The answer to the title question depends on exactly what you include when you say “evolution.” Do you mean microevolution, where species adapt to their environment over generations with small improvements due to mutation and natural selection? Do you mean macroevolution, where one species evolves into a completely different species, and by extension all current species evolved from an original single cell organism? Or do you mean abiogenesis, where life originally began from inanimate molecules that spontaneously combined to form life? Most people lump all 3 of these together when they talk about evolution. But that muddies the discussion, because the strength of evidence for these 3 is very different.
The prevailing view in the United States today (and I think most of the western world, at least) is that evolution is a scientific fact. But after more than a year of studying books, papers, and websites on the topic, I have been surprised to find that there are several serious problems with the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution, which I will summarize in this article. In this article I will attempt to keep the technical content at a level that most people without a degree in microbiology can understand. I have much more technical information backing up the statements in this article, including citations of many technical papers, that I have included in 2 additional articles that you can read if you want to see justification for the statements I make here. (The links are below.)
Microevolution, the adaption to the environment within a species, has been observed in many cases and therefore I consider it a scientific fact. But before we move on, let’s clarify one thing that is not obvious to most, but has implications for the macroevolution discussion to follow: all of the documented/observed microevolution cases involve one of 2 mechanisms at the genetic level:
- The adjustment of existing genes that are designed to vary, e.g. color, beak size, etc.
- The destruction of genetic function that happens to be beneficial in specific environmental conditions.
Conspicuously absent from this list is any documented/observed case (not just theorized) in which new genetic function is created in the process of adapting.
Let’s move on to the next 2 topics where it gets much more interesting….
At a very high level, the idea behind macroevolution seems intuitive: given enough chances, mutations can hit upon improvements, and these improvements are preserved through natural selection. Continue this process for enough time and it can produce even the wonderfully complex plants and animals we have today. This concept in general is sound, but there are 2 (big) problems with it:
- The numbers do not allow genetic information to be created under real world conditions.
- There is no solid evidence of genetic information being created.
Why am I focussing on the creation of genetic information? If you remember from your high school biology class, the DNA within our cells is what directs the growth and activity of our bodies, and is passed on to our children. DNA is a code (or instruction manual) made up of long strings of nucleotides (each of which can have 1 of 4 values). Human DNA contains 3 billion nucleotides (times 2). This instruction manual (genetic information) was created somehow. The theory of macroevolution is that some small amount of DNA (or something even simpler) started in the simplest form of life, and then through mutation and natural selection eventually grew to 3 billion nucleotides within us. So the core requirement in macroevolution is not modification of existing DNA, it is creating new, useful DNA. And herein lies the problems….
The Numbers Do Not Allow Genetic Information To Be Created
- Most of our DNA is functional at many different levels, for example the same section of DNA often: creates multiple proteins depending on where the reading of the DNA starts and ends and what direction it is read in, provides control mechanisms for protein creation, provides information to various parts of the cell based on the 3-D structure of the DNA strands, changes over time as the organism develops and cells differentiate. This means that when a nucleotide mutates it is far more likely that it will degrade one or more of the functions that nucleotide was involved in, rather than improve one without harming the others, evidence suggests close to 1 million to 1.
- With bad mutations occurring much more quickly than good mutations, bad mutations accumulate to the point where even when an extremely rare good mutation comes along it is on a section of DNA that is already polluted with many bad mutations. This means natural selection can not effectively eliminate the bad mutations and promote the good mutations. (Nucleotides are inherited in large sections called genetic linkage blocks, not on an individual nucleotide basis.)
- Natural selection has several other critical limitations, the most important of which is that it has no foreknowledge, meaning it can not see a future beneficial physical feature and favor the individual nucleotide mutations that move in that direction. Each mutated nucleotide has to be beneficial in and of itself for natural selection to promote it, otherwise all of the nucleotide mutations needed for a feature would have to happen (by chance) at the same time. Given the number of nucleotides needed for a feature, the odds of that happening would be astronomical.
- There has not been nearly enough time for all of the DNA we have today to have been created by mutation and natural selection. Just consider the difference in our DNA from when humans and chimps supposedly diverged until now: approximately 5% (150 million nucleotides). Even with many extremely simplifying assumptions that strongly favor evolution, mathematical calculations indicate it would take at least 2.5 billion years to create that much DNA. From the fossil record, evolutionists conclude it has been only 10 million years since humans and chimps have diverged, so the numbers do not line up.
- Computer simulation of macroevolution has recently modelled the process more accurately than previously possible. This method is more accurate than mathematical calculations, due to the many simultaneous processes involved in evolution (including the effects of bullets 1–3 above). Simulations show that in the same case as bullet 4 (the hominin population), it would take 2 billion years just to create a string of 5 nucleotides of new genetic information. That’s a far cry from the 150 million needed.
No Solid Evidence Of Genetic Information Being Created
- The overall pattern of the fossil record does not match what macroevolution predicts. Since macroevolution changes 1 (or a few) DNA nucleotides at a time, there must be billions of small steps from the first living organism to humans. But the fossil record shows us huge jumps in the complexity of organisms in relatively short time spans. Just one example of this is the geologically short time period called the Cambrian explosion, in which at least 19 of the 40 phyla (the large categories of living organisms) appeared, and at least 32 sub-phyla appeared, and at least 45 new cell types developed.
- Given the millions of steps between species needed for macroevolution, the so-called transitional fossils that show 1 or 2 organisms between species are actually huge jumps. It is analogous to doing a connect-the-dots drawing in which you see a few of the dots, but thousands of dots have faded until they are invisible. You will end up with a picture composed of a few straight lines. Is that the picture that was originally intended? Possibly, but more likely not.
- There have been many examples in nature of species adapting to changes in their environment, that appear to be evolution. The list includes antibiotic-resistant bacteria, stickleback fish that shed their spines and armor plates when they are a hindrance, loss of sight in cave fish and cave salamanders, loss of functional wings in beetles on a windy island, and a change in tomcod fish that helps them survive in waters polluted with PCBs. When all of these cases (and more) have been analyzed at the genetic level, the improved fitness was the result of a fortuitous corruption of existing genes, not new useful DNA being created.
- Developmental biologists have identified a small set of genes that coordinate organismal development of body plans (directing what major parts of the body develop, where they are located, and how they connect to each other). These same genes are present across the entire multicellular kingdom, in the various phyla and classes. This implies that they developed in the evolutionary ancestor of all of those phyla. But natural selection would not have preserved those genes when there were not yet complex bodies because they would not have been an advantage at that point.
Skeptical of all these claims I have made about macroevolution? Read my more in-depth article Problems With The Macroevolution Theory that includes much more detailed explanations, references to books and technical papers, and the math behind the numbers.
Abiogenesis is the theory that life spontaneously began from nonliving matter by chance through purely natural means, without any outside force such as a deity. Abiogenesis is not actually evolution, because natural selection can not function until you have a self-replicating, DNA-based organism. So with abiogenesis, there are no forces to gradually bring molecules together over millions of years to build more and more complex structures until you finally end up with a living organism. No, abiogenesis had to happened all at once, albeit with a lot of attempts. As with macroevolution, abiogenesis seems reasonable at first glance: given enough chances, it will eventually hit upon just the right combination of molecules to form a living organism. But also like macroevolution, there are big problems with it….
Not Enough Time
The time needed to have a reasonable chance of everything coming together for life is much larger than one might think. It is virtually impossible to calculate the chance of everything needed for life to form, because there are so many different complex structures required to start and maintain life. But considering just a single aspect of it is enough: the amino acids (building blocks of proteins) arranging themselves in the correct sequence to form the approximately 387 proteins needed for the simplest life. When you do the math, the chance of this happening is a staggering 1 in 104925 over the entire history of the universe! That’s a 1 with almost 5000 zeroes after it, so essentially no chance of it happening.
Chemistry Works Against It
The theory of abiogenesis first and foremost makes the assumption that the chemical reactions that happen inside the cell (producing proteins, RNA, DNA, etc.) also naturally occur outside the cell. However this is not true, because without the assistance from cellular machinery, many of these reactions would be corrupted (replaced) by lower energy reactions. Even something as basic as amino acids linking to form proteins would not happen in a solution without an external force enabling it to overcome the energy barrier. This is only one of many examples.
There are many different ways DNA can be damaged and there are specific enzyme complexes that deal with each type of damage, but those enzymes are also coded in the DNA, yet DNA can not be sustained in the cell without them.
Similarly, decoding machinery is needed within the cell to read and use the DNA, but the instructions to build that decoding machinery are also encoded in the DNA. Further, the decoding machinery needs energy to function properly and, guess what, the tiny energy factory within the cell is also built by instructions in the DNA.
These chicken-and-egg problems mean even more molecules had to come together simultaneously to achieve and sustain life, making the chances of that happening even more impossible.
Not sure about the claims I have made about abiogenesis? Read my more in-depth article Why Abiogenesis Is Impossible that includes much more detail, references to books and technical papers, and the math behind the numbers.
There are so many critical problems with, and so little hard evidence for, the theories of macroevolution and abiogenesis that I can not envision how they could be true. The problems are too severe and too fundamental to overcome. What you find when you dig into the scientific literature on these theories is that the evolution scientists are still debating amongst themselves about how to answer many of these challenges. It is puzzling to me why most people believe that evolution is already a settled fact, when there are such enormous problems with the theory.
What is the alternative? In the absence of any realistic scientific theory, divine creation seems more likely. I realize this may sound very unscientific to some of you, but it is actually just being realistic. In light of so much evidence against evolution, other explanations must be considered. Certainly divine creation can not be definitively proven, but every time biologists turn the next corner in their research they discover yet another amazingly complex aspect of life that fits perfectly with the rest of it. There is no escaping the impression that it was designed. If we were to crawl through every inch of an Airbus A380 (currently the largest passenger aircraft) with an expert engineer explaining to us how every aspect of it works and what part each piece plays, we would not come away with the conclusion that all the molecules randomly formed together in the billions of years the earth has been here. It convincingly looks like it was designed for a purpose. So do we.
This complicated subject is made more complex by the fact that many people on both sides of the issue hold strong philosophical views that seem to often bias their findings and writings. In my research I have attempted to weed out the arguments from both sides that are slanted and misleading, and stick to objective, rational, information and arguments. I am sure I did this imperfectly.
I am also sure that in my investigation, I have not yet found all of the important papers and information. If you know of some that I should consider, I welcome the input, as I continue to study this topic. I also welcome your comments about this article and the 2 linked articles, as long as the comments are respectful and based on technical information.