Do Species Suddenly Change? Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, June 17, 2021 2 comments

by Steve Risner

We’ve begun to look at strawman arguments an unbeliever claims creationists use frequently. As we discussed recently, strawman arguments are not productive in any conversation from any side and should be avoided. The first strawman we looked at was the “evolution is only a theory“ strawman. We discovered that the general theory of evolution, while being called a scientific theory, is really nothing more than a philosophical idea and cannot possibly be confirmed as it deals with one-time past events no one can verify. So, in reality, this is almost a reverse strawman. Creationists will use it, but in so doing they’re actually elevating universal common descent to a status it doesn’t deserve. This post will focus on the next strawman that this unbeliever is tired of hearing. I appreciate the fact that he explains why these are strawman arguments because while he’s correct that these arguments shouldn’t be used in the phrasing he uses, his reasons are very easy to poke holes in. Let’s take a look. He says:

A SPECIES CANNOT SUDDENLY CHANGE INTO ANOTHER SPECIES. True, but evolution never says that this happens; evolution progresses in tiny step changes over eons of time.

I love this. It’s one of those catch 22’s that evolution is wrought with. We don’t see this in the fossil record at all, really, but if this isn’t what happens, what does? There are explanations that have come and gone and come back again, but none hold much water in my estimation. Let’s open this up a little and see how unsupported this idea is.

What does the theory of evolution say is the primary way change occurs in a population of organisms? According to a writer for The Scientist, a publication for life science professionals, Chris Baraniuk says:

Darwin's theory of evolution says that each new organism is subtly different from its parents, and these differences can sometimes help the offspring or impede it. As organisms compete for food and mates, those with the advantageous traits produce more offspring, while those with unhelpful traits may not produce any. So within a given population, advantageous traits become common and unhelpful ones disappear.

Given enough time, these changes mount up and lead to the appearance of new species and new types of organism, one small change at a time. Step by step, worms became fish, fish came onto land and developed four legs, those four-legged animals grew hair and – eventually – some of them started walking around on two legs, called themselves “humans” and discovered evolution.

Mr. Baraniuk’s first paragraph quoted above is great. It’s actually science; we observe this and can test it. The second is not. It’s a giant leap from something we see and can test to something purely speculative—a giant extrapolation. This is the most common fallacy I see with evolutionists—the bait and switch (specifically the motte and baily fallacy). You can read more about those at the link provided.

Darwin himself actually said, in 1837, that “one species does change into another,” and while this goes completely against this unbeliever’s claim of a strawman, I’ll give it a pass. Darwin did believe that species changed into other species, but he believed it happened over long periods of time due to very small, often imperceptible changes. He described it as descent with modification through variation and natural selection. To be honest, I can’t argue with that description since it fits perfectly within a variety of creation models. No mention of mutations creating new information that codes for new anatomy and physiology. It also doesn’t mention universal common descent. Evolutionists will ignore that and go straight to “Therefore, evolution is true” because we see variety.

You see, creationists don’t mind the idea of descent with modification. We know this happens. It’s a scientific proposition. However, this is not the same thing as suggesting some simple, single-celled organism, through innumerable coding errors in reproduction, created all the variety in all of biology that we see from that first, simple, single-celled organism. Variety implies the genes were already there—sometimes hidden or “turned off.” This is exactly what creationists have hypothesized for years. The field of epigenetics has been fascinating to look at. This is the idea that genes are not just passed on from generation to generation but can be turned on or turned off by stressors. We’ve even seen that if a gene is turned on in an organism that this can often be turned on in their offspring. It’s very exciting stuff. I, personally, believe that epigenetics answers Darwinism and makes it, frankly, look even more naïve. But this post isn’t about that. Let’s not get distracted.

According to the “Evolution Library for Teachers and Students“ at PBS:

Charles Darwin understood that evolution was a slow and gradual process. By gradual, Darwin did not mean “perfectly smooth,” but rather, “stepwise,” with a species evolving and accumulating small variations over long periods of time until a new species was born. He did not assume that the pace of change was constant, however, and recognized that many species retained the same form for long periods.

Still, if evolution is gradual, there should be a fossilized record of small, incremental changes on the way to a new species. But in many cases, scientists have been unable to find most of these intermediate forms. Darwin himself was shaken by their absence. His conclusion was that the fossil record was lacked these transitional stages, because it was so incomplete.

According to a paper written by Richard Gawne, who is a Fulbright Fellow in the Center for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen:

One of the most serious impediments to the acceptance of the evolutionary theory Darwin developed in the Origin of Species was the failure of the geological record to testify to the existence of the many transitional forms predicted by his account. Darwin was well aware of this difficulty and attempted to preempt his critics by issuing a series of pessimistic arguments that were intended to demonstrate that the fossil record is necessarily incomplete. He famously claimed, for example, that the geological record is “a history of the world imperfectly kept” of which we “possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries.”

Darwin knew when he wrote the Origin of Species that the fossil record offered up no evidence for his ideas. Again, we’re talking about universal common descent here—small, incremental changes over time leading from the simplest, single-celled organism to all the biodiversity we see both extinct and extant. There just was nothing to point to at the time. To be truthful about it, there really isn’t much to go on today, either. I understand that there are many things people will point to and suggest common ancestry, but it’s all smoke and mirrors.

I need to elaborate further, but I just have no more space for today’s writing. I’ve been setting the stage for my response to “evolution progresses in tiny step changes over eons of time” and I’ve exhausted my time in doing so. My apologies. We’ll pick this up next time. I hope you’re enjoying this series as much as I am and getting something from it.

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Stephen Meiner said...

Thanks again, Steve. Many people no longer want to associate with Darwin, but seem to embrace people like Richard Dawkins who wrote, 'The God Delusion'. Seldom do people quote him a saying he fears the removal of religion would be a bad idea for society because it would give people "license to do really bad things." Though he likely supports many Christian values, too bad he doesn't accept the One who is the author of those values.

I enjoyed reading your blog, as always ...thanks.

Steve Risner said...

Thank you, Stephen. Dawkins has a lot wrong and his views on God are appalling. But, like you say, he likely lives his life as though he's at least partially aware of the moral code our Lord has placed in every man's heart. Very few atheists live like atheists.