Theistic Evolution vs. Six-Day Creation: Reply to Robert Sungenis
Reply to Sungenis on Science Issues: Evolution (Part 3)
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.
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:
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:
Rare or even "extremely rare" does not mean "non-existent" -- to wit more Gould:
Fuller Gould quote here:
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:
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 , 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.
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):
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:
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) :
see also The
Precambrian to Cambrian Fossil Record and Transitional Forms by Keith Miller
Fish-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) :
Dinosaur (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) :
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
Some 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
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
From a booklet "Evolution and the Fossil Record" PDF published jointly by the American Geological Institute and The Paleontological Society:
From Theodosius Dobzhansky, the famous geneticist and an Orthodox Christian:
From Richard Lewontin of Harvard:
From Philip Kitcher, professor of philosophy and zoology:
The Steve Project signed by over 500 (so far) Ph.D. scientists only with names of Steve (or variation):
From the Botanical Society of America, representing thousands of botanists, plant biologists and scientists:
From Ernst Mayr, Professor Emeritus in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, called the "Darwin of the 20th century":
From the International Theological Commission of Cardinal Ratzinger, "Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God":
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.
In 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:
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:
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
Age of the Earth by G. Brent Dalrymple (Stanford University
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
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