“It [evolution] gives us almost everything the imagination craves
– irony, heroism, vastness, unity in multiplicity, and a tragic close. It appeals to every part of me except my reason.” C.S. Lewis
Arguments against the theory of evolution can be classified into four broad categories. We may call them particular evidences concerning questions of fact (empirical arguments), logical difficulties (concerning the structure of arguments), ethical concerns and applications, and finally, the transcendental argument, which encompasses the preconditions of the debate over evolution. And, of course, there can be some overlap between categories.
Particular arguments against evolution abound. Many of these arguments are good, but we must recognize that they, like the theory of evolution itself, are paradigm driven. They also may become obsolete as the ground of debate shifts. Just a few examples are listed below.
1. Widespread Fossilization: uniformitarianism is the view that the geological record all around us was formed by gradual processes over millions of years. But uniformitarianism does not account for fossil riches. Consider the fossil beds with multitudes of exotic animals jammed together, and consider the fossil fuels. How much plant matter would be required to make a seam of coal one foot thick? In short, in order to get the coal beds that we have, it would be necessary to bury entire forests all at once. In other words, only a cataclysm will do. A tree falling over every ten years wouldn’t cut it.
2. Entropy: matter randomizes over time. Evolution requires the opposite. Appeal to “open systems” doesn’t really help the problem. Open and closed systems are an abstract construct. The fact is that in all observed cases, energy input (whether from inside the system or from outside) causes deterioration, not construction. If you put a bunch of building materials out in a open field, the energy from the sun will not build a house for you. It will, however, damage all the wood.
3. Teleology: since natural selection is the mechanism, evolution requires the existence of numerous “blind alleys.” Where are they? An evolving organ (say, an eye) offers no survival advantage for millennia until it is finally on line, and the outside world could not be expected to tell the difference between a blind alley and a promising development which will, in a few hundred thousand years, be good for something. Where are such blind alleys? And there would have to be numerous “organs” developing that will never amount to anything, in order to have the occasional real organ that will hit the jackpot, bestowing the balance of the inner ear, or seeing in color.
4. Missing Links: it is not the case that a few pieces of the evo-puzzle are missing. Virtually the whole thing is not there. Given evolution, how many species have actually existed, and how many of them do we actually have in hand? What is the ratio? If the evolutionary tree consists of all the life forms that have ever existed, then all we have are a handful of twigs and bits of bark.
5. Ad verecundiam: for creationists, this is simply the “we are not flat-earthers” response. Increasing numbers of respected scientists are maintaining the cause of intelligent design, and the challenge that has been mounted really is formidible. Secular fundamentalist evolution really is in trouble. This is not really a scientific argument, but it has more influence in scientific circles than people like to admit. All the fun scientists are abandoning evolution.
These are responsive arguments–they basically show a critical approach to the structure of certain arguments for evolutionary theory.
1. Irreducible complexity: this is the basic argument of Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box. It refers to the fact that many organs or biological processes do not confer any evolutionary advantage until the whole thing is finally devloped. But this being the case, it has no Darwinian incentive to develop. The elements that need to go into the final product only clutter up the place until they are finally assembled. But there is no “natural selection” advantage to the cluttered workshop. If I tear apart a lawn mower in the garage to make it more efficient, the constituent parts of the mower on the floor do not mow anything. They don’t do anything else either. I don’t put the wheels back on, find that it mows a little bit better, and so I decide to reattach the blade. Until all the pieces are there, the entire function is missing. And if the entire function is missing, there is no reason to continue assembling what has been (for the last ten thousand years) a worthless device.
2. Evolutionary Arguments: evolutionary arguments prove too much, or prove the wrong thing. When a scientist hovers over a vat, trying to create life, thus showing that “it could too” happen by chance, he is actually showing just the opposite. Who does he represent in the experiment? The answer is clear — he is the Holy Spirit, brooding over the face of the waters. If a scientist actually created life in the laboratory, this would not constitute any kind of proof against creation. Suppose a scientist named Smith in England conducts an experiment, and publishes the results. A scientist over here named Jones conducts the same experiment, gets the same results, and then holds a press conference to announce that he has exploded forever the myth of Smith’s existence. His argument for this astounding revelation is that Smith does not exist because he, Jones, has successfully copied his work. And wisdom is vindicated by her children.
3. Equivocation: what constitutes information? Why do we know how to recognize information when we are looking for intelligence in outer space, and we do not recognize the implications of it when we see it in a strand of DNA?
4. Structural Argument: natural selection leading to “survival of the fittest” is a poorly constructed hypothesis because it is in principle non-falsifiable. Whatever survives is the fittest, by definition. Show us the possibility of a counter-example. In this scenario, how could something that was not fit survive?
5. Explanation is not demonstration: suppose we found fossils for a number of different dogs. Could we, by the mere exercise of our imagination, create an evolutionary story for them? The creation of an evolutionary context in which to place data is not demonstration that the context actually existed. In this sense, evolutionary theory is like that elementary school exercise where kids are given ten new vocabulary words and told to use them in a sentence. An ability to do this demonstrates literary creativity which is not the same thing as scientific demonstration. If I were to give an evolutionist scientist the fossilized remains of a little yippie dog, a spaniel, a border collie, a retriever, and an Irish wolf hound, could he construct a story out of those vocabulary words? Sure. Would it prove anything?
6. Occam’s razor: a theory which necessitates the multiplication of additional hypotheses in order to keep it afloat becomes increasingly untenable. Evolution is beset with all manner of such.
1. Where it all goes: This is a modus tollens response to the worldview applications of some evolutionists. Social Darwinism and evolutionary racism are both currently out of fashion, which is not the same thing as having been refuted, given the premises. The modus tollens response should be that since racism is reprehensible, then evolution must be rejected. There is absolutely no scientific ground for saying, given evolution, that once the human species has arrived, that all portions of that species must henceforth evolve at the same rate of speed. What scientific basis could there be for saying that all humans must continue to evolve? Why can’t some of us get stuck here, in much the same way that the chimps got stuck there? Evolution is inherently and necessarily committed to racism. Evolutionists are currently embarrassed by this, as well they should be. But it is still contained within their premises. We are simply inviting them to jettison their premises.
2. Wanting it both ways: this is a problem with intellectual honesty. Why the current hunt for a biological basis for homosexuality? The point is social justification. But then consider a fairly recent book A Natural History of Rape. However, cover blurbs refer to rape as “one of the most hideous scourges” and a “loathsome crime.” Which at one time was how the species necessarily developed. So we haul the moral outrage in at the last minute, do a little handwaving, and voila! rape is now wrong. But back in the day, we couldn’t exactly say that. All this goes to show that without God talking to Moses on Mt. Sinai, we don’t have the first idea of what constitutes a sin.
And this is where we can spend the most fruitful time. This is a foundations argument. The theory of evolution cannot stand because it does not account for the rational preconditions of theory itself. If materialistic evolution is correct, then all my thoughts in my brain are merely chemical reactions, and there is not basis for connecting them in any way to the outside world. But knowledge of chemical reactions is knowledge that comes from the outside world. If my thoughts are merely chemical reactions then I have no reason to believe my thoughts to be true, and this would include the truth that my thoughts are merely chemical reactions. Raw matter and energy cannot give an account of itself. Accidents do not explain themselves. If you come into the kitchen and discover a puddle of milk on the floor, and you want to know what happened, you don’t ask the milk. It doesn’t know. It is the accident. This remains the case even if you identify a cluster of bubbles on one side of the puddle as a prestigious university.