August 16, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

Darwinism at a Tipping Point

Some leading evolutionists admit major problems with their theory
yet keep trying to solve them by adding more problems

 

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

When attempting to refute the creation worldview, or when interviewed by the press to support their Darwinian worldview, evolutionists commonly claim that “evolution is not a theory but a fact.” A search for this phrase on Google Books located 69 books that used it.[1] And yet when talking to their colleagues in private, evolutionists will often be less confident. One example is from Stephen Buranyi at The Guardian published June 28 as follows:

Strange as it sounds, scientists still do not know the answers to some of the most basic questions about how life on Earth evolved. Take eyes, for instance. Where do they come from, exactly? The usual explanation of how we got these stupendously complex organs rests upon the theory of natural selection.[2]

The explanation for the origin of eyes typically given in high school biology textbooks is similar to the following:

If a creature with poor eyesight happens to produce offspring with slightly better eyesight, thanks to random mutations, then that tiny bit more vision gives them more chance of survival. The longer they survive, the more chance they have to reproduce and pass on the genes that equipped them with slightly better eyesight. Some of their offspring might, in turn, have better eyesight than their parents, making it likelier that they, too, will reproduce. And so on. Generation by generation, over unfathomably long periods of time, tiny advantages add up. Eventually, after a few hundred million years, you have creatures who can see as well as humans, or cats, or owls.[3]

Buranyi then undermines this story. This kind of explanation is the “basic story of evolution, as recounted in countless textbooks and pop-science bestsellers,” he says. “The problem, according to a growing number of scientists, is that it is absurdly crude and misleading.”[4] Why?

For one thing, it starts midway through the story, taking for granted the existence of light-sensitive cells, lenses and irises, without explaining where they came from in the first place. Nor does it adequately explain how such delicate and easily disrupted components meshed together to form a single organ. And it isn’t just eyes that the traditional theory struggles with. “The first eye, the first wing, the first placenta. How they emerge. Explaining these is the foundational motivation of evolutionary biology,” says Armin Moczek, a biologist at Indiana University. “And yet, we still do not have a good answer. This classic idea of gradual change, one happy accident at a time, has so far fallen flat.”[5]

Realize that these scientists are not arguing for creation science or Intelligent Design, but are openly recognizing clear scientific problems with Darwinism. Ironically, they do not recognize that what they agree on is also very problematic. Buranyi says that evolutionists all agree on what he calls the

core evolutionary principles that no scientist seriously questions. Everyone agrees that natural selection plays a role, as does mutation and random chance. But how exactly these processes interact – and whether other forces might also be at work – has become the subject of bitter dispute. “If we cannot explain things with the tools we have right now,” the Yale University biologist Günter Wagner told me, “we must find new ways of explaining [evolution].”[6]

Elegant and Wrong

Figure 1.  One of many books that use the expression from Molecules to Man. Found on Amazon.

As Buranyi goes on to say, “From today’s vantage point, it seems obvious that Darwin’s theory of evolution – [is] a simple, elegant theory that explains how one force, natural selection, came to shape the entire development of life on Earth.”[7] So why would anyone question this one force, natural selection? New research, he says, has revealed major problems in the evolutionary theory. We now know that natural selection, mutation, and random chance play a role in producing only very minor changes in the natural world. They are totally impotent to produce the evolutionary modifications required to make any organism into a more complex one. But that is what evolutionists are trying to explain: the complete story of from molecules-to-man (macro) evolution. After a brief search I located this phrase in the titles of 79 books.[8]

The major problem with reliance on natural selection as the engine for evolution is that, while it may help to explain the survival of the fittest, it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest. Hugo de Vries pointed this out over a century ago, and it is still the case today: natural selection cannot create; it can only eliminate. When evolutionists later postulated mutations as the source of variation in their so-called theory of “neo-Darwinism,” it also failed. The vast majority of mutations, up to 99 percent, are either slightly deleterious or lethal.

What this means is that evolution is going backwards—a process called devolution. Rather than being the engine that drives evolution, the accumulation of near neutral mutations is a major problem for Darwinism. The large number of near-neutral mutations that occur are not readily selected out of the gene pool. Instead, they accumulate, both in each person and in each generation, eventually causing extinction.[9] Furthermore, thousands of genetic mutations occur in body cells daily. Fortunately, 99.99 percent of the time the damage is efficiently repaired by our highly effective genetic repair systems.[10]

Figure 2. Another one of many books that use the expression from Molecules to Man. This was a major high school textbook. Found on Amazon.

Opposition by the Old Guard

In 2014, eight scientists published an article in the leading journal Nature that asked, “Does evolutionary theory need a rethink?” Their unanimous answer was: “Yes, urgently.”[11] Each of the authors came from cutting-edge scientific subfields, such as the study of how organisms alter their environments to reduce selection pressure. For example, beavers build dams to reduce the natural selection of their environment. Another subfield is epigenetics: operations on the genes, not by the genes. These include chemical modifications added to DNA that can change gene expression. Some epigenetic marks can be passed on to the offspring.

Many of the eight scientists’ colleagues were openly hostile to any serious questioning of orthodox evolution.  An example of such hostility occurred in 2015, when the Royal Society in London agreed to host a conference at which some of the Nature article’s authors mentioned above would be willing to speak alongside a distinguished lineup of scientists. The goal was to discuss “new questions, a whole new causal structure for biology.” When the conference was announced, 23 fellows of the Royal Society wrote a strong letter of protest to its then president, Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse. One of the signatories said “The fact that the society would hold a meeting that gave the public the idea that this stuff is mainstream is disgraceful.” Professor Nurse responded to the critics by stating, “There’s no harm in discussing things.” Apparently, one cannot raise serious scientific questions about Darwinism without getting blowback.[12]

What Is at Stake

Traditional evolutionary theorists were invited, but few showed up. Nick Barton, recipient of the 2008 Darwin-Wallace medal, evolutionary biology’s highest honor, “decided not to go because it would add more fuel to the strange enterprise [of those who question Darwinism].” The aggressive anti-creationist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, quoted above, wrote that the scientists who questioned orthodox evolution were “revolutionaries” and had no valid scientific support. Coyne also averred that they questioned evolution only to advance their own careers. One scientist, who was personally skeptical of the new ideas, nevertheless observed that the personal attacks and insinuations against the scientists who were questioning orthodox evolution were “shocking” and “ugly.”

Buranyi explained that the ferocity of this backlash is based on the fact that “this is a battle of ideas over the fate of one of the grand theories that shaped the modern age.”[13] In this statement, he is revealing that Darwinism is more than a theory of the origin of pigeon varieties. It is rather a grand story about us: where we came from, why we are here, and what is in store for us in the future. The fact is, Buranyi explains, “Behind the current battle over evolution lies a broken dream” — the dream of a unified, impregnable theory of origins.

Prediction

As the evidence continues to build against Neo-Darwinism, I expect that resistance against those who openly admit that the theory has major problems will increase—for awhile. Eventually, the accumulation of evidence against Darwin’s idea of gradual progress by natural selection of mutations will be overwhelming. At that point the dam will break. Scientists will be forced to acknowledge that the theory is dead and needs to be buried and replaced. No doubt a few die-hards will remain. But as they die off, new scientists will take over, putting the last few shovels of dirt on the theory’s grave to ensure that Darwin’s dangerous idea is buried forever, never to rise again.

Bergman, Jerry. 2022. The Three Pillars of Evolution Demolished. Westbow Press: Bloomington, IN (a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan).

References

[1] One example is Coyne, Jerry, Why Evolution is True, New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

[2] Buranyi, Stephen, Do we need a new theory of evolution? A new wave of scientists argues that mainstream evolutionary theory needs an urgent overhaul. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/jun/28/do-we-need-a-new-theory-of-evolution, 28 June 2022.

[3] Buranyi, 2022.

[4] Buranyi, 2022.

[5] Buranyi, 2022.

[6] Buranyi, 2022.

[7] Buranyi, 2022.

[8] The most well-known example is the high school biology textbook Biological Science: Molecules to Man: The Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS) Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin,1976. Edited by Claude Welch.

[9] Bergman, Jerry, The Three Pillars of Evolution Demolished. Why Darwin Was Wrong. Bloomington, Indiana: WestBow Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2022..

[10] Bergman, Jerry, The mutational repair system: A major problem for macroevolution. CRSQ 41(4):265-273, March 2005.

[11] Laland, Kevin, Tobias Uller, Marc Feldman, Kim Sterelny, Gerd B. Müller, Armin Moczek, Eva Jablonka, and John Odling-Smee, Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? Nature 514:161-164, 2014.

[12] Buranyi, 2022.

[13] Buranyi, 2022.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

 

Humpty Darwin sits on a wall of foam bricks held together by decayed mortar. Cartoon by Brett Miller commissioned for CEH. All rights reserved.

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