According to Darwin, the absence of intermediate fossil forms “is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” What new fossil finds, if any, have occurred since Darwin wrote these words nearly 150 years ago? Do they overturn Darwin’s bleak assessment of evolutionary theory? If the absence of intermediate fossil forms holds as much today as it did back then, why should anyone accept evolution?
Progressions invariably come from organisms with the same basic body plan. In the “evolution” of the horse, we are always dealing with horse-like organisms. And even with the “evolution” of reptiles into mammals, we are dealing with land-dwelling vertebrates sharing many common structures. What we don’t see in the fossil record is animals with fundamentally different body plans evolving from a common ancestor. For instance, there is no fossil evidence whatsoever that insects and vertebrates share a common evolutionary ancestor.
The challenge that here confronts evolution is not isolated but pervasive, and comes up most flagrantly in what’s called the Cambrian Explosion. In a very brief window of time during the geological period known as the Cambrian, virtually all the basic animal types appeared suddenly in the fossil record with no trace of evolutionary ancestors. The Cambrian Explosion so flies in the face of evolution that paleontologist Peter Ward wrote, “If ever there was evidence suggesting Divine Creation, surely the Precambrian and Cambrian transition, known from numerous localities across the face of the earth, is it.” Note that Ward is not a creationist.
The challenge of the fossil record that Darwin identified 150 years ago has not gone away. To his credit, the late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould conceded this point: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.
But IS this inference actually reasonable?
According to evolutionist Richard Dawkins, the “evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design.” Yet he also states, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” How does Dawkins know that living things only appear to be designed but are not actually designed?
The great fallacy of evolution is that it claims all the benefits of design without the need for actual design. In particular, evolution attributes intelligence, the power of choice, to a fundamentally irrational process, namely, natural selection. But nature has no power to choose. Real choices involve deliberation, that is, some consideration of future possibilities and consequences.
But natural selection is incapable of looking to the future. Instead, it acts on the spur of the moment, based solely on what the environment right now deems fit. It cannot plan for the future. It is incapable of deferring success or gratification. And yet, so limited a process is supposed to produce marvels of biological complexity and diversity that far exceed the capacities of the best human designers.
There’s no evidence that natural selection is up to the task. Natural selection is fine for explaining certain small-scale changes in organisms, like the beaks of birds adapting to environmental changes. It can take existing structures and hone them. But it can’t explain how you get complex structures in the first place. That’s why cell biologist Franklin Harold writes, “there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is a scientific research program that looks for signs of intelligence from distant space. Should biologists likewise be looking for signs of intelligence in biological systems? Why or why not? Could actual intelligent design in biological systems be scientifically detectable?
After all, “intelligent design is scientifically detectable in many areas of science, such as archeology, forensics, and cryptography.” And “nonhuman intelligence could be scientifically detectable, as with SETI.”
Do any structures in the cell resemble highly intricate machines designed by humans?
Evolutionists claim that these structures evolved. But if so, how? Could such machines have features that place them beyond the reach of evolution?
There are structures in the cell that don’t just resemble humanly built machines—they actually are machines in every sense of the word.
Take, for instance, the bacterial flagellum, which is now referred to as the “Icon of Intelligent Design” by some evolutionists because it has been so effectively used to criticize evolution. The bacterial flagellum is a marvel of nano-engineering.
Biologist Howard Berg at Harvard refers to it as “the most efficient machine in the universe.” The flagellum is a little bi-directional motor-driven propeller that sits on the backs of certain bacteria and drives them through their watery environment. It spins at 20,000 rpm and can change direction in a quarter turn. It requires approximately 40 protein parts for its construction. If any of the parts are missing or not available in the right proportions, no functional flagellum will form. So, how did it evolve?
Despite thousands of research articles that have been written about the structure and function of the flagellum, biologists don’t have a clue how it could have evolved. Evolutionists have only one straw at which they continually grasp when trying to explain how the flagellum might have evolved, namely, that the flagellum contains within it a structure similar to a microsyringe found in some bacteria. Having found this sub-structure, evolutionists merrily conclude that the microsyringe must have evolved into the flagellum.
Such pathetic lapses in logic are everywhere in the evolutionary literature. The challenge for evolutionary theory is not to find components of such systems that could be grist of natural selection’s mill. Rather, it is to provide detailed, testable, step-by-step scenarios whereby such components could reasonably have come together to bring about the marvels of nano-engineering that we find in systems like the flagellum.
What evidence would convince you that evolution is false? If no such evidence exists, or indeed could exist, how can evolution be a testable scientific theory?
"The burden is on Darwin and his defenders to demonstrate that at least some complex organs we find in nature really can possibly be formed in this way, that is, by some specific, fully articulated series of slight modifications.” (University of Texas philosopher Robert Koons)
The evolutionist J. B. S. Haldane, when asked what would convince him that evolution was false, replied that finding a rabbit fossil in pre-Cambrian rocks would do quite nicely. Such a fossil would, by standard geological dating, be out of sequence by several hundreds of millions of years. Certainly such a finding, if rigorously confirmed, would overturn the current understanding of the history of life. But it would not overturn evolution.
Haldane’s rabbit is easily enough explained as an evolutionary convergence, in which essentially the same structure or life form evolves twice. In place of a common underlying intelligent design, evolutionists invoke evolutionary convergence whenever confronted with similar biological structures that cannot reasonably be traced back to a common evolutionary ancestor.
So long as some unknown or unexplored evolutionary pathway might have led to the formation of some biological structure or organism, evolutionists prefer it over alternative explanations such as intelligent design. And since the unknown and unexplored allow for an infinity of loopholes, the committed evolutionist regards Darwinian and other materialist explanations of life’s origin and subsequent development as always trumping alternative explanations, regardless of the evidence.
Richard Halvorson, writing for the “Harvard Crimson,” has aptly remarked, “We must refuse to bow to our culture’s false idols. Science will not benefit from canonizing Darwin or making evolution an article of secular faith. We must reject intellectual excommunication as a valid form of dealing with criticism: the most important question for any society to ask is the one that is forbidden.
Evolution has become an ideology, and the one thing that ideologies fear is exposure.
That’s why evolution forbids certain lines of questioning. But the questions need to be asked. Too much is riding on evolution for it to escape proper scrutiny.