- The Laws of Science
- The Doctrine of Uniformitarianism
- The 1st Law of Thermodynamics
- The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
- The Four Fundamental Forces
- The Big Bang
- The Age of the Universe
- The Age of the Earth
- Star and Planet Formation
- The Origin of Life
- Macro and micro evolution
- Darwins Evidence
- Punctuated Equilibrium
- Isn't Evolution "Just a Theory?"
- Is It Really That Important to Teach Evolution?
- Intelligent Design
- Conclusions from Science
- Environmental Change and Species Extinction
- The Bible
- Objections to Christianity
- Suggested Reading
Darwin's EvidenceDarwin had four main lines of evidence for his idea of descent with modification. These four evidences are still the main evidences used to support the theory of evolution. They are: homology, embryology, paleontology and biodiversity. I will consider all four of Darwin's evidences each in turn. I will then examine another evidence that Darwin was unaware of: the molecular clock.
The Facts Concerning HomolgyThe prefix homo- means "same as" or similar. It is where we get our terms homosexual and homogenized milk. Homology in science is concerned with the similarity of body parts between different organisms. Darwin, like many others before him, observed the similarities between fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. All of these animals have bilateral symmetry - they have a left and a right. They all have pairs of appendages, similar bone structure, similar digestive systems, etc... This evidence is used to support the notion that all of these organisms had a common ancestor.
Observations on HomologyEvolutionists believe that similarity in form between organisms proves common ancestry. Creationists believe that similar structures were created for similar tasks. As an example we will use automobiles. Most cars have four wheels, a windshield, engine, tail-lights, etc.... This not because they all came from the same factory but because a particular design makes sense in light of a particular purpose. This same concept could also hold true for living things. The leg of a man and the leg of a dog may have similar structure because they both serve basically the same purpose. Homology is circumstantial evidence and as such it cannot be repeated or tested. Homology could support the idea of a common ancestor or of a common designer.
The Facts Concerning EmbryologyScientists know that the embryos of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have much in common. If one were to look at the embryos of these different organisms it would be very difficult (unless you were an embryologist of course) to identify them. This similarity in the structures of the embryos was used by Darwin, and is still used by scientists today, as proof of a common ancestor. By comparing the similarities between embryos of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals it is thought that all of these organisms must have come from one common ancestor.
A contemporary of Charles Darwin, the famous embryologist Ernest Haeckel, speculated that the human embryo went through all of its evolutionary stages while still in its' mothers womb. Haeckel believed that the human embryo first resembled a fish, then an amphibian, and then a reptile before finally becoming fully human. He made drawings of the individual stages of development of various embryos. He then used these drawings as evidence that these different embryos all had a common ancestor. This concept was known as "ontology recapitulates phylogeny". The idea that a human embryo goes through its evolutionary past while in the womb was endorsed, accepted, and used as evidence for evolution, by Charles Darwin and others.
Observations on HomologyEvolutionists believe that the similarity between the embryos of different organisms implies a common ancestor. Creationists believe that the similarity implies a common designer. The circumstantial evidence provided by embryology could be used to support either viewpoint. Because the evidence provided by embryology is circumstantial it can never be repeated or tested. Scientists can look at the embryos and discover new things about them but they can never replicate the past formation of them. Therefore the evidence provided by embryology is subject to personal opinion.
It has been known for a long time that the drawings of Ernest Haeckel were fraudulent. Haeckel modified his drawings to make the embryos look more similar than they really were. His idea that ontology recapitulates phylogeny was long go discarded by science as nothing more than a lie. The sad part is that this concept is still being published in science textbooks, especially high school texts, to this day. Another piece of misinformation is the poor naming of embryonic structures. The term "gill slit" is still used today to describe the pharyngeal pouches that form the ear in the human embryo. Calling them gill slits leads many to believe that the human embryo does indeed go through a "fish stage" on its way to becoming human. Most people do not realize that this concept was discarded years ago as bad science. And then there is the "tail bone" which implies that humans had tails. Most people do not realize that this bony protrusion is for muscle attachment and that without it we could not stand up.
There are many similarities between the embryos of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. This similarity could imply a common ancestor. It could also imply a common designer. Lets take our automobile example again. If we were to visit different auto manufacturing plants they would look very similar. Most cars are built in much the same way using parts that look very similar. Embryology turns out to be nothing more than homology of the unborn. Embryology could support the idea of a common ancestor or of a common designer.
The Facts Concerning PaleontologyPaleontology is the study of fossils and the fossil record. Fossils are considered to be any preserved remnant of life from the past. Fossils can include bones, imprints, hair or even insects that have been trapped in amber. Any physical evidence of life from the past can be considered to be a fossil.
Darwin acknowledged in his book Origin of Species that the fossil record did not support his idea of the evolution of all living things from a common ancestor. The fossil record of Darwin's day supported the idea of distinct species. Darwin knew that the transitional forms between modern species were absent from the fossil record. These missing transitional forms came to be called "missing links". Darwin thought that the fossil record was incomplete. He wrote that he was confident that these missing links would eventually be found as more fossils were discovered. Today many such fossils are thought to have been discovered. Many scientists believe that a lot of these "missing links" are no longer missing.
Observations on PaleontologyCarol Linne was a Swedish botanist who cataloged (classified) living things in the 1700's. Linne (aka Linnaeus) was able to separate all of the living things he saw based on morphological differences. How could he classify organisms so distinctly? Even a small child knows that a cat and a dog are different. If everything evolved slowly over long periods of time it seems logical that there should be small differences between individual organisms and not the distinct differences that we actually see. Yet we see clearly the demarcations between different species.
When scientists talk about transitional forms they are always looking at the fossil record. Why not just look around? See anything transitional? Maybe the duck-billed platypus. Hardly a transitional form. More of an odd duck if anything. Looking at life today tells us that organisms are not a blend of their ancestors but rather distinct individuals - separate and unique.
There are many similarities between the fossils of fish, and the fossils of amphibians, and the fossils of reptiles and so on. These similarities could imply a common ancestor. They could also imply a common designer. Lets take our automobile example one more time. If we were to visit an auto wrecking yard all of the cars found there would look very similar. Whether it was a new car or an old car would make no difference. Most cars today look very similar to the first cars ever built. They look similar because they all have a similar function. Paleontology turns out to be nothing more than homology of the dead. Paleontology could support the idea of a common ancestor or of a common designer.
The Facts Concerning Bio-diversityDifferent life forms are found in different parts of the world. Darwin, and others, claimed that these life forms evolved to fit into their particular niche over long periods of time. The most famous examples of this are Darwin's finches of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Chile. These finches are found on different islands. The shape of their beaks vary from island to island. It is commonly believed that the beak changed over time as the birds foraged for different food sources on the different islands.
Observations on Bio-diversityHaving unique life forms in different locations around the globe could be considered as evidence for a common ancestor. It could also be used as evidence for a common designer. These organisms could have been designed for their particular location. The evidence of bio-diversity is circumstantial and therefore based on opinion. There is currently no way to replicate what happened in the past. It can be asked that if these organisms were designed to be where they are then how did they get there in the first place? I myself do not have a clue. But not knowing how something happened does not in itself become evidence for another viewpoint. It is simply means that something is currently unknown. There are many unknowns in the world today.
Almost every car made in the world looks much the same. In Italy they have the Fiat, in Sweden the Saab and in Japan the Subaru. These cars all have differences but they are all essentially the same. They look the same because they have a similar function. They look different because they are manufactured by different companies in different countries. Bio-diversity is simply homology on a broader scale. Bio-diversity could support the idea of a common ancestor or of a common designer.
The Facts Concerning Molecular Clock(s)Darwin died before the discovery of DNA. DNA is one more piece of evidence that some scientists use to support his idea of descent with modification. The DNA of different organisms is known to be similar. This similarity is used classify living things. This concept is known as the molecular clock. It is thought that because humans and chimpanzees have similar DNA then they must have had a common ancestor.
Observations on Molecular Clock(s)The molecular clock is often heralded as some of the strongest evidence that supports the idea of descent with modification. But just which particular clock should we use? Most people are unaware that there are many molecular clocks. By using various proteins scientists have developed a multitude of different molecular clocks. Each one of these "clocks" has a different time-line for the evolution of species. Imagine being in a store with hundreds of clocks on the walls. Each one of these clocks shows a different time. Which one is correct? Does any one of them show the correct time? It is the same with the molecular clock(s). Each clock tells a different "time" with no agreement even among scientists as to which one is right.
ConclusionCharles Darwin had four main lines of evidence for his theory of natural selection. DNA is considered to be a fifth line of evidence. It is popularized today as "the evidence that Darwin never knew". And it is often considered to be the strongest evidence yet for common ancestry. But as it turns out the similarity in DNA is the only evidence for common ancestry. Instead of five evidences there turns out to be only one. The reason for this is very simple. If you build car parts using blueprints that are similar you will get similar parts. If you then build a car using those similar parts you will get cars that are similar. If you visit a junkyard composed of cars that were similar when new you will see old cars that are similar as well. And if you look at cars built from similar blueprints anywhere in the world you will see similar cars.
What we now know is that because organisms have similar DNA all of Darwin's four evidences will naturally follow suit. Darwin's evidences are the natural outcome of using similar plans. I think that if Darwin had known about DNA then his book would have been a lot shorter. His four evidences are simply repeats of the molecular clock using different effects. It is like trying to prove that Santa Claus is real because someone ate the cookies. Need more proof? Well, the milk is gone too. Not a very convincing argument - unless you are six years old. Homology, embryology, paleontology and bio-diversity are all natural outcomes from having organism with similar DNA. This similarity of DNA can be considered as circumstantial evidence for the common ancestry of all living things. It can also be considered as circumstantial evidence for the creation of all living things using a common plan. The molecular clock could support the idea of a common ancestor or of a common designer.Neo-Darwinism
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