Monday, June 25, 2012

The Evolution of Darwinian Evolution

Can the essence (ousia) of an entity change over time so that it is no more? That is the central question to be addressed and the crux of the debate between Essentialists (such as Plato, Aristotle and Kripe) and Non-Essentialists (Heraclitus and Darwinian Materialists such as Dawkins).

Alice C. Linsley

Darwin's theory of evolution presumes the emergence of species over time by a naturalistic mechanism of "descent with modification."  Better adapted specimens survive as random genetic mutations occur within an organism's genetic code.  Beneficial mutations are preserved and passed on to the next generation. Over time, beneficial mutations accumulate and produce well adapted species. Presumably the same mechanism can lead to the emergence of creatures that have little or no resemblance to their ancient ancestors. So Darwinians feel justified in proposing that camels and sharks had a common ancestor because they share an antigen receptor protein.

Evolutionary branching from a common ancestor attempts to explain the anatomical differences between humans, apes and prosimians, but the material evidence simply is not there.

The 47 million year old fossil (Darwinius masillae) found in Germany is touted as the transition between flying lemurs and humans. The fossil of the lemur-like creature named Ida is believed to offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright - "a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin's theory of evolution." It was dubbed the "missing link" by the media. However, as Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist, explains, "From this time period there are very few fossils, and they tend to be an isolated tooth here or maybe a tailbone there. So you can't say a whole lot of what that [type of fossil] represents in terms of evolutionary history or biology."

Darwin admitted that aspects of his theory seemed implausible when considering specific features, such as the human eye.  He wrote, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." (Charles Darwin, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," 1859, p. 155)

Darwin also conceeded the fragility of his theory. He wrote, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." (Ibid., p. 158)

Of course Darwin's theory does break down when it comes to the most complex of organisms: the human being. The earliest human fossils show a range of anatomical features yet all these features are found among humans today. The nearly complete skulls of people who lived 160,000 years ago are, in the words of paleontologist Tim White, "like modern-day humans in almost every feature." (See report here.)

When Jeremy DeSilva, an anthropologist at Worcester State College in Massachusetts, compared the ankle joint, the tibia and the talus of fossil "hominins" between 4.12 million to 1.53 million years old, he discovered that all of the hominin ankle joints resembled those of modern humans. His research has shown that Australopithecus lacked the grasping toe typical of tree climbers, and its spine, pelvis, knees, and ankles were made for walking on two legs and not designed for tree climbing.

The claim of universality of the DNA code as a prediction of common descent does not align with known variations that violate this prediction. There appear to be specific fixed boundaries within the DNA code. It is ludicrous to assume that because nurse sharks and camels share an antigen receptor protein they are descended from a common ancestor. The DNA sequences that code for the proteins are different between sharks and camels. (Roux et al. 1998. The identification of a unusual antigen receptor protein structure found in camels and nurse sharks is not evidence of a common ancestor.)

Though images of humans emerging from apes appear in biology texts, no such image of camels emerging from sharks appears. If they did, the dullest of students would laugh and the brightest would express skepticism.

Doubts About the Veracity of Darwin's Theory

Despite Darwin's own doubts, Darwinism rules the day in schools, universities and the media. It has tentacles that stretch into government, education, medicine, ethics, economics and the social sciences. The Darwinian claim of universal common descent is ideologically-driven, not evidence-driven. The effect of this view is to blur the distinction between humans and other created species. Further, it perpetuates an idea that has no material support. Even evolutionary scientists question Darwin's theory of common descent. Jeremy DeSilva and Tim White are examples.

Initial resistance to Darwin's The Origin of Species came from scientists such as the naturalist William H. Hudson who wrote in his 1905 essay “Wasps”:

“One day an elder brother, on return from travel in distant lands, put a copy of the famous Origin of Species in my hands and advised me to read it. When I had done so, he asked me what I thought of it. 'It's false!' I exclaimed in a passion, and he laughed, little knowing how important a matter this was to me, and told me I could have the book if I liked. I took it without thanks and read it again and thought a good deal about it, and was nevertheless able to resist it teachings for years, solely because I could not endure to part with a philosophy of life, if I may so describe it, which could not logically be held, if Darwin was right, and without which life would not be worth having.

It is curious to see now that Darwin himself gave the first comfort to those who, convinced against their will, were anxious to discover some way of escape which would not involve the total abandonment of their cherished beliefs. At all events, he suggested the idea, which religious minds were quick to seize upon, that the new explanation of the origin of the innumerable forms of life which people on earth from one or a few primordial organisms afforded us a nobler conception of the creative mind than the traditional one. It does not bear examination, probably it originated in the author's kindly and compassionate feelings rather than in his reasoning faculties; but it gave temporary relief and served its purpose. Indeed, to some, to very many perhaps, it still serves as a refuge - this poor, hastily made straw shelter, which lets in rain and wind, but seems better to them than no shelter at all.”

Darwin's mentor at Cambridge, Adam Sedgwick, wrote to Darwin in 1859 and stated, "Passages in your book...greatly shocked my moral taste.'" Sedgwick added that "humanity, in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it, and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history" (from Richard Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler, 2004, p. 1).

An Excuse to Reject Conventional Morality

Many evolutionists have used Darwin to support their atheism. They reject the Biblical assertion that humans were not specially created and fully human from the beginning. Humans are merely another animal, not a creature in the divine image, deserving of no greater dignity than any other creature. Darwin could not have foreseen how his theory would stimulate unhealthy attitudes about life and human dignity. Eugenics, abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide, euthanasia are advocated today by a variety of Darwinist writers and scientists. Darwinism provided the theoretical basis upon which Hitler and his collaborators were able to convince many that the atrocities they were committing were for a higher good and therefore justifed.

Darwin's theory that all living things are engaged in a ruthless struggle for survival can be used to justify selfishness and brutality. Social Darwinism alleges a scientific basis for policies that demean the value of human life. Social Darwinists assert that progress is made when superior groups outcompete inferior ones for resources and territory, but who is to decide what constitutes superior and inferior?

In more recent years we have seen Darwinism play out in the slaughter of innocent children in Norway. A review of Anders Behring Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto reveals a mind deluded by neo-fascist and Darwinian precepts. Breivik confessed to a bombing and shooting massacre that left 77 dead in Norway

Breivik wrote in his manifesto that he is not religious, doubts God's existence, and does not pray.  Breivik hailed Darwinism, and wrote: "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science, and it must always continue to be that way. Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I'm not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe."

Many have used Darwinism to justify their rejection of conventional morality and the Judeo-Christian worldview. The Huxley brothers are another example. Aldous Huxley wrote: "Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their [purpose] that the world should be meaningless ... For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was ... liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom ..." (Ends and Means, 1938, pp. 270, 273).

Julian Huxley wrote, "The sense of spiritual relief which comes from rejecting the idea of God as a superhuman being is enormous" (Essays of a Humanist, 1966, p. 223).

The atheistic trend in Darwinism has a popular spokesman in Dawkins whose books have influenced the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowam Williams. We hear the Darwinian nuances in his speeches and writings.  Here is an example: a world where exploitative and aggressive behaviour is commonplace, one of the "providential" tasks of human beings must be to limit damage and to secure space for the natural order to exist unharmed.

...the human task is to draw out potential treasures in the powers of nature and so to realise the convergent process of humanity and nature discovering in collaboration what they can become.
Darwin himself did not resonate with the atheism of the Huxleys and Dawkins. In a letter to John Fordyce in 1879, he wrote, “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.”

Fuel for Utopian Ideologies

The evolutionary view of human progress over time contributed to the utopian dreams of many Enlightenment thinkers and their disciples.  Such optimism was expressed by the French philosopher Condorcet (1743-1794) who saw "the human race, emancipated from its shackles, released from the empire of fate and from that of the enemies of its progress, advancing with a firm and sure step along the path of truth, virtue and happiness."

The atrocities committed by the Nazi regime and Stalin and by colonists in Africa and the Americas is sufficient evidence that humanity has not progressed toward Utopia.

If humans progress steadily in knowledge, why did Europeans in the Middle Ages believe that the earth is flat when people in Abraham's time knew it was a sphere? Why were Londoners living in darkness and filth when the people of Southern Spain had gas-lit streets and plumbing? If we are progressing in happiness and fulfillment why are many primitive peoples more content that peoples living in advanced techological societies? Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) argued that advances in the sciences and civilization can corrupt rather than improve humanity.

Forcing Scientific Disciplines into a Darwinian Mold

Cultural evolution is a recent application of Darwinism to human societies and behavior. Alex Mesoudi's book Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences represents this approach.  It is less about anthropology than about how anthropology can be made to evolve along the lines that Darwinians think it should. Mesoudi oversimplifies to demonstrate that human culture represents an evolutionary process that exhibits the Darwinian mechanisms of variation, competition, and inheritance. His book does not lead to a better understanding of the diverse expressions of human culture. Rather it is a manual for obfuscation; a thought experiment that breaks down when doing practical anthropology.

Darwin's theory seems plausible to people who have not investigated the data. If it were true, there would be no need to force the sciences into a Darwinian mold. The sciences would converge. However, the sciences do not converge on aspects of Darwin's theory. Astronomers recognize a clocklike pattern in the skies. Geneticists recognize certain unchanging patterns which form the basis of their research. Physicists recognize unchanging physical laws. Anthropologists find that humans are essentially the same regardless of their environments.

We can agree that species change over time. We can agree that mutation, environmental adaptation and isolation produce diversity, but lacking the material evidence, we cannot agree that camels emerged from sharks or that humans emerged from simians. Many hundreds of scientists would agree with Dr Colin Reeves, Professor of Mathematical Studies at Coventry University, who has said, “Darwinism was an interesting idea in the 19th century, when handwaving explanations gave a plausible, if not properly scientific, framework into which we could fit biological facts. However, what we have learned since the days of Darwin throws doubt on natural selection’s ability to create complex biological systems - and we still have little more than handwaving as an argument in its favor.”

Related reading: An Scientific Timeline of GenesisTheories of Change and ConstancyBiblical Anthropologists Discuss Darwin; Evolutionists Ignorant of Culture; Science Teachers and Creationism; Getting the Facts About Human Origins; The Battle Over Genesis; Among Many Peoples, Little Genomic Variety; Is Genesis Really About Human Origins?; Kansas Science Bill Defeated


DDeden said...

Naught but silence on the foundation of both Wallace and Mendel to modern neosynthesis biological theory?

Better to balance subjective "creation" (mud molded & named/defined)

and objective "evolution" (selected & genetically designed (mutation due to cosmic rays etc.))

Alice, doesn't every coin have two sides?

Alice Linsley said...


Write your side and I'll post it at Just Genesis.

DDeden said...

Great apes have enlarged laryngeal air sacs, (so did Lucy & Selam (A. afarensis)); humans lack them, but muezzein reciting the adhan (call to prayer) retire (to become gardeners) when they develop pathological laryngeal air sacs from long-term loud calling.

Great apes have 24 chromosome pairs, (so do potatoes); humans have 23 chromosome pairs, but human genomes are otherwise very similar to great apes.

The nurse shark obviously shares an ancient common ancestor with camelids. Proteins are made from a limited source of material (20 amino acids, 64 codons arranged in different permutations (some of which produce identical protein structures from different materials eg. CGGG, CGTC).

DDeden said...

Article in The Scientist on speciation due to chromosome inversion , apparently the type of genetic mechanism which initiated Genus Homo (the beginning of begatting of the earliest human clan).

In my opinion, this agrees with the message of Genesis, differentiating humans from all other life forms but clearly derived from the same "mud" (Eve from Adam's rib still originated from non-living "mud" or clay).

DDeden said...

The link to the article:


Alice Linsley said...

Great apes have enlarged laryngeal air sacs, (so did Lucy & Selam (A. afarensis); humans lack them...

Mary Leakey stated that her Hadar find was "homo". The evidence supports the view that Lucy was human.

You would find support for evolution in Genesis if you read the text through that lens. You aren't alone in this. The BioLogos group attempts to correlate Genesis with their evolutionary viewpoint. I'm not attempting to correlate Genesis with evolution. I want to understand the text in its cultural context, which was not evolutionary.

Gen. 1 speaks about the earth producing every kind of living creature, but it does not say that the man was made that way. Genesis 2 states that God fashioned the man (Adam) from the soil (humus) and then placed him in a garden. From the soil, God caused to grow every kind of tree..." Among the ancient Egyptians, tree represented any kind of scrub, bush, plant. There are two creation accounts and they represent different cultural contexts. In both, the making of Man represents a distinct divine act.

Steven P. Cornett said...

I think Darwin critic Philip Johnson nailed it on the head in his article in First Things back in the 1990s when the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was willing to allow such to write articles for his magazine. Johnson argues that the central conflict between Darwinism and its critics isn't so much about Biblical Literalism but about Materialism.

For the evolutionist, the materialism comes before the science, and Darwinism or some idea like it develops logically from it. It should be noted that evolution, under the term "tranformationism", was a mode of thought as old as the Enlightenment.

Alice Linsley said...


I agree that the conflict between Darwinism and its critics isn't about the Bible. They haven't read it objectively. It is more about a Positivist-Pragmatist approach to knowledge that excludes metaphysical conversation. Today it is called "Scientism" because it poses as science but is popular scientists making pseudo-scientific declarations about subjects beyond their expertise.