Nov 14, 2009

Why I Am a Former Darwinist

I prefer to keep our discussions focused on divine healing, but that pre-supposes a divine healer. The question of God’s existence must eventually be addressed. In this message I'd like to approach the question scientifically.

I was taught Darwin’s theory of evolution by my professors and didn’t question it for years. They were the experts and it made sense. Many years later I read some concerning things about those beliefs. The more I read, the more doubts I had. It turned out my trusted world-view was on shaky ground and the questions weren’t coming from theologians, but evolutionary scientists.

Little is heard about this discussion, because it doesn’t take place in the mainstream media, but in seminars, books and journal articles. I’ve gathered a sampling of quotations from books and scientific journals for your review. These remarks are candid statements in which scientists admit to some of the problems they've encountered in reconciling Darwinian theory with the evidence found in fossils. None of these men are known to be creationists. All have held prestigious positions in the scientific community.

The individuals quoted were not rejecting the entire theory of evolution itself, but only aspects of it. Nearly all remain evolutionists today. The reason for the discussion was the admission that the fossil record doesn't support Darwin's prediction of many gradual adaptive changes over a long period of time. Virtually every type of creature found in the fossil record appears and disappears suddenly. In fact, all the major classes of animals appear immediately during the 'Cambrian explosion'. They appear fully formed, and exhibit no significant change over time. All extinctions, likewise occur suddenly.

A sticky problem arose some years ago. Evolutionary scientists were forced into an uncomfortable position - hold onto classical Darwinian thinking, which wasn't supported by evidence, or develop a new theory that explains the lack of gradual changes.

Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed a different evolutionary theory called “punctuated equilibrium.” At the time, it was rejected by the scientific community because it smacked too much of creationism. It's essentially an admission that changes in species happened so quickly, they weren't captured in the fossil record. Although initially unpopular, in recent days it’s garnered more support.

This is not a comprehensive review. Biochemistry, physics, astronomy, genetics and other fields have much to say on the matter. There is a similar discussion taking place there as well. I’ll confine the discussion primarily to paleontology in this post. We’ll start with one observation by Darwin, and look at what experts have said about the fossil record. These are general remarks.

I’ve included a second discussion pertaining specifically to the series of fossils involved in the transition from ape to man. Finally, I’ll share some interesting observations from different scientists on the purpose of the evolutionary theory.

Darwin had concerns about his theory at the start, but hoped that a more complete fossil record would prove him right. He expressed his concern this way:

“The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, must be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” (1)

Stephen J. Gould has authored over 30 books on paleontology and evolutionary theory. He held the position of chairman of the department of geology at Harvard University and was one of the foremost supporters of evolution until his death in 2006.

"The history of most fossil species include two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism;
1) stasis - most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless;
2) sudden appearance - in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and 'fully formed'."(2)

"Modern multicellular animals make their first uncontested appearance in the fossil record some 570 million years ago - and with a bang, not a protracted crescendo. This 'Cambrian explosion' marks the advent (at least into direct evidence) of virtually all major groups of modern animals - and all within the minuscule span, geologically speaking, of a few million years." (3)

“The absence of fossil evidence for intermediate stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.” (4)

Gould admits that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is not supported by the fossil evidence and "is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy." (5)

Niles Eldredge has been a paleontologist on the curatorial staff of the American Museum of Natural History since 1969 and has authored more than a dozen books.

“It is the gaps in the fossil record which, perhaps more than any other facet of the natural world, are dearly beloved by creationists. As we shall see when we take up the creationist position, there are all sorts of gaps: absence of gradationally intermediate 'transitional' forms between species, but also between larger groups -- between, say, families of carnivores, or the orders of mammals. In fact, the higher up the Linnaean hierarchy you look, the fewer transitional forms there seem to be.” (6)

“No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seemed to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change--over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.” (7)

“We are faced more with a great leap of faith -- that gradual, progressive adaptive change underlies the general pattern of evolutionary change we see in the rocks -- than any hard evidence.” (8)

“The fossil record flatly fails to substantiate this expectation of finely graded change.”(9)

“We have proffered a collective tacit acceptance of the story of gradual adaptive change, a story that strengthened and became even more entrenched as the synthesis took hold. We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports that interpretation, all the while really knowing that it does not." (10)

"He (Darwin) prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search. has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin's predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction was wrong."(11)

Steven M. Stanley - professor of Paleobiology and Program Chair for the Advanced Academic Program in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Johns Hopkins University:

“For more than a century biologists have portrayed the evolution of life as a gradual unfolding ... Today the fossil record is forcing us to revise this conventional view.” (12)

“The fossil record itself provided no documentation of continuity -- of gradual transitions from one kind of animal or plant to another of quite different form.” (13)

“Since the time of Darwin, paleontologists have found themselves confronted with evidence that conflicts with gradualism, yet the message of the fossil record has been ignored. This strange circumstance constitutes a remarkable chapter in the history of science, and one that gives students of the fossil record cause for concern.” (14)

Ape To Man Series (Missing Links)

For years, is seems paleontologists have discovered one skeleton after another, discovering the 'missing links' in the chain connecting apes to man. More recent analysis reveals something else.

Neanderthal man. "These were in fact the remains of an old individual with arthritis." (17). "He is indistinguishable from modern man." (18)

Cro-Magnon man is "indistinguishable in body and brain from modern man". (19) "The fossilized remains are identical with those of people living today". (18)

Homo Errectus was regarded as subhuman because its brain size was once thought to be too small to be human. "It’s now known that its size is nearly the average size of modern man."(20)

Peking man, one Homo Errectus, was built from a single tooth. Davidson Black became convinced that it was a human tooth. He then confidently announced a new genus of man. (20)

Rhodesia man, another Homo Errectus: Paleontologists pointed out that "this creature had undoubtedly suffered from tooth decay. It was difficult to imagine how this disease of civilization could have attacked prehistoric man. And two very old holes in the side of the skull caused the experts even greater perplexity. In the view of Professor Mair of Berlin they looked like the entry and exit holes of a modern bullet". (21)

Nebraska man was constructed from a single tooth. Years later the entire skeleton was found. The tooth belonged to an extinct species of pig. (22)

Southwest Colorado man was also constructed from a single tooth. It is now known that the tooth actually belonged to a horse (22)

Java Ape-Man (1891) was built from a small piece of skull, a fragment of a left thighbone and three molar teeth collected over a range of 70 feet in an old riverbed mixed with bones of extinct animals. Professor Virchow of Berlin said "There is no evidence at all that these bones were part of the same creature". (22) The knee bone of another supposed ape-man (1926) turned out to be the knee bone of an extinct elephant. (22)

Piltdown man (1912) was declared to the public as being a human ancestor but was nothing more than a ape’s jaw placed with a human skull. The entire hoax was exposed 40 years later in Popular Science, October 1956. (20)

Pliopithecus and Proconsul were considered huminid because they looked like a cross between monkeys not because they looked part human (20)

Dryopithecus is based on a lower jaw fragment that later became known as that of an extinct ape’s. (20)

Oreopithecus was once thought to be ancestral to man because of its teeth and pelvis. It is now regarded as an aberrant ape or an aberrant relative of monkeys. (20)

Ramithecus, based on a set of teeth, went from putative first human in 1961 to extent relative of the orangutan in 1982. (16)

Australopithecus Africanus was found to be the skull of a baby ape whose apelike features had not yet fully developed (19)

Australopithicus Robustus and Australopithecus Boise: These skulls have crests on top. Crests appear in male apes but not in humans or any supposed hominid before it or after it (20)

Australopithecus Afarensis (Lucy) is based on fragments found 2 miles apart among layers in the strata 200 feet apart. These fragments were claimed to belong to the same person. (23) Roger Lewin notes that "Lucy seems to be an ape’s head on a human’s body." (24)

"The fossil record pertaining to man is still so sparsely known that those who insist on positive declarations can do nothing more than jump from one hazardous surmise to another and hope that the next dramatic discovery does not make them utter fools... Clearly, some people refuse to learn from this. As we have seen, there are numerous scientists and popularizers today who have the temerity to tell us that there is 'no doubt' how man originated. If only they had the evidence."(15)

Evolution - science or religion?

"we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. ...the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation." (25)

"Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today… it came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity." (26)

"In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to 'bend' their observations to fit in with it.... To my mind, the theory does not stand up at all... I know that is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it." (27)

"The hold of the evolutionary paradigm is so powerful that an idea which is more like a principle of medieval astrology than a serious 20th century scientific theory has become a reality for evolutionary biologists.... The overriding supremacy of the myth has created a widespread illusion that the theory of evolution was all but proved 100 years ago and that all subsequent biological research - paleontological, zoological and in the newer branches of genetics and molecular biology - has provided ever-increasing evidence of Darwinian ideas... There has always existed a significant minority of first-rate biologists who have never been able to bring themselves to accept the validity of Darwinian claims. In fact, the number of biologists who have expressed some degree of disillusionment is practically endless... Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the 20th century. Like the Genesis-based cosmology which it replaced, and like the creation myths of ancient man, it satisfies the same deep psychological need for an all-embracing explanation for the origin of the world which has motivated all the cosmogenic myth makers of the past." (28)

"I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning, consequently assumed it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do . . For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom." (29)


1. Darwin, C. (1859) The Origin of Species (Reprint of the first edition) Avenel Books, Crown Publishers, New York, 1979, p. 292

2. Gould, Stephen Jay 1980. "The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change" The Panda's Thumb. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 181-182.

3. Gould, Stephen J. "Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History", 1989, p. 23-24)

4. Gould, S.J., 1982 "Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?"Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin" Maynard Smith, J. (editor) W. H. Freeman and Co. in association with Nature, p. 140

5. Gould, S. J. (1980) "Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?"Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin, Maynard Smith, J. (editor) W. H. Freeman and Co. in association with Nature p. 120

6. Eldredge, N., 1982 The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism, Washington Square Press, pp. 65-66

7. Eldredge, N., 1995 Reinventing Darwin, Wiley, New York, p. 95

8. Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I. (1982) The Myths of Human Evolution, Columbia University Press, p. 57

9. Eldredge, N. and Tattersall, I. (1982), The Myths of Human Evolution, Columbia University Press, p. 163

10. Eldredge, N. "Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1985, p. 144)

11. Eldredge, N. The Myths of Human Evolution, Columbia University Press, p.45-46

12. Stanley, S. M., 1981 The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of Species, Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, N.Y., p.3

13. Stanley, S. M., 1981, The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of Species, Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, N.Y., p. 40

14. Stanley, S. M., 1981 The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of Species, Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, N.Y. p. 101

15. Fix, William R. (1984) The Bone Peddlers, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, p.150

16. Lewin, Roger. Bones of Contention, NY:Simon and Schuster, 1987.

17. Johanson, David and Shreeve, James. Lucy's Child, NY: Williams Morrow and Co., 1989.

18. Ranganathan, B.G. Origins? Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1988.

19. Falk, Dean. Braindance, NY: Henry Holt and Co., 1992.

20. Howell, F. Clark. Early Man, NY: Time Life Books, 1973.

21. Pfieffer, John. The Emergence of Man, NY: Harper and Row, 1969.

22. Criswell, W.A. Did Man Just Happen?, Zondervan Publishing House.

23. Johanson, Donald. "Ethiopia Yields First Family of Early Man", National Geographic, December 1976.

24. Lewin, Roger. In the Age of Mankind, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1988.

25. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p229-230.

26. Michael Ruse, "How evolution became a religion: are creationists correct?" National Post, May 13, 2000, pp. B1, B3, B7

27. H. Lipson, "A Physicist Looks at Evolution", Physics Bulletin, 1980, p.138

28. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis p.306, 327, 358.

29. Aldous Huxley, "Confessions of a Professed Atheist," Report: Perspective on the News, Vol. 3, June 1966, p. 19

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful article: well written, insightful, thoroughly documented. Wow. I'm overcome. Thank you.