(Parts 3 and 4)
Previous parts of this series explained microevolution and macroevolution and addressed what are considered to be the mechanisms for macroevolution, mutations and natural selection. This article will address the evolutionary argument from similarity. This general subject is known as homology. It is the idea that all living things, from people to potatoes, have all descended from a common living ancestor that lived in the distant past. The evolutionary argument has it that the similarities found in different living organisms are there because of a common ancestor that had those traits.
By this logic, a squid and a human, for example, both have very similar eyes because there was some ancient ancestor in the lineage of both squid and humans that evolved an eye like what we have today. Squid and human eyes would actually be an example difficult for evolutionists to explain. This is because if you go back in time far enough to find a common ancester of man and squid, the ancestor would probably be a primative fish that could not have such eyes. A more common example would be in the skeletons of vertibrates. You can compare the number of bones and arrangement of arms or limbs for humans, land mammals, bats, and even fish and the similarities of the skeletons is striking. Thus the structure of a fishes fin may be similar to the wing of a bat, though the size and proportions of the bones are very different. There are obvious similarities of the skeletons even though these organisms are very different.
Evolutionists define homologous body parts, like the fish’s fin and the bat’s wing as structures that are similar and that can be shown to have a common ancestor. This definition is a problem. The similarity of the body structures is a fact anyone can see. The common ancestry is unverifiable by experiment or even by fossil evidence. Since evolutionists know that it is not possible for squid and humans to have a common ancestor with an eye like they have today, squid and human eyes are not considered to be homologous. Instead, they would be called an example of “convergence.” The idea of convergence is that the same thing evolved more than once independently. In other words, by macroevolution, it would take millions of years for the squid to evolve their eyes, it took even longer for humans to evolve and human eyes just happened to turn out very similar to squid eyes. There are many many examples of “convergence” like this among living things. Evolutionists do not really have any explanation for this frequent convergence, they just have a name for it.
Convergent traits are considered rare exceptions that are not important to explain at all. Since the squid and human eyes are defined out of consideration as not being homologous, evolutionists do not have to explain how they could evolve with similar eyes. But other organisms that may be easier to say are related by evolution, are called “homologous.” The flipper of a porpoise and the bat’s wing are used as evidence for evolution because of their similarities. But wait, the evolutionist’s definition of homologous assumes evolution! So, homologous structures are not really evidence for evolution, since the definition of what constitutes homologous assumes evolution. This is an example of circular reasoning found in many science textbooks.
Common Ancestor vs Common Design
If the similarities in organisms do not give evidence of macroevolution, then what do they really mean? I think they point to an intelligent Creator who is simply a great engineer. When an engineer finds a design that works well, he may use it in many different kinds of devices. This is very true in the field of electronics and computer technology. Certain kinds of electronic components (such as capacitors or transistors) can be found in all sorts of devices from televisons, to loudspeakers, to computer motherboards. This doesn’t mean that motherboards evolved from televisions for instance. It is just that transistors are very useful and so it is a design that is reused a lot.
There are many characteristics of living things where the Creator has used a similar design in different organisms. This is not surprising when you think about it. After all, living things on Earth are all made to live on the same planet. Life on Earth shares the same air and water, and animals often eat similar foods and have similar lifestyles and behaviors. In fact, if plants and animals were too different biochemically than us humans, we wouldn’t have anything we could eat! So, it is not surprising that there would be some similarities. But having designed-in similarities does not mean God carbon-copied parts and stuck them together. The Creator is not limited to only doing things one way. So even when a basic idea is used in different organisms, there may be unique variations of it in different creatures.
Flight in the living world is a good example of this. Flight is something that by evolution would have to have evolved four separate times, in birds, insects, bats, and flying reptiles (which now seem to be extinct). All these different groups of living things fly but they all fly differently! The principles of flight are basically the same but bats are very different from birds and so are insects, yet they all fly. Is it really plausible to say that flight just happened to evolve four times? Modern scientific research from the evolutionary view has not been able to answer how similar traits could come about in different organisms. It is not that similar traits come from similar genes in the DNA, because the same gene sequence often means something different in different organisms. Flight is a complex thing. Considering flight, the respiratory system, skeletal system, nervous system, and muscles must all be made for flight. If any one of these body systems does not allow the organism to fly, then the creature might eventually go extinct or flight would not evolve.
A Creator is necessary to explain how flight could exist in four different types of creatures that are so different from each other. The Creator applied the basic principles of flight in different ways in different living things. And in each type, the various body systems were designed to be coordinated with the purpose of flight. Thus, birds have hollow but strong bones to make them lighter, they have special flow-through “lungs” that helps them breathe while flying, and the nerves and muscles of a bird’s body are able to control flight and maintain flight for long periods. Insects and bats are different than birds and they fly just as well for what they need as birds do, though it is done without feathers. Insects are much smaller than birds (though there is fossil evidence that there used to be insects much larger than today). This makes flying somewhat different for insects than for birds. (So insects don’t really need feathers, for example).
The problems with the evolutionist concept of “convergence” is most evident in the many interesting cases of multiple convergence. One example is the sea horse and chameleons. Both have a coiled prehensile tail and independently moving eyes, though they could not have a common ancestor with both of these traits. The duck-billed platypus has multiple examples of multiple convergence. It has a duck-like bill and lays eggs similar to birds or reptiles. It also has highly developed sonar and detects electrical currents in water similar to some fish. It has a poisonous claw similar to a snake’s fang on it’s hind feet as well, similar to snakes, though the platypus is a mammal and it suckles it’s young. The platypus has a unique combination of intelligently designed and fully functional traits, not a haphazard mix of characteristics that evolved by chance.
Embriology and Similarity
There is one special topic where evolutionary arguments, though incredibly out of date and absurd, still persist in some textbooks today. This the idea that developing embryos of various organisms follow stages similar to their evolution. Biologist Jonathan Wells describes it this way, “similarities in early embryos not only demonstrate that they are descended from a common ancestor, but also reveal what the ancestor looked like.” The technical term for this is embryological recapitulation. This argument originates from an evolutionary German biologist named Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). Haeckel had made drawings of developing embryos of different animals, arranging them in a series and then arguing that the similarities in them were because of descent with modification from a common ancestor (which is macroevolution). These drawings were done even before Charles Darwin wrote his book The Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin was very impressed and influenced by Haeckel’s drawings.
Though it is well known in the scientific community that Haeckel misrepresented the facts in his drawings, the argument has persisted in many textbooks to this day. It is also used frequently by abortionist Doctors to persuade women to get abortions. The woman will be told something like, “the life inside you is not really human, it is only in the fish stage.” This embryological argument for evolution from Ernst Haeckel is one of the clearest most undisputed cases of misrepresentation in science. Even before the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species Haeckel’s ideas were soundly refuted, especially by embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876). Darwin even misquoted and distorted von Baer’s work to support the idea, something von Baer objected to.
Haeckel’s drawings of embryos have appeared in many books and publications. It has been known for over a century that they distort the facts to make the embryos appear more similar than they are. Haeckel’s drawings include embryos of fish, salamander, tortoise, chicken, hog, calf, rabbit, and human. For one thing, Haeckel’s drawings started at a midpoint in development and skipped over significant differences in these embryos that is evident from earlier stages. Secondly, two classes of fishes were omitted from Haeckel’s drawings, the jawless and cartilaginous fishes. They would not have fit in well. He used a salamander to represent amphibians, which happens to appear to fit his argument. But if he would have included a frog, which is more representative of amphibians, it would not have fit his argument at all. So, Haeckel had a very biased sample of carefully selected cases that implied more similarity than was realistic.
In 1995 a British embryologist Michael Richardson wrote that “These famous images are inaccurate and give a misleading view of embryonic development.” Richardson is not a creationist. Haeckel and Darwin thought that at the earlier stages the various embryos were more similar and they became less similar in their later stages of development. This has been soundly disproven by recent research. In 1997 Michael Richardson and an international team of scientists reexamined Haeckel’s drawings again and compared each drawing to modern high quality photos of the actual embryos. This study thoroughly demonstrated again that Haeckel’s drawings misrepresent the truth. Yet the embryological recapitulation argument is still found in various forms in many high school and college level textbooks. Even many scientists and biology professors are not aware of the problem, because embryology is not their specialty.
Each type of living thing develops as an embryo in a unique way. There are stages where there are superficial similarities of appearance between them, but the real function and nature of the embryo’s structures are different from each other. For instance, there is a point in the development of a human embryo where the embryo has something that looks similar to the gill slits of a fish embryo. These structures are known by embryologists as pharyngeal folds. In fish these structures do develop into gills, but in reptiles, mammals, and birds, they develop into totally different organs that have nothing to do with respiration. Even in fish, they are not gills until a later more mature stage. In humans, they develop into the tonsils, the middle ear canals, and the parathyroid and thymus glands. So, in humans, since they are not slits and they have nothing to do with gills, human embryos certainly do not have gill slits. There are many special structures in embryos whose only purpose is for during the development process, then they no longer function in the adult. This explains a lot about how embryos develop. This is just how God planned and designed life to be.
Though the area of embryology is not my field of expertise, I would
say that the development of a human embryo demonstrates a great intelligence
and wisdom far beyond chance. It clearly points to creation, not
evolution. The many examples of similarity between very different
living things is not surprising from a Biblical point of view. God
as a divine engineer can reuse His designs however he wants. Furthermore,
God’s reused designs do not have to show up in the ways predicted by evolution.
Evolution theory assumes there was no God involved and that everything
just turned out as it is by random mutations and natural selection.
So, from a creation point of view, both the “homologous” and the “convergent”
traits of living things come from the same Creator.
This series on Creation Biology has looked at important issues about biological change, biological similarities, and other issues. No discussion of creationist biology would be complete without discussing what is called “chemical evolution.” This is the issue of how the first living cells could have allegedly evolved from simple chemicals about 3.5 to 4 billion years ago. I think this is the subject in which the concept of evolution has the most serious problems. The evidence in this topic is overwhelmingly in favor of supernatural divine creation, rather than relying on natural processes alone and chance to create the first life. Modern science has greatly increased our knowledge of complexity of life at the molecular level. Even the “simplest” cell is so complex that only supernatural divine creation can explain how life could first arise on Earth.
In the evolutionary view of Earth history, after the Earth formed there were many impacts from space for a period of time. This heavy bombardment from space is believed to have ended a little under 4 billion years ago. This bombardment had to end before life could evolve. At that time the Earth, according to the evolutionary scenario, had a very different atmosphere than it does today. Many laboratory experiments have been done by scientists attempting to simulate the conditions of this early Earth atmosphere. It is not that there is solid evidence for Earth’s atmosphere being different than it is now, it’s just that it would have had to be or life could not have evolved by natural chemical processes. The important thing evolutionists believe about the early Earth is that there was little or no oxygen in the atmosphere, unlike today, when there is nearly 20% oxygen. If oxygen were present when the first biological molecules were forming it would have stopped the process and other unwanted unimportant chemicals would have formed instead. So, evolutionists have suggested various types of atmospheres for the early earth. The famous scientist Stanley Miller, who did electrical discharge experiments on the origin of life used chemicals like carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, ammonia, nitrogen, and water vapor. Today, scientists are considering ammonia as less important, but the basic idea has not changed much.
The idea is that simple gases such as the above would combine into organic “building blocks” such as amino acids, proteins, and enzymes. Most evolutionists believe this took place in water, which is often called an “organic soup.” Living cells are made up of many very large complex organic molecules. For scientists to form such molecules in a laboratory takes significant effort and special procedures. Many of these biomolecules do not form easily though scientists have formed some of them in origin of life experiments. Molecules like proteins, which make up much of our body tissues, are long chain molecules often called biopolymers. They are made up of many smaller units connected together in some sort of chain or other three dimensional arrangement. The smaller units that make up proteins are amino acids. Amino acids are small molecules. Proteins in living things are made up of 20 different amino acids. Organic molecules can combine into different three dimensional shapes or arrangements often. The three dimensional shape of the molecules makes all the difference in the world in a living cell. If amino acids combined in the wrong sequence or you had the wrong type of amino acids, it could change the shape of the whole molecule and then the protein forming from that sequence may not function properly inside the cell. Also, even if the sequence of molecules is correct, many other molecules must be present for it all to work in the cell. Living cells have all types of complex “machinery” that has to be coordinated to work together properly. Natural chemical and physical processes alone are totally inadequate for explaining how such complex processes could come about.
What are some of the problems with the first living cell forming by chance from simple chemicals? Much has been written about this, but here I will only mention a few points. First, in the so-called “origin of life” experiments, the important sought-after chemicals are generally removed from the reaction so that they won’t be destroyed. In the early Earth there would be nothing to remove them or concentrate them adequately. There would always be other chemicals present in a “natural” organic soup that cause unwanted reactions that would prevent the formation of the important large biomolecules such as proteins or RNA. (These unwanted chemical reactions are known as “side reactions.”) When experimenters remove amino acids from their origin of life experiment, they are actually interfering with the natural process and this means the experiment is not really simulating real conditions like evolutionists say existed in the early Earth.
Other problems with the formation of the first cells from chemicals include ultraviolet light breaking down the biomolecules, natural energy sources are often of the wrong kind (destroying the biomolecules), and natural processes do not explain how the information content of biomolecules could come about. This last problem is perhaps the most important one. Life is tremendously organized, even in the “simplest” one-celled organism.
Complex molecules like RNA and DNA in living cells are I think somewhat
analogous to a computer program that has been stored on some storage device,
like a hard drive or a computer floppy disk. Even if you can make
the device, like the floppy, it won’t do anything without information on
it. The information is coded onto the floppy device by a certain
“language.” The cell, which uses the RNA and DNA, reads the data
or information on the DNA molecule. The cell also has the necessary
machinery to build the materials specified by the information code.
Our Creator designed both the information code and the cellular machinery
to use it. Recent research has just completed mapping the complete
sequence of the human genome. This does not mean that scientists
know what everything in the sequence means, it just means we now have a
more complete record of what the sequence is. This research on the
human genome will lead to many medical benefits for us. But it also
underscores that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a Creator who
put in the sophisticated information. No natural processes operating
by chance in an undirected way could explain the origin of the complexity
inside living cells.
Recommended Sources on Biology
Armitage, Mark; "Those Who Live in Glass Houses Stow No Thrones," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 31,December 1994, pp 167-170.
Batten, Don (editor), Ham, Ken, Sarfati, Jonathan, Wieland, Carl; The Revised and Expanded Answers Book, Answersin Genesis, copyright1990, revised edition January 2000.
Behe, Michael J.; Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Simon & Shuster, New York, 1996.
Bergman, Jerry and George Howe; "Vestigial Organs" Are Fully Functional, Creation Research Society, 1990.
Bergman, Jerry; "Some Biological Problems of Natural Selection Theory," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol.29, No. 3, December 1992.
Bergman, Jerry; "The Problem of Extinction and Natural Selection," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 30, No.2, September 1993.
Bergman, Jerry; "Why did God create poisons and toxins?," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3,December 1995.
Coyne, Jerry A.; "Not Black and White," Nature, Vol. 396, Nov. 5, 1998, pp 35-36
Davis, Percival, Kenyon, Dean H., Thaxton, Charles B.; Of Pandas and People, Haughton Publishing Company, Dallas,Texas, 1989.
Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, Publishers, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, 1985.
Eyre-Walker, Adam and Keightley, Peter D.; "High genomic deleterious mutation rates in hominids," Nature, Vol. 397,Jan. 28, 1999, pp 344-347.
Friar, Wayne; "Baraminology-Classification of Created Organisms," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 37,September 2000, pp 82-91.
Helder, Margaret J.; "Let's Rewrite the Book on the Galapagos Islands," Creation Matters, Volume 1, Number 4,July/August 1996.
Johnson, Phillip E., Darwin on Trial, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1991.
Lewin, Roger; "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire," Science, Vol. 210, Nov. 21, 1980, pp 883-887.
Spetner, Lee; Not by Chance! , The Judaica Press, Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1997.
Thaxton, Charles B., Bradley, Walter L., and Olsen, Roger L.; The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing CurrentTheories, Philosophical Library, New York, 1984.
Wells, Jonathan; Icons of Evolution , Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington D.C., 2000.