Five Good Reasons to Question Darwinism
Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth
Understatement — or overstatement —of all time? That is the question this blog will explore.
According to modern evolutionists, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is as “incontrovertible as any fact in science,” supported by evidence at least as strong as that proving the truth of the Holocaust. (R. Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, Preface). If you don’t believe in evolution, according to these modern thinkers, you are “inexcusably ignorant” (D. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, 46), insane (R. Dawkins, Ancestor’s Tale, 13), or perhaps some combination of the two.
Question Darwinism and these modern writers emit an intellectual force-field that repels any attack. How can anyone be so naive to question the Word of Darwin?
The purpose of this article is not to convince the reader that Darwin is wrong or incomplete, but to raise five reasons why we should simply not take the word of modern evolutionists when they preach the gospel of Darwin. Science is the process of questioning theories until one remains standing. We should not be intimidated into not raising our hands and asking questions because the advocates of the theory are so convinced by their own reasoning that they fail to consider alternative explanations, and wind up replacing one form of fanaticism with another.
But let us see.
Reason One: We Should Not be Intimidated Into Not Questioning Darwinism
The first reason to question Darwinism is because we are not supposed to question it. After all, it’s as established as the law of gravity, right? And who questions gravity? (Except perhaps for Phoebe Buffay on the TV show, Friends.)
But when questioning is stopped by intellectual intimidation rather than by the force of the argument, it might be a good time to focus on coming up with a few good questions. After all, the use of intimidation might be masking a weakness in the idea.
Imagine that Richard Dawkins and his followers were actually advocating the belief that 2 plus 2 equals 5, but did so with so much intellectual force and dripping sarcasm that no one wanted to challenge them. So then we all go on our merry way shuddered in a world where 2 plus 2 equals 5; if only we’d had the courage to add the numbers up ourselves.
While this example may appear ridiculous there is always the risk that the fear of questioning may lead to accepting belief systems that make no sense whatsoever. The history of science (e.g., the world is flat; the solar system revolves around the Earth), politics (e.g., Hitler), and some organized religions, prove this point vividly.
So the first reason to question Darwinism is to make sure we are not being led down the primrose path into accepting a theory that everyone believes because they are supposed to believe it, not because they understand it or it makes any sense.
Reason Two: Darwinism Depends Upon the Truth of the Big Bang
Darwinism and the Big Bang are a package deal. One must accept the Big Bang to accept Darwinism. Why? Because Darwinism is a materialistic theory. It is mindless. It is a sophisticated theory of living particles in motion. The Big Bang is a materialistic version of creation; a theory holding that the physical world began in a gigantic explosion of matter, space, and time. Darwinism has its birth in the Big Bang.
But the curious thing about the Big Bang is that no one really knows what happened at the real beginning; no one really knows how something came from nothing, why the Big Bang happened to explode, why it exploded with such precision that it neither flew wildly apart nor collapsed on itself, but instead rushed toward our little world of perfect order. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Nobel prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman says about the Ultimate Beginning:
We don’t know anything about the universe until it reaches the mature age of a billionth of a trillionth of a second — that is, some very short time after creation the Big Bang. When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up. We are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the Very Beginning (and so far She hasn’t let on).
L. Lederman, The God Particle, 1. The Big Bang is still a theory, a model. (See, e.g., B. Greene, The Hidden Reality, 37). So how can Darwinism be an incontrovertible fact when it is based upon a theory of creation and physicists concede they do not know what really happened at the beginning of it all?
Reason Three: How Did Life Arise from Dead Particles?
Since evolution is a fact as established as the law of gravity, this must mean that physicists have solved the mystery of what happened before the Big Bang; they just haven’t announced the solution. But let us suppose they have. And, while we’re at it, let’s also suppose these physicists have found an explanation for the origin of the laws of nature, which somehow directed the exploding debris from the Big Bang to form a world of natural wonder. But even if both of these mysteries are solved, Darwinians still encounter a huge problem that continues to baffle the best of them: how did life arise from dead Big-Bang residue?
Given the number of books that address the origin of life (e.g, M. Smith & E. Szathamary, The Origins of Life, C. Wills & J. Bada, The Spark of Life, R. Hazen, Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin, and Life’s Origin, ed., J. W. Schoff) one might get the impression that scientists have solved the problem of how life emerged from a barren swamp. But no such luck. As the late Ernst Mayr writes in What Evolution Is, “In spite of all the theoretical advances that have been made toward solving the problem of the origin of life, the cold fact remains that no one has so far succeeded in creating life in a laboratory.” Some things are certainly easier to solve in theory than in practice.
So even though no one knows how life rose from the dead, Darwinism, which depends upon the occurrence of this critical threshold event, is far beyond any reasonable doubt. Notice a little incongruity here between the foundational evidence for Darwinism and the pronouncements of its advocates?
Reason Four: The Fossil Record Shows Leaps Not Smooth Transitions
This statement amounts to blasphemy within Darwinian circles. You see, the fossil record, the historical record of evolution, is supposed to show how microscopic mutations gradually changed organisms over millennia into today’s living world. It is important to recognize here that indeed, modern evolutionists believe mutations occur at the level of the DNA molecule; if so, we would expect to see very small changes over time, and a fossil record reflecting this smooth sequence. But that is not what we find.
Darwin himself recognized that the fossil record is the “most obvious and forcible of the many objections which may be raised against my theory.” (Origin of Species, 341). Although creationists and Darwinian evolutionists disagree sharply on the interpretation of the fossil record, everyone who looks at the facts reaches the same conclusion: transitional forms are almost nowhere to be found. For example, David M. Raup, chairman of the department of geophysical science at the University of Chicago, observes,
Darwin predicted that the fossil record would show a reasonably smooth continuum of ancestor-descendant pairs with a satisfactory numbers of intermediates between major groups. . . . Such smooth transitions were not found in Darwin’s time, and he explained this in part on the basis of an incomplete geologic record and in part on the lack of study of that record. We are now more than a hundred years after Darwin and the situation is little changed. Since Darwin, a tremendous expansion of paleontological knowledge has taken place, and we know much more about the fossil record than was known in this time, but the basic situation is not much different. We actually may have fewer examples of smooth transition than we had in Darwin’s time because some of the old examples have turned out to be invalid when studied in more detail. To be sure, some new intermediate or transitional forms have been found, particularly among land vertebrates. But if Darwin were writing today, he would probably still have to cite a disturbing lack of missing links or transitional forms between the major groups of organisms. David M. Raup, “The Geological and Paleontological Arguments of Creationism,” in Scientists Confront Creationism, 147, 156. (emphasis added).
Richard Dawkins himself observes, “[f]rom Darwin onwards evolutionists have realized that, if we arrange all our available fossils in chronological order, they do not form a smooth sequence of scarcely perceptible change. We can, to be sure, discern long-term trends of change–legs get progressively more bulbous, and so on–but the trends as seen in the fossil record are usually jerky, not smooth.” Blind Watchmaker, 229. A college biology textbook notes: “The fossil record is much more complete now than it was in Darwin’s day, but fossil series showing graduated changed from older to younger species are still quite rare, considering how extensively life has changed over the geological period.” Biology, 484.
So why are the gaps in the fossil record noteworthy? For the simple reason that if life actually did evolve through random, microscopic mutations, as Darwinians believe, we would expect there to be a myriad of transitional forms, not virtually zero.
But Darwinians are so rabidly adverse to anything that hints at creationism or essentialism (the theory that things in the world share an essence with ideal forms) that they will simply not acknowledge that the gaps in the fossil record raise a serious question over the truth of Darwinian evolution.
And let me make myself clear here. I do not believe creationism —the view that God created the living world in one piece and lowered it down from the sky — is true either. But if we want to reach a more explanatory theory for the living world, it does little good to go into attack mode (see any of Dawkins’s books) whenever someone questions the supporting evidence for Darwinism. Too often, Darwinians prop up creationism as a straw man and then take turns hitting it over the head with rhetorical sledgehammers when they have not bothered to look for improvements in Darwin’s (dated) theory.
Reason Five: Where is the Ordering Mechanism in Natural Selection?
Natural selection is the key mechanism in Darwinian evolution, because it performs the heavy lifting; natural selection shapes order out of “mutational chaos.” Darwin described natural selection as follows:
Owing to the struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any specie, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any specie which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful is preserved, by the term Natural Selection[.] Origin of the Species, 115.
But here’s the problem. If mutations are random, as all Darwinians believe, then where is the ordering mechanism? The late Ernst Mayr explains that at the selection stage, “those individuals who are most efficient in coping with the challenges of the environment and in competing with other members of their population and with those of other species will have the best chance to survive until the age of reproduction and to reproduce successfully.” (E. Mayr, What Evolution Is, 119). In other words, those mutated organisms that best adapt to the gauntlet of environmental conditions will survive and pass on favorable traits to their offspring, and so on.
But as much as the edifice of Darwinism is built upon natural selection, the concept remains, in the end, almost completely vacuous. There is no panel of judges selecting the organisms, no artificial breeder, no molds sculpting the mutated organisms, only barren environmental conditions.
Can these environmental conditions alone sculpt the living world? Possibly, but it’s a real stretch. Remember that mutations occur randomly, and are then forced through the machinations of the environment. How can this mindless natural world shape anything?
If you read closely what these Darwinians say on this subject, you may find that in their desire to be good Darwinians, they make up in intellectual fervor what the theory lacks in explanatory power. But when you unpack the concept of natural selection, there is not much there to do any organizing.
Conclusion: Is Darwinism as Established as the Holocaust?
So those are five reasons to question Darwinism. (And we can add one more: before we accept having as a common ancestor to the apes, we might want to do a little checking of our own.) Perhaps you can satisfy yourself that despite these five points, Darwinism remains as established as any scientific law, with supporting evidence as strong as that which supports the Holocaust.
But while there is little doubt evolution did occur, we do not do justice to the scientific enterprise when we accept beliefs — even those as aggressively advanced as Darwinism — without asking a question or two. Who knows? Perhaps there is a theory of evolution that explains more than Darwinism. But we will never find it if we fail to turn our critical thinking back upon the beliefs we hold. (For a fuller discussion of any of these points and an alternative theory of evolution, see The Heaven at the End of Science.).