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Debate: Evolution

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Is evolution fact or fiction?

Background and context

This article outlines some of the arguments surrounding evolution, looking at evolution from a logical, rational & scientific view point. Before Darwin, 'evolution' was a word with a Latin origin, that implied change over time, that described any aging process and there is nothing in the universe as we know it that doesn't age or change over time and therefore could be called an example of evolution. Darwin's tried to elevate the concept to a higher abstract or theoretical level. His studies of animal species in the Galapagos Islands in the mid-19th century fostered his conclusion that species evolve through the natural selection. That is, animals in a species with slight variations and mutations that enable them to survive and thrive more successfully are more likely to propagate themselves, whereas those that are less successful are not as capable of propagating their particular DNA and traits. Overtime, this process will happen many times and the overall traits in a species will change, usually continually toward those traits that make the species more "successful". The theory has been very controversial right from the outset, because it clearly contradicts the account of God's creation of the world and the creatures in it in the book of Genesis. This is because the theory of evolution contends that all living creatures have evolved from simple life forms, and that death was occurring regularly before mankind was created and therefore before the fall, which the Bible says was the starting point of all evil on Earth, including death, and that God created everything perfect. The aim of this debate is to discuss whether or not the theory of evolution is valid as a scientific theory and worldview.


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"Transitional" Species

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Pro

  • "No real proof of an animal ever changing into a different kind of animal." - There are hundreds of "transitional fossils", here is a list. Exactly how many fossils does someone need to find that are "transitional" before this is acceptable? If you don't want to look through the long list I point to the VERY notable example of dinosaurs to birds.
  • "Of the supposed "transitional fossils" that have been found, most of them have turned out to be frauds..." The two examples given (Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man) are indeed examples of fossils that were incorrectly classified. However, those two examples were both refuted by the scientific community, one 84 years ago (link) and the other 57 years ago (link). This hardly demonstrates that "most" transitional fossils are incorrectly classified. It also fails to address any one of the many examples in the list provided above, as neither one is on that list, nor is either one currently considered a transitional fossil.
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Con

  • No real proof of an animal ever changing into a different kind of animal. In fact, we know of hundreds if not thousands of species that have become extinct during recorded history, but how many animals do we know of, that have evolved during the same period?
  • Of the supposed "transitional fossils" that have been found, most of them have turned out to be frauds (such as "Piltdown man"), insufficient bones collected (a supposed "missing link" between apes and men in Nebraska turned out to be a pig's tooth), or otherwise explainable. In view of this, it would be rather foolhardy to assert that the fossil record actually supports evolution.
  • Dinosaur to bird evolution is often taken for granted as fact. However, scales and feathers share too few similarities to support this hypothesis- and no intermediate forms between feathers and scales have been found.
  • Perhaps the biggest problem with trying to use fossils to prove evolution is that there is more than one way of interpreting fossils. Fossils have no DNA so you can't get any genetic information from them, which would be a big help in solving this problem. However, similarity between fossils of different species can perfectly logically be put down to the two kinds having been created by the same God. So similarity between fossils of different species will only ever be able to undeniably prove macro-evolution if God's existence is categorically disproven- but God's existence should be debated on Debate: Atheism, not here, so as not to alienate any theistic evolutionists from this debate.
  • Because the list of supposed transitional fossils is so long, a list of refutations of them would also be to extensive to include in full in this debate, however, www.answersingenesis.org covers many explanations of these "transitional fossils". This includes cases such as archaeopteryx, hyracotherium, Lucy, etc. which support our claim that all of them are explainable without one having to resort to evolution.


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Scientifically Observing/Recreating Evolution

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Pro

  • "In fact, we know of hundreds if not thousands of species that have become extinct during recorded history, but how many animals do we know of, that have evolved during the same period?" - The length of time that life has existed on earth is VERY VERY much more then the length of time there has been recorded history. Compare about ~3,500,000,000 to ~10,000. They are VERY different things. BUT if you need something an easy example is plant polyploidy. There has also been speciation (or, in other words, "evolution") in fruit flies in a controlled experimental setting.
  • You have to define "major variation", and if you mean speciation, it's because it takes MANY generations. The fact is that cats+dogs+mice+cows simply have too long of a gestation and life-span for us to have watched them evolve in a controlled setting. We're talking thousands of generations, that is just impossible to do with those particular lifeforms. But as said above, it has been done in other lifeforms with much shorter lifespans.
  • The Con side needs to explain what it means when it makes statements such as "ones that increase the genetic information in the genome as opposed to deleting it or distorting it". "Information" needs to be defined. Which, for example, has more "information" out of the following; Hello or oiijhgfgkjhdgkjlbagkjhadffg? An argument can be made for either. More importantly, however, is the fact that this claim is simply nonsense. A number of mechanisms for increasing information exist. The most important is gene duplication, where a single gene is duplicated, and then one instance is subject to mutation. This process has repeatedly seen and is extensively documented, such as Brown et al's "Multiple duplications of yeast hexose transport genes in response to selection in a glucose-limited environment"[1], Lenski's E coli experiments[2] and Knox et al's Molecular evolution of bacterial beta-lactam resistance[3] among many others.
  • Creationists are unable to give any examples of limits on so-called "micro-evolution". Macro-evolution is simply micro-evolution plus time - there is no difference between the two mechanisms. The claim that "speciation has been observed, but has always involved distortion or deletion of genetic material, never an increase", is simply untrue and based on ignorance of the subject. The Con side is directed to the above links regarding gene duplication, an observed method of increasing the genetic material in a genome.
  • The Con side's garbled "how come we aren't all terribly mangled prokaryotes" strongly suggests that they lack a decent grounding in evolutionary theory. Mutations are not rated against some universal scale of benefit, but in terms of whether they are beneficial in a given environment, which is to say, whether they increase fitness. A mutation which which confers increased fitness in one environment may not be beneficial in another - it is not beneficial to be able to metabolise citrates if you live in an environment where there are none, for example.
  • We should also note that evolution occurs in populations, not individuals. An individual might well develop a mutation that is deleterious. If it is significantly deleterious, it is unlikely to live long enough to pass on its genese to offspring, whereas a beneficial mutation will, be definition, increase the likelihood of an individual surviving to pass on its genes. While there are indeed more deleterious mutations than beneficial (and considerably more neutral mutations than deleterious), it is obvious why we survive to become plumbers etc - because we are not descended from individuals that are not fit for their environment.
  • "The Jeudo-Christian suggestion of kinds" Aside from not being a legitimate hypothesis, the suggestion that a limited set of kinds existed before splitting into today's animal requires blistering levels of change. For example the type of changes from a common household cat to a lion in the few generations that can be squeezed into the biblical 6000 year old earth model requires far more rapid change than evolution. It is more damaging to the creationist position that no such rapid changes in wild animals have been observed in recorded history, suggesting that this change would have had to occur in around 4000 years.
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Con

  • The theory of evolution is based around the idea that creatures genetically mutate to survive better, but mutations (which are often caused by concentration of the gene pool due to competitors with less helpful-to-survival genes having died off) have actually only served to distort a species when they occur. Such disadvantages caused by mutations include things like spina bifida, cleft palate, and suchlike. Basically these deficiencies occur due to inbreeding, which the evolutionary process requires. So mutations would actually make animals less able to survive instead of more, which completely undermines Darwin's theory. Evolutionists claim that there are some mutations that have a positive effect on the creature in question, ones that increase the genetic information in the genome as opposed to deleting it or distorting it, but such mutations have never been observed in a living creature.
  • Since evolution would theoretically take so long to occur, there has been no recorded occurence of one species evolving into another in all human history. As skeletal "proof" of evolution can be otherwise explained as has been mentioned elsewhere in this debate, living proof is the only possible valid proof of the theory, however since the very time consuming nature of the theory cancels out the possibility of such proof being available, the theory is doomed to remain hypothetical forever. How can evolution be called scientific, empirical, or factual if it is merely theoretical?
  • We're not saying that species never go through any changes whatsoever (microevolution), we're only arguing that it is impossible for really drastic changes to happen. We aren't saying that mutations never occur, they obviously do, but they just never increase the information in the creature's genome. Speciation is not true macroevolution, as it doesn't necessarily involve an increase of information in the genome. As our opponents point out, speciation has been observed, but has always involved distortion or deletion of genetic material, never an increase.
  • Duplication does not add new information. If someone is unfortunate enough to be born with, say, an extra arm, this is only an extra copy of what genes were already there. Say if n is the original gene, there is a big difference between it being copied as nn to it's being copied as mn.
  • Not all creationists believe in the 6000 year old model of the age of the Earth. There are many who, while rejecting macro- evolution, believe that the "days" described in the Genesis account of creation were of an unspecified length. As for the example given that we've never seen wild cats evolve quickly into the domestic type- that is exactly what happened when we started selectively breeding them.
  • Descent from the fittest does not necessarily mean improvement. The fittest are those who have been least badly affected by mutations, not those who have developed entirely new features.
  • Evidence is neutral, and can be interpreted in more than one way. Macro evolution cannot be proved as it is an interpretation of history (where we came from) rather than an observable process like micro evolution. So the only way evolutionists can ever justify their theory is by pointing out similarities between different species. The creationist looks at the same similarities and says "They are similar because they were both created by the same God, as opposed to being biologically related." To prove or disprove either theory one would need a time machine.
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Evolution defying creatures

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Pro

  • Far from undermining so-called Darwinism, the Duck-Billed Platypus is emphatic evidence in support of it. The platypus is an example of allopatric speciation, where some populations from the same species become geographically separated from each other and undergo differing selection pressures. The platypus is a monotreme, a branch of species producing live young that split off from other live bearing species prior to development of true placental groups - Theria - (echidnas are the other main group that developed from the same common ancestor with the platypus)[4]. Based on fossil evidence, this happened somewhere between 19-48 million years ago[5]. The nested hierarchy of life, independently supported by morphological, genetic (a draft platypus genome was sequenced and published in 2008 in Nature) and biochemical evidence, all agree on the same nested hierarchy and the platypus' place within it, further supported by the fossil evidence (where it exists).


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Con

  • The Duck- billed platypus is an excellent example of a living creature which completely undermines Darwinism. Evolutionists theorise that some reptiles evolved into mammals whilst others became birds. The Platypus has somehow got traits similar to all three types of creature, but how how on earth can this be evolutionarily explained? By the time the supposed missing links between reptiles and birds and reptiles and mammals had developed the traits found in the Platypus' genome, the two species would obviously be unable to reproduce with one another, and could by no means therefore produce a creature capable of evolving into a Platypus. The only rational explanation for the striking similarities the Platypus, being a mammal, has with a duck, is that both creatures were separately designed by the same God.
  • Another thought provoker for evolutionists is the development of human languages. Their theory is that we all evolved from ape-like creatures, and therefore our languages must have developed from simplistic animal grunts and similar noises and became more and more complex over time, however there are two massive problems with this idea: firstly, it really doesn't take a genius to figure out that no known human language sounds a thing like animal noises, and secondly, the earliest languages we have records of are actually the most complicated ones, but they have all simplified over time, some quicker than others. A good example of this is writing systems- the oldest known writing systems are pictographic with a letter for every word instead of for each sound. A system such as this (they are still used today in China and Japan) naturally contains thousands of symbols, whereas most written modern day languages tend to use symbols that represent sounds and so are much easier to learn. There are many other examples of linguistic simplification, especially with regards to grammar- take Latin- it had a rather complex case system, but few of its descendants share this feature. How can Evolutionists explain what it was that reversed the trend of human language from complexification to simplification as soon as writing was invented?
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Geological Column

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Pro

  • "Geologic column is just impossible to explain. Why is it the layers in for example Grand Canyon, are virtually flat! Was there no erosion for millions and millions and millions of years?" - taking 10 seconds and one picture I see that it's not really that flat at all: [6]. In terms of the grand canyon, obviously there has been erosion, it's well accepted that the canyon itself was formed by the erosion due to the Colorado River.
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Con

See also

External links and resources:

Evidence for Truth: Science By Dr E.K. Victor Pearce

http://www.creationism.org/csshs/v06n1p25.htm http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/features/evolution-impossible?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=evolution-impossible http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/topic/probabilities


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