chronology has been corrected by Eugene Faulstich, a creationist at the “Chronology-History Research Institute,” in Spencer, Iowa. Using a computer, and ignoring various contradictory dates found in his bible, Faulstich has computed that the world began on a Sunday, 18/19 March, 4001 B.C.E.!

 

[2] Practically the only known apparent exception to this has been the ridiculous attempts of creationists to find fossil human footprints in the Cretaceous rocks of the Paluxy Creek-Glen Rose region of Texas. This work has been of such embarrassingly low quality that even the creationist leaders have been forced to admit that no human tracks have been recovered, despite the enormous numbers of bible-believers who have swarmed over the countryside, destroying scientifically valuable dinosaur trails in their quest for antediluvian traces of Homo Sapiens.

 

 

 

 

 

[3] Or in one day, if the second creation story in Genesis (Chapter 2, verse 4 et seq.) be the one believed.

 

 

 

 

 

[4] Life cannot originate spontaneously now for at least two reasons: (1) The oxidizing atmosphere rapidly degrades any organic compounds before they can aggregate to form prebiotic complexes with life-like properties. (2) Existing microbes and other life-forms consume as food any prebiotic molecules starting out on the long biochemical pathway leading to truly living systems. Neither of these roadblocks to spontaneous generation existed before life had formed. The oxygen in our atmosphere is placed there by photosynthetic organisms such as plants and algae, so the primordial terrestrial atmosphere was almost completely devoid of oxygen until these types of organisms arose.

 

 

 

 

 

[5] Without changing conditions, the rate of evolutionary change is likely to be slow and the extent of change small. This is because helpful mutations will often tend to be disbursed in large populations and because natural selection will tend to produce organisms optimally adapted – or nearly so – to particular conditions. In such circumstances, further changes arising will tend to be maladaptive, and evolutionary stasis (stagnation) will result. Only when circumstances change, and new “job openings” appear, will natural selection proceed rapidly to produce significant changes. The theory of “Punctuated Equilibria,” an updated version of Darwin’s theory universally misunderstood and misrepresented by creationists, holds that natural selection does not proceed at a slow, uniform rate. Rather, evolution involves long periods of little or no measurable change (stasis) “punctuated” by brief periods of intense changes – guided, of course, by natural selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
 

 

  
 

 

  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Frank R. Zindler
The Probing Mind, October, 1987

 

 

another good read http://www.atheists.org/evolution/mouths.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Responses to “Fact of Evolution”

  1. brucehood said

    Yikes….. what an analysis!!

    I getting Mike Shermer to talk about it,,,,, so much faster and funnier

    Best
    Bruce

    http://brucemhood.wordpress.com

  2. Anonymous said

    First of all, The Genisis account says nothing of two white people (assumed to be middle dark). Second, No one says that macroevolution is impossible, but the evidence observed is only proven in labs with humans guiding the processes. Law is the highest term in scientific notions. Another point to look at, is evolution is not fact, and technically not even theory as much as a notion. The holes in the fossil records is the least of the problems supporting this. The arguments are not nessisarily in the scientific facts (a fact is observed, and backed by scientific law), but as this document well shows is the worldview from which every person comes from (the way we see the world). Naturalism is not science, but a worldview. The naturalistic worldview states that all people are essentially good (Rousseau) and that there is nothing outside of nature (ssupernatural doesn’t exist). Essentially, by taking away a higher power, we elevate ourselves to God-level, and completely destroy the foundation of morality and ethics. This means there is no meaning for life, no reason of being here, and we live in vein. Darwin took on this worldview near the middle of his life. There are essentially no such thing as a true athiest. People all worship something (i.e. God, Money, Family, Entertainment, etc…). There are three things to catagorize all worldviews to essentially conclude what each one believes. One: Where did we come from? The Naturalistic worldview says we came about by some Darwinian means. Second: What went wrong with the world and humanity? The Naturalistic worldview says that we were corrupted by society. Third: How do we fix it? Naturalism states that the Government or some external human force must step in and save society (Society, or government acts as savior). This, according to Naturalism, will eventually result in a Utopian society (Descartes, Rousseau, Nietzche, Sagan, and even Darwin are all part of spreading this way of thought). In turn some of the most ruthless societies on earth have come about (Marx, Hitler, Stalin, etc…). This isn’t an attack, but a little note to think about.

    Thank you for your time,
    J. Shipley

  3. dorian9 said

    some good points there, j.shipley! welcome to our blog!

    darwin theorized and were given a hypothesis of how we came to this world with evidence backed by science. until someone else comes up with another probable theory that’s all we have, along with the fundamentalist theory. my question is why not be open to the possibility of all things – science and beyond? aren’t atheists limiting their scope of understanding when they flatly deny the possibility of a spiritual and supernatural realm? could it be that at this present time, society as a whole has been locked into a materialistic existence? the question of why we are here is now a moot point. absence of faith and reverence for a higher being does elevate one to “God-level”. but life has a habit of balancing everything out by way of situations we find ourselves in and people we find ourselves with – hopefully there is that middle ground for all…

    a previous post comes to mind: http://tothewire.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/faith-and-science-genesis-and-darwin-friends-not-foes/

  4. Anonymous said

    Your point is well noted, but one must be careful to understand the differences between open-mindedness and being apt to listen to all things. Just because someone says something doesn’t mean that one must accept it. People should know every aspect of the worldview they live their life by. Once someone commits themself to this worldview, one must ground themself wholly in it. Being grounded, one can also learn to listen to other ideas and what what they might say. Once again one doesn’t have to agree with it, but must be willing to listen.
    Those people who want to accept evolution and creationism are usually Theistic Evolutionist or Old-Earth Creationist. Both have good points. This is an attempt to bring both to balance, like you mentioned Dorian9. On a more personal note, I believe the Theory of Evolution and Biblical Creationism (or even creationism in general) should be seprate. They both have some scientific merits, and historical merits as well, but they do operate on two seperate worldviews.
    I know of many who would disagree with me, and there may be few who support me, but the roots of all of these subjects go way deeper than a laboratory or a text book. Once again, I am just putting out ideas, that one may or may not accept-but this is part of my view on the subject.

    Thank you for your time,
    J.Shipley

  5. dorian9 said

    hello again! most individuals (certainly most of us on this here blog) have their own views and beliefs and decidedly stand firm and do battle when their stance is challenged. when it comes to the subject of creationism the only common denominator is our very own human inclination towards subjective reasoning. and that is why the debate will go on forever. when theists proselytize and condemn, atheists turn pedantic and postulating. each side takes turns starting it all. well i have to admit it makes things interesting!

  6. kay~ms said

    Dorian… I (we) aren’t condemning anyone… it’s the Bible, God’s word, that judges and dissaproves. I am just passing that information along… my personal stance is that what a person does, concerning their personal life, is between them and God. I may feel that they are doing something wrong but none of us are perfect…all of us do something wrong on a daily basis…it would be hypocritical for me to judge them… of course saying this is one thing but to actually think this way all the time (and not judge others) is a work in progress and one of the wrong things that I personally do sometimes…. I admit it. On the subject of abortion though… it is a different matter because the wrong that they are committing affects / hurts another person who cannot defend themselves.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your previous point… since we do not have definitive answers to how existence came to be ( and science hasn’t even come close to finding answers ) it is extremely narrow minded and I have to say ignorant to exclude God (for Atheists) or science (for Creationists).

  7. But at the same time, this is just an observation of mine, a good majority say that evolution is satan tricking man by putting it in his head creationism can be explained. During the early years of these scientific experiments and theories, the churches of all denominations condemned this as a heretical doctrine. From when these theories first came to print until today the debate has been going on. A majority of the denominations are still condemning evolution as wrong. As many point out “God’s Word” is absolute, but at the same time in the earliest accounts of religion man has always made up myths to how we came about. The same holds true to the hebrew-christian myths. And science has come very close to finding answers about evolution. Not just medical science but different other sciences have found pieces of the puzzle. What we can do in a genetics lab today is mind boggling to many. They have mapped the entire human genome but cannot see what certain latent strains do, this is due to the strict anti human lab testing policies. These policies are in fact a good thing. But we can only theorize on aspects we understand and our scientific understanding of this subject is much greater than it was ten years ago. Even the human body shows some form of evolution. There are organs in our body that may have served a purpose in the past but no longer function or carry any purpose. These organs are slowly shrinking with each generation and is being assimilated by the organs that are working. This is something not controlled by man that gives validity to evolution. Now I am not saying that the common counter to this fact is wrong. (God is doing the changes.) But if God Created the Natural Order of things then how is Evolution against god if it is apart of the natural process? This is evident in many other types of life on this Earth as well. Just because Science has replaced our old primitive way of knowing how man and the beasts of the planet came to be, does not mean it is wrong. Nor does it mean this should be shunned by the religious.

  8. While I agree with some of this post, maybe even most of it, I completely disagree with the bashing of theistic evolution as in the arrogant ignorant assertion that “Mature personalities can accept the world for what it is: uncreated and unconscious.”

    There is no scientific proof that the world is uncreated and unconscious. That is an opinion, that to me at least, detracts considerably from the teaching value of this post.

    My personal opinion is that the universe is conscious and alive, that every speck of dust is the Self (the Big Mind a.k.a. God) acting these parts for fun because face it, eternity is boring unless one invents games to play.

    That the earth is created is one way to look at it, that it is acted (my preference) is another, and that it grew is yet another. These are what Alan Watts calls the ceramic model (western Europe and America), the dramatic model (Hindus), and the organic model (Chinese) of the universe. Different models, different perspectives, but all have the same underlying TRUTH beneath them, truth that for now at least is outside the realm of science but not necessarily false solely because of that.

  9. The worst part about this blog is that it seems to equate accepting the fact of evolution with holding an atheistic world view. That is NOT necessarily the case. Granted, many religious nutjobs assert that it is, but it sure doesn’t help when posts as this also make that claim.

  10. dorian said

    nah, i know of 3 authors here that accept evolution that do not hold an atheistic view. i’m one of them. TBG, let me know if you’d like to contribute your own articles on adkob. i think the only prequisite is to create your own wordpress blog – that’s free.
    let me know and i’ll send you an invite to be contributor.

  11. princessxxx said

    http://tothewire.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/oldest-human-skeleton-offers-new-clues-to-evolution/

  12. Oh, what I *meant* but posted too quickly to correct is that this particular POST implied that only atheists have maturity of mind, etc. I realize that this BLOG has many different contributors whose opinions (and possibly truths! lol lol lol) vary.

    Thanks for inviting me to contribute. I actually have a WordPress blog, but I stopped using it when I *thought* I was converting my web site to Drupal (didn’t happen although I did start it). My main blog is the one owned by Google, blogger.com

    For now I think it best just to comment on existing posts (as long as it’s okay with all the regulars), and if I do create new content on my own web site I can post links in posts here that are related to the subject.

  13. George38 said

    No credible person who stated a belief that God created the Heavens and the Earth ever contended that mankind descended from “one pair of white people”. That is not recorded in Bible and a quick look at the descendants of the middle eastern people would refute that idea from the beginning. If you are to start the debunking of Creationism with an obvious mistatement of a creationists belief how can a person believe you have anything but a biased view and your credibility is immediately in question. I believe that the Heavens and the Earth were created by God but I was not there at the beginning and have no idea how it actually happened. Someone closer to the action than I recorded the account. Was a day one rotation of the earth? The account sounds like that was the meaning but other interpretations suggest that the real meaning of day was an era. If I am to believe, and I do, that God created the universe, then I could easily believe God could do it in six days. If God was/is, and I believe He is, it seems rather foolish for me to limit his power in any way. He is who He said He was. People can only know Him through His messengers and the actions of those who follow the teachings of the messengers. All the mistakes of mankind who thought they knew God was revealed through Jesus’ life. He could not be tolerated by the established religious leaders of the day because He contended He was given the authority to forgive sin. Their power position was threatened and they could not allow what they perceived to be a mere human to have that authority. Those leaders and their followers had to remove this obstacle to their power to decide who would be forgiven. I believe that God triumphed and His Messiah set the record straight. I believe that God created however He wanted. He left you to believe whatever you want to believe. I think I’m right in my belief no matter how inatentive to science that I may be perceived to be. I believe that God was the first and greatest scientist and mankind has been discovering his science as they were able to comprehend its complexity. The Bible is not a book of science but I believe its writers were inspired to reveal God to mankind. I was taught that the scientific approach was to hypothesize and experiment to prove the hypothesis. If science applies to humans, would they not look at the experiment of human existence and its witness as proof of the hypothesis: Does God exist?. If you don’t think so, I’m afraid that you have not paid attention.

  14. maybe animals evolved. but there is now way humans came from apes. there are no missing links. each time they think they found the missing link they get proven wrong. man either came from god, or niggers are the missing links. you pick cause it cant be any other way.

  15. @Geoff Wiuff
    You are quite mistaken. Obviously you rely on creationist web sites for your information. Those web sites are notorious for denying and distorting the truth and for spreading falsehoods. By “proven wrong” I’m guessing you are referring to Piltdown Man (and it was scientists who eventually discovered the fraud) and Nebraska Man (which was never accepted by the scientific community anyway and was soon found to be based on a fossil pig’s tooth). Both of those are nearly a century old. Catch up with the times! There are at least a dozen hominid species from the past six or seven million years that, if not direct ancestors to us, are at the least very close cousins to us. The older fossils show more ape-like features and there is a clear progression over time to more human-like features. One of the best transitional forms is Australopithecus afarensis, the famous “Lucy” fossil (but she was not the only one found of her kind) from about three and a half million years ago.

    It could be man came from God, and God used evolution as a tool of creation to go from dust to humans by way of pond scum, fish, mammals and eventually apes. Why do you say the only other option is that “niggers are the missing links?” That’s a pretty racist and ignorant statement to make. The genes that code for the skin and hair differences most people use to classify “race” are very small parts of the genome. If you are white, you may have much more in common genetically with someone who is blacker than black skin than with your lily white neighbors. We are all human, and all humans ARE apes. Our closest living relatives are chimpanzees and bonobos. Humans are basically a third species of chimpanzee. If you don’t like that FACT, take it up with God who made us that way.

  16. Oh and by the way, even if we had no fossils at all, NONE, there is still way more than sufficient evidence of many other types that all clearly show evolution happens. There are patterns of nested hierarchies of many different types of data that all point to the same reality. For example, the patterns of the placement of endogenous retroviruses and of pseudogenes in the DNA of related species show the same degree of relatedness as is shown by the fossil record. Another strong piece of evidence is the structure of human chromosome 2, which shows many clear signs of being two ape chromosomes fused together end to end. It is practically a “smoking gun” showing the common ancestry of humans with the other ape species.

    Even Michael Behe, the star “scientist” of the intelligent design crowd, admits that humans share common ancestry with chimpanzees and other creatures (see page 72 of his book The Edge of Evolution), but he then says that fact is “trivial.” Go figure. I bet most people who use quotations from Behe to bash the fact of evolution are not aware that their hero admits the evidence clearly shows humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor and that the earth is billions of years old. I am not aware of any other idea in science that is as well-supported by as much evidence of so many different types as evolution is. If it DIDN’T happen, if evolution is a lie, then that lie did not come from the pit of Hell as some claim. IF evolution is a lie, that would make GOD a liar for planting so much evidence that clearly shows it does happen. Is God a malicious prankster like that? Really? If evolution is a lie, it did not come from the pit of Hell. IF evolution is a lie, that lie comes directly from the throne of Heaven.

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