Evolution of the theory of evolution
September 20, 2005
Editor’s note: This is the third of a four-part series of columns examining the Bible and the theory of evolution.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” – Col. 2:8
Ernst Mayr, a renowned biologist, wrote an important book, One Long Argument ,documenting the scientific chaos surrounding Darwin’s theory of evolution. He traces how scientists were forced to change the theory of evolution as new scientific discoveries falsified previously held forms of the theory. I refer to this as the “evolution of the theory of evolution.” Following is a summary of this evolving theory.
Mayr classified the various historic expressions of evolutionary theory under three categories 1) saltational evolution; 2) transformational evolution; and 3) variational evolution. These theories evolved in response to increased scientific knowledge.
First, saltational evolutionistsclaimed that new life forms, something like the biblical “kinds (for example, Gen. 1: 21),” appear suddenly from non-living matter [spontaneous generation], or an organism suddenly changes in form completely[macromutation], and then these new forms somehow evolve over time into different species.
Second, transformational evolutionistsclaimed that life forms appear suddenly (spontaneous generation)and evolve graduallyover time into new species through the use and disuse of various body parts (called inheritance of acquired characteristics).
Third, variational evolutionistsnow claim that randomchanges (variations) in living organisms are subsequently selected such that the fittest organisms survive and the least fit become extinct (natural selection). Variation is the raw materialand natural selection is the mechanismof the evolutionary process. These selected variations (or modifications) are then accumulated over time (gradualism) resulting in the creation of new and different life forms.
Saltation and transformation were founded on the concepts of spontaneous generation, macromutation of an organism, and inheritance of acquired characteristics. All three of these concepts have been scientifically falsified leaving these two theories with no scientific basis, hence the need for the variational theory.
The modern form of the variational theory is the product of what is called the “modern evolutionary synthesis.” This latest theory is founded on three primary concepts: 1) variationoccurs in offspring, 2) natural selection(life and death or “survival of the fittest”) selects advantageous variations, and 3) eons of lapsed timeallow the accumulation of variations necessaryto form new species (gradualism).
With both a defined source of change and a defined mechanism, evolutionists felt they had a solid scientific explanation for howall the myriads of observed life forms came into being, that is by variation, natural selection, and time.
It is common knowledge to everyone that variation occurs in offspring, all offspring live and die, and time marches on. These general facts are thought by evolutionists to be proof that evolution occurs. However, there are major problems with this latest evolutionary theory.
Two continuing major problems were well known among evolutionists and could not be kept behind the modern evolutionary veil forever. Niles Etheridge and Stephen Jay Gould pulled back that veil with their new theory. The two real sticky problems are, according to Gould:
1) “The oldest truth of paleontology proclaimed that the vast majority of species appear fully formed in the fossil record and do not change substantially during the long period of their later existence.”
2) “The species problem in paleontology . . . centered upon the difficulty of stating where ancestral species A ended and descendant species B began in such a continuously graded transition (the problem, so formulated, has no objective answer, only an arbitrary one).”
Gould says he felt “frustration and sadness,” and lamented “[I]f evolution meant gradual change, we could not discern the very phenomenon we most wished to study.” Consequently, he and Etheridge “reinterpreted the fossil record as an accurate reflection of evolution.” In other words, they devised an explanation to match the fossil record. Evolution, they claimed is more like stair steps (punctuated) rather than a smooth incline (gradualism). According to Gould, this new theory, called “punctuated equilibrium,” caused “a major brouhaha” among evolutionists.
After being called a “saltationist” and an anti-Darwinian opposed to gradualism,Gould explained that their “punctuation” or speciation event, though considered a “geological instant” really takes five to ten thousand years. Further, he explained, the “fact” that species remain the same over millions of years (called stasis) should be considered a “puzzle, not a negativity.” Subsequently, punctuated equilibrium found a home within the “modern evolutionary synthesis.”
From the above brief summary, it is apparent that hard science has falsified:
1) Spontaneous generation: life cannot spring from non-living matter.
2) Inheritance of acquired characteristics: change cannot occur through use and disuse.
3) Saltation: macromutation of an organism or sudden natural creations of new life forms cannot occur.
4) Gradualism: species appear suddenly and remain unchanged with time.
5) Speciation: different species cannot interbreed – a discovered natural law.
6) Punctuated Equilibrium: Why is there only onestep? Where does ancestral species A end and descendant species B began? Answers remain arbitrary.
Darwin focused his studies and formulated his theory specifically to provide a natural explanation (biological evolution) for various known life forms in order toreplacethe dominant explanation at the time– divinecreation (creationism). And now, despite the factthat increasing scientific knowledge falsifies evolutionary theory with increasing frequency and in whatever form posed, modern evolutionists continue to bury their heads in the sands of scientific naturalism.
But, I implore all Christians, “do not be conformed to this world,” but “see to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception” Evolution is a deceptive “illusion” founded, not on hard science, but on a personal disbeliefin the divine creation of the universe. (Charles Warren, Ph.D., is vice president of institutional effectiveness and senior executive assistant to the president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City.)