Feature Article - September 2002
by Do-While Jones

A Theory Dissolves

U.S. News and World Report claims the theory of evolution is evolving. But, from the contents of their article, it is clear that the theory of evolution is really just dissolving.

The July 29, 2002, U.S. News and World Report cover story began,

A theory evolves

How evolution really works, and why it matters more than ever

By Thomas Hayden

When scientists introduced the world to humankind's earliest known ancestor two weeks ago, they showed us more than a mere museum piece. Peering at the 7 million-year-old skull is almost like seeing a reflection of our earlier selves. And yet that fossil represents only a recent chapter in a grander story, beginning with the first single-celled life that arose and began evolving some 3.8 billion years ago. Now, as the science of evolution moves beyond guesswork, we are learning something even more remarkable: how that tale unfolded. 1

What an opening! Thomas Hayden (no, not the former Mr. Jane Fonda) would have you believe that a new fossil discovery (which he didn’t identify) has completely solved the mystery of evolution. Presumably, he is referring to Sahelanthropus tchadensis (a.k.a. Chad man), which was described in the July 11, 2002, issue of the journal Nature. We didn’t make Chad man into an Evolution in the News column in July because we lacked space. We didn’t put Chad man in the Evolution in the News column in August because by August it was apparent that Chad man had been largely ignored by the news media. Few people, other than Thomas Hayden, found it very important. But Hayden was writing his column when the Nature story was printed, and he probably assumed Chad man was going to be an important find, and so he led with it. It was the first of many mistakes he made.

Unsubstantiated Claims

After claiming that the “science of evolution” has moved “beyond guesswork”, and that we are now learning “how the tale unfolded,” he says,

Scientists are uncovering the step-by-step changes in form and function that ultimately produced humanity and the diversity of life surrounding us. By now, scientists say, evolution is no longer "just a theory." It's an everyday phenomenon, a fundamental fact of biology as real as hunger and as unavoidable as death. 2

Scientists have not uncovered “the step-by-step changes in form and function that ultimately produced humanity and the diversity of life surrounding us.” That is simply a lie. If scientists really have uncovered these things, why didn’t he tell us what they are in the rest of his article? Why does he just report guesswork? Despite the fact that there is not a single, documented case of macroevolution, he calls it "an everyday phenomenon."

Creationists agree that microevolution is certainly an everyday phenomenon, but microevolution has nothing to do with the origin of new kinds of life. Hayden is intentionally confusing microevolution with macroevolution to try to make it appear that macroevolution is scientifically viable.

According to Hayden,

Scientists have confirmed virtually all of Darwin's postulates. For example, Ward Watt of Stanford University has demonstrated natural selection in action. In a hot environment, he found, butterflies with a heat-stable form of a metabolic gene outreproduced their cousins with a form that works well only at lower temperatures. "Darwin was more right than he knew," says Watt. Darwin also held that new species evolve slowly, the result of countless small changes over many generations, and he attributed the lack of transitional forms--missing links--to the spotty nature of the fossil record. By now many gaps have been filled. Dinosaur researchers can join hands with bird experts, for example, their once disparate fields linked by a series of fossils that show dinosaurs evolving feathers and giving rise to modern birds. And last year, paleontologists announced that they had recovered fossils from the hills of Pakistan showing, step by step, how hairy, doglike creatures took to the sea and became the first whales. 3

Scientists have not confirmed virtually all of Darwin’s postulates. As a matter of fact, modern evolutionists generally admit that Darwin was wrong on practically every specific issue. Last January we wrote Darwin’s Scorecard, in which we examined every postulate in Origin of the Species in detail, and found that he got only three of them correct. Specifically, Darwin was correct when he said,

  1. More individuals are born than can survive.
  2. There is a lot of variation in species.
  3. Evolution depends upon inherited variations.

He was wrong when he said,

  1. Features developed by exercise are inherited.
  2. Features diminished by disuse are inherited.
  3. Climate causes variations that are inherited.
  4. Diet causes variations that are inherited.
  5. There is no limit to inherited change.
  6. Embryos trace evolutionary development.
  7. “Rudimentary organs” are proof that features diminished by disuse are inherited.
  8. The fossil record would support evolution if it were more complete.

Darwin did correctly recognize the problems with his theory. He knew,

  1. “The laws governing inheritance were quite unknown” to Darwin.
  2. “Correlation of growth” (inbreeding) has side effects that limit variation.
  3. “Intercrossing” causes variations to revert to the norm.
  4. The fossil record doesn’t support evolution.
  5. There are no living intermediate forms.
  6. Complex structures, such as the eye, and echolocation, could not have evolved.
  7. Instincts can’t be explained by natural selection.
  8. One can’t breed diverse species to produce new fertile species.

There is no “series of fossils that show dinosaurs evolving feathers and giving rise to modern birds.” Nor are there “fossils from the hills of Pakistan showing, step by step, how hairy, doglike creatures took to the sea and became the first whales.” Those statements have no basis in truth. People who don’t know any better will point to those statements as proof of evolution.

The only fossil that showed dinosaurs evolving feathers (Archaeoraptor liaoningensis) was exposed as a fake in January, 2000, to the great embarrassment of National Geographic. It is possible that Hayden just read the big article (“Feathers for T. Rex?”) in the November 1999 issue of National Geographic, but missed their subsequent retraction. It could be an honest mistake on his part.

Likewise, he probably never actually investigated the fossils that are allegedly whale ancestors, as we did in previous newsletters 4. If he had, he would have recognized silly guesswork when he saw it.

No Ancestors

The “Cambrian explosion” (in which so many diverse forms of life appear in the fossil record, with no trace of an ancestor) is well-known. Listen to how Hayden tries to spin it.

"Paleontologists have the best eyes in the world," says Whitey Hagadorn of Amherst College, who has scoured the rocks of the Southwest and California for signs of the earliest animal life. "If we can't find the fossils, sometimes you have to think that they just weren't there."

A new understanding of Earth's history helps explain why. Scientists have learned that our planet has been rocked periodically by catastrophes: enormous volcanic eruptions that belched carbon dioxide, creating a super greenhouse effect; severe cold spells that left much of the planet enveloped in ice; collisions with asteroids. These convulsions killed off much of life's diversity. Once conditions improved, says Harvard paleontologist Andy Knoll, the survivors found a world of new opportunities. They were freed to fill new roles, "experimenting" with new body plans and evolving too rapidly to leave a record in the fossils. 5

First, these alleged catastrophes all happened much later than the so-called Cambrian era, so they can’t explain the explosion of life at that time. Second, the catastrophes he mentioned are all speculative. So, the notion that “ … the survivors found a world of new opportunities. They were freed to fill new roles, ‘experimenting’ with new body plans and evolving too rapidly to leave a record in the fossils”, is pure guesswork.

Paleontologists really do have the best eyes in the world, when it comes to finding fossils. Since they can't find the transitional fossils, the two most reasonable conclusions are (1) that the fossils really aren't there and (2) the fossils aren’t there because they never existed.

Guess Again

Whether evolution worked fast or slow, theorists labored to explain how it could produce dramatic changes in body structure through incremental steps. 6

Yes, evolutionists are still arguing whether evolution worked fast or slow, and laboring to explain it. That’s because they don’t have any evidence of it happening at all. Therefore, they have to guess how it must have happened.

Half an eye would be worse than none at all, creationists were fond of arguing. But "partial" eyes turn out to be common in nature, and biologists can trace eye evolution from the lensless flatworm eyespot to the complex geometry of vertebrate eyes. 7

Oh, yeah? Show us the trace. If they really could trace the evolution of any eye, you can be sure it would be published first in Science or Nature, and then on the cover of National Geographic, or Time, or even U.S. News and World Report.

Noses Evolved From Legs

Now "evo-devo" biologists, who study how fertilized egg cells develop into adults, are discovering powerful new ways evolution can transform organisms. They are finding that changes in a handful of key genes that control development can be enough to drastically reshape an animal. 8

Hayden is either seriously confused, or shamefully dishonest. He is talking about HOX genes, which control development. He understands enough to say,

By simple genetic tinkering, evo-devo biologists can tweak the controls, making flies with legs where their antennae should be, or eyeballs on their knees.

This might seem like little more than a cruel parlor trick, and the resulting monstrosities would never survive in nature. But small changes in these master-switch genes may help explain some major changes in evolutionary history. 9

Everything except his last sentence is true. Biologists can cause the switches to turn on and off at the wrong times. When they do, body parts grow in the wrong place. Furthermore, these monsters are so badly crippled that they would be eliminated by survival of the fittest. (Survival of the fittest tends to inhibit evolution, rather than advance evolution). These gene switches CANNOT “explain some major changes in evolutionary history” because the HOX genes only turn on or off other genes (for legs, eyes, and wings) that already exist. Where do the genes come from that make legs, eyes, and wings for the HOX genes to turn on or off? That is what needs to be explained, and evolutionists can’t offer any explanation (except “lucky mutations”).

The phrase "may help explain" means "this is yet another guess."

Some critics of evolution argue that animals are so complex and their parts so interconnected that any change big enough to produce a new species would cause fatal failures. Call it the Microsoft conundrum. But just as Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson managed to delete that company's Web browser on his own computer without crashing the operating system, evo-devo biologists are learning how evolution can tweak one part of an animal while leaving everything else alone. The key to modifying the machine of life while it's running, says biologist Sean Carroll of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is mutations in the stretches of DNA that homeotic proteins bind to.

"If you change a Hox protein, you might mess up the whole body," says Carroll. "But if you change a control element, you can change a part as small as a bristle or a fingernail." He explains that genetic accidents can set the stage by duplicating segments, creating spares that are free to evolve while the other segments carry on with their original function. Biologists now believe that appendages like insect wings and the proboscis [nose] a mosquito jabs you with evolved from spare leg segments. 10 [Emphasis supplied, because we want to be sure you saw that he really did say that.]

We get criticized for making fun of things evolutionists say, but you have to laugh when they say spare leg pieces, which grew by accident on a mosquito’s head, turned into a [mockingly pompous voice on] “proboscis.” [mockingly pompous voice off]

You Can’t Gain by Losing

Obviously, neither Judge Jackson nor Thomas Hayden knows much about Microsoft’s operating system. All Jackson did was delete the Explorer icon from his desktop. Explorer was still there. If he had really deleted Explorer, he would not be able to see, or open, any of the files on his computer. It certainly would have crashed his operating system because it is an integral part which cannot be removed without rendering the computer useless. (If you don’t believe me, bring your computer to my house and I will gladly remove Explorer for you. Then get somebody else to reinstall the operating system for you so you can use your computer again.)

Let’s continue with the computer analogy. It is possible to damage a file and cause it to be lost. (Please don’t ask me how I know! ) In the same way, biologists have shown in the laboratory that it is possible to damage a gene, causing some existing feature to be lost. It is possible to duplicate a file, or duplicate existing sentences in a file, but it generally requires an intelligent user to do it. In the same way, it is possible for gene jockeys to duplicate genes, causing duplicate appendages. Sometimes, it even happens by accident, as proved by the pictures of two-headed calves in Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not!. But you will never find a file of useful information appearing spontaneously on your computer. If a new file appears, someone put it there with or without your knowledge. Similarly, useful genes don’t appear out of thin air (or even thin proteins). For evolution to happen, genes have to appear miraculously, which is contrary to the best scientific evidence available.

Something From Something

Hayden says (without any facts to back up his statement),

Instead of inventing new features from scratch, evolution works with what it has, modifying existing structures by trial and error. 11

Even if that really were true, where did the existing structures come from? Presumably he would say that they also came from modifying other existing structures by trial and error. But where did those other structures come from? Sooner or later, something had to come from nothing.

Why are we supposed to believe his statement? Should we believe it just because it was written in U.S. News and World Report? If there is any documented case of any existing structure being modified to a different, functional structure by undirected trial and error, we have never heard of it. You can be sure we would have heard of it because it would be the only direct evidence of macro-evolution on record, and evolutionists would no doubt make a big deal out of it. The best Hayden can do is to say,

Biologists now believe that appendages like insect wings and the proboscis a mosquito jabs you with evolved from spare leg segments. 12 (We could not resist quoting that again. We love it!)

Notice that he says they “believe.” He doesn’t say, “Biologists have discovered …” or “Biologists have proved …”. He is really saying that biologists are guessing that “spare leg segments” evolved into wings and noses. Where did the leg segments come from? What makes a leg become a wing? Nobody knows, but (some gullible) biologists now believe it.

People - Bacteria = Fruit Flies

It is hard to top the statement about legs evolving into noses, but maybe the idea that fruit flies are just people with the bacterial genes removed will do it. Read and chuckle.

Researchers analyzing the human genome, for example, reported finding a series of human genes that were also common in bacteria but absent from invertebrates like fruit flies. They concluded that bacterial genes had infiltrated vertebrate animals, helping to shape our genetic identity. But the explanation turned out to be more mundane. Knowing how evolution often prunes away unneeded genes, Eisen and several others showed most of the suspect genes had simply been dropped during the evolutionary history of flies. 13

The first sentence is probably true (although, given all the other errors in the U.S. News and World Report article, we can’t be sure). It would have been nice if Hayden had given a citation from Science or Nature so we could check it out, but he didn’t.

The second sentence is also true. Some scientists have concluded that bacteria have injected genetic material into the hosts they infect. We think they are wrong to make that conclusion, and so does Hayden. One of the very few things that Darwin got right is that the theory of evolution depends upon inherited variations. So, bacteria would have to infect eggs or sperm cells, and cause them to acquire the genetic material from the bacteria, for the genes to be passed to the next generation. If bacteria just corrupt the DNA in some cells in an animal’s stomach, that corruption won’t be passed on to the offspring, so no evolution will occur.

The third sentence is partly true. Evolution doesn’t “prune away” genes. Mutation are what cause genes to become non-functional (that is, effectively lost). Random changes in DNA often causes genes to fail to function, but the creature may still be able to survive.

Suppose a mutation in a sperm or egg cell causes a person to be born with a thumb and just one other finger. That person may survive, and reproduce, and the offspring might inherit the less-than-normal number of fingers. That does not mean that the gene that produces five fingers is “unneeded” and should be pruned away. Creatures with fewer functional genes have devolved, not evolved.

The Devolution of My Truck

The air conditioner on my 1985 truck no longer works. I can still drive the truck, so one could say the air conditioner is an “unneeded” part. But, living here in the Mojave Desert, it does provide some creature comfort, if not “survival advantage,” and I wish it still worked. I should fix the air conditioner, but it seems silly to spend more to fix the truck than it would be worth after it is fixed. (As it is, I double the value of the truck every time I fill the tank with gas.)

Nobody disputes that over time my nice new truck has become an old piece of junk as various “unneeded” parts (including the heater and the radio, too) have stopped working. But that doesn’t explain how the air conditioner got into the truck in the first place. The air conditioner didn’t get into the truck by pruning unneeded parts from a jet airplane until the jet became a new truck with an air conditioner.

Hayden would have us believe that fruit flies are really just humans that have had some unneeded bacterial genes pruned away. He imagines that removing unneeded genes produces new species.

Insufficient Imagination

The evidence against evolution amounts to little more than "I can't imagine it," Ewald adds. "That's not evidence. That's just giving up." 14

No, it isn’t “giving up” It’s being rational instead of gullible. It takes a lot of imagination to believe in evolution. You have to imagine that spare leg segments turn into wings and noses. That’s all evolution really is--imagination. There isn’t any science to it. Show us the facts. Don’t talk to us about “belief” and “imagination.”

Medical Doctors Don’t Believe

Hayden also uses fear-mongering to encourage the teaching of evolution in schools. Following the lead of the PBS series on evolution (which warned we will suffer from terrible diseases if we don’t teach evolution in the schools), the “powerful conclusion” of his article is

Many researchers simply ignore the debates and press on with their work. But as evolution becomes an applied science, others say it's more urgent than ever to defend its place in the schools. "HIV is one of the world's most aggressively evolving organisms," says Palumbi. If it weren't for the virus's adaptability, which helps it foil the body's defenses and many drugs, "we would have kicked HIV in the teeth 15 years ago." But doctors don't learn about evolution in medical school, he says, leaving them about as well prepared to combat HIV as a flat-Earth astronomer would be to plan a moon shot.

"Somewhere in high school in this country is a student who's going to cure AIDS," Palumbi says. "That student is going to have to understand evolution." [emphasis supplied] 15

Oh, no! If we don’t teach evolution in the schools, people will die from AIDS! Ironically, Palumbi doesn’t say, “If we don’t teach kids not to have sex with anyone they aren’t married to, people will die from AIDS.” He must think that teaching evolution would be a much more effective way of fighting AIDS than teaching abstinence.

Palumbi is wrong. The person who finds a cure for AIDS won’t necessarily believe in evolution (and won’t necessarily be an American, either). He (or she) will know about toxicology and respiration and lots of other biological processes which can be measured and studied in the laboratory. Or, maybe he will be lucky and find the solution in a moldy piece of bread. (Remember penicillin?) But belief (or disbelief) in evolution or creation probably won’t be a factor.

Did you catch the admission, “doctors don't learn about evolution in medical school”? Think about that. Why don’t they teach evolution in medical school? They don’t teach it because (1) it isn’t true, and therefore (2) it isn’t relevant to the study of medicine.

Medical doctors have a thorough knowledge of how their patients (be they humans or animals) function. Therefore, they are intimately acquainted with the intricacy of living organisms. They “can’t imagine it [evolution]”, not because doctors are “just giving up”, but because they know enough about how life works to see right through the silly, fanciful, imaginative explanations given by the proponents of evolution. Furthermore, unlike doctors of philosophy, medical doctors don’t have to claim to believe in evolution to keep their jobs.

Can you imagine a doctor teaching a course in a reputable medical school taking time out from an explanation of how the mammary glands work, to inject some irrelevant nonsense about how the mammary glands evolved from sweat glands? His students would immediately recognize how silly that idea is. They might not confront the teacher in class because they need to get a passing grade; but imagine what the students would say about him behind his back! But an evolutionist wrote to us insisting that reptilian sweat glands evolved into mammary glands when reptiles evolved into mammals. 16 (He didn’t even know that reptiles don’t have sweat glands.)

Closing Arguments

Because the media has been making a big deal of child abductions lately, we saw too many trials on TV while writing this essay. In one of those trials, one attorney reminded the jury that in the opening statement the other attorney claimed he was going to prove certain facts, but had failed to prove them.

Hayden claimed in his introduction that he would explain “how evolution really works.” He said, “Now as the science of evolution moves beyond guesswork, we are learning something even more remarkable: how the tale unfolded.” We submit to you, the jury, that Hayden has not delivered what he promised to deliver. He promised us answers. He gave us unsubstantiated claims and wild speculation. Evolutionists have merely given up on the old guesses, and are grasping at new guesses.

The Theory Dissolves

Even people who don’t understand technical language used by the evolutionists should be able to understand their body language. Would they be flailing around like this if they weren’t in trouble? If they really know “how the tale unfolded,” why don’t they have any facts to back up their story?

Last year PBS tried to defend evolution with their pathetic miniseries. It only showed that the theory of evolution is necessary to support a particular political agenda which they support. They used fear-mongering to try to make people believe that we will all get TB or AIDS if we don’t teach evolution in the public schools. They used every emotional and rhetorical trick in the book. They did everything except present good scientific evidence supporting the theory of evolution.

Three months ago, Scientific American tried to give “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense,” and failed miserably in the attempt, as we have shown you in the last two newsletters. Days later, U.S. News and World Report defended evolution with guesswork and imagination after proclaiming that evolution has moved past guesswork.

If evolutionists had the facts on their side, they wouldn’t be acting the way they are. They wouldn’t be writing articles like these in popular magazines. They wouldn’t be filing lawsuits to censor science education. They would eagerly accept any invitation to debate a creationist. They would not be complaining that medical schools don’t teach evolution.

They are acting this way because they know (but won’t admit) that science is against evolution.

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Footnotes:

1 Hayden, U.S. News and World Report, July 29, 2002, “A theory evolves”, page 43 (Ev+)
2 ibid. page 43
3 ibid. page 44
4 In A Whale of Trouble August 1999, Whale Tale Two November 2001, and Whale Evolution Corrections December 2001.
5 Hayden, U.S. News and World Report, July 29, 2002, “A theory evolves”, page 45 (Ev+)
6 ibid.
7 ibid.
8 ibid.
9 ibid. pages 45-46
10 ibid. page 46
11 ibid.
12 ibid.
13 ibid. page 46
14 ibid. page 50
15 ibid.
16 Disclosure, January 2002, “Sweating Milk