Monday, July 19, 2010

Deconstructing Icons

As summer marches on we’ve continued our Creation and Evolution Adult Bible Class. The videos have stimulated much good thought and discussion. So far we’ve surveyed how the influence of evolutionary thinking has affected morals and societal institutions like the family. We’ve looked at the creation of the universe and the grandeur of outer space, considered questions of time and the age of the universe, and how that relates to questions about when Adam was created and how sin and death came into the world. We’ve also looked at objections to the existence of God, and understanding the difference between macroevolution (the universal common descent of all living things) and microevolution (the horizontal, small-scale, observable changes within animal and plant kinds). I’ve continually emphasized that creationists and evolutionists live in the same world and have the same facts and evidence to view, but that your starting point or worldview has huge consequences for what conclusions you end up drawing from the evidence.

One question that I suggest we pose to believers in evolution is this: “What specific evidence compels you to believe in evolution? What is the compelling evidence that proves it’s true?” Unfortunately, because evolution is all we hear about in the media and in the schools, and we often accept it uncritically without examining the evidence or both sides of the question. Unthinking acceptance of what everybody says is hardly a reason to believe anything. Hopefully through the course of our Bible study, participants are beginning to have some examples that refute evolution, and show it to be inadequate—evidence for why they don’t believe evolution.

In the most recent video, Icons of Evolution, we looked at several of the key “textbook” evidences that supposedly represent evolution. It’s startling to find that many of these supposed “icons” of evolution are known, even by evolutionists, to be misleading, inaccurate, and even fraudulent. Yet they remain in our textbooks!! For your consideration, I’ll summarize a couple here. First is the embryonic diagrams that are found in many biology textbooks (including my freshman General Biology textbook from college!), that seem to show the similarities in stages of development for unborn humans, reptiles, fish, or birds, etc. Supposedly these stages of early development “retrace” our evolutionary ancestry within the womb. However it’s long been known that these drawings don’t accurately match the real embryo’s and leave out the earliest stages of development where the differences are the greatest. This was a case of picking and choosing evidence, and fraudulent artistic alteration of the facts.

A second well-known “icon” is “Darwin’s Finches.” A large variety of finches on the Galapagos islands all come from a single finch ancestor, but are each adapted with different sized beaks to feed on specialized food sources. This has been called the “best and most detailed demonstration to date of the power of Darwin’s processes.” But does variation within bird beak sizes even begin to explain the origin of species? Research has shown that these are cyclical changes and move back and forth with drought patterns, and so no net evolution takes place. This example shows horizontal variation among birds (microevolution—which creationists affirm and accept), but shows no vertical increase in information that could drive evolution into new species with fundamentally different organs or body plans. In the end, the finches are still finches, and this example of microevolution takes us nowhere in explaining the origin of finches in the first place.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria have also been presented as an “Icon of Evolution.” In many cases the resistance of bacteria to a drug is something they genetically inherited, so the information for resistance was something they already had, and the non-resistant ones just died out. In other cases, mutations can also cause bacteria to acquire a resistance they didn’t have before. But in experiments with these mutant-survivors and resistant bacteria, the consistent finding is that the “survivors” overall are weaker than the original parent bacteria. While these mutations may have been beneficial for the short-term survival of the bacteria against an antibiotic, they did not result from an increase of genetic information that could provide the engine to drive evolution forward. These examples actually run counter to evolution because the genetic changes are from a scrambling or deletion of information in the genetic code, not an increase of new information that upward evolution requires. In order for evolution to produce more and more complex life, it needs an information-generating engine—but such an engine remains lacking. It cannot rely on scrambling and deleting already existing information.

One more example. The evolutionary “Tree of Life” is a common diagram shows all life—the whole variety of animals, plants, fungi, and single and multi-cellular microscopic life—tracing back to one primitive single-celled ancestor. The problem is that it’s not mentioned that the major branches and trunk that connect different kinds of life are hypothetical and not based on actual fossil evidence or the notorious missing links that remain so elusive. Also, the similarities in design between animals that are grouped together, don’t show the same pathways of genetic development as evolutionists would have expected. In other words, similar looking structures are built by different instructions and different procedures in different species. The actual picture of life from what we see by actual experience, and in the fossil record, looks much more like an “orchard” or field of small, branching blades of grass, than a single tree with all life connected through one ancestor. This idea of an “orchard” or grass field fits much more closely with the view that God created a diverse variety of living creatures that had great potential to vary within their kinds, but appeared fully formed and unique at the creation, and to this day are fully formed and unique animal kinds.

Resources and references on all these and other Icons of Evolution can be found in the online book; just search the title “Icons of Evolution” with Google, and look for the book by Jonathan Wells. Anyone is also welcome to borrow the videos or DVD’s we watch, and/or request one of the study guides we’ve used, if we covered a topic that you missed or were interested in.

Finding out that man’s theories are fallible and prone to crumble when they run contrary to the teaching of Scripture should come as no surprise to Christians. The Bible is the only fully authoritative and inspired account of the “history of the universe” from creation through God’s redemption in Christ Jesus. But what should come as a surprise to us, and should give us pause to reflect, is why even many Christians so readily accept and endorse a theory such as evolution that is propped up by “icons” or pillars of dust. My prayer is that we will use our God-given reason and knowledge of the Bible to be wise and discerning, so that we aren’t misled to think that truth is found by majority consensus.

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