Just the facts, please

"Just the facts, please" Continued...

Issue: "Georgia twisters," Feb. 26, 2000

First, the predictions of Darwin's theory are contradicted by the fossil evidence. If the Darwinist theory were correct, then species ought to appear and die out gradually. Each species should change slowly but continuously, and the history of life on earth should reveal accumulating improvements in "fitness." What the fossil record actually shows is that species appear and die out suddenly. Each species tends to remain the same until it disappears, and the history of life on earth shows small variations among a small set of basic designs. As the Harvard Darwinist Stephen Jay Gould admitted in 1977, "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology."

Moreover, natural selection is not dynamic but conservative. One reason for the patterns evident in the fossil record is that the overwhelming majority of mutations are harmful rather than beneficial. Natural selection-the weeding out of imperfectly adapted organisms-turns out to work against radical change, not for it.

A fatal difficulty for Darwinism is that it cannot explain irreducible complexity. Natural selection cannot produce "irreducible" complexity-in which every part of a system must be present for the system to work at all-because in natural selection, the parts of living systems must evolve one by one, with each new part making the system work a little better. Yet irreducible complexity turns up throughout the machinery of life, for example, in the clotting system for blood, the light-detecting system for cells in the retina of the eye, and the repair and transcription systems for DNA.

Even if Darwinism could explain irreducible complexity, it could not explain preadaptation. Adaptation can work only if there is something to adapt to. For example, insect mouths couldn't adapt to flowers unless there were flowers. Guess what: There weren't. Writes Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, "insects had evolved at least ten elaborate forms of mouthpieces, uniquely 'adapted' (one would say) to their feeding upon flowers, one hundred million years before there were any flowers on Earth." Examples of such "preadaptation" turn out to be easy to find.

Yet another problem is that Darwinism cannot explain how life arises from nonlife. Natural selection kicks in only after things that live and reproduce exist; it cannot explain how they come to be. Scientists do know a number of ways to get organic from inorganic molecules, but none of them could have produced compounds like DNA under the conditions now believed to have existed in the years before life appeared.

Finally, there hasn't been enough time for the "impossible" to occur. In 1954, Harvard biochemist George Wald admitted that the chance development of life from nonlife was fantastically improbable, but argued that given enough time, "the 'impossible' becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain." Few biochemists take this view today, largely because the time available for life to have arisen is getting shorter and shorter. Mr. Wald himself thought two billion years had passed between the time the oceans stopped boiling and the time life appeared. New estimates suggest that his guess was forty times too long.

Is there any scientific reason to shut out the evidence that living things have been designed? Not one. Scientists sift evidence of intelligent design in numerous fields: For example, archaeologists consider whether the objects they dig up are rocks or tools, and forensic pathologists figure out whether the marks on bodies are better explained by sickness or violence. Is biology somehow different than the other sciences? Science should mean finding the explanation that best fits the evidence-not finding the explanation that best fits the dogma that "nature is all there is."


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