by Phillip E. Johnson
Evolution is a fact only at a very small scale. It is fantasy when it is used to explain how plants and animals came into existence or how human beings supposedly evolved from apelike ancestors. We might summarize the fantasy by saying that, where the theory of evolution is true, it is not very interesting, and where it is most interesting, it is not true.
If “evolution” merely refers to a process of cyclical (back and forth) variation in response to changing environmental conditions, then evolution is a fact that can be observed both in nature and in laboratory experiments.
For example, when a population of insects is sprayed with a deadly chemical like DDT, the most susceptible insects die but the individuals most resistant to the poison survive to breed and leave offspring, which inherit the genes that provide resistance. After many generations of insects have been sprayed, the entire surviving population may be comprised of the DDT-resistant variety, and some new form of insect control will have to be applied. When the environment becomes free of the toxic chemical, the insect population tends to revert to what it was before.
A similar effect explains how disease-causing bacteria become resistant to antibiotic drugs like penicillin, when then are no longer as effective in controlling the disease as they formerly were.
Almost all illustrations of “evolution in action” in textbooks or museum exhibits are similar to these examples. They involve no increase in complexity or appearance of new body parts or even permanent change of any kind. Small-scale, reversible population variations of this sort are usually called microevolution, although “adaptive variation” would be a better term.
It is misleading to describe adaptive variation as “evolution,” because the latter term commonly refers also to macroevolution. Macroevolution is the grand story of how life supposedly evolved by purely natural processes from very simple beginnings to become complex, multicolor plants and animals, and eventually human beings, without God’s participation being needed at any step along the way.
Charles Darwin assumed that macroevolution was merely microevolution extended over very long periods of time. Biology textbooks, museums, and television programs still teach people to make the same assumption, so that examples of microevolution are used as proof that complex animals and even human beings evolved from simpler organisms by a similar process.
The primary flaw in the story of macroevolution is that all plants and animals are packed with information-- the complicated instructions that coordinate the many processes enabling the body and brain to function. Even Richard Dawkins, the most famous living advocate of Darwin’s theory, admits that every cell in a human body contains more information than all the volumes of an encyclopedia, and every one of us has trillions of cells in his or her body, which have to work together in marvelous harmony.
The greatest weakness of the theory of evolution is that science has not discovered a process that can create all the necessary information, which can be likened to the software that directs a computer. Without such a demonstrated creative process, evolution is merely a story, because its supposed mechanisms can neither be duplicated in a laboratory nor observed in nature.
It is true that there are patterns of similarity among living creatures. For example, humans, apes, mice, worms, and even plants have many similar genes. The important question is not whether there are similarities among all living things but whether those similarities came about through a natural process akin to the observable examples of adaptive variation that we find in textbooks and museum exhibits.
One mistake Christians often make in debating evolution is to take on too many issues at once, rather than starting with the most important problem and solving it first. For example, evolution requires a time scale of many millions of years, while many people understand the Bible to allow for an earth history of only a few thousand years. The evolutionary time scale is debatable, but debating it involves several complex scientific disciplines and distracts attention from the most important defect of the theory of evolution. The only mechanism the evolutionists have is a combination of random variation and natural selection, illustrated by the survival of the insects that happened to be resistant to an insecticide. This Darwinian mechanism has never been shown to be capable of creating new genetic information or new complex body parts such as wings, eyes, or brains. Without a mechanism that can be demonstrated to be capable of the necessary creation, the theory of evolution is just a fantasy with no real scientific basis.
The Bible teaches, “In the beginning God created” and “In the beginning was the Word.” A simple way of explaining this basic principle is to say that a divine intelligence existed before anything else and that intelligence was responsible for the origin of life and for the existence of all living things, including human beings. No matter how much time we might allow for evolution to do the necessary creating, the evidence shows that the process would never get started, because all evolution can do is to further minor variations in organisms that are already living, without any change in their basic classification. When the Bible says, “In the beginning God created” (Gn 1:1), it is presenting us with a fact, which we need to know to understand everything else, including what we were created for and how God wants us to live.
The Bible also says that God created men and women in His own image. That, too, is a fact. If it were not true, there would be no science, because no theory of evolution can demonstrate how intelligence came into existence, including the intelligence of misguided people who misuse science to try to explain creation without allowing any role to God.
“In the beginning was the Word.” The Bible says it and, properly understood, the evidence of science confirms it. Anyone who says otherwise is peddling fantasy, not fact.