- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2005

Abraham Lincoln liked to ask: “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” (The sly answer is “four,” since calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.)

Something like calling a tail is a leg has been going on for decades with evolution. Educators, textbook publishers, journalists, and politicians all regard evolution as holy writ. Doubters get ridiculed. President Bush got the “har-de-har-har” treatment for saying children should learn the “different schools of thought” — e.g., Intelligent Design — about biology. Reporters joked about reopening the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The cognoscenti “know” evolution is factual. Jay Ambrose, former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers, recently mentioned “the overwhelmingly demonstrated fact of evolution.” (“Unintelligent on intelligent design,” The Washington Times, Sept. 30, page A20). No kidding? Obviously Mr. Ambrose has a scoop here.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer calls evolution “settled science” and the “foundation of biology,” while admitting there are “gaps.” He says religion (i.e., Intelligent Design) should not mix with science.

Most journalists (Mr. Krauthammer excepted) don’t know one scientific thing from another. They either accept Darwin’s theory uncritically or treat it as an opinion-poll topic. Academics and publishers with vested financial and career interests claim evolution is so obviously supported by fact that doubters must be either ignorant or dishonest. But saying so doesn’t make it so.

Even Darwin admitted his theory was based on “inference and analogy,” not hard facts. He expected supporting evidence to emerge, but this has not happened. Reporters seem ignorant of this lack of evidence.

Darwin developed his theory after observing changes produced by selective breeding. He bred pigeons extensively, producing wide variations. Seeing remarkable changes in a short time, he extrapolated backward to infer that change at that constant rate must have produced new species over vast eons.

Darwin’s pigeon-breeding produced only pigeons, however. New birds — or entirely different animals — never resulted. Likewise, thousands of years of selective breeding of wolves produced many varieties of dogs, but nothing else. All dogs can breed with each other. They are the same species.

Such variations — called micro-evolution — are facts. But this is not the cross-species macro-evolution Darwin predicted, and these facts are not the proof he sought. The facts Darwin wanted are absent because his theoretical reasoning was flawed. He assumed millions of years of change at a constant rate produced many new species. That mathematical assumption was incorrect. Modern experiments have shown gene-selective change is fairly rapid at first, but soon levels off, reaching an uncrossable boundary. All variations are within-species. Each lifeform remains true to type.

The fruit fly is a favorite “proof” of evolution. It reaches sexual maturity in five days, so several generations can be observed during a school semester. By selective breeding, red-eyed or green-eyed flies can be produced. Also, white flies, flies with fuzzy wings, and other variations. But millions of students have produced only fruit flies in these examples of microevolution.

Darwinism’s “holy grail” would be species-crossovers found in the fossil record to fill those pesky “gaps.” But the grail remains elusive. Occasionally a jawbone or tooth, etc., has been proclaimed as evidence of a long-sought “missing link.” These hopes have died when the artifact traced to one species or another, never to an intermediate.

Some famous discoveries thought prehuman missing links were frauds or errors. Even the famous “Lucy” skull fragments (found in Ethiopia, 1974) — touted as a link between apelike creatures and man — has been debunked as “imagination made of plaster of paris” by Richard Leakey, one of the world’s best known fossil-anthropologists. Dr. Leakey says Lucy’s skull is so incomplete no firm conclusion can be drawn about which species it belongs to.

The fossil record contains only fully formed organisms — variations around a “mean,” not the transitional forms Darwin predicted. To surmount the difficulty of lifeforms stubbornly holding to type, Darwinians theorized that favorable genetic mutations occurred over time. But the fossil-record does not show this. Experts say cross-species transitions would require multiple favorable mutations whose cumulative probability of occurrence is small beyond comprehension.

Evolution’s newest difficulty is “irreducible complexity” — a biological construct first postulated in 1993 by Michael Behe, a Lehigh University professor of biochemistry. Most organisms are irreducibly complex. All parts must be present and fully functional for the organism to work or survive. The eye is a classic example. This exceedingly complex system of special cells and proteins is useless unless all parts are fully formed and working. The slightest alteration from correct form destroys its functionality. How could it possibly evolve by slight alterations over time? Even in Darwin’s era, the eye was cited as proof against his theory.

Darwin believed complex organisms emerged gradually, but he saw irreducible complexity — a concept already known to him — could crash his theory: “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.”

Some scientists say irreducible complexity is the Darwin-buster. The probability of the eye developing spontaneously has been estimated at 1/10123 — i.e., essentially zero. The mind-boggling denominator (1 with 123 zeroes following) far exceeds the number of nanoseconds in the universe’s age (3.15 x 1026) or total molecules in the universe (~1078).

An automated factory with computers, robots and machinery all timed and coordinated is less complex than a single cell. That scientists did not comprehend this in Darwin’s time is one reason his theory gained acceptance. That educators don’t comprehend it now is why the theory persists.

Intelligent Design is not science. It can be inferred but not proved. However, microbiology applied to irreducible complexity suggests Darwin’s theory won’t be proved, either. People who “believe” in evolution are religionists, not scientists.

So the issue can’t be decided scientifically. But consider these questions:

• Did irreducibly complex organisms overcome infinitesimally small probabilities (e.g., 1/10123) to develop randomly?

• Or did a “creative intelligence” design them?

One chance in 10123 that the eye evolved. Would you bet on those odds?


His column “At Large” appears weekly in The Atlantic Highlands Herald.


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