In Biology today, we're free to consider any theory at all — as long as it's evolution
As a young Botany major at Duke University, I was confused by the fact that species were going extinct much faster than evolution was able to create new ones. Confident that there was a simple explanation, I asked one day in class how the dripping faucet of evolution had managed to fill the tub with species when the drain appeared to be wide open. To my surprise, the instructor treated my question with contempt and, instead of answering it, mockingly suggested to the rest of the class that perhaps I also believed the earth had been created in six days. As an agnostic who had never even read the Bible, I was baffled by this response. But, as I continued my study of Biology, soon I discovered that his behavior was far from unique. It seemed that anyone who questioned almost any aspect of evolution was likely to be labeled as some sort of naive religious extremist.
Although I switched my focus to the less emotional fields of math and computers, I have continued to be interested in biology and amazed by the vehemence with which evolutionists defend their theory. Instead of the calm confidence of one holding a position which has been, as they claim, proven beyond any reasonable doubt, evolutionists often seem to act like the very religious fanatics they so detest, actively seeking to suppress, distort, and ridicule any and all opposition to their theory.
Seeking the cause of such defensive behavior, I began studying all I could about science, evolution, and its main alternative, creationism. Far from being the proven fact I had been taught, I discovered several serious scientific problems with evolution — problems which are hardly ever discussed in mainstream writings. In an effort to help bring these issues more out into the open, I present my findings here, distilled down to five basic propositions, together with a series of arguments summarizing support for each.
To be considered scientific, a theory must be subject to the scientific method, which means that it must make nontrivial predictions capable of being verified experimentally. Contrary to common opinion, being scientific has nothing to do with a theory's subject matter, the credentials of its advocates, the kind of mechanism it asserts, or even that it "makes sense." For example, quantum theory is far from intuitive, implying bizarre things, such as a cat that is neither dead nor alive until someone looks at it. And yet it is considered to be in the realm of science rather than fantasy because it makes verifiable predictions.
To be verifiable, a prediction must be capable of being shown wrong. If a theory makes only predictions which are outside of our ability to test or which are so vague or broad that they fit almost any conceivable outcome, then it is not scientific. Such theories may in fact be true, but science cannot verify it because their assertions are beyond of the reach of the scientific method.
Science advances by constantly trying to disprove what it already "knows." The more predictions a scientific theory makes which turn out to be correct, the more confidence we gain in it, until eventually we may refer to it as a proven fact or law. However, this should not be seen as an absolute statement, since many such "laws" have later been found to make faulty predictions. Any theory, no matter how well substantiated, may eventually be replaced one which makes better predictions.
It is commonly argued that creationism is inherently unscientific because it does not conform to the materialistic assumption — the belief that everything must be explainable as the result of entirely natural processes. Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins reflected this belief when he stated that explaining life "by invoking a supernatural designer is to explain exactly nothing." While creationism undeniably does provide an explanation of how life came to be, it is not scientific, according to this argument, because it cannot "explain" creation's Creator.
However, if we insisted that scientific theories cannot contain elements for which there is no explanation, we would have none left, since every theory must ultimately rest upon axioms that it cannot explain. For example, quantum theory does not explain how a photon traveling through one slit "knows" about the existence of a second one, nor does relativity explain how mass manages to reach out and distort its neighboring space. And even if such explanations were one day put forward, they would of necessity rest upon some other unexplained phenomena. Stating that a theory is scientific has nothing to do with how it explains but rather with what it predicts. And a theory which makes testable predictions is scientific regardless of whether it involves perceptive photons, supernatural designers, or cosmic bumblebees.
More importantly, the insistence that we must accept the modern materialistic assumption as a working hypothesis is not only unnecessary, but ironically it actually serves to blind scientific inquiry to the very issue of materialism. Once we accept the materialist assumption, only materialistic theories can be considered. And then the "success" of such theories, in the absence of any alternative, is presented as evidence that the universe is in fact materialistic. But this is clearly cyclic reasoning. In reality, the only way one could prove scientifically that the universe is materialistic is to drop this extraneous assumption and then see if materialistic theories are in fact better at predicting observed reality than non-materialistic ones. Anything less is not science but a kind of self-delusion.
Another common argument of materialists is that, in order to be meaningful, science must restrict itself to natural phenomena. If theories involving the supernatural are entertained, they insist, science would soon be overrun by wild fantasies, such as claims that gravity is caused by fairies. Thus, for the sake of scientific integrity, all theories involving anything outside of the natural world must be dismissed from consideration.
But the fact is that scientists must constantly ask themselves if their observations have natural causes. Paleontologists had to consider causes beyond the natural to determine that the Piltdown Man fossil was a fraud. Similarly, geologists examining Stonehenge would be foolish indeed not to consider causes other than natural geological processes. But this admission of the possibility of artificial causes does not somehow force science to accept claims that the sandstone structures in Arches National Park are also manmade. In fact, the very same scientific method used to conclude that the one structure is artificial was used to conclude that the others are natural.
Likewise, when considering the origin of life on earth, it is a mistake to arbitrarily restrict oneself to only natural causes. No matter what materialists may insist, it is possible that life on earth did not arise as the result of totally natural forces. Such theories should be evaluated the same way as materialist ones, on the basis of their predictions. If they do not make better predictions than materialism, they will be dismissed, as any other failed theory. But to refuse to consider them by claiming that they will somehow hijack science is in reality to argue against reliance on the scientific method. And refusing to follow the scientific method when we don't like where it leads is what it means to be unscientific.
Materialism asserts that our minds, like anything else, can be explained by purely physical processes. All mental activity is supposed to be the result of chemical reactions causing electrical signals to travel from one neuron to another. But what is the materialistic mechanism which produces the most fundamental of all mental phenomena, consciousness? How could mere particles interacting possibly produce sensations, such as pain, anger, and amusement, or the "me" that experiences and reacts to them?
A popular materialistic explanation is that consciousness is a side effect of the organizational complexity of the brain, but this is so vague as to hardly qualify as an explanation at all. How could so abstract and ill-defined a concept as complexity be the cause of such a specific, centralized, and unique effect as consciousness? And why would the controlling of an arm produce a conscious experience while the more complicated controlling of digestion does not? In addition, this theory leads to absurdities when one imagines the complexity replicated in other forms, such as the entire population of China organized to emulate the interactions of the neurons of a human brain. By the materialist explanation, such a system would somehow be as conscious as the brain it described. Others have concluded that since our brains are made of ordinary matter, all matter must therefore be aware, including things like thermostats, rocks, and electrons. And still others argue that consciousness doesn't really exist at all but is just an illusion, although how you can be fooled into thinking that you think is obviously problematic.
If such attempts to provide a materialistic explanation of consciousness seem contrived, there is good reason. We know that consciousness can never be explained in materialistic terms because it cannot even be defined in materialistic terms. It is a phenomena that is inherently outside of the materialist model. And since consciousness is an undeniable part of reality, materialistic theories, while obviously very useful, are inherently incomplete and can never hope to provide a complete explanation of reality.
There is nearly universal acceptance of the principle of natural selection, or "survival of the fittest", its essence having been understood by breeders for millennia. Given that a characteristic is inherited, it follows inescapably that those forms which result in more viable offspring will tend to dominate over time. In fact, it is so inescapable that it might be better phrased as "survival of the survivors."
However, the essential claim of evolution is far more than the uninteresting statement that natural selection occurs. Natural selection does not create new genes, organs, or genera, but rather it operates within the genetic variability already present in a population, resulting in minor adjustments such as darker moths or smaller birds. In all observations of selection, both natural and artificial, there is an inherent limit to the variability of each species. In spite of intensive breeding for over 4,000 years, dogs have remained dogs. In contrast, evolution is the radical and controversial claim that totally new genes, organs, and genera have arisen naturally, such as lungs from gills or birds from reptiles. And even though natural selection is clearly involved in evolution, empirical observations of natural selection do not support evolution any more than a rainy day is evidence of Noah's flood. Observations of the redistribution or reduction of genetic diversity cannot be used as evidence for a theory of the creation of that diversity.
Unfortunately, Darwinists readily put forth instances of natural selection as being instances of evolution. For example, the well-known observation of changes in the darkness of moths has been cited by Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould as being "direct observation of evolution in action", when in fact it is merely natural selection and does not serve to establish the reality of evolution in the least. Such confusion of natural selection and evolution, whether intentional or due to carelessness, acts like propaganda, enabling the latter to gain undeserved credence from observations of the former.
The principle of natural selection is so general that it can be used to justify almost anything. When Darwinists attempt to reconstruct histories of how a given creature came to be the way it is, natural selection provides practically no limits to how such histories may unfold. For example, natural selection has been invoked to explain creatures becoming, as needed, more colorful and less colorful, gaining limbs and losing them, leaving the sea and returning to it.
Darwinists respond to such criticism by stating that, while natural selection does indeed allow for a vast number of possible evolutionary scenarios, correct ones can be identified by the existence of independent collaborative observations. For example, a Darwinian history which claims that an island species evolved from a similar mainland species would be greatly supported by the discovery of evidence that a land bridge had existed in the past. Thus, it is claimed, we can have confidence in the correctness of those Darwinian histories which make successful predictions, in accordance with the scientific method.
Unfortunately, such independent collaboration of Darwinian histories only gives the appearance of confirming evolution. A scientific theory cannot gain support from the success of its predictions unless it would also be refuted by their failure. And while it is true that new observations may serve to disprove a given Darwinian history, there is almost always another such history which will fit the observations. It is like a court allowing a defendant to keep changing his story as he is confronted with new evidence. Given enough time and ingenuity and the ability to abandon previous stories with impunity, he will almost always be able to construct some sort of plausible explanation — one which not only accounts for the evidence but actually appears to be substantiated by it. Thus, while individual evolutionary histories can indeed be falsified, the theory which generated them, like a vacillating defendant, emerges from these repeated failures not only unscathed but with the illusion that it has actually be vindicated by independent evidence.
There are striking similarities in the structures of many species, and Darwinists claim that this is clear evidence evolution. As Gould put it, "Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we inherited them from a common ancestor?"
But there are serious difficulties with this argument, the most direct being that Gould walked away after typing his essay on legs "built of the same bones" as those he typed it with, and yet no one concludes that our legs must have somehow evolved from our arms. In short, although there are similarities which fit proposed evolutionary ancestry, there are numerous others which do not. And since many of these similarities could not have resulted from evolution, there is no reason to believe that any of them did.
Evolutionists respond to this by stating that there are actually two kinds of similarities: homologous, which is due to a common evolutionary origin, and analogous, which is due to parallel evolution or just coincidence. The astonishing number of structural similarities between placental and marsupial wolves is often given as a prime example of analogous traits. Using this terminology, Darwinists are able to state that homologous similarities are strong evidence of evolution.
Unfortunately, this terminology does nothing to resolve the problem other than hide it under a scientific veneer. The decision of which similarities are homologous is purely subjective, based on whether they fit evolution — which of course makes it so that evolution can't lose. Similarities which fit supposed evolutionary ancestry are labeled as homologous and touted as evidence of evolution, while similarities which do not are dismissed as merely analogous. In reality, in order to be able to use the existence of homologies as scientific support for evolution, there would have to be a means of identifying them other than by the fact that they fit the theory they are intended to support. In the absence of such an independent objective definition, the existence of things like marsupial wolves renders Darwinist arguments from similarity meaningless.
In addition, many structures which were originally claimed to be homologous have since been found to originate from different parts of the embryo or from entirely different genes, making it virtually impossible that they were inherited from a common evolutionary ancestor. The failure of so many apparent homologies only serves to emphasize the fundamentally subjective and cyclic nature of this argument.
While acknowledging that the fossil record of his time seemed to support static species, Darwin predicted that, as the fossil record became better explored, there would be found numerous records of the "infinitely many" transitional forms required as hundreds of millions of species evolved and repeatedly split into new species in a massive branching tree. Instead, the nearly universal characteristic of the fossil record has remained that of species appearing suddenly and fully developed and continuing essentially unchanged. The potential fossil sequences which have been put forward have been both rare and ambiguous.
This absence of the predicted multitude of transitional fossils has been kept largely quiet. Countless findings supportive of stable isolated species have been judged unworthy of publication, while even sketchy fossil sequences are given great visibility. No other discipline so loudly celebrates every new shred of supportive evidence for a theory it insists has already been proven. And yet the overwhelming thrust of the fossil record is clearly contrary to Darwin's main prediction.
Although publicly stating that there was strong confirmation of Darwin's prediction, privately many evolutionists became disturbed by the lack of supportive evidence in the fossil record. But eventually an acceptable explanation was devised. According to this modification to Darwin's theory, known as punctuated equilibrium, the reason we don't see the numerous intermediate fossils that Darwin predicted is that evolution is for all practical purposes invisible.
Punctuated equilibrium claims that only small isolated populations, too tiny to be represented in the fossil record, are able to evolve. Thus, we are very unlikely to find the remains of creatures captured by the fossil record in the act of evolving. As Dawkins states, "the gaps [in the fossil record], far from being annoying imperfections or awkward embarrassments, turn out to be exactly what we should positively expect." His emphasis of the word "expect" is ironic, since this is in fact the exact opposite of what Darwinists actually did expect. It was only after it became undeniably clear that their expectations had failed that they realized that they had actually been "expecting" something else.
This modification to evolution serves to make it practically unverifiable through an appeal to the fossil record. Like natural selection, it is able to explain almost anything. If no unambiguous transitional fossils are found, that is merely what the theory "predicts." If, on the other hand, some are found, it would clearly be seen as supportive of the theory. Either way, it can't lose. Thus, punctuated equilibrium is not so much an enhancement to a scientific theory as it is an excuse for the apparent failure of one.
Large mutations are extremely unlikely to be beneficial, so much so that if they did happen, they would look disturbingly like miracles. So instead, evolution depends on mutations so small as to be undetectable. Obviously, with such tiny changes, it would take a huge number of them to produce the great number and diversity of species on earth, especially since subtle changes take a long time to dominate in a population and only a tiny fraction of even small mutations are beneficial.
In addition, significant changes in one trait almost always require complementary changes in related traits. For example, the seemingly simple change of lengthening the neck of an animal to be like the giraffe would be fatal without several other compensating changes — things like a stronger heart, special arteries to withstand and modulate the much greater differences in blood pressure, and the modification of numerous muscles and bones to maintain balance. In fact, this interdependence of traits is so pronounced that paleontologists are able to use it to accurately reconstruct a surprisingly large number of details about an animal from only a few teeth or bone fragments.
An implication of this interdependence is that almost any significant change requires that several other cooperative changes occur at basically the same time, in a series of coordinated steps. An initial change in a given direction would have to wait for every one of the needed compensating mutations to occur before there could be any further advantageous movement in that direction.
This need for coordination among different mutations has the effect of significantly reducing their probability even further. And when we combine this with the fact that virtually all major multicellular groups appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian Explosion, a period believed to be at most 30 million years, we have a truly staggering number of extremely unlikely events having to occur in a comparatively short period of time.
Punctuated equilibrium requires that all evolution be restricted to isolated populations tiny enough to avoid leaving any fossils. And while this serves to explain the absence of transitional forms, it also makes evolution far less likely for two main reasons.
First, the already rare mutations must occur within tiny populations. Obviously, fewer individuals means fewer mutations. In addition, small populations have less genetic diversity, making them less adaptive to environmental change and highly prone to genetic disease and extinction. The serious disadvantages of small populations have been well demonstrated by experiences with breeding, endangered species, and royal families. And yet it is precisely these small unadaptive populations which, according to punctuated equilibrium, are required to successfully respond to intense selective pressure. It is much more likely that they would degenerate or go extinct long before the improbable beneficial mutations could occur.
Second, according to punctuated equilibrium, the development of every new species depends on the existence of some sort of appropriate barrier which serves to keep the evolving population temporarily both small and unable to breed with its larger parent population. In order to satisfy the requirements for the evolution of a given species, the barrier must 1) be initially passable by a few members of the species, 2) remain virtually impassable during the long course of the evolution, 3) serve to separate a tiny range from a much larger home range so that the population will remain small while it evolves, and 4) become passable again after the evolution has completed.
For example, an island breaks away from the mainland, isolating a tiny group of animals from the rest of the species. Next, while remaining very small in numbers, this population undergoes one tiny beneficial mutation after another until it eventually has evolved into a recognizably distinct species. Once these transformations have been completed, the island rejoins the continent, enabling the new species to expand in population sufficient to stop evolving and start leaving fossils. Alternatively, such a barrier may instead be stationary and just short of impassable to the species, making the crossing of it on the order of a once in a thousand year occurrence.
Unfortunately, natural barriers with the right characteristics needed to isolate tiny populations on land, sea, or air are rare and extremely slow in arriving and departing. And for some highly mobile species, such as eagles or sharks, it is hard to imagine what might constitute such a barrier. Nonetheless, such barriers are required to have existed or formed in cooperation with the evolution of hundreds of millions of species, many within a period of only 30 million years. The need for so many cooperative geological features happening to occur so as to trigger the invisible evolution of so many species under the very conditions known to be most likely to result in degeneration and extinction surely stretches credibility to the breaking point.
Attempts to classify species, both living and fossil, have resulted in orderly hierarchies of nested categories with remarkably crisp boundaries. Evolutionists claim that such neat hierarchies are not only compatible with their theory but actually support it, being the leaves of the ever-branching tree of descent of all living things from one common ancestor.
However, rather than resembling the leaves of a tree, species are organized more like stars in the universe, in isolated clusters nested within ever more isolated super-clusters. Species in the same taxonomic category differ with each other, but not nearly as much as with species in a neighboring category. And this orderly pattern of gaps becomes more pronounced as one ascends the taxonomic hierarchy — the higher the category, the greater the "distance" to neighboring ones.
We would expect the tree of evolution to have sent out many more branches as it moved a long taxonomic distance than a short one, but just the opposite is true. The greater the taxonomic difference between two species, the fewer roughly intermediate species we find. What could have caused the tree of evolution to have produced no viable offshoots while it traveled the great distance from reptiles to mammals, only to branch so profusely once it had arrived? The taxonomic pattern of life is far too orderly to reasonably be the result of the undirected branching of evolution.
The composition of common proteins varies from species to species, and this variation can be used to objectively quantify how much two species differ. If evolution is true, we would expect to find evidence of evolutionary relationships reflected in the proteins, but this is not the case. For example, the proteins of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals give no indication of their supposed sequence of descent.
A greater difficulty arises from the fact that mutation rates are known to be a function of the length of the reproductive cycle of each species. The problem can best be shown by an example. Both horses and yeasts are believed to have bacteria as a common evolutionary ancestor. Given the huge differences in the length of their respective reproductive cycles, the proteins of yeast should have undergone many more mutations than those of horses. Thus we would expect there to be a much greater molecular difference between yeast and bacteria than between horses and bacteria, but in fact they differ by nearly identical amounts. Similar results are found for other species. Molecular differences agree strongly with traditional taxonomic hierarchies and contradict assumed evolutionary sequences.
Evolutionists have sought to explain this discrepancy by introducing something they call the "molecular clock," a hypothetical biological mechanism which somehow serves to keep the rate of protein mutation constant over time independent of reproductive cycles. Unfortunately, this is clearly a cyclic argument, since the only evidence that such a mechanism exists is the very theory they are seeking to defend.
Darwin stated that "if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." Perhaps the best candidate for such an irreducible complexity is the cell itself, which requires a large array of very complex and highly interdependent systems just to be able to perform the most basic functions of survival and reproduction. The much-celebrated production of simple amino acids by electrical discharge in a laboratory is insignificant when compared to the incredible complexity and diversity of organic compounds that would need to have simultaneously existed and somehow properly combined to get even the simplest imaginable cell started.
Many other candidates for irreducible complexities have been proposed. The reptilian and avian lungs operate by such fundamentally different mechanisms that no functional, let alone beneficial, intermediate forms have been proposed. Likewise, it is hard to envision a gradual path of small beneficial mutations which could have produced the intricate complexity of things like sexual reproduction, insect metamorphosis, and interspecies parasites. It is incumbent upon advocates of evolution to come up with a series of plausible and viable intermediate steps for these and other proposed irreducible complexities, not to prove evolution but rather to keep it from being disproved.
The theory of evolution suffers from a paradox first stated by the physicist Enrico Fermi. Our galaxy consists of approximately 200 billion stars, and we expect many of them to have earth-like planets. The theory of evolution predicts that many of these planets should have evolved intelligent life. Roy Gallant, writing for the National Geographic Society, states it as follows.
"If we use Earth as a model, a planet needs about four billion years to develop a technological civilization. In spite of these needs, some astronomers estimate that in our galaxy alone there are hundreds of millions of planets able to support a technological civilization."
Intelligence is such a general and powerful advantage, that once a planet had evolved life, it is very likely that one of its billions of species would eventually reach a level of intelligence comparable to that of humans. Our galaxy is estimated to be 10 billion years old. If evolution is correct, the galaxy should be teaming with technological civilizations — many of them much older than our own.
Our level of technology grows exponentially. Imagine what we will be capable of in a thousand years. It is reasonable to assume that after a thousand years, a technological civilization will be capable of space travel at something approaching the speed of light, if not faster. But assume as a worst case that such a civilization expands only a single light-year every thousand years, allowing for time to settle planets along the way. Our galaxy is approximately 70,000 light-years in diameter. Expanding at even such a slow rate, a technological civilization would fill the entire galaxy in less than 70 million years, a drop in the bucket of galactic time.
Thus according to evolution, ET should not only be here by now but should have settle here long before humans even had a chance to evolve. The fact that they are not here means that, if evolution is true, ours is the only planet in the entire galaxy to have experienced it. Evolution is thus seen to be teetering on the razor's edge of being likely enough to have happened once but no more than once during the course of 10 billion years in a galaxy of 200 billion stars. Any more likely, and ET would be here; any less, and we would not. A theory that depends on such an inconceivably unlikely situation borders on wishful thinking.
In a Time magazine article, Gould stated that
"No scientific theory, including evolution, can pose any threat to religion — for these two great tools of human understanding operate in complementary (not contrary) fashion in their totally separate realms: science as an inquiry about the factual state of the natural world, and religion as a search for spiritual meaning and ethical values."
But theism is much more than merely ethics. To be meaningful, theism requires at a minimum the existence of a God who is involved in our universe — a God who acts. The contradiction with materialism is thus unavoidable, since such action outside of the normal operation of nature is precisely what materialism by definition forbids. No true evolutionist could accept the idea that God directed evolution to create man or anything else, since being undirected is precisely what evolution is all about — otherwise it is merely a gradual form of creationism.
Attempts to reconcile theism with materialism must unavoidably weaken the definition of God until He becomes irrelevant. A God who "creates through evolution", which is by definition undirected, becomes merely an empty personification of nature. And the claim that God acts "between the cracks" of science, such as within the quantum uncertainty, results in a ludicrously shy or powerless God who cannot even lift a pencil.
Many evolutionists seek to minimize this inherent contradiction between materialism and theism, presumably to make evolution less threatening and more palatable to the public and possibly to themselves. And while this contradiction is certainly not a weakness of the theory, it is still important to state it explicitly, since how one views one of these issues unavoidably affects one's view of the other.
The basic assertion of creationism is that life on earth was purposefully created by an intelligent agent, God, rather than by unguided random processes. And while God and creation clearly cannot be directly observed in a laboratory, any more than can the evolution of dinosaurs, this theory has nonetheless made specific, scientifically verifiable predictions, including the following:
The fossil record will show static species, with no unambiguously transient sequences. As more fossils are discovered, they will continue to reflect stable species which appear suddenly and remain virtually unchanged to the present or until they disappear.
All living species will resist change beyond their inherent variability. Each type of organism, while exhibiting a degree of variability, has inherent limits beyond which no further change is possible. No species will ever naturally be transformed into something fundamentally different.
Natural mutations will never result directly or incrementally in a new viable organ. Naturally occurring, benign mutations will always be small and well within the recognizable bounds of the organism. Large natural mutations will always be harmful. Significant advantageous change must be engineered and will never occur naturally.
Organisms are organized in discontinuous, hierarchical types. Every new creature discovered, living or fossil, will be able to be placed in a non-transient position within taxonomic hierarchies. The hierarchical organization of species will be reflected at both the morphological and molecular levels.
No matter what your personal opinion of the underlying mechanism, it is undeniable that these predictions of creationism are specific, significant, testable, and fundamentally different from those of evolution. In an unbiased scientific evaluation on the basis of the accuracy of their predictions, the theory that life on earth was created by an intelligent designer compares favorably with that of life resulting from the random undirected forces of nature.
Although there are schools of thought within evolution, these differences are considered minor, and it is widely accepted that there is no viable materialistic alternative to evolution. Thus there are two basic options — either life is fundamentally continuous and evolved naturally, or it is fundamentally discontinuous and was designed and created. As stated by Dawkins, all "schools of [evolutionary] thought agree that the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation, and both would reject this alternative."
It is incompatible with the principles of science to acknowledge that there is only a single viable alternative to a theory and yet seek to keep it from even being considered. Even in those areas were there is only a single widely-accepted theory, such as the big bang, the best arguments of alternative theories are always presented. If for no other reason, creationism should have a place in discussions of the possible origins of life.
Occam's Razor, the general principle that simple theories are better than complex ones, is often used to argue against the existence of God, since a universe with only the laws of physics is simpler than one with a deity as well. If science can provide a plausible materialistic explanation for everything, so the argument goes, then there is, in the words of Carl Sagan, "nothing for a Creator to do."
However, Occam's Razor is only a method for choosing between two theories which are seen as being equally accurate in their predictions. It does not justify favoring a simpler theory if a more complex one fits observations better. Otherwise, relativity would never have replaced Newtonian physics. If evolution and creationism both predicted exactly the same things, Occam's Razor would apply. But, since the two theories make very different predictions, it is on the basis of the accuracy of these predictions, and not an appeal to relative complexity, that they should be evaluated.
Like almost any other issue of interest, there are those who advocate extreme forms of the basic creationist claim that life on earth appears to have been designed and created rather than having evolved. Many of these claims, such as the creation of the universe in six 24-hour periods, seem to have virtually no support other than a particular interpretation of specific scriptures. Due to their lack of significant scientific support, these extreme creationist positions tend to be relatively easy to discredit.
Unfortunately, evolutionists very often present such extreme positions as if they were the best creationism had to offer, while legitimate scientific arguments for creationism, such as those by Michael Denton and Phillip E. Johnson, are completely ignored. For example, a book claiming to be a complete catalog of creationist arguments is filled with very dubious creationist claims, such as all fossils being produced by Noah's flood, but it does not mention Denton or Johnson or their arguments once. Ignoring legitimate scientific arguments supporting creationism while attacking such straw men is not only irrelevant but creates the false impression that there are no legitimate arguments.
Dawkins, although a highly respected author, bluntly states that anyone who doubts evolution must be either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked and classifies creationists with those who "have an interest in perpetuating falsehoods." While most authors avoid such blatant insults, there is usually a clear implication that creationists are at best laughably naive and at worst dangerous extremists. Such attacks on the intelligence and motives of creationists are not only completely irrelevant to the issues at hand, but they unfortunately serve to alienate and entrench both sides, making real scientific argument nearly impossible. If theism is false, I for one would be sincerely grateful to be shown it, as I have no desire to base my life on a falsehood. However, ridiculing a distortion of creationism and its advocates is not the way to do it.
Gould, in the Time magazine article, stated that "evolution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science, as strongly as the earth's revolution around the sun." If there ever was a theory that was so well substantiated that it qualified to be called a fact, it would be the Newtonian physics used to calculate the earth's path around the sun. And yet when researchers discovered very slight discrepancies between its predictions and their observations, they were not drowned out with outraged shouts of "fact". Instead, the shortcomings of its predictions were published and discussed, with the result that a better theory was able to be envisioned, evaluated, and eventually accepted. Surely no one seriously believes that Darwin's predictions have been confirmed experimentally to anywhere near the degree of Newton's or that evolution should be any less open to being questioned.
A common argument in opposition to giving any consideration to the merits of creationism in schools is that it would violate the constitutional separation of church and state. But this falls short on two fronts.
First, the theism inherent in creationist theories is not a religion any more than is the atheism inherent in materialistic theories. They are merely two side of the same issue and so should be included or excluded together. Allowing schools to present theories which support atheism while prohibiting those which support theism is nothing less than the bigotry of the famous Scopes "monkey trial" in reverse.
Second, even if every government in the world outlawed the presentation of theistic theories, science should no more fall in with it than it did with earlier prohibitions of atheistic theories. When governments seek to restrict the discussion of evolution, the scientific community is justly outraged. But sadly, when the restriction is on the only viable alternative to evolution, they are silent or even applaud.
This paper has attempted to present a summary of the best support for the claim that creationism is both scientific and defensible in comparison to evolution. This claim is currently very unpopular, and many readers will no doubt think that the above propositions are just begging to be criticized. But that is exactly my point. Ideas such as these have a right to be openly presented and criticized on their merits, not mocked, distorted, or suppressed. Many influential members of the scientific community earnestly strive to ensure that no alternative to the orthodoxy of evolution is allowed to be considered, keeping most students of biology from even being aware that there might be serious weaknesses in evolution or scientifically viable alternatives to atheism.
Clearly religion has no place in scientific discussion, since it is beyond the reach of the scientific method. But the general proposition of theism and creation by intelligent design does deserve a place, right along side its opposite proposition of atheism and creation by undirected chance. Both theories ought to be fairly presented, with all of their respective merits and weaknesses. Who can say which theory would win in a truly open and objective evaluation? But it is clear that until such an evaluation becomes possible, the real loser will be science.
In my opinion, the best books on the subject, pro and con, are Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, respectively.