Conclusion to Section 1: Evolution is True
Updated: Jul 15
“Seen in the light of evolution, biology is, perhaps, intellectually the most satisfying and inspiring science. Without that light it becomes a pile of sundry facts -- some of them interesting or curious but making no meaningful picture as a whole.”
~ Theodosius G. Dobzhansky
“What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
~ Carl Sagan
“The evidence supporting the idea that all living things are descended from a common ancestor is truly overwhelming. I would not necessarily wish that to be so, as a Bible-believing Christian. But it is so. It does not serve faith well to try and deny that.”
~ Francis Collins, MD, PhD. Former Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Former Leader of the Human Genome Project (HGP). Aug. 2006, BeliefNet.com
Evangelical Christian, Founder of Biologos
I am usually surprised when people tell me they have no problems accepting Evolution - the theory that all life on this planet has evolved from very simple forms, it’s all related (we share genes with yeast) and probably life emerged from non living precursors. Life is so complicated and the more we learn the more unimaginably complex it is. How could all of this life have arrived through natural processes only? Is it no wonder that even the non-religious will often view life as intelligently designed, usually because they don’t know of all the unintelligent designs that can only best be explained by evolution and work-arounds by natural selection?
I find that the above quote by Sagan also applies to Evolution. This scientific theory is so extraordinary, so radical, so counter intuitive for most, and touches so many aspects of our lives that we should demand robust and incredible evidence for it. That evidence is available and comes from fossils, genetics, biogeography, anthropology, comparative anatomy, paleobiology, developmental biology, and so much more. Equally important, the evidence is often the result of confirmed predictions, the evidence that would disprove evolution such as fossils out of sequence never occurs, the theory has been rigorously tested for over 150 years (want to get 1 million dollars and a Nobel? Show that it is wrong) and the evidence comes from independent fields of science demonstrating consilience.
I assert that evolution is not intuitive for most. A pilot must be taught to accept their instruments when flying in poor visibility instead of what they may feel but is dangerously wrong. We must reject our feeling that we are not moving in spite of knowing the earth is spinning at 1,000 mph and going around our sun at 67,000 mph. Science is our instrument into the past and present life on this planet; evolution is that theory that ties it all together and we must accept it even though it seems counter intuitive. Whales really did evolve from a terrestrial animal the size of a raccoon. We really do share a common ancestor with chimps that lived about 6 million years ago. Evolution is true for all species, past and present. All life is connected through shared ancestry.
For brevity I have chosen only two examples that demonstrate evolution, macroevolution, is true. The DNA evidence of shared ERVs among the great apes which includes humans, is very sound and has withstood many years of creationist attempts to discount it. Other DNA evidence discussed specifically include chromosomal fusions (see here), but not LTR divergent ratios, shared chromosomal inversions, shared synonymous mutations, shared pseudogenes and their mutations and comparative indel mutations (insertion/deletion). Perhaps worse for the non-TE creationist, at least 50% of human genomes are derived from viruses (Shubin even says 75%). What a strange way for a creator to construct humans, by using parasitic viruses that leave a trail of their attacks on ape genomes demonstrating evolution?
From Reece et al. 2013. Campbell’s Biology. No copyright infringement intended. Fair use permitted. [Exons are the coding parts of DNA. Although Introns are non-coding they often have several functions. Transposons and repetitive DNA are often functionless and much is junk left over from evolution.]
A look at where some of the retroelements come from. Note especially the retrotransposons and LINEs and how they relate to viral derivatives.
Virology - Retroviral Derivations
Vincent Racaniello, Lecture #9, 2013. Columbia University. Course: Virology
No copyright infringement intended. Fair Use Permitted
The evidence for whale evolution seems to me to be very convincing to an objective person. More than 220 fossil whale species have been found and described. The legs shrinking and vestigial pelvis is there for all to see. All those olfactory pseudogenes. A blowhole that starts at the nose and migrates to the top in embryos, and a migrating blow hole is demonstrated in the fossil record among so many other facts that point overwhelmingly to evolution.
Sir Harold Kroto, PhD. Nobel Prize Winner : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Kroto
Treat Science Right and It Could Help Save the World https://www.sciencenews.org/article/treat-science-right-and-it-could-help-save-world
If Not Evolution, Then What?
In addition to whale evolution, other items to examine might include the Hawaiian Islands and the Emperor Seamounts. Those islands are about 2,500 miles away from any major land. One needs to explain without evolution how all those unique species got there, when, and why they resemble continental forms. Why some species are not found in the islands and only those that could float or get blown there became founder species, and then new species radiated out onto other islands from an ancestral species. Darwin’s Finches is an example on the Galapagos. How the hot spot of magma that is producing the Hawaiian islands as the plate moves over it did that without millions of years and also produced the worn down Emperor Seamounts that extend eastward thousands of miles without evolution seems like wishful thinking. And if one is going to move a plate that much in a year, the physics of heat production tell you that's impossible. See Online YECs and the Heat Problem immediately below. Begins at 7:00. Darwin of course derived much of his theory of Natural Selection from island biogeography.
Even more basic to try and explain without evolution is the fossil record itself. About 15,000 feet of sedimentary rock in layers like a cake with fossils not mixing, going from simple to complex over 500 million years and with many transitional fossils where they should be if evolution were true. Wish to use a Global Flood as an explanation? Then why are the pterodactyls only found in one layer? And why do the plants also separate out by layers going from simple to complex? Why are fossil animals also found with fossil plants and pollen only found in certain layers? In a cataclysmic global Flood the best one could hope for are transitions of fossils between layers with some mixing. That’s exactly what we don’t find. A local flood hardly fits the Bible. Birds on board? Over the “high mountains”?
My point is that every creationist origin narrative attempt to accommodate Genesis and evolution that I have examined fails except one. All but one denies human evolution. Young Earth Creationism even asserts that the earth, solar system and universe is less than 10,000 years old. Gap and Day-Age attempts failed long ago. Repeatedly taking a figurative or poetic hammer to force a round Genesis peg into a square science hole reduces the Abrahamic religions to literature and myth to join Norse, Greek and Roman narratives as story telling for entertainment. We love reading about Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, Odin and Thor but don’t base our lives and dreams of an afterlife on them. The most active creationist organizations today are Young Earth Creationism organizations such as AIG, ICR, and CMI. Progressive Creationism most notably promoted by Hugh Ross and RTB claims an old earth but denies evolution, invoking repeated complete catastrophes and new de novo creations for each layer, if I understand their “model”. All deny human evolution. As one person wrote, the DNA findings alone should result in a second Galileo Moment for evolution deniers and the death of common design as an argument. I just hope it doesn’t take 400 years this time to officially admit another Christian theological mistake.
I have presented shared ERVs as fantastic evidence for human evolution, but there are also many other DNA findings such as human chromosome 2 fusion and shared pseudogenes. Some creationist attempts try and have a historical Adam and Eve along with archaic hominins as detailed by William Lane Craig or that of Joshua Swamidass and his garden appearing with Adam 6,000 year ago among evolved modern humans. Apologetic mental gymnastics know no bounds.
Evolution explains that there never was an Adam/Eve to found the human race (rejecting Craig's and Swamidass' hail Mary passes). Science has shown there never was a bottleneck of 2, or 8 off a boat. The human population never went below 10,000. And Adam was not zapped onto the earth into Homo heidelbergensis populations (Craig) nor 6,000 years ago in a garden among modern humans that had evolved 300,000 years before (Swamidass). That which is possible can still be absurd. Modern humans evolved over millions of years in populations in Africa and then moved out finally successfully to colonize the globe about 70,000 years ago after several outings did not “take”. There never was a garden in the Middle East as a launching point for the human species. Women don’t have excruciating pain in childbirth, sometimes resulting in the death of one or both of them, because of a curse due to eating the wrong fruit from a wrong tree purposely planted in the middle of a fictional garden where they could not miss it and tricked by a talking snake; it is because of the evolution of bipedalism. Any low back or sinus problems you have is also probably due to evolution since natural selection can only work with what it’s got. You must have vitamin C in your diet or you develop a disease called scurvy (and why British sailors were called “Limeys” because what they took them on board to avoid it), yet your cat and dog have plenty in their blood naturally because of evolution. You carry a dead gene, a pseudogene, for making egg yolk because of your ancestors and it matches the same homologous location in chickens. Because - evolution.
Theistic evolution (TE) or evolutionary creationism (EC) does accommodate modern science. It proposes that God used or allowed evolution to create species. Francis Collins and Biologos are probably the most popular advocates for this view. Even Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute and the champion of the Intelligent Design Irreducible Argument accepts macroevolution with God tweaking when necessary. Of course the Pope speaking for billions accepts evolution but with God’s control and ensoulment at some time. These two authors must have the supernatural somehow helping evolution even though in 400 years the supernatural has not been found, nor is it necessary to explain speciation beyond natural forces. The TE/EC of Biologos does accommodate evolution as science has found it letting evolution unfold via natural processes alone and not the massaged forms of Behe and the Pope.
Why not Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creationism)?
"And after millions of years of mutations, mass extinctions, devastating diseases, and violent death, God saw all that He had evolved and behold it was very good!"
~ Dan Lietha (Young Earth Creationist)
In the form of TE that Biologos and other theists propose, speciation occurred by all natural means. There is no evidence of the supernatural and the claim is that God set up the initial conditions and then God’s design unfolded from there. I hope I am not misrepresenting their position. Notice that there would be no way to tell this narrative from a scientific analysis without a God. Collins rests his appeal to God to fine tuning and the moral argument, but I understand that he has downplayed or abandoned the moral argument due to all the evidence that we can see how morality evolved in social species by evolution and then it was refined culturally.
I assert that if God used evolution to create or allowed it after a “Fall”, then this God is not worth worshipping. He would then be incompetent, indifferent to the waste and suffering or enjoyed it and is malevolent. Let me explain by looking at how natural selection and evolution actually works.
As I wrote in the Introduction to Evolution, evolution is when a population genetically changes from a previous ancestral one. Specifically more individuals happen to inherit certain genes that code for certain characteristics. This occurs because natural selection selected which offspring variants are best fitted for the current conditions and live long enough to produce more viable offspring than the other variants in the population. In order for this system to work, nature produces lots of offspring. Given time, adaptations will arise and spread throughout the species.
For example, populations tend to be stable from generation to generation. Despite thousands of eggs laid by a fish, only one or two will survive into the next generation to reproduce. Dogs have many puppies and cats kittens but on average if a population is stable, over the life of the parents only two on average of all those offspring will survive to reproduce in sexual species. An oak tree will produce millions of acorns over its life only to replace itself in a stable forest. What about humans? From the time of fertilization until a child grows to a reproductive teenager there is nearly an 80% death rate. Many fertilizations don’t implant. Some of those that implant miscarry. Some offspring die at birth and more later before reaching reproductive age. Human parents needed to have many children even a 100 years ago because so many died before adulthood. The waste and suffering is incredible to just get a few offspring into the next generation.
When we look at the history of life on earth, 99.99% of species that have ever existed have gone extinct. There have been at least five huge extinctions. Sometimes it's a rock from space. Another time huge lava flows in Siberia cover the planet for millions of years and poison the air. Some species can’t compete against other species, especially if a new species is introduced due for example to continental drift and a pregnant founder species onto an island.
This system of creation that depends on evolution is one that is incredibly wasteful. Perhaps you’ve seen children die of starvation, infection or cancer. This is why I assert that although TE/EC does accommodate science with their creation-evolution narrative, it paints this God as incompetent because this system is hardly worth bragging about. One can’t hold up awesome redwoods and beautiful butterflies without also mentioning childhood cancer, malaria, and Ebola. Or, this deity is indifferent to all the waste and suffering and offers nothing better. The “Fall” as an excuse means all those innocent children and animals are just collateral sacrifices? Lastly, perhaps God likes the suffering and waste and is really malevolent. In contrast to this theistic way of looking at nature via a God designed creative evolution, the way we find the world and universe is exactly what we would find if evolution were true and there was no Engineer and Designer behind it all. Unless He/She/It/Them is malevolent.
Thus, if God used or allowed evolution to create, this means He’s not worth worshipping. This is the best He could do? He doesn’t care or can’t do anything about the waste and suffering? TE/EC fails as a viable creation narrative option in my view because it not only sacrifices its scriptures to mythology only but is irrational for the Christian theist. Christians and other theists are left with no choices for an origin narrative that is believable and accommodates science. In my opinion and analysis, theists will never have an origin narrative that will stand up to science, not dilute their scriptures to mythology, and withstand rationality. Now or in the future because their underlying faith foundational beliefs are wrong. It’s not the fault of science that religion keeps making claims that are demonstrably false and trespassing into areas that science interfaces with.
One of the most comprehensive reviews of the failed attempts of Christian apologists to accommodate Genesis with Evolution and science is the book “Evolving out of Eden" by Price and Suominen.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
After the Site Conclusion, I will take a candid examination of the consequences and ramifications to our world views if evolution is true and not sugar coat ramifications for both the atheist and theist. If our origin is millions of years in the making what does that mean for us living today? What does it mean if we are connected to all life rather than ordered by High Command and HQ to conquer and subdue it? If we are here because of evolution that adapted humans to situations that often now are nonexistent, how do we respond to urges like tribalism or its larger cousin nationalism that now threatens our societies? Are people morally responsible for bad behavior? What does it mean to have morals in a world view on evolution? Except for theistic evolutionists, does evolution always lead to atheism? Can there be ultimate purpose for an atheist?
We Can Still See these 5 Traces of Ancestor Species in All Human Bodies Today
"The reality is that we are locked in a perennial battle. Sometimes we make progress; sometimes we are forced to retreat. What’s the point then? I take inspiration and comfort from a metaphor used by Carl Sagan in his classic "The Demon-Haunted World." The subtitle of that book is "Science as a Candle in the Dark". We are, have always been, and will probably always be surrounded by the dark. Our job is not the likely impossible one to vanquish the darkness and bring the light everywhere. It is, rather, the more modest but crucially important goal of keeping the light of reason on for the benefit of future generations."
Pigliucci, Massimo. 2023. The Evolution of Anti-Evolution. The Philosopher's Corner. Skeptical Inquirer. July/August 2023. Vol. 47, No. 4.
Evolution is definitely true. A presentation I gave in 2023: It's only about 40 minutes excluding the Q&A at the end. Anchored by shared ERVs but many comments about discussing evolution and consequences.