THE CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION CONTROVERSY: PART FIVE
In Part Four of this series we discussed the Noachian flood and its possible role in establishing the fossil record. Evolutionists believe the fossil record is evidence that living organisms developed gradually over millions of years while creationists see no transitional forms in the fossil record and therefore conclude the fossil record does not provide such evidence. In Part Five of this series we will take a close look at the evidence presented by evolutionists and creationists as to how life forms came to be.
Abiogenesis (also known as: Biopoiesis) is the term used by evolutionists to describe life coming into existence from material that has never been alive. This term is in contrast to Biogenesis which is used by creationists to postulate that life comes only from pre-existing life. Evolutionists believe life appeared through the spontaneous reaction of certain chemicals at some point in earth’s history. The chemicals involved in such reaction are believed to be methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfate, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and phosphate plus water. It is believed these chemicals became the building blocks of amino acids leading to production of simple proteins which were able to reproduce themselves. These chemicals, themselves, were generated as part of the Big Bang as discussed in the first installment of this series.
In 1953 a graduate student, Stanley Miller and his professor, Harold Urey, boiled methane, ammonia and hydrogen gases and water vapor in an upper glass flask in the presence of a continually operating electric spark. This upper flask was connected to a lower flask containing boiling water which provided water vapor for the upper flask. There was a trap in the bottom of this apparatus designed to catch any organic material that might be produced as a result of this experiment. After a week of this process going on, the fluid in the trap was analyzed and found to have microscopic traces of a few nitrogen containing compounds which were believed to be amino acids.
Based on this experiment, evolutionists have postulated that the primitive environment of the earth could have spontaneously generated amino acids leading to the development of life. Creationists counter that this experiment proves nothing about the formation of life and that there is no evidence the primitive environment was of the type created in this experiment. It is pointed out that if oxygen was present, because of its oxidative effect, it would have interfered with the chemical reactions and prohibited the formation of amino acids. Those running this experiment were aware of this and expressly excluded oxygen from their mixture. Creationists contend there is no reason to believe oxygen was not present from the beginning seeing that water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen and evaporation of water would place oxygen into the atmosphere.
In the 1970's, Apollo 16 astronauts discovered that water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen gas in the upper atmosphere when it is bombarded by ultraviolet radiation. This process, called photo dissociation, is an efficient process which results in the production of oxygen in our current atmosphere. Geologists have discovered evidence of abundant oxygen content in the oldest known rocks on earth which indicates that that oxygen was present on the earth since its formation.
It is further pointed out that if there were no oxygen there would be no protective layer of ozone surrounding the earth. Ozone is produced by radiation from the sun interacting with oxygen in the atmosphere, converting the oxygen (O2) to ozone (O3). If there were no oxygen there would be no ozone. The deadly destructive ultraviolet light from the sun would pour down on the surface of the earth unimpeded, destroying any organic molecules that may have been produced. Creationists feel evolutionists face an unresolvable dilemma in that in the presence of oxygen life could not evolve and without oxygen there would be no ozone to protect existing life.
A major problem relative to the Miller/Urey experiment is that the electrical sparks used to generate amino acids would have also destroyed them if they were not removed from the environment where in they were created. This was foreseen by Miller and Urey, so they included a trap to remove the newly formed chemicals before the next spark. This safety net would not have been available on a primordial earth.
Similar experiments performed since the Miller and Urey experiments noted that carbon dioxide and nitrogen create nitrites which destroy amino acids as fast as they form. It was concluded that in order for the Miller/Urey model of creation of life to be valid, the primitive environment would have had to contain significant amounts of iron and carbonate minerals to neutralize the effects of the nitrites. When experiments of the Miller/Urey type have been performed with the addition of iron and carbonate minerals, the end products were rich in amino acids. There is no evidence, however, to show that the primitive environment contained large amount of iron and carbonate minerals.
Some evolutionists have postulated that organic molecules from comets and meteorites may be the source of organic development on earth. In 2004 researches detected traces of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's) in a nebula. This represents the most complex molecule found in space to date. It has been proposed that PAH’s are precursors to RNA in living cells. Some evolutionists believe RNA preceded DNA as the facilitator of self replicating amino acids.
The RNA hypothesis suggests that relatively short RNA molecules could have spontaneously formed and were capable of catalyzing their own continuing replication. A number of theories have been advanced as to how this could have happened. It is theorized that cell membranes could have formed spontaneously from protein-like molecules called proteinoids which are produced when amino acid solutions are heated in an aqueous solution. This process forms microspheres which are observed to behave similarly to membrane-enclosed compartments such as a cell. This theory, however, assumes the presence of amino acids which makes the theory problematical. All hypotheses regarding the RNA model have met with a variety of problems
Other models of Abiogenesis reject the idea of self-replication as the starting point of life and instead postulate the emergence of a primitive metabolism which could provide an environment for the later emergence of RNA replication. No convincing evidence has been advanced to support this model.
While much research continues in the area of Abiogenesis, and many hypotheses have been proposed, no research or experiments have produced a self replicating life form. All hypotheses as to how life may have originated have met with multiple problems in attempts to show their validity. While evolutionists acknowledge this, they remain optimistic that in time they will be able to determine how life from non-life came to be. Evolutionists strongly feel it is inappropriate to conclude that life can come only from previously existing life just because life from non life has not yet been produced to this point. They point to many discoveries that were once thought to be impossibilities that became possible as a result of continuing research. Creationists, on the other hand, believe that it has already been proven that life can only come from pre-existing life and so the evolutionist pursuit is frivolous.
Creationists point to the work of French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) who demonstrated that life did not spontaneously spring forth from organic matter as had previously been believed by such notables as Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Aristotle and many others. It was commonly believed that some life could be generated by innate dynamics resident in organic material given the right conditions. For example it was believed that when old dirty clothes were left in a pile, they would breed mice. The evidence for this conclusion was that mice would often be found in a pile of old dirty clothes.
This same reasoning was applied to the appearance of flies and maggots found on decaying food. Pasteur performed experiments where he demonstrated that when organic material was isolated from interaction with the environment, no living organisms appeared. Creationists often cite the work of Pasteur as proof that life can only come from life.
Evolutionists respond that Pasteur’s work only shows that complex organisms are not spontaneously generated from non-living matter. This does not preclude primitive life having arisen from non-living, non-organic material which is what evolutionists postulate. All that Pasteur showed was that it was highly unlikely that modern living organisms arise from non-living organic material. Therefore the work of Pasteur does not disprove Abiogenesis. This is a reasonable argument from evolutionists.
Taxonomy is the science of classifying plants and animals on the basis of common characteristics. Evolutionists point to similarities between different plants and animals within their classifications and conclude that life forms having similar anatomical structure must have evolved from each other or from a common ancestor. Creationists counter by saying that similar characteristics are much more indicative of an intelligent creator using a common design and then creating variations off such common design. Creationists use such comparisons as an architect drawing up a common design for building a house and then varying that design in the building of other houses. Evolutionists answer by pointing out that houses are lifeless objects that can’t reproduce on their own and so the comparison isn’t valid. Evolutions, however, postulate that life originated in non-life and therefore their response to the creationists regarding comparative anatomy is somewhat hollow.
Comparative anatomy postulates that the greater the similarity between two organisms, the more closely they are related. Conversely, the more unalike two organisms are the more distantly they are related. This postulation is problematic, however, because it often points to too many ancestors. There are many examples in nature where organisms are very alike in some ways and very unalike in other ways. This creates serious problems as to how to determine who evolved from whom.
For example, dolphins, porpoises and whales are aquatic organisms that live in the water, have fins and swim like fish. This would appear to make them related to fish. On the other hand, these organisms, unlike fish, are warm blooded, develop their young inside their bodies and suckle them on milk which would indicate they evolved from land mammals. From where did they evolve? Blood tests have shown whales are associated with hoofed mammals. Yet whales, as do dolphins and porpoises, have much in common with fish.
How about the Tasmanian wolf? It looks and behaves like a dog. According to comparative anatomy it should be closely related to organisms such as the dog, wolf and coyote. Yet when it comes to reproduction, the Tasmanian wolf functions like a kangaroo, opossum and wombat. It gives birth to its young shortly after conception and nurtures them in a pouch located outside the body on the stomach of the female until mature. Where should the Tasmanian wolf be placed on the evolutionary tree and why?
The duck-billed platypus of Australia has a bill like a duck, webbed feet, makes a grass lined nest and lays eggs on which it sits until hatching. On the other hand, it has four legs, a fur hide, a tail and claws and, when small, has teeth like a beaver. Did the duck-billed platypus evolve from birds or from mammals?
Evolutionists see such similarities and dissimilarities as the result of what they call “convergence.” They say that organisms have branched away from each other and then converged to become similar again. Since this is pure speculation it largely becomes an argument from silence.
COMPARATIVE BLOOD COMPOSITION:
A corollary to comparative anatomy is comparative blood types. It has been shown that the composition of blood is more similar between certain organisms as opposed to other organisms and therefore it is postulated by evolutionists that this shows evolution and common ancestry. Creationists respond that this no better proves evolution than comparative anatomy does. Creationists argue that similar blood composition between anatomically similar organisms shows a common blueprint used by a creator. Creationists state that organisms of similar structure and design would be expected to have similar blood composition no different from houses of similar structure and design would be expected to have similar electrical wiring.
Additionally, we have in comparative blood compositions the same abnormalities we see with comparative anatomy. For example, when blood testing was done on various land animals, it was found that snakes and frogs are more closely related to man than are apes and monkeys. Since evolution teaches that man, apes and monkeys are closely related on the evolutionary tree, this presents a challenge to say the least.
Organisms, whether simple or complex, begin as a single cell and grow by cell division. This process leads to the development of a mass of cells called the blastula stage and then to a stage called the gastrula. These stages are similar in most embryonic development. As the embryo develops, various structures are formed that branch out into other structures that become identifiably different and result in the development of different organisms. Evolutionists look at the similarity in the early stages of embryonic development and conclude this is evidence that organisms have evolved from a common ancestry.
For example, evolutionists point out that the embryos of birds, cats, dogs and man; all have gill-slits in their early development. In fish these gill-slits develop into gills. In the case of birds, dogs, cats, man and other organisms, they turn into ears, jaws, and parts of the head and neck. Evolutionists believe that because all these structures begin as gill-slits, it shows a common ancestry for living organisms. Creationist point out that this is just a rehashing of the argument from comparative anatomy. Since gill-slits mature into a variety of different structures in different organisms, gill-slits show a common embryonic design which serves as the beginning point in the development of various structures. This is seen as analogous to a builder having three piles of bricks and uses one pile to build a house, another pile to build a church and the third pile to build a school. Creationists see much stronger evidence for a supreme intelligent creator in comparative embryology than for evolution.
The classification of organisms according to comparative anatomy, blood composition and embryology are basically taking the same approach. All three arguments postulate that similarity indicates the evolution of one organism into another organism. Such classification, however, simply places organisms into arbitrary groupings. It proves nothing as to how they came to be and therefore does not demonstrate evolutionary decent. Intelligent design appears to be a much more viable explanation of similarity.
There is one classification that does point to provable dynamics involved in the creation of living organisms. There is a self limiting barrier found among living organisms which prevents them from reproducing and surviving beyond a certain point. Some believe this is the only classification of organisms that has any bearing on origins. Creationists see this classification as the “kinds” described in the Genesis account of creation and scientists often refer to this classification as species.
Organisms are identified as belonging to a particular group if they have the ability to reproduce within that group. If an organism is able to breed with another organism and produce offspring which are reproductively able to produce the same breed or a breed with similar characteristics, both such organisms are considered to be in the same group or classification. Such group is called a biological species and the process whereby such organisms are identified is called speciation. If an organism mates with another organism and consistently produces a sterile organism and/or other reproductive limitations, it is determined that the two organisms involved are of two different species.
For example, the horse and the donkey are anatomically very much alike and yet are of two different species as determined by reproductive limitations. When a horse and donkey mate, they produce a mule and male mules are always sterile. In rare cases, female mules have produced colts provided they have been mated with a male donkey or horse. When a female mule is mated with a horse, her off-spring is anatomically like a horse and breeds like a horse. When a female mule is mated with a donkey, her off-spring is anatomically like a mule and breeds like a mule. In other words, the mule’s off-spring from mating with a donkey is the same as that produced by a horse and donkey mating. The mule is unable to pass on any donkey traits so for all practical purposes, the mule is a horse as to breeding ability.
Since such reproductive limitation has been found at all levels of biological organisms, the creationist believes this creates an unsolvable problem for the evolutionist. Evolution requires that there be unlimited ability for interbreeding to occur between organisms in order for organisms to evolve from simple to complex. The reality is that while organisms can interbreed freely within certain perimeters, as they step outside those perimeters, they produce sterile offspring, offspring that revert back to their own species or offspring that are increasingly more feeble and simply die out. It has been found that even within species, as more varieties (subspecies) are produced, the varieties become weaker as the gene pool becomes more and more spread out. The exact opposite of this process is required for evolution. Evolution requires increasing strength of the gene pool to facilitate movement from less to more complex development. This is not what is seen in nature.
Evolutionary biologists claim many new species have been produced by cross breeding different species of plants. Upon analysis, it is found that this cross breeding results in the same problem as with the mule. Boundaries are reached beyond which reproduction does not occur and/or plants become genetically weaker and weaker. Where cross breeding results in good reproduction and healthy plants it could very well be that what was thought to be two species is one and the same. If ability to successfully reproduce and produce healthy organisms is what determines a species, speciation becomes the one and only measurement of what organisms belong together in a group as distinguished from some other group.
MICRO/MACROEVOLUTION AND MUTATIONS:
Microevolution is the term applied to the belief that life gradually evolved over millions of years into a number of species. Macroevolution is the belief that species have further evolved to form new species. Evolutionists point to bacteria as an example of microevolution. It is believed bacteria often develop strains that are resistant to certain antibiotics. Evolutionists see this as an example of microevolution. Creationists point out that bacterium developing resistant strains is not evolution but simple adaptation to a changing environment. The bacteria are not changing into something else. They still remain bacteria. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that it is not that bacteria develop resistant strains so much as it is other present bacteria, already naturally resistant, replacing those bacteria that could not stand up to the antibiotic. Therefore there is only an appearance of the development of drug resistant strains to particular antibiotics.
Organisms are often seen as mutating in response to environmental challenges that affect their genetic makeup. Mutations are changes in a gene of a cell. If the change takes place in general body cells, it will affect just that organism. If it occurs in a reproductive gene, it can be passed on to descendants of the organism. Mutations generally produce one of three types of changes in genes: alteration of DNA, chromosomal changes and change in the number of chromosomes. All three result in some kind of change in genetic information. Such change in genetic information will produce alterations in the makeup of an organism. If such change occurs in reproductive cells it can produce alterations in successive generations of offspring.
Evolutionists believe mutations have been the driving force behind evolutionary development of living organisms. Genetic mutations are seen as creating the many structural differences that has led to the great number of organisms which have appeared over time. The problem is that mutations generally lead to a weakening of an organism and not to an enhancement. This is the very opposite of what evolution requires. Decades of mutation research done with fruit flies has demonstrated that most mutations are harmful and lead to weakened organisms or death. More significant is the fact that at no time have such mutations changed a fruit fly or any other organism into a different species. Mutations’ leading to new species is what must be demonstrated in order to validate evolution. This has not been done.
When a living organism produces offspring, some may survive better than others based on their response to changes in the environment. Some evolutionists believe such variations show evolution of living organisms. The peppered moth phenomenon in eighteenth century England has been used as an example of this process. The peppered moth species comes in two basic varieties. Some have dark colored wings and some have light colored wings. In Birmingham and Manchester England before 1845, these moths would sit on trunks of certain trees having a light colored bark. Birds would feed off the dark winged moths but would largely leave the light winged moths alone because they blended in with the bark. Therefore, the light winged moths became the dominant variety of the peppered moth species.
As the industrial revolution progressed, the tree bark became darker due to the smoke and grime produced by factories killing off the light colored lichen that covered the bark of the trees. When this happened birds began to eat more of the light colored moths as they could now more easily see them and the dark winged moths survived better because they now better blended in with the darkened bark. After a while the dark winged moths became the dominate variety. Some evolutionists believe this shows evolution of the fittest over the less fit.
In reality, this shows absolutely nothing about evolution. There is no evolution going on here. All that is going on here is a greater survival of one variety of peppered moths over another variety of peppered moths due to changing circumstances. In fact this example actually speaks against evolution as evolution postulates that once an organism changes in one direction it doesn’t revert back to what it was before. With the peppered moths, there was seen a change in one direction and then a change in the opposite direction. Rather than showing evolution, the peppered moth shows the stability of a species.
In our next installment of this series, we will continue to examine the evolutionist and creationist perspective on how life forms have developed on planet earth.