Jan10 2011

A Bone to Pick With the Theory of Evolution

In April of 2010, the media announced another fossil discovery of an alleged “pre-human species”. The actual find took place in March 2008 during an exploration of the Malapa caves near Johannesburg, Africa. In one article, a paleoanthropologist was quoted as saying, “This (discovery) is a thing that has a unique relationship to us. They are extraordinarily important.”

Despite such grandiose claims by the media, over the past several years I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of the fossil record’s ability to support evolutionary theory. I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I’m ignoring the evidence of the fossil record nor do I see it as any sort of “threat” to the Christian worldview. Instead, it’s had the opposite effect. I’m absolutely fascinated with the fossil record because I’m convinced that a closer, more objective examination of it points further and further away from an evolutionary view of history. Rather, it reveals a record of earth history that tells of a sudden, abrupt, catastrophic burial of nearly all life as the result of a global flood of the magnitude recorded for us in the book of Genesis.

The failure of the fossil record to support evolutionary theory is a whole topic in itself that I will address at a later time. What I wish to focus on at this time is the question of why evolutionists place so much confidence in the fossil record. I certainly understand that fossil evidence is not the only evidence offered in support of evolution. I also realize that the fossil evidence, just as with any other evidence in a forensic type of investigation, serves as a vital, available source of information about past events- events that none of us can go back and repeat or observe directly. By the way, it’s important to keep in mind that both the creationist and the evolutionist are using the same science to observe the same fossils, so their disagreement is not about the evidence itself, it’s about how to best interpret that evidence.

When it comes to the task of interpreting the evidence, my concern with those who are relying so heavily on the fossil evidence to “prove” evolution is that it seems much too convenient for a number of reasons. In short, the skeletal remains of an organism are much easier to fit into evolutionary theory than trying to deal with the intricacies and complexity of soft tissue or “soft biology”. In his book, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, Australian molecular biologist and medical doctor Michael Denton writes on page 177, “To begin with, ninety-nine percent of the biology of any organism resides in its soft anatomy, which is inaccessible in a fossil.” (emphasis mine). The point that he goes on to make is that two organisms which may appear to be related with respect to their skeletal remains alone, often turn out to be radically different, unrelated creatures once you include the other ninety-nine percent of the creature’s biological composition.

Interpreting the fossilized remains of a creature has certain liabilities. For one thing, relying on the skeletal remains alone leaves too much room for conjecture and artistic imagination. In 1995, Creation magazine interviewed medical illustrator Ronald J. Ervin. Ron’s outstanding knowledge of anatomy and his incredible gift as a medical illustrator has kept his artistic talents in such demand that he has been called on to produce medical, scientific, and graphic illustrations for courtroom use, journals, and textbooks, including a major college biology textbook- Raven and Johnson’s Biology. In a very candid interview titled, “Filling in the Blanks”, Ron states that when he was asked to do illustrations that attempt to re-create extinct creatures or alleged “transitional” creatures between ape and man, he explains that “No one knows for sure what they looked like, so the artist has the freedom to “create” with colors and forms.” He further explains that when he was asked to provide a textbook illustration of “Lucy” (a supposed pre-human ancestor), each time he submitted a sketch to the authors, they kept asking him to either add or remove “ape-like” or “human-like” qualities to his drawings in order to conform to their evolutionary bias. It’s interesting to note that even the famous evolutionist Richard Leakey was once quoted as saying that Lucy’s skull was so incomplete that most of it was “imagination made of plaster of Paris” (Weekend Australian, 7-8 May 1983, p.3).

Getting back to my earlier quote by Michael Denton, I believe that the biggest liability of all in relying on fossil evidence alone is that once you take into consideration a creature’s (ninety-nine percent) soft biology, the task of trying to imagine some transitional form or intermediate (i.e.-“missing link”) becomes much, MUCH more difficult. After all, it’s relatively easy to compare the skeletal (one percent) remains of a reptile and a bird and imagine some sort of an evolutionary “link” between them. It is something entirely different to explain in terms of real biology the necessary changes of scales to feathers, hollow bones, flight muscles, and “navigational equipment” (in migratory birds). In addition to this, there must also be radical, necessary changes in the creature’s cardiovascular, central nervous, and respiratory systems, all of which would require changes of unimaginable complexity.

To be sure, the fossil record will always be helpful in providing us some insight in the study of origins. But as Denton reminds us, “The systematic status and biological affinity (relationship) of a fossil organism is far more difficult to establish than in the case of a living form, and can never be established with any degree of certainty.”

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    • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.