Giving Evolution Another Look

By Amy Davison 

Dan and Sarah were regulars at our high school apologetics club. Each Thursday, they’d faithfully walk through the door arm in arm for an hour of discussion and some free chips and soda. Their relationship was fun to watch (ah, youth!) and while they were like peas and carrots most days, a spirited debate would rise up whenever the subject of evolution was on the table.

Dan held to theistic evolution, which affirms the traditional Darwinist-evolutionary model, while suggesting that God stepped in about 1.9 million years ago to set ancient man apart by endowing his image, which elevated man both cognitively and spiritually.[1]

He saw some serious problems when it came to the Genesis account for our origins and had no trouble going toe-to-toe with Sarah about her belief in creationism. He was certain that evolution was the only way complex life could have arrived on earth, and the echo of their debates would carry down the hall long after club had ended.

They were a hoot to watch, and Dan was right—there is evidence for evolution. But is the evidence as overwhelming as he thought? Let’s see if we can’t interject some creationist perspective into the debate by looking at some of the biggest support for evolution.

Not All Transitionary Fossils Are Created Equal

Lucy was the discovery of the century when I was a kid back in the 1970s. The nightly news sang that this ape-human was “evolutionary proof” of our common ancestry with primates. Unfortunately for the scientific community, the excitement was short-lived as later testing revealed that Lucy was just another ape. This rush to a Darwinist-diagnosis is fairly common and almost always highly publicized. What doesn’t get as much publicity are the later retractions once more evidence comes to light, and Lucy isn’t the only one.[2]

Tiktaalik was said to be the transitionary fossil between fish and amphibians. The recreation of the fossil even had him pushing the croc-like head above water by using his fins like legs, but its skeletal structure and the recent discovery of tetrapod tracks dating 20 million years before Tikaalik has called the original conclusion into question.[3]

Archaeopteryx was also thought to be proof of an intermediate state of reptile-turned-bird. It’s teeth, bony tail, and claws on its forelimb were more akin to reptilian theropods, and were not what you’d expect to see paired with feathers. However, hoatzins, who resembled Archie, had a similar forelimb claw which they used to help them climb trees. So, the claw probably wasn’t a leftover reptile limb.[4]

Slow Change To A Quick Death?

According to evolution, species evolved over time though slow, gradual, random changes via natural selection. This was exactly what husband and wife Peter and Rosemary Grant observed when they devoted their careers to studying the same Galapagos finches as Darwin. During their studies, they watched as birds with larger beaks survived and flourished during times of drought, while their weaker smaller beaked siblings died out.

Natural selection at its finest, yes? Not quite. What you don’t often hear is that when the rains came, the finch population regained its beak diversity and instead proved that oscillating selection,[5] rather than actual evolutionary change, was taking place. What the Grants got was a front-row seat to watch microevolution (the small changes within a species that occur over time) in action.

Evolution faces more problems when it comes to more complex organs. Remember how Archaeopteryx was thought to be the missing link for reptile-to-bird evolution? What the progressively morphing pictures don’t show is that Archie probably wouldn’t have survived when it came time to change the flow and structure of his heart.

If you’ve ever tried to switch a hose from the sprinkler to a nozzle, you probably did it with the water off– you’d get soaked if you didn’t! But what works for the hose makes for a quick death to even the fittest of creatures. This is because a bird’s heart has four chambers with a single aorta, whereas a reptile heart only has three with a forked-abdominal aorta. You can’t just shut off the blood flow to the heart while it re-plumbs itself and expect Archie to pull through, let alone father offspring.

Beating The Clock

 There’s a bigger issue at stake than just our bird friend’s heart: time. Successful mutations take time, and lots of it, to evolve. This may not seem like an issue since we have 6 million years between the alleged human ancestors evolving from the common ancestor we share with chimps, but this vastly underestimates how complicated this process is.

To bring a little perspective, for a single protein to evolve a new function it requires 7 neutral mutations. This doesn’t sound too bad until calculation reveal that this would take 1027 years to accomplish![6] (1027 = 10000000 0000000000 0000000000.) And that’s just to get a protein to change!

Humans don’t just need proteins to evolve to transition them from their ape-like common ancestor. They need 16-major anatomical mutations to develop the ability for upright mobility, altered pelvis, front-racing eyes, altered knees and toes, etc., not to mention all the tiny anatomical adjustments and mutations required to develop each. Simple put, there isn’t enough time to get the needed changes within the 6-million year window.[7]

The Cambrian Conundrum

Time also poses some problems for the fossil record. According to Darwinian theory, non-life (sometimes called primordial goo or the puddle of molecules struck by lightning) gradually turned into life through process called abiogenesis. From there, the tree of life progressively branched off into the different phyla we have today. Complex life is found in the upper strata while the more primitive in the lower much older layers, just as Darwin predicted.

Darwin’s theory came to screeching halt, however, when a massive explosion of animal phyla was discovered in the Cambrian sedimentary layer.[8] This finding shocked scientists as the fossil evidence within the Precambrian layer was comparatively empty and those that were found didn’t appear to be direct ancestors of those in the Cambrian sediment. Then, within a 5 to 10-million-year span, creatures from every known branch of animal phyla today appeared and were fully formed.[9]

Don’t let all those years fool you. As we noted above, it takes an incredible amount of time for tiny changes to occur within a single protein. There also should have been transitionary forms if Darwin’s predictions were accurate, but these were noticeably absent.

A Balanced Look: Macroevolution vs. Microevolution

This may sound like evolution has been debunked, but that would be too hasty of a conclusion. What it does mean is that Darwin’s theory of how species evolved into another species (or macroevolution) is on shaky ground.[10]

Microevolution, on the other hand, isn’t controversial. Natural selection can give rise to a species that is better adapted to certain climates or habitats and can manifest in the form of new coloring on an animal or insect.[11]

Small-scale changes can even lead organisms to pass on “new” information to the next generation; much like when bacteria becomes resistant to an antibiotic or when mosquitos develop a pesticide resistance.[12]

New variations of species also regularly come into existence. The Harris and white-tailed antelope squirrels, for example, used to be one species but became two when they were cut off from each other by the Grand Canyon and were no longer able to come over to breed.[13] Microevolution can also weed out traits that aren’t useful, like in the case of the Galapagos finches. It’s important to note, though, that this is just the loss of information, not the gaining of new information.[14]

What this shows is that not every aspect of evolution is contrary to the teachings of Christianity and certain shouldn’t be shunned completely.[15] In fact, learning more about evolution would not only open the believer to learning the amazing discoveries of ancient life and animal development, but enable us to thoughtfully engage materialists (and our kids!) about the viability of the evolutionary model.

My encouragement is to extend some intellectual charity by given evolution a fresh look. Your conversations may not be as spirited as Dan and Sarah’s, but you will benefit from a better grasping of the other perspective. This is most easily done by grabbing your smart phone (or laptop) and comparing articles from organizations like Reasons to Believe, Answers in Genesis, Evolution News, and The Institute for Creation Research.

There’s also an interesting article discussion on how an evolutionary model would affect scripture and the literal Adam and Eve here: https://crossexamined.org/evolution-true-happen-adam-eve/

For the bookworm, some great resources are:

  • Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer
  • Christian Apologetics by Douglas Groothuis
  • Science & Human Origins by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin
  • 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution by Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker
  • I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek
  • Discovering Intelligent Design by Gary and Hallie Kemper and Casey Luskin
  • Keeping your Kids on God’s Side by Natasha Crain
  • Where the Conflict Really Lies by Alvin Plantinga

Reflection Questions:

What worldview assumptions are being made from each side?

Are these assumptions affecting what evidence they look for? How?

Is each stance being honest and charitable with the evidence?

What could motivate a scientist to adopt a materialistic worldview? What do they gain or lose?

Does life show evidence for design?

Could organs like the heart evolve from a random (by this I don’t mean purposeless) process?

What is the biggest challenge evolutionists and creationists have to answer?

[1] https://biologos.org/common-questions/how-could-humans-have-evolved-and-still-be-in-the-image-of-god/

[2] https://www.icr.org/article/more-evidence-lucy-was-ape/ At our local museum, a recreation of “Lucy” is still labeled as one of our ancestors despite this idea being debunked.

[3] https://evolutionnews.org/2008/08/an_ulnare_and_an_intermedium_a/

[4] Kemper, Gary; Kemper, Hallie; Luskin, Casey Discovering Intelligent Design: A Journey into the Scientific Evidence (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2013) Pg. 175.

[5] Ibid. Pg. 159-160.

[6] Gauger, Ann; Axe, Douglas; Luskin, Casey Science and Human Origins (Seattle: Discovery Institute, 2012) Pg. 25-26.

[7] There isn’t time in the entire existence of the universe to fit each of these changes in based on the widely accepted evolutionary model.

[8] 530-million years ago.

[9] Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt (New York: Harper Collins, 2013) Pg. 24-32, 63. There were also multiple fossils of soft-bodied creatures (like the jellyfish-esq Eldonia) perfectly preserved within the sediment, something scientists and originally thought impossible.

[10] https://evolutionnews.org/2019/02/skepticism-about-darwinian-evolution-grows-as-1000-scientists-share-their-doubts/ So shaky, in fact, that just this last year, hundreds of secular scientists publicly announced their skepticism and desire for a better naturalistic theory of macroevolution.

[11] This is just one example.

[12] https://www.nature.com/articles/nature10388 This is sometimes confused as evolution in ‘real’ time. It has been discovered, however, that the ability to develop a resistance to medicine or pesticides isn’t new, but an ancient ability they already possessed that had been switched off due to a lack of need. These bacteria or mosquitos never evolve into another bacteria or insect.

[13] https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/her/tree-of-life/a/species-speciation This is called allopatric speciation, and often falls under the umbrella of evolution. But while the new type of squirrel species might form, they still remain squirrels.

[14] See note 11.

[15] https://crossexamined.org/4-key-points-christian-kids-need-to-understand-about-evolution/ Crain noted this as well. Give it a read!

Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

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