Evolution: Fact or Fiction?

by Matt Perman

During a lecture at the American Museum of Natural History in 1981, prominent evolutionist Colin Patterson asked his esteemed audience of evolutionists a surprising question:

Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing ... that is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology seminar in the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said 'I do know one thing -- it ought not to be taught in high school.' [1]

Many people today accept evolution is a "fact." But is this truly the case? As indicated by the response to Colin Patterson's question, it would seem that the case for evolution is not as rock solid as many think. To be truly informed about the issue, we must also examine the other side of the story. I think that we will see that evolution is by no means a proven fact. On the contrary, there are good reasons to reject the theory of evolution. This work is not intended to be an in-depth treatment, but only to show a few of the problems in the evolutionary theory and, most importantly, to stimulate critical thinking about the issue.

The Problem of Mutations

Natural selection (the mechanism of evolution) can only retain or destroy a characteristic that already exists. What evolution needs to explain, however, is how those characteristics got there in the first place. Thus, it is said that mutations (random errors in copying the genetic code) in the DNA have produced the significant changes over time. Because of the complexity involved, however, it would take literally millions of tiny mutations to produce even a single new organ such as a heart. To think that such a complex organ could be constructed by such random events seems very odd. Furthermore, about 99.9% of mutations are either harmful or neutral (have no significant effect). Mutations simply cannot provide a sufficient mechanism to produce changes because mutations that are both not lethal and not neutral would need to be much more frequent.

For example, the mathematician D.S. Ulam argued that "it was highly improbable that the eye could have evolved by the accumulation of small mutations, because the number of mutations would have to be so large and the time available was not nearly long enough for them to appear." [2] Famous astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle conceded that the chances that life just occurred on earth are about as unlikely as a "tornado sweeping thorough a junkyard and constructing a Boeing 747." [3]

The Problem of the Fossil Record

The fossil record simply does not support evolution. In the 1800s Darwin admitted that "We have seen in the last chapter that whole groups of species sometimes appear to have abruptly developed; and I have attempted to give an explanation of this fact, which if true would be fatal to my views." [4] Darwin also questioned "why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine graduations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?" [5] The issue is not about the missing link. It is about the millions of missing links.

The gaps in the fossil record have still not been filled, even though many paleontologists agree that the fossil record today is complete. In the words of prominent evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould: "The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when the disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.

2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed." [6]

As Gould says, not only do most species just suddenly appear with no record of a long, gradual period of development, but there is also no record of change for the species' during their stay on earth. If the micro-mutation theory is correct (that all organs and organisms came about through slow, small modifications), we would expect to find some creatures with half-formed feet or a half-formed wing. There are no examples of this in the fossil record. [7] Further, such transitional stages during the animal's adaptation period would not help it survive, but actually hurt it. For example, an animal that slowly evolves wings from appendages would become very awkward for climbing or grasping and so he would be made easy prey.

Philip Johnson brings out the ramifications of this: "In short, if evolution means the gradual change of one kind of organism into another kind, the outstanding characteristic of the fossil record is the absence of evidence for evolution." [8] Even if a few decent candidates for ancestor status to a species could be found, this would not be enough to rescue the theory of evolution, which acknowledges a world-wide history of continual development.

Because of the evidence of the fossil record, many scientists are abandoning the micro-mutation theory of Darwin (that evolution took place gradually through many favorable mutation s) in favor of the macro-mutation theory (that evolution occurred in sudden jumps, not gradually over long periods of time. This is what Steven Jay Gould argues for). However, the macro-mutation theory still requires many intermediate species--no one holds that one organism became another in a single generation. So the absence of any transitional forms still posses a problem. Additionally, it is just not likely that a structures as complex as an eye or a wing could have been produced only through mutations in the course of a few generations. There are definite bound aries within which mutations must operate: "... mutations are incapable of producing evolution because they cannot alter and effect the existing structure of genes: they cannot create new genetic material or new genetic potential." [9] Additionally, in order for evolution to occur rapidly, in the course of a few generations, there would need to be several large mutations in a short period of time. We have already seen that large, beneficial mutations are just not frequent enough to cause such "sudden changes."

Micro-mutationists do not accept that the fossil record disproves their theory, arguing that the transitional forms lived, but were not preserved. Thus, they say, evolution still happened through gradual processes over millions of years. Macro-mutationists also hold that their transitional forms were not preserved (since the transition occurred during such a short period of time). In other words, they are saying that the fossil record is not complete. However, many paleontologists are persuaded that the fossil record is complete. Further, it really doesn't matter whether it is complete or not. If it is complete, then the fossil record does not support evolution. If it is not complete, then what right do evolutionists have to fill these gaps with imaginary animals for which there is no evidence of their existence? Lastly, stasis (the absence of directional change in a species during its existence) is positive documentation that organisms remained as they were, and did not change into other organisms.

Since there are no transitional links and intermediate forms in the fossil record, there is no actual evidence that evolution has occurred.

The Problem of Probabilities

Carl Sagan (an evolutionist) and other prominent scientists have estimated the chance of man evolving at roughly 1 chance in 10 followed by two billion zeros. [10] According to Borel's law, anything beyond 1 chance in 10 followed by 50 zeros is impossible. [11] The infintesimal probability of evolution happening makes it impossible.

One Common Piece of Evidence for Evolution Investigated

A common evidence for evolution has been what used to be called the "biogenetic law." This states that the development of an organism's embryo reproduces the evolutionary development of that kind of animal. However, very few modern embryologists espouse this view today. Columbia University biologist Walter J. Bock concluded that this theory has "...been demonstrated to be wrong by numerous ... scholars." [12] Professor C.H. Waddington said, "The type of analogical thinking that leads to theories that development is based on the recapitulation of ancestral stages or the like no longer seems at all convincing or even very interesting to biologists." [13]

The Problem of the "Ape men"

Five transitional forms which were once considered to be ancestors of humans have been disproved. Nebraska man's existence was hypothesized on the basis of a single tooth, which was later shown to be a pig's tooth. Java man was found to be a gibbon, not an "ancestor" for man. Piltdown man was found to be a hoax in 1953; Australopithecines were found to be only ancient apes which never "evolved" into men; and both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnan man are Homo Sapiens themselves, and thus cannot be transitional forms for Homo Sapiens.


  1. Cited in: Phillip Johnson. Darwin on Trial (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991), p. 10. Johnson says in the research notes of his book that Patterson's lecture was not published, but he had reviewed a transcript of it (p. 173). Furthermore, Patterson again stated the same position in an interview with journalist Tom Bethell (Bethell, "Deducing from Materialism," National Review, Aug. 29, 1986, p. 43).

  2. Johnson, p. 38.
  3. Sir Fred Hoyle. "Hoyle on Evolution," Nature, Vol. 294 (Nov. 12, 1981), p. 105.
  4. Charles Darwin. The Origin of Species, New York: The New American Library, 1958, p. 316.

  5. Darwin (1982 edition), p. 133.
  6. Cited in Johnson, p. 50.
  7. B.B. Ranganathan. Origins? (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), pp. 19-20.
  8. Johnson, pp. 50-51.
  9. Ranganathan, p. 9.
  10. Carl Sagan, et. al. Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 45-46.

  11. Emile Borel. Probabilities and LIfe (New York: Dover, 1962), Chapters 1 and 3.
  12. William J. Bock. "Evolution by Orderly Law," Science, vol. 164 (May 4, 1969).
  13. C.H. Waddington. Principles of Embryology, 1965, p. 10.
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