The Crumbling Theory of Evolution
Many people--though surprisingly few of them scientists--will not consider Christianity because in high school or college biology class they were taught that life is the product of time plus chance plus matter, not a supernatural Creator. I remember my biology professor at Wake Forest opening his lecture series on evolution by asserting, "Evolution is a fact." "A fact or a theory?" I asked. "A fact-period." I had a hunch he wasn't open to negotiation.
Most high school and college biology textbooks lead us to believe there is a consensus in the scientific community on the theory of evolution. If the truth be known, there is no one theory of evolution, but competing theories of evolution. And we live in a time when Darwin's theory and its hybrids seem about to collapse under their own weight. Though most textbook publishers continue to present evolution as a unified theory and though there is tremendous pressure within the academic establishment to conform, Darwinism may, like the Berlin Wall, come tumbling down quicker than we anticipate.
Though neither a biologist nor the son of a biologist, I recommend two books to folks who regard Darwin's theory to be a substantial obstacle to their considering the claims of Jesus Christ.
The first book is Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson. Johnson, a Berkeley law professor specializing in the logic of arguments, scrutinizes the scientific support for Darwinism and finds it severely lacking in confirmatory evidence. Many scientists, Johnson contends, have put the cart before the horse, prematurely accepting Darwin's theory as fact and then scramble to find evidence to support it.
In the first chapter Johnson refers to a statement made by Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Natural History Museum and the author of the museum's general text on evolution. In a lecture given at the American Museum of Natural History in 1981 Patterson asked the audience of scientists a question that reflected his own doubts about evolution: "Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing...that is true?" Patterson elaborates, "I tried the question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology seminar at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, 'I do know one thing-it ought not to be taught in high school.'" In the book, Johnson shows why such skepticism is warranted.
The second book, more technical, is Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, by Michael Behe. Behe is a Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University.
No one denies that natural selection can and does take place within a species -- microevolution. The debate is over macroevolution, whether natural selection can account for the creation of new species. In an October 29, 1996 New York Times article Behe writes, "Scientists have shown that the average beak size of Galapagos finches changed in response to altered weather patterns. Likewise, the ratio of dark-to-light-colored moths in England shifted when pollution made light colored moths visible to predators. Mutant bacteria survive when they become resistant to antibiotics. These are all clear examples of natural selection in action. But these examples involve only one or a few mutations, and the mutant organism is not much different from its ancestor. Yet to account for all of life, a series of mutations would have to produce very different types of creatures. That has not yet been demonstrated."
Darwin's Black Box exposes problems with the theory of evolution by exposing the problems it faces on the molecular level. Behe writes, "Darwin's theory encounters its greatest difficulties when it comes to explaining the development of the cell. Many cellular systems are what I term 'irreducibly complex.' That means the system needs several components before it can work properly. An everyday example of irreducible complexity is a mousetrap, built of several pieces (platform, hammer, spring and so on). Such a system probably cannot be put together in a Darwinian manner, gradually improving its function. You can't catch a mouse with just a platform and then catch a few more by adding the spring. All the pieces have to be in place before you catch any mice."
Because cells, like mousetraps, are irreducibly complex, if you take away any one of their parts they become useless. Behe explains:
"You can't start with a signal sequence and have a protein go a little way towards a lysosome, add a signal receptor protein, go a little further, and so forth. It's all or nothing at all.
The bottom line is that the cell--the very basis of life--is staggeringly complex." But doesn't science already have answers, or partial answers, for how these systems originated? No. As James Shapiro, a biochemist at the University of Chicago wrote, "There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations."
Whenever we see interactive systems (such as a mousetrap) in the everyday world, we assume that they are the products of intelligent activity. We should extend the reasoning to cellular systems. We know of no other mechanism, including Darwin's, which produces such complexity. Only intelligence does.
It is fine to teach evolution in school. It is a popular theory to which students should be exposed. My beef is when it is presented as a fact and when the problems with the theory are not discussed. A true spirit of scientific inquiry would put the problems with Darwinism on the table. Let the students examine the problems that many scientists have with evolution and then decide for themselves.
Peter Kemeny, Pastor
Good News Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 1051, Frederick, MD 21702