Theistic Evolution vs. Six-Day Creation: Reply to Robert Sungenis

Fish Fight?Reply to Sungenis on Science Issues: Evolution (Part 3)

Gould, Eldredge, and "Gaps" in the Fossil Record
No Intermediate Fossils? No Evidence for Evolution?
Questions that Creationism Cannot Answer
Appendix: Piltdown Hoax

This article is a reply to "six-day creationist" Catholic Robert Sungenis and his article "Dialogue on Evolution vs. Creationism" in response to me (P), a "theistic evolutionist" Catholic. The primary purpose is to present once again the scientific data for the age of the earth and evolution, especially where these have been misunderstood or ignored by Bob. I don't claim to know a whole lot about radiometric dating, but I do read the sources (Dalrymple) carefully and enjoy learning what geology and biology I can. Just so you know my background, I am not a geologist or biologist but have a mere B.S. in Computer Science. Please check and verify any information below with the recognized authoritative scientific sources and knowledgeable experts in the pertinent fields.

And note I still appreciate and recommend Bob's apologetics and theology books Not By Faith Alone, Not By Scripture Alone, and Not By Bread Alone (minus the young-earth stuff near the end of the latter book). This is not meant to take anything away from these still excellent books. But when it comes to "not by science alone" we have our strong disagreements. The following is divided into several sections.

also Reply to Sungenis on Theological Issues (Part 1)
also Reply to Sungenis on Science Issues: Age of the Earth (Part 2)

Gould, Eldredge, and "Gaps" in the Fossil Record

Sungenis: Yet just two years prior, the two leading evolutionists in the world, Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge, after taking account of the utter failure of modern science to show any credible evidence of intermediate fossils between one species and another, stated most succinctly: “the lack of intermediate fossils is the trade secret of paleontology.” In 1977, Gould wrote in the American Museum's monthly magazine, Natural History, an article titled “The Return of the Hopeful Monster,” in which he admitted that Goldschmidt's former theory would have to be embraced due to the lack of fossil evidence.

Two major blunders here. First, Gould has responded to the apocryphal history and misinterpretations of his punctuated equilibria. He says the explicit link between punc eq and the "hopeful monster" idea is an urban legend:

"In particular, and most offensive to me, the urban legend rests on the false belief that radical, 'middle-period' punctuated equilibrium became a saltational theory wedded to Goldschmidt's hopeful monsters as a mechanism. I have labored to refute this nonsensical charge from the day I first heard it....How about the obvious (and accurate) alternative: that we never made the Goldschmidtian link; that this common error embodies a false construction; and that our efforts at correction have always represented an honorable attempt to relieve the confusion of others." -- Stephen Jay Gould, "Puncuated Equilibrium's Threefold History"

See also Massimo Pigliucci's discussion of this point in his excellent book Denying Evolution (Sinauer, 2002), pages 163-166, 237-239, and the reply in Scientists Confront Creationism (W.W. Norton paperback, 1984) pages 204-214 by Laurie Godfrey that answered this misunderstanding 20 years ago, and Kenneth Miller's information on just what punctuated equilibria entails in Finding Darwin's God (Cliff Street Books, 1999) page 82-90, 108ff. So that is a misunderstanding of Gould's work, and please do not bring up that false link to "hopeful monsters" ever again.

Second, Gould did not say "lack of" intermediates, he said they are extremely rare at the species level. Here is that infamous quote debunked:

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology (study of fossils) -- 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." -- Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History magazine (May 1977, emphasis added)

Rare or even "extremely rare" does not mean "non-existent" -- to wit more Gould:

"But paleontologists have discovered several superb examples of intermediary forms and sequences, more than enough to convince any fair-minded skeptic about the reality of life's physical genealogy." -- Stephen Jay Gould (Natural History, May 1994, emphasis added)

"Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups." -- Stephen Jay Gould (from his book Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, page 260, emphasis added)

Fuller Gould quote here:

"Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists -- whether through design or stupidity, I do not know -- as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups. Yet a pamphlet entitled 'Harvard Scientists Agree Evolution Is a Hoax' states: 'The facts of punctuated equilibrium which Gould and Eldredge...are forcing Darwinists to swallow fit the picture that Bryan insisted on, and which God has revealed to us in the Bible.'" -- Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory" (May 1981 reprinted in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, page 260, emphasis added)

Let's be fair and quote Gould in context and try to understand him. Gould clearly says there are intermediate fossils / transitional forms. The evidence is abundant between larger groups (see below -- fish to amphibian, reptile to mammal, reptile to bird, etc). So do not bring up this misrepresentation of Gould ever again. The man is now dead, and he's still being misrepresented by creationists, going on 30 years now. Please let him rest in peace. Transitional fossils exist in abundance and he still knows that (wherever he is :-).

Carroll explains in Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution (1988) that in order to establish evolutionary patterns and rates at the species level, some requirements must be met:

  • The sedimentary record must be relatively continuous, with gaps of no more than 10,000 to 20,000 years.
  • The total sequence must be fairly long, probably in excess of 100,000 years.
  • The sequence must be adequately dated, ideally by radiometric methods.
  • If one is attempting to establish change within a species, the entire species range should be represented.
  • The geographical range of the species should also be known with some assurance.
  • Ideally, a significant proportion of the skeletal anatomy should be known.

Carroll says: "Not surprisingly, these conditions are almost never completely met. Only under exceptional circumstances is it possible to measure evolutionary rates at the species level, so as to test empirically the hypothesis elaborated by Eldredge, Gould, and Stanley." (Carroll [1988], page 572).

As for "punctuated equilibrium" the brainchild of Gould / Eldredge, you can read all about that here in a TalkOrigins article by Wesley Elsberry. I won't go into that, it's well explained there.

No Intermediate Fossils? No Evidence for Evolution?

Sungenis: Since then, and just prior to 1996 when the pope gave his address to the PAS, still, no one has found any intermediate fossils. So it remains a mystery as to what “new evidence” is making evolution “more than a hypothesis.” In fact, so much “new evidence” has been accumulated against evolutionary theory, including Catholic Guy Berthault who has clear evidence refuting evolution's interpretation of the geologic column, that one would have to hide from it not to see it. Yet time and time again, the PAS simply refuses to consider any other “evidence” than their own evolutionary “hypothesis.” Not one scientist who holds to Creationism is allowed to be a member of the 80-member PAS. Obviously, Pius XII's words are not being heeded.

Sungenis: And thus, the tenets of the theory of evolution must be “rethought,” since it has been 150 years running since Darwin proposed his theory but which theory has produced none of the required evidence -- intermediate fossils. Darwin himself said in 1859 that if the intermediate fossils could not be found, then evolution was false.

Yeah, it's just a giant conspiracy of scientists trying to keep the real "science" of creationism out. If the PAS knew better, they would let the powerful evidence of young-earth creationism be heard. Nope, it's rejected since creationism on the whole is bad and incompetent "science" or, at worst, not only non-science but nonsense. I'm pleased to inform you we've found the transitional fossils and/or intermediate forms. Lots of them. Would you accept the words of Robert L. Carroll, author of two authoritative textbooks on paleontology and evolution?

From Carroll Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution (W.H. Freeman, 1988):

"During the past 20 years, our knowledge of fossil vertebrates has increased immensely. Entirely new groups of jawless fish, sharks, amphibians, and dinosaurs have been discovered, and the major transitions between amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, and dinosaurs and birds have been thoroughly studied. Evidence from both paleontology and molecular biology provides much new information on the initial radiation of both birds and placental mammals." (Carroll, page xiii preface).

How could he say this if there were none to study? The book is about 700 large pages filled with pictures and should be available at your local university library (I found it at USF). There are quite a few hundred (perhaps thousands) of intermediate fossils in there described in detail. His other book is more up to date and titled Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution (Cambridge Univ Press, 1997), another 460 pages of evidence.

Carroll acknowledges the "gaps" and "incompleteness" of the fossil record, so he's not "hiding" anything and is completely honest:

"One of the major reasons for the continuing debate regarding the rates and patterns of evolution is certainly the incompleteness of the fossil record. In Darwin's time, no evolving sequences had been discovered. At the present time, the fossil record provides a good framework of evolutionary patterns, but significant gaps remain between many of the major groups and between most well-known species and genera. Where dating is possible, most depositional sequences show significant gaps....Even in well-documented sequences, species and genera commonly appear suddenly in the fossil record. This pattern may be attributed to sudden evolution within the area being sampled, but it can almost always be accounted for by migration from some other part of the world." (Carroll [1988], page 571)

So scientists do debate the rates and patterns and the "how" of evolution (the mechanism), but not the fact of evolution (common descent) itself. The question is not how evolutionists are to explain all the gaps, but for six-day, young-earth creationists like Sungenis to explain the intermediate fossils and transitional forms that we do have. Did God create them directly from scratch to deceive us? And why do they fit so nicely into an evolutionary interpretation and transitional sequence if common descent (macroevolution) is not true?

Cambrian fossils between invertebrates and vertebrates: Pikaia, Yunnanozoon, Haikouella, Conodonts, Cathaymyrus, Myllokunmingia, Haikouichthys

From the book On the Origin of Phyla by James W. Valentine (Univ of Chicago Press, 2004) :

"The title of this book, modeled on that of the greatest biological work ever written, is in homage to the greatest biologist who has ever lived. Darwin puzzled over but could not cover the ground that is reviewed here, simply because the relevant fossils, genes, and their molecules, and even the body-plans of many of the phyla, were quite unknown in his day. Nevertheless, the evidence from these many additional sources of data simply confirm that Darwin was correct in his conclusions that all living things have descended from a common ancestor and can be placed within a tree of life, and that the principle process guiding their descent has been natural selection. And he was correct in so much more." (Valentine, On the Origin of Phyla, preface page xxiii)

see also The Precambrian to Cambrian Fossil Record and Transitional Forms by Keith Miller
also Transitional Forms and the Evolution of Phyla by Glenn Morton

Acanthostega gunnari -- one of the first fish-like tetrapodsFish-to-Amphibian (tetrapod) intermediate fossils: Eusthenopteron, Sterropterygion, Panderichthys, Elpistostege, Obruchevichthys, Kenichthys, Acanthostega (picture right), Ichthyostega, Tulerpeton, etc

From the book Gaining Ground: The Origin and Early Evolution of Tetrapods by Jennifer Clack (Indiana Univ Press, 2002) :

"Because of the remarkable preservation of several of the Acanthostega specimens, parts of the skeleton, particularly the more delicate ones, are better known than in Ichthyostega. A good example of this is the preservation of the gill skeleton, not often discovered in any fossil tetrapod [figures provided]...In Acanthostega, the gill skeleton proved to be remarkably fishlike (Coates and Clack 1991). Each of the branchial elements was strongly ossified and had a deep groove running down the back. Elements from at least three pairs of gill arches have been found. When compared with modern fishes in which the gill structure is known, the gill bars of Acanthostega most closely resemble those of the Australian lungfish Neoceratodus. This fish uses internal gills for breathing in water like most fish, but it also uses lungs for breathing air. There are three functional pairs of gill arches, as found in Acanthostega. The groove along with individual elements accommodates the afferent branchial artery, which takes blood to the gills for oxygenation. This is one piece of evidence that suggests that Acanthostega used internal gills like Neoceratodus as part of its breathing mechanism....[the "postbranchial lamina"] added to the evidence from the gill elements themselves, strongly suggests that Acanthostega still used internal gills for breathing....Acanthostega also retained another fishlike character of the shoulder girdle: the presence of the anocleithrum, a remnant of the more extensive dermal shoulder girdle of fishes (Coates 1996)." (Clack, Gaining Ground, page 124)

Archaeopteryx -- Berlin Speciman 1877Dinosaur (Reptile)-to-Bird transitional fossils with no morphological gaps: represented by Eoraptor, Herrerasaurus, Ceratosaurus, Allosaurus, Compsognathus, Sinosauropteryx, Protarchaeopteryx, Caudipteryx, Velociraptor, Sinovenator, Beipiaosaurus, Sinornithosaurus, Microraptor, Archaeopteryx (picture left), Rahonavis, Confuciusornis, Sinornis, Patagopteryx, Hesperornis, Apsaravis, Ichthyornis, and Columba, among others

From the book Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds by Gregory Paul (John Hopkins Univ Press, 2002) :

"One of the wonderful coincidences of science is that immediately after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, his famous explication of the mechanism behind evolution, dramatic support for his hypothesis appeared in Bavaria. In 1860, a feather and, in 1861, the skeleton of a Mesozoic vertebrate obviously intermediate in form between modern birds and their reptilian ancestors were uncovered in lithographic slate quarries. This vertebrate was, of course, the urvogel (original bird) Archaeopteryx. As our knowledge of fossil birds has expanded in the subsequent fourteen decades, the question of how birds arose has become ever more fascinating. Most paleontologists now agree that birds -- always popular with the public -- happily happen to be the direct descendents of the best-liked group of extinct creatures, the dinosaurs. Of course, public opinion has no relevance to scientific debate, but the broad appeal of a dinosaur-bird link vexes the shrinking minority of researchers who dispute the link....That birds descended from predatory dinosaurs has become far and away the majority view expressed in many additional studies....From China has come the feathered dinosaurs Sinosauropteryx, Caudipteryx, Beipiaosaurus, Sinornithosaurus, and Microraptor as well as many hundreds of specimens of the bird Confuciusornis....the fossils are coming so fast that it was hard to keep up with the new data during preparation of this book...." (Gregory Paul, Dinosaurs of the Air, page 1, 11, 15)

Reptile-to-Mammal intermediates, ranging from the pelycosauria, therapsida, cynodonta, up to primitive mammalia: Paleothyris, Protoclepsydrops, Clepsydrops, Archaeothyris, Varanops, Haptodus, Dimetrodon, Sphenacodon, Biarmosuchia, Procynosuchus, Dvinia, Permocynodon, Thrinaxodon, Cynognathus, Diademodon, Probelesodon, Probainognathus, Exaeretodon, Oligokyphus, Kayentatherium, Pachygenelus, Diarthrognathus, Adelobasileus, Sinoconodon, Kuehneotherium, Eozostrodon, Morganucodon, Haldanodon, Peramus, Endotherium, Kielantherium, Aegialodon, Steropodon, Vincelestes, Pariadens, Kennalestes, Asioryctes, Cimolestes, Procerberus, Gypsonictops

Ambulocetus Natans: the walking whale that swims

Land Mammal-to-Whale evolution intermediates: Pakicetus, Rodhocetus, Ambulocetus (picture above), Dorudon, Basilosaurus, and modern whales

"In the same area that Pakicetus was found, but in sediments about 120 meters higher, Thewissen and colleagues (1994) discovered Ambulocetus natans, 'the walking whale that swims', in 1992. Dating from the early to middle Eocene, about 50 million years ago, Ambulocetus is a truly amazing fossil. It was clearly a cetacean, but it also had functional legs and a skeleton that still allowed some degree of terrestrial walking. The conclusion that Ambulocetus could walk by using the hind limbs is supported by its having a large, stout femur....It is obvious from the anatomy of the spinal column that Ambulocetus must have swum with its spine swaying up and down, propelled by its back feet, oriented to the rear. As with other aquatic mammals using this method of swimming, the back feet were quite large. Unusually, the toes of the back feet terminated in hooves, thus advertising the ungulate ancestry of the animal. The only tail vertebra found is long, making it likely that the tail was also long. The cervical vertebrae were relatively long, compared to those of modern whales; Ambulocetus must have had a flexible neck. Ambulocetus's skull was quite cetacean (Novacek 1994). It had a long muzzle, teeth that were very similar to later archaeocetes, a reduced zygomatic arch, and a tympanic bulla (which supports the eardrum) that was poorly attached to the skull. Although Ambulocetus apparently lacked a blowhole, the other skull features qualify Ambulocetus as a cetacean." (from The Origin of Whales below, by Raymond Sutera)

see The Origin of Whales and the Power of Independent Evidence
also Philip Gingerich Whale Evolution Page
also J.G.M. Thewissen Whale Evolution Page

Fossil Hominid CollectionSome hominid species: (A) Pan troglodytes, modern chimpanzee; (B) Australopithecus africanus, 2.6 My; (C) Australopithecus africanus, 2.5 My; (D) Homo habilis, 1.9 My; (E) Homo habilis, 1.8 My; (F) Homo rudolfensis, 1.8 My; (G) primitive Homo erectus, Dmanisi cranium, 1.75 My; (H) Homo ergaster (late H. erectus), 1.75 My; (I) Homo heidelbergensis, "Rhodesia man," 300,000 - 125,000 y; (J) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 70,000 y; (K) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 60,000 y; (L) Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, 45,000 y; (M) Homo sapiens sapiens, Cro-Magnon, 30,000 y; (N) modern Homo sapiens sapiens

see also Creationism and Human Evolution by Jim Foley, responds to various arguments
see also Creationists and Human Evolution by the NCSE, good articles on the Australopithecines, Neandertals, and molecular genetics

But you wanted just one intermediate right? How about 80? Or do you need more?

There are plenty more. Now why aren't there "billions and billions" of intermediate fossils? Here is why. In short, the chance of fossilization is rare, and many of them have simply not been discovered or published yet. So its amazing the number of intermediate fossils and transitional forms that we do have after (only) 200 years of combing the fossil record and searching for them.

Speciation has also been observed and here are more instances of that. And don't forget the "Nylon Bug" -- the nylon-eating bacteria which evolved since 1935 -- and other recent mutations producing new information explained here.

Questions that Creationism Cannot Answer

The overwhelming evidence for macroevolution or common descent (descent with modification) does not depend exclusively on the fossil record and is here presented in great detail by Doug Theobald. My summary of that from November 2002 here. The evidence fits into several categories: the unique universal phylogenetic tree of life, transitional forms and the fossil record, past history of vestiges / atavisms, evidence from embryology, from biogeography and global distribution of species, from anatomical and molecular paralogy / analogy, the molecular sequence evidence (cytochrome-c and pseudogenes), etc. Here are a few dozen questions taken from my summary of Theobald that six-day creationists, or any creationist who opposes macroevolution and "common descent" would find difficult to answer. Again, to answer "God did it" (although ultimately, theistic evolutionists agree) would not be a scientific explanation.

  • unique universal phylogenetic tree of life

Why do independently derived phylogenetic trees of all organisms match each other with an extremely high degree of statistical significance? Why does independent morphological and molecular measurements determine the standard phylogenetic tree to better than 41 decimal places? Why do all the separate lines of evidence converge on the same one historical phylogenetic tree if all species are not united in an objective genealogy?

Why in spite of the extensive variation of form and function among organisms, do they share the same fundamental criteria for life: (1) replication, (2) information flow in continuity of kind, (3) catalysis, and (4) energy utilization or metabolism? Why do all known living things use polymers to perform these four basic functions: polynucleotides, polypeptides, and polysaccharides? Why does all known life use the same polymer (DNA or RNA) for storing species specific information? Why are all known organisms constructed of the same subset of 22 amino acids, even though there are 293 naturally occurring amino acids? Why do all known organisms use the same genetic code for transmitting information from the genetic material to the catalytic material?

  • transitional forms and the fossil record

Why do we find a quite complete set of dinosaur (reptile)-to-bird transitional fossils with no morphological gaps? Why do we have an exquisite series of fossils for the reptile-to-mammal intermediates? Why do we have many land-mammal to whale intermediates? Why do we find in the fossil record and geological column, prokaryotes appearing first, followed by simple multicellular animals like sponges and starfish, then lampreys, then fish, then amphibians, then reptiles, then mammals, then primates and finally man? Why is there a positive correlation between phylogeny and stratigraphy?

  • past history of vestiges / atavisms

Why do legless snakes such as pythons carry vestigial pelvises hidden beneath their skin? Why do some lizards carry rudimentary, nonfunctional legs underneath their skin? Why do many blind cave-dwelling animals, such as the Mexican fish tetra, the salamander species Typhlotriton spelaeus and Proteus anguinus, have rudimentary vestigial eyes? Why do dandelions reproduce without reproduction yet retain flowers and produce pollen? Why are there flightless beetles which retain perfectly formed wings housed underneath fused wing covers? Why do over 90% of all adult humans develop third molars which are often malformed, impacted, causing significant pain, increased risk for injury, but are useful for chewing and grinding plant material? 

Why do we find rare mutant whales that occasionally develop atavistic hindlimbs, or some whales with femurs, tibia, fibulae, and some include feet with complete digits? Why are there rare formation of extra toes in horses? Why are there atavistic thigh muscles in birds and sparrows? Hyoid muscles and atavistic dew claws in many dogs? Wings in normally wingless earwigs? Atavistic reduced fibulae in birds? Extra toes in guinea pigs and salamanders? Atavisms in humans, such as very rare true human tails some which are complex structures that have muscle, blood vessels, occasional vertebrae, cartilage, can move and contract, and are occasionally inherited?

Why does the gene that is required for Vitamin C synthesis, a pseudogene that is incapable of functioning, found in humans and guinea pigs, and in other primates? Why are there multiple odorant receptor genes? The RT6 protein gene? The galactosyl transferase gene? The tyrosinase-related gene (TYRL) ? Why do we share these vestigial genes, and the mutations that made these genes nonfunctional, with other primates?

  • evidence from embryology

Why from embryological studies are there two bones of a developing reptile that eventually form the quadrate and the articular bones in the hinge of the adult reptilian jaw? Why is there a very complete series of fossil intermediates in which these structures are clearly modified from the reptilian jaw to the mammalian ear? Why do mammalian embryos, early in development, temporarily have pharyngeal pouches, which are morphologically indistinguishable from aquatic vertebrate gill pouches? Why do many species of snakes and legless lizards initially develop limb buds in their embryonic development, only to reabsorb them before hatching? Why do modern adult whales, dolphins, and porpoises who today have no hind legs, temporarily show various leg bones, nerves, and blood vessels in the cetacean fetus?

Why do later placental mammals (like humans and dogs) not have the egg-tooth and caruncle (and eggshell) but monotremes, such as the platypus and echidna, have both an egg-tooth and a caruncle? Why during marsupial development, an eggshell forms transiently and then is reabsorbed before live birth? Why do several marsupial newborns (such as baby Brushtail possums, koalas, and bandicoots) retain a vestigial caruncle like an oviparous reptile? Why does the chicken epithelium secrete dental enamel and direct the adjacent mesenchyme to form teeth when transplanted with a small piece of mammalian mesenchymal tissue?

  • biogeography and global distribution of species

Why do marsupials (kangaroos, etc) only inhabit Australia? Why are placental mammals virtually absent on Australia, despite the fact that many would flourish there? Why do the southern reaches of South America and Africa and all of Australia share lungfishes, ostrich-like birds (ratite birds), and leptodactylid frogs, all of which occur nowhere else? Why do alligators, some related species of giant salamander, and magnolias only occur in Eastern North America and East Asia? Why does the indigenous Cacti plant only inhabit the Americas, while Saharan and Australian vegetation is very distantly related? Why do members of the closely related pineapple family inhabit many diverse habitats (such as rainforest, alpine, and desert areas), but only in the American tropics, not African or Asian tropics?

Why do we find marsupial fossils on both South America and on Antarctica, since there are none there now? Why is every single one of the fossil ancestors of the modern horse found on the North American continent? Why do we find early hominid fossils on the African continent, and why are numerous transitional fossils between humans and the great apes found in southern and eastern Africa, but not elsewhere?

  • anatomical and molecular paralogy / analogy

Why are the same bones in the same relative positions used in primate hands, bat wings, bird wings, pterosaur wings, whale and penguin flippers, horse legs, the digging forelimbs of moles, and webbed amphibian legs? Why does the fossil record show a general chronological progression of intermediate forms between theropod dinosaurs and modern birds, in which theropod structures were modified into modern bird structures?

Why do many proteins of very different function have strikingly similar amino acid sequences and three-dimensional structures, such as lysozyme and a-lactalbumin? Why does the analogy of the vertebrate eye and the cephalopod eye explain the structures of its predicted ancestors? Why do American and Saharan desert plants, which use different structures for the same functions, live in dry, arid regions?

  • molecular sequence evidence

Why is a full 45% of our genome composed of transposons, which serve no known function for the individual except to cause a significant fraction of genetic illnesses and cancers? Why are 21% of the human genome pseudogenes which serve no function? Why in humans is there one functional GDPH gene, but there are at least twenty GDPH pseudogenes? Why in mice are there approximately 200 GDPH pseudogenes, none of which are necessary?

Why do humans and chimpanzees have the exact same cytochrome c protein sequence, when the chance occurrence of this is conservatively less than 1 out of 1093 ? Why do human and chimpanzee cytochrome c proteins differ by only about 10 amino acids from all other mammals, when the chance occurrence of this in the absence of a hereditary mechanism is less than 1 out of 1029 ? Why is bat cytochrome c much more similar to human cytochrome c than to hummingbird cytochrome c? Why is porpoise cytochrome c much more similar to human cytochrome c than to shark cytochrome c? Why does the phylogenetic tree data constructed from the cytochrome c data exactly recapitulate the relationships of major taxa as determined by the completely independent morphological data?

Why are the cytochrome c proteins in chimps and humans exactly identical? Why do the two DNA sequences that code for cytochrome c in humans and chimps differ by only one base, a 0.3% difference, even though there are 1049 different sequences that could code for this protein?

Why are there very many examples of shared pseudogenes between primates and humans, with one hemoglobin, the ψη-globin pseudogene shared among the primates only, in the exact chromosomal location, with the same mutations that render it nonfunctional? Why do chimps and humans both share the same eight bp deletion in the steroid 21-hydroxylase pseudogene that renders it nonfunctional?

Macroevolution has answers to these questions, six-day "creationism" does not. "In the beginning God created...." does not answer these scientific questions on "how" God created. All the evidence clearly points to our evolutionary ancestry and "common descent" as the best scientific explanation of the facts of natural history, biology, paleontology, genetics, and the related sciences.

"Common descent is a general descriptive theory that proposes to explain the origins of living organisms....Because it is so well supported scientifically, macroevolution is often called the 'fact of evolution' by biologists....the evidence and the conclusion are independent of any specific gradualistic explanatory mechanisms for the origin and evolution of macroevolutionary adaptations and variation. This is why scientists call universal common descent the 'fact of evolution.' None of the evidence above assumes that natural selection is true or that it is sufficient for generating adaptations or the differences between species and other taxa. Thus, the macroevolutionary conclusion stands, regardless of the mechanism." (from my Nov 2002 summary of Theobald's Evidences)

From a booklet "Evolution and the Fossil Record" PDF published jointly by the American Geological Institute and The Paleontological Society:

"Evolution is the central unifying concept of natural history; it is the foundation of all of modern paleontology and biology....Biological evolution is not debated in the scientific community -- organisms become new species through modification over time... 'it simply has not been an issue for a century' [citing Futuyma]....The crowning achievement of paleontology has been the demonstration, from the history of life, of the validity of the evolutionary theory...." (Evolution and the Fossil Record 2001 PDF, pages 1, 10, 13)

From Theodosius Dobzhansky, the famous geneticist and an Orthodox Christian:

"Let me try to make crystal clear what is established beyond reasonable doubt, and what needs further study, about evolution. Evolution as a process that has always gone on in the history of the earth can be doubted only by those who are ignorant of the evidence or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotional blocks or to plain bigotry. By contrast, the mechanisms that bring evolution about certainly need study and clarification. There are no alternatives to evolution as history that can withstand critical examination. Yet we are constantly learning new and important facts about evolutionary mechanisms." (Dobzhansky, "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" American Biology Teacher, March 1973)

From Richard Lewontin of Harvard:

"....there has been a confusion, partly deliberate, of the fact that organisms have evolved with theories about the detailed mechanics of the process. The facts of evolution are clear and are not disputed by any serious scientific worker. The universe is over 11 billion years old, and the earth, in particular, is over 4 billion. That is a fact. Life on earth is at least 2.5 billion years old, and, as new evidence accumulates, the best estimate of the origin of life gets pushed further and further into the past. That too is a fact. It is also a fact that there were no mammals or birds 200 million years ago and no vertebrates 600 million years ago, while there are no dinosaurs now. Finally, it is a fact that under conditions that have existed on earth for the last billion years, at least, all living organisms arise from previously living organisms. So, the present complex living forms have evolved by an unbroken and continuous process from the simplest living forms of the pre-Cambrian era. To assert, on the contrary, that the earth and life on it are a paltry ten or hundred thousand years old and that the complex forms living today arose in an instant from unorganized matter is in contradiction not simply with the corpus of biological knowledge but with all scientific knowledge of the physical world. To deny evolution is to deny physics, chemistry, and astronomy, as well as biology." (Lewontin, March 1982, Introduction to Scientists Confront Creationism [W.W. Norton, 1983] )

From Philip Kitcher, professor of philosophy and zoology:

"Like Newton's physics in 1800, evolutionary theory today rests on a huge record of successes. In both cases, we find a unified theory whose problem-solving strategies are applied to illuminate a host of diverse phenomena. Both theories offer problem solutions that can be subjected to rigorous independent checks. Both open up new lines of inquiry and have a history of surmounting apparent obstacles. The virtues of successful science are clearly displayed in both....Darwin is the Newton of biology. Evolutionary theory is not simply an area of science that has had some success at solving problems. It has unified biology and it has inspired important biological disciplines." (Kitcher, Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism [MIT Press, 1982], page 54)

The Steve Project signed by over 500 (so far) Ph.D. scientists only with names of Steve (or variation):

"Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools." (Project Steve, the NCSE response to creationist pseudo-"lists")

From the Botanical Society of America, representing thousands of botanists, plant biologists and scientists:

"Far from being merely a speculative notion, as implied when someone says, 'evolution is just a theory,' the core concepts of evolution are well documented and well confirmed. Natural selection has been repeatedly demonstrated in both field and laboratory, and descent with modification is so well documented that scientists are justified in saying that evolution is true.... But people who oppose evolution, and seek to have creationism or intelligent design included in science curricula, seek to dismiss and change the most successful way of knowing ever discovered. They wish to substitute opinion and belief for evidence and testing. The proponents of creationism/intelligent design promote scientific ignorance in the guise of learning." (Statement on Evolution from the Botanical Society of America, 2003)

From Ernst Mayr, Professor Emeritus in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, called the "Darwin of the 20th century":

"Eventually it was widely appreciated that the occurrence of evolution was supported by such an overwhelming amount of evidence that it could no longer be called a theory. Indeed, since it was as well supported by facts as was heliocentricity, evolution also had to be considered a fact, like heliocentricity....The evidence for evolution is now quite overwhelming. It is presented in great detail by Futuyma (1983, 1998), Ridley (1996), and Strickberger (1996)..." (Mayr, What Evolution Is, page 12-13)

From the International Theological Commission of Cardinal Ratzinger, "Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God":

"According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the 'Big Bang' and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5 - 4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution. While the story of human origins is complex and subject to revision, physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage. However it is to be explained, the decisive factor in human origins was a continually increasing brain size, culminating in that of homo sapiens. With the development of the human brain, the nature and rate of evolution were permanently altered: with the introduction of the uniquely human factors of consciousness, intentionality, freedom and creativity, biological evolution was recast as social and cultural evolution." (From the International Theological Commission, headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, plenary sessions held in Rome 2000-2002, document published July 2004)

Appendix: Piltdown Man Hoax

Sungenis: In addition to evolutionists biased interpretation of the field evidence, we also have an inordinate amount of dishonesty taking place in the science community in order to fabricate evidence for evolutionary theory. Just one example will suffice. Allow me to quote from the book Betrayers of the Truth by William Broad and Nicholas Wade (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982) a book that will enlighten the reader to the inordinate amount of fraud and deception taking place in our esteemed world of “science.” The authors write: “The discovery of the Piltdown man was made by Charles Dawson, a lawyer who maintained a quiet practice in the south of England and dabbled in geology....

Piltdown man is an embarrassment to science. However it should be pointed out that it was evolutionist scientists who finally discovered and uncovered the hoax, not creationist organizations. Just as there is no need to "whitewash" the history of the Papacy and the Church's (few) "wicked Popes" it is not necessary to gloss over Piltdown. TalkOrigins has a very good page on the Piltdown forgery, and the following are excerpts from an article by Richard Harter and others:

Picture below: The "Piltdown Men" -- left to right front row: W.P. Pycraft, Arthur Keith, A.S. Underwood, Ray Lankester; left to right back row: F.O. Barlow, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Dawson, Arthur Smith Woodward. Keith is measuring the skull of "Piltdown man" under the direction of Smith. Teilhard de Chardin is absent on war service.

The Piltdown MenIn 1912 Charles Dawson discovered the first of two skulls found in the Piltdown quarry in Sussex, England, skulls of an apparently primitive hominid, an ancestor of man. Piltdown man, or Eoanthropus dawsoni to use his scientific name, was a sensation. He was the expected "missing link" -- a mixture of human and ape with the noble brow of Homo sapiens and a primitive jaw.

In the period 1912 to 1915 the Piltdown quarries yielded two skulls, a canine tooth, and a mandible of Eoanthropus, a tool carved from an elephant tusk, and fossil teeth from a number of pleistocene animals.

It should be remembered that, at the time of the Piltdown finds, there were very few early hominid fossils. Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens were clearly fairly late. It was expected that there was a "missing link" between ape and man. It was an open question as to what that missing link would look like. Piltdown man had the expected mix of features, which lent it plausibility as a human precursor.

This plausibility did not hold up. During the next two decades there were a number of finds of ancient hominids and near hominids, e.g. Dart's discovery of Australopithecus, the Peking man discoveries, and other Homo erectus and australopithecine finds. Piltdown man did not fit in with the new discoveries.

In the period 1930-1950 Piltdown man was increasingly marginalized and by 1950 was, by and large, simply ignored. It was carried in the books as a fossil hominid. From time to time it was puzzled over and then dismissed again. The American Museum of Natural History quietly classified it as a mixture of ape and man fossils. Over the years it had become an anomaly; some prominent authors did not even bother to list it.

In July 1953 an international congress of paleontologists, under the auspices of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, was held in London. The world's fossil men were put up, admired and set down again. But, according to Dr. J.S. Weiner, Piltdown man got barely a mention. He did not fit in. He was a piece of the jig-saw puzzle; the right color but the wrong shape. It was at the congress that the possibility of fraud dawned on Weiner. Once the possibility had raised it was easy to establish that the finds were a fraud.

Why then was the fraud so successful? Briefly, (a) the team finding the specimans (Dawson, Woodward, Teilhard) had excellent credentials; (b) incompetence on the part of the British Paleontological community; (c) the relatively primitive analytical tools available circa 1920; (d) the skill of the forgery; (e) it matched what was expected from theory; and (f) as Millar remarks, the hoax led a charmed life.

The hoax succeeded in large part because of the slipshod nature of the testing applied to it; careful examination using the methods available at the time would have immediately revealed the hoax. This failure to adequately examine the fossils went unmarked and unnoticed at the time -- in large part because the hoax admirably satisfied the theoretical expectations of the time.

It is a black mark on science that it took 40 years to expose a hoax that bore directly on human ancestry. Creationists have not been slow in pointing to the hoax, the erroneous reconstructions based on the hoax, and the long time it took to expose the hoax.

Main source for this article: The Piltdown Men by Ronald Millar (St. Martin's Press, 1972)

from Piltdown Man: The Bogus Bones Caper by Richard Harter

The best response to human evolution by a (six-day) creationist is Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils by Marvin L. Lubenow (Baker Books, 1992, revised and updated 2004 edition). This book is very comprehensive and well-written, but it does contain the following error on Piltdown:

"The literature produced on Piltdown was enormous. It is said that more than five hundred doctoral dissertations were written on Piltdown." (Lubenow, Bones of Contention [2004 edition], page 59, no source is provided)

This is not true according to the Harter article above, since the number of Ph.D.'s in paleontology being granted even today is quite small, and back in the 1920's there were about 2 dissertations per year on physical anthropology in the U.S. on any topic. In a search of the complete bibliographies of some of the main books on Piltdown man there are no references to doctoral dissertations. The source of this mistake is probably creationist Gary Parker's 1981 ICR "Impact" pamphlet "Origin of Mankind" who mistook a mention in Millar of "five hundred essays" about Piltdown for 500 doctoral dissertations. The source for Millar's 500 essays comment was probably an editorial in the July 10, 1954 issue of Nature (vol 274, pages 61-62) which describes a meeting of the Geological Society (June 30, 1954) devoted to exposure of the hoax:

"More than five hundred articles and memoirs are said to have been written about Piltdown man. His rise and fall are a salutary example of human motives, mischief and mistake." (Nature, 7/10/1954)

The Piltdown man hoax was exposed 50 years ago by evolutionist scientists, no thanks to six-day fundamentalist creationists who didn't come to "prominence" in the U.S. until the 1970s and 80s and have contributed nothing to our understanding of modern science or advancing technology, which science and discoveries the Catechism of the Catholic Church says "have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man....." (paragraph 283).

see also Creationism and Human Evolution by Jim Foley, responds to various arguments


Books Consulted

The Age of the Earth by G. Brent Dalrymple (Stanford University Press, 1991)
The Age of the Earth from 4004 BC to AD 2002 edited by C.L.E. Lewis and S.J. Knell (Geological Society Special Publication No 190, 2001)
What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr (Basic/Perseus Books, 2001)
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Kenneth R. Miller (Cliff Street Books, 1999)
Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins by Phillip E. Johnson and Denis Lamoureux (Regent College, 1999)
Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology by Darrel R. Falk (Intervarsity Press, 2004)
Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction edited by Gary B. Ferngren (John Hopkins Univ, 2002)
Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by Keith B. Miller (Eerdmans, 2003)

Links Recommended

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Evolution and the Fossil Record PDF by American Geological Institute / The Paleontological Society
Evidence for Evolution and an Old Earth by P
TalkOrigins Age of the Earth FAQs
TalkOrigins Evolution FAQs

also Reply to Sungenis on Theological Issues (Part 1)
also Reply to Sungenis on Science Issues: Age of the Earth (Part 2)

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