email - December 2016

Categorizing "Evolution"

Greg thinks that it isn’t helpful to categorize certain changes as “microevolution” or “macroevolution.”

Greg has written us several emails over the past two months that are worth sharing with you. Here is how the discussion began.

Hello Mr. Pogge,

I continue to enjoy reading the articles on your website.

I thought I would share something with you and see if I could get your thoughts on it if you have the time. My apologies if this or anything like it has already been discussed in a back article, as I have not read everything you've written. I have been thinking a lot about how the word "evolution" is ambiguously defined in the current scientific culture as sort of an all-encompassing umbrella of microevolution, macroevolution, and the Theory itself.

First, I've become convinced (and I'm sure many others would agree) that this is a deliberate attempt to make those that doubt the Theory look unintelligent. If a person says, "I don't believe in evolution," they almost certainly mean they just don't believe in the theory that life evolved from a single-celled organism all the way to humans and the other organisms we see today. But an evolutionist will hear that and call them stupid as if they meant they don't believe in observable variations, too. (although they probably think they're stupid for not believing the Theory anyway, but I digress).

Secondly (and this is what I was hoping to get your opinion on), it seems to me that we are quick to try and clarify this by pointing out the difference between microevolution and macroevolution and just leaving it at that, but this really isn't enough. If you define microevolution as "any single mutation or variation in an organism" and macroevolution as "a series of mutations or variations that lead to a new type of organism distinct from the original organism from which it evolved" we are really arguing about the wrong thing. Isn't the real argument (in my opinion, the crux of the entire argument) that micro-mutations that create new genetic information have never been observed and are, in fact, impossible? I know that these types of mutations are often called macro-mutations, but to me that is a miscategorization, since macroevolution is, as I defined above, really a series of micro-mutations. (Separate side question here, but technically wouldn't macro-DEvolution be possible?)

My points are that a) it's necessary to not only point out the difference between microevolution and macroevolution but also go one step further and point out the different categories of microevolution: regressive evolution (or devolution), neutral evolution, and progressive evolution; and b) mutations that would create new genetic code really belong in the progressive evolution category instead of the macroevolution category.

Thanks!

Greg

Our response was

We are glad you enjoy the articles.

Yes, we have written several times about how evolutionists like to change the definition of evolution to suit themselves.  They point to different breeds of dogs as proof of evolution, and extrapolate that to evolution of reptiles to mammals.  And yes, we have tried to point out the difference between microevolution and macroevolution, and the slippery definition of evolution.

Macroevolution is NOT a series of micro-mutations.  Macroevolution is not a whole lot of instances of microevolution.  Microevolution is a small change in an existing characteristic through novel combinations of existing genes, or expression of recessive genes when dominant genes are eliminated from the gene pool.  That really does happen.  Macroevolution is the hypothetical creation of new, functional genetic material by random chance.  That has never been observed, and has nothing to do with microevolution.

Yes, devolution is possible.  (For example, a mutation could cause a fish not to develop functional eyes.)  It is a loss of functionality.  In practice, nearly any loss of functionality would result in less capability in the struggle for survival, and would be eliminated from the gene pool by natural selection.  (But in very deep water, or in an underwater cave, where there isn’t any light to begin with, loss of vision does not appreciably hinder survival.)  So devolution, although possible, is rare.

Thanks for writing.

That satisfied him for a while, but several weeks later he wrote to us again.

Hello Mr. Pogge,

Thank you for your kind reply. I didn't respond back initially because at the time I didn't think I had much to add, but I believe I do now.

To clarify, I understand that Evolution (the theory) requires creative mutations. But evolutionists themselves define macroevolution as "microevolution happening over and over", so they are able to create a straw man argument and avoid the topic of whether or not any of those micro-mutations they believe happened "over and over" actually created anything new.

For instance, I was once arguing with an evolutionist who, in response to me saying that microevolution was possible but not macroevolution, said something to the effect of, "So you believe 1+1=2, but that 1+1 a million times wouldn't get you to a million". My response was that it wasn't that I didn't believe one plus one a million times would get me to a million, it was that I didn't believe that one MINUS one (or minus zero) a million times could get me to a million! His statement illustrated that he believed mutations were/could be creative, even though there's no evidence of that.

But it occurred to me: While one minus one a million times won't get me to a million, it will get me to negative one million. This is why I asked about whether you thought "macro-devolution" was possible. You responded with describing that devolution is possible, and I understand that, but notice: I didn't say devolution, I said macro-devolution. I know that you object to using the prefix macro- the way that evolutionists use it, but I think you understand what I mean when I say macro-DEvolution (and I don't have a better word for it). If it could be shown that two separate populations of formerly the same kind of animal DEvolved and varied so much (in different ways) that they could no longer produce viable offspring with each other, I would call that macro-devolution, but it would in no way give credence to neo-darwinism, because it doesn't matter if two or more populations can evolve in such a way. It matters if the evolution they underwent was due to creation of new, functional genetic code or loss/change of existing genetic code.

My whole point is that I wouldn't really argue with evolutionists about their definition of macroevolution, because they'll take something like horses and donkeys or different breeds of dogs (as you pointed out), which might actually be the result of a series of micro-mutations (and hence, their definition of macroevolution), tout them as evidence for Evolution, and think that they've won the whole argument when, in fact, they've won a straw man argument. This is why I proposed "recategorizing" everything as I did. I feel like it helps make sure we are all arguing about the same thing, and more importantly, arguing about the right thing. I'm all about knocking down straw men.

I do recognize, however, that you've been doing this since I was in grade school (heck, you've probably been a student of this issue longer than I've been alive!). I guess I shouldn't really expect to change your mind about how you classify and define different terms. I just wanted to run this by you and get your opinion about whether or not I'm completely off base because I don't think I clearly defined my point or what I was asking last time. It may be that we just have a difference of semantics.

Thanks again for your time, and thanks for adding me to your mailing list!

Greg

(For an explanation of Greg’s comment about the mailing list, please see the sidebar about our mailing list else where in this newsletter.)

The Best Way

If you ask a number of people, “What is the best way to present the evidence against the theory of evolution?” the number of answers you get will equal (or maybe exceed) the number of people you ask. A lot of those answers will be excellent. We feel that Greg’s answer is better than most, which is why we shared it with you.

We use lots of different approaches (including parody, as is evident from this month’s feature article). So, we aren’t going to argue with Greg. We simply want to share some thoughts which were inspired by Greg’s email.

Definitions and Categories

Definitions and categories are double-edged swords. They both are useful because they clearly set forth the topic under discussion. On the other hand, they can be distractions used to avoid talking about the topic of interest. For example, a clever lawyer could obscure the importance of categorization by arguing about whether there is a difference between a definition and a category, thus avoiding the real issue.

We need to understand what we mean by microevolution, macroevolution, and devolution. So, it is important to spend some time defining those terms, and categorizing observations according to those definitions, without wasting time arguing about whether or not the definitions and categories are perfect.

What it really comes down to is whether or not a lot of small changes can eventually create a new order of living things, and whether or not every order of living things sprang from a common ancestor. Evolutionists tend to argue about definitions in a lawyerly way in order to come to an apparently logical conclusion that is totally irrelevant to the real issue.

Micro vs. Macro

The microevolution/macroevolution argument can get so bogged down in semantics that we lose sight of the real issue. Yes, minor differences can result from mutations (or particular combinations of undamaged genes) that get established in a population. Those differences can be large enough that biologists assign them to different species. The important point is that the new species is always a new division of an existing family.

For example, it might be possible that a genetic mutation might cause a tiger to have a checkerboard coat, instead of stripes. Furthermore, checkerboard tigers might be so averse to mating with striped tigers that they won’t produce offspring with each other, which is the common definition of a separate species. Let’s resist the temptation to argue about whether or not fertility is an infallible criterion for determining species, and notice the important point that is often overlooked. The new species is a refinement in the existing cat family.

Let’s restate that point for emphasis. Our fictitious checkerboard tiger will still be in the cat family, and not in the dog family, or an entirely new family. Microevolution might produce a new species in an existing family, but no amount of microevolution will create a new family, order, division, or phylum, no matter how long it takes. Microevolution can’t produce anything so radically different that it differs enough from its ancestors that scientists would arbitrarily create a whole new classification to contain the new species.

Devolution

Evolution and devolution are two entirely different kinds of change. Evolution needs an increase in genetic information. It requires something from nothing. Devolution, on the other hand, is the result of loss of genetic information.

There is an old joke about a stupid businessman who lost a dollar on every sale, but was hoping to make up for his losses by increasing the volume of his sales. Gain is fundamentally different from loss. Organization is fundamentally different from disorganization.

The random vibrations of an earthquake might knock a wall down, but random vibrations won’t build a wall up. The fact that walls fall down spontaneously is not proof that walls fall up spontaneously. The fact that genetic information can be lost accidentally does not mean genetic information can be created accidentally.

Improvement

Suppose you go up into the mountains and you find a beautiful piece of property near a lake. You love it so much you buy the land and go camping on it frequently. After a while, you decide that you want to build a log cabin on the property and spend even more time on it.

One day the tax assessor is out for a hike and happens to see your log cabin. He recognizes that it consists of tree trunks that have been organized into walls. Not only that, there is some foreign material. Specifically, there are metal hinges and a lock on the door, and glass windows. He concludes that this material is evidence of design, and that the tree trunks serve the purpose of providing shelter. So, on your next tax bill, you are taxed not only on the land, but on the “improvements” you have made.

Years go by, and you get tired of going up to the cabin. Natural forces cause the cabin to fall into disrepair. The wood starts to rot. Then a forest fire burns it to the ground. Subsequent rains cause flooding that wash away the charred remains. Eventually, new things grow on the land and there is no evidence you were ever there.

But you are still paying taxes on the improvements, so you get the tax assessor to reassess the property and lower your tax bill because the improvements are no longer there.

The point of the analogy is that it takes conscious decision and directed energy to organize material into a higher energy state to serve the desired purpose. Natural forces, on the other hand, tend to disorganize things into a state characterized by lower energy and increased randomness.

Another aspect of the analogy is that some people might object to the notion that a cabin in the wilderness is an improvement. One can’t really improve on the pristine beauty of nature. The log cabin is a blight on the land, and its removal is an improvement. This could lead to a digression about progress that has nothing to do with the issue of recognizing intelligent design.

The same thing happens when people disagree about whether or not mutations are beneficial or not. Improvement is in the eye of the beholder. The real issue is whether or not blind chance, filtered by natural selection, can create a cardiovascular system complete with blood cells that carry oxygen all through the body. Arguments about whether or not sickle cell anemia is a blessing or a curse are irrelevant.

Quick links to
Science Against Evolution
Home Page
Back issues of
Disclosure
(our newsletter)
Web Site
of the Month
Topical Index