Other People's Mail - April 2005
by Do-While Jones

Testing Darwin Letter

Last month we commented on Discover magazine’s cover story, Testing Darwin, about a computer simulation of evolution done at Michigan State. Graham Armitage wrote this comment to Discover magazine in response.

The computer modeling presented as evidence for evolution in “Testing Darwin” does no more than provide support for what is already known. Microevolution—that is, the development and adaptation within a species—is well documented and even mentioned in the article. The problem is that so many scientists assume they can extrapolate the results to macroevolution. The computer model shows no evidence of bacteria becoming alligators—they simply become smarter bacteria.

To which Robert T. Pennock (of Michigan State University) responded.

The “microevolution” challenge stems partly from a simpler misunderstanding. Biology textbooks define the difference between micro- and macroevolution as a matter of degree. Allowing only change within a species reflects a creationist view that the created kinds cannot speciate. Creationists split in the 1930’s over whether to allow limited speciation within kinds (there are many many species of bacteria and crocodilians, after all), with the liberals accepting the evidence for such evolution. Conservatives like Byron C. Nelson said that such a compromise would open “the door of evolution so wide that I, for one, don’t see a place to shut it.” He was right. There is no essential difference between adaptations “within” a species and those that create new species, so if evolution has the power to do the one it requires no extrapolation to get the other. That may be why intelligent design (ID) creationists like Paul Nelson, Byron’s grandson, reject even microevolution that involved complex adaptations—they can’t even abide bacteria getting smarter. That would be the evolution of intelligence!

We collect college biology textbooks, and looked in the glossaries of several of them to see if biology textbooks simply say that the only difference between microevolution and macroevolution is a matter of degree. We found that every textbook had a slightly different definition. Generally, though, the textbooks said that microevolution has to do with variation within species, and macroevolution has to do with creation and extinction of species.

A Matter of Degree

Pennock has proved our assertion last month that evolutionists like to claim that since microevolution can be shown to cause a small change over a small period of time, macroevolution must be able to cause a large change over a long period of time because it is just a matter of degree. It isn’t just a matter of degree. It is a matter of being two entirely different processes, one of which really does cause small changes, and the other never being observed to happen.

One might say that farming is just gardening on a larger scale. That’s true, but the difference in scale is the result of a difference in method. It is the use of heavy machinery that results in more crops. No gardener, no matter how good, can garden hundreds of acres, because the gardener is limited to hand tools.

Yes, there is a difference in the matter of degree when comparing the evolution of an eye to changes in coloration of a butterfly, but the amount of change is secondary. The primary issue is the method by which it happens.

Macroevolution requires some heavy machinery that isn’t involved in microevolution. No amount of microevolution can produce the results macroevolution would require.


Pennock says, “Creationists split in the 1930’s over whether to allow limited speciation …”, as if creationists had the power to control nature by what they think. Pennock treats the issue as philosophical rather than scientific. That is an important point.

Pennock sees this as a philosophical argument, so he pits the views of one person against another. The evolution controversy isn’t about what people think. It is about what actually happens in nature and in the laboratory.

Evolutionists base their arguments on supposition about experiments that might be done in the future, not about actual scientific experiments that have already been done. Someday, they believe, someone will do an experiment that creates life from chemicals, or causes a lizard to grow breasts by purely natural processes. They believe, by faith, that species can diverge so much that they can create entirely new phyla.

Clearly there is variation in species. Sometimes that variation becomes so large that individuals of different populations no longer mate with each other. Since reproductive compatibility is central to the arbitrary definition of “species”, speciation certainly occurs. But that isn’t the issue.

The issue is whether or not a reptile can grow breasts and become a mammal. The issue is whether or not random changes to DNA can produce an optical system consisting of an aperture, lens, detectors, optic nerve, and visual signal processing algorithms.

Darwin Fails the Test

In the laboratory we see, “microevolution: change over successive generations in the composition of a population’s gene pool.” 1 That’s what we demonstrated in last month’s Scrabble of the Fittest essay.

In the laboratory we do not see new, functional internal organs arising by chance. From our studies of genetics and information science we understand why that doesn’t happen. Macroevolution doesn’t happen, not because creationists won’t allow it, but because the laws of nature won’t allow it.

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1 Audesirk & Audesirk, 1999, Biology (fifth edition), page G-15 (Ev)