Lesson: Evolution



Evolution is Darwin's theory on how complex organisms came to being.  It is widely accepted by the general public, but it is also inconsistent with the Biblical account.  This discussion will focus on the problems with evolution and challenge its validity as a scientific "theory."

Basics of Evolution

Darwin's theory of evolution is based on some seemingly very straightforward ideas.  First, organisms compete for survival, and those who can survive better will win.  This is called natural selection.  Organisms change gradually to increase their chances of survival.  These gradual changes come from adaptations and mutations.  Adaptations are processes in which organisms gradually become more suitable to survive in the environment.  For instance, humans who move to an environment with more sunshine will gradually have darker skin to help prevent skin damage from excessive sun radiation.  Mutation are random changes in the genetic makeup of an organism.  Usually this comes from a mistake in the copying of the DNA, the genetic blueprint of organisms.  Though most mutations are harmful, a few can be beneficial to the organism's survival.  Accumulation of these beneficial mutations can make an organism better survivors.  Over millions of years, these adaptations and mutations help form newer and better organisms, e.g., from amoebas to humans.

Problems with Evolution

Probability

The probability approach of scientific analysis is used when something cannot be replicated exactly in a lab 100% of the time.  For instance, we speak of the probability of someone getting killed on the road today, and although the outcome will eventually be either yes or no, we can only look at the probability to decide whether to drive or not.  Well, a biologist once said that the probability of evolution bringing forth complex organisms such as humans is like having a warehouse of printed characters having an explosion and the debris fall together to form an unabridged English dictionary.  Is this possible?  The probability is so small that most will say it's impossible.

The Needed Time Span

Some scientists challenge evolution after conducting a statistical study of the rates of mutations and adaptations.  They concluded that for evolution to bring out the current complex organisms, the age of the Earth will have to be a whole lot longer than the current accepted value of 5.5 billion years.  Evolutionists contest this by saying that there have been periods of accelerated mutations, caused by the stronger sun radiation of the past.  Someone said that given long enough time, anything can happen.  Well, many scientists believe that the time span is too short for this highly improbable development to occur.

Adaptations

Adaptation, being a rational process, can be easily evaluated with our own eyes.  If adaptation is one of the prime forces behind evolution, we should expect to see complex organisms highly able to survive.  Yet this has not proven to be the case.  Amoebas are fully functional right after division.  New born goats can stand up and begin running usually within hours after birth.  Yet humans are incapable of walking for months after birth, let along being able to survive all alone.  If human beings were the result of millions of years of adaptation, why are they so incapable of survival when they are young?  Shouldn't they be even more able to survive than goats?  Or are we the results of "devolution?"

My favorite example is our lack of tails.  Many scientists believe that human beings used to have tails when they were still primates, but tails evolved away.  Are tails really useless so they evolved away?  If they are useless, then why did they appear in the first place?  If early human beings really lived in forests as primates, then tails are extremely beneficial.  Tails can help them climb trees, carry more food, and fight off undesirable bugs.  In all respect, I would like to have tails even today.  If, as someone may claim, that the disappearance of tails is the result of mutation that happened to one single primate who happened to evolve into human beings.  Why, then, do we not find some humans or semi-humans with tails?

Mutations

The second prime force of evolution is mutation.  Mutations are the results of erroneous copying of the DNA.  Beneficial mutations accumulate into evolutionary changes.  Since most mutations are harmful, it's not hard to see the low probability of such accumulation of beneficial mutations.  Some biologists also have problems with the mutation's contribution to evolution.  If mutations were an instrument of evolution, shouldn't our biological system encourage mutations.  Though this means more harmful mutations, it also means more beneficial mutations so evolution can be faster.  Yet they found three different enzymes in humans that "verify" the copying of DNA to prevent erroneous copying, so the number of mutations is actually much smaller than it could have been.  Why is our biological system trying to prevent mutations and thus our own evolution?  It seems to be listening to God's command: "each according to its kind" (Gen. 1:24).

The Analogy of an Unending Voyage

There is strong evidence, however, to support the idea of adaptation helping a species to better survive in the environment, although many do not believe that such adaptations are enough to be driving evolution, especially evolution leading to a distinctively different species.  The existence of adaptations is not violating the command given by God in Gen. 1:24 at all.  Indeed, it is very likely that God built in some flexibility into our biological systems so we can survive better.  Scientists know that our genes contain much more information than we need, and many of these unused genes contain blueprints for functions that we are not currently using.  It is quite possible that these unused genes contain information that would be useful if we move to a slightly different environment that requires some adaptation.  For instance, the darker pigment of our skin is not needed in a cold environment but is quite crucial in a tropical setting.  God may have built some adaptive capacities into our genetic code, and those blueprints will be activated when needed.  This is best explained by the analogy of an unending voyage.  When designing a ship that would never return to port once it embarks on her journey, the designer would probably leave more blueprints than what is needed at the time -- blueprints for functions and parts that may one day prove useful.  He may also put in extra parts and tools to make additional parts within the ship.  The ship may look more burdened than she needs to be, but she is better equipped to deal with the endless voyage than one that is not equipped as well.


This lesson was developed by George Huang.  Got a question or want to publish this lesson?  E-mail me.

Last updated: 2/10/2000