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Theory of evolution

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theory of evolution
A typical timeline showing the historical claims of the theory of evolution

The theory of evolution is an explanation for the existence of life on Earth through random, natural processes. More formally known as the General Theory of Evolution, it was defined by the evolutionist Gerald A. Kerkut as the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.[1] It is the idea that particles increased in complexity to form the building blocks of life, then the first cell formed, which ultimately gave rise to people, all without any need for an intelligent Designer. This is the concept that evolutionists really promote and creationists oppose.[2] It encompasses chemical evolution, the origin of life, biological evolution, and the common descent of all life on Earth.

The concept dates back to the ancient Greeks,[3] and was repopularized in modern times by naturalists such as Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin who provided the biological aspect with a mechanism (natural selection). Much of its theoretic development was based on philosophical materialism (matter is the only reality),[4] and it either implicitly or explicitly denies the existence of God (atheism).[5] As a worldview, it serves as the antithesis of religious creationism, and is supported evangelically today by what is known as scientific naturalism.[6]

Contents

Assumptions

The reconstruction of Nebraska man was based on assumptions of evolutionists of the time and alleged to be a missing link, but turned out to be a pig.

The general theory of evolution holds to the following historical claims:

  • Abiogenesis: That life on Earth arose spontaneously from non-living chemicals into an as-yet-undescribed self-replicating protocell.
  • Common descent: That all organisms on Earth are related to each other, and descended from a single spontaneously-formed protocell[7] which occurred billions of years ago.[8][9]
Evolution is not merely a biological theory of little significance. It is a world view—the world view diametrically opposing the Christian world view. Therefore Christians ignore it or compromise with it at great peril![10]

The general theory of evolution should not be confused with biological evolution, which is simply the process whereby characteristics change within a population over time. That populations change through time is a demonstrable, repeatable, observable fact acknowledged by both creationists and evolutionists. However, the ability of mutations to generate new genetic information is unsubstantiated, and common descent is a historical claim based on unfalsifiable philosophical assumptions. Creationists dispute these aspects of the theory of evolution.

The theory of evolution is a violation of well established scientific and natural laws, such as the law of biogenesis and the second law of thermodynamics. Thus, evolution is neither scientific nor natural. On the other hand, special creation also falls outside the natural and scientific realms but suggests that there are no other adequate models for the origin of life.

Sub-categories

Under the heading of the theory of evolution lie a number of distinct beliefs about its historical course and metaphysical nature.

Historical

The following are different views of the course of evolutionary history:

  • Gradualism: Historically, life evolved gradually through innumerable small changes and mutations;
  • Punctuated equilibrium: Historically, life evolved in brief spurts in response to environmental stress;
  • Macromutation: Historically, life evolved through a tiny number of enormous one-time mutations that created "hopeful monsters," which were then refined by natural selection to suit their environment.

Metaphysical

The following are different views of the metaphysical underpinnings of evolution:

  • Theistic evolution: Evolution was guided by God;
  • Deterministic evolution: The universe and life evolved as they did as a result of determined scientific laws; no other outcome was possible;
  • Spontaneous evolution: The universe and life evolved as they did due to chance random events; the observed outcome is only one of many that were conceivably possible.

Claims

Abiogenesis

Main Article: Abiogenesis

It is furthermore believed that life began as a result of spontaneous chemical reactions, which gave rise to a single ancestral cell known as the last universal ancestor. It is believed this hypothetical organism developed either here on Earth or elsewhere through a process commonly called abiogenesis, a strictly naturalistic process that states life can come from non-life. This is completely contradictory to what is already a very well established scientific law of biogenesis.

Descent of man according to Ernst Haeckel
Pedigree of Man, a lithography by Ernst Haeckel (1874)

Common Descent

Main Article: Common Descent

The theory of evolution purports that the process of biological evolution acting over hundreds of millions of years has given rise to the plethora of organisms on Earth, and therefore evolutionists believe that all lifeforms share a common ancestry.

Darwinists most often point to examples of supposed "homology" as proof of common descent. Because organisms possess a similar cellular makeup and morphological structures, it is argued that there are the result of a shared evolutionary relationship. Creationists instead assert that these traits are merely analogous and derived from being formed by the same creative mind. In reality, common descent is neither observable nor proven, but is nonetheless often touted as being a scientific fact.

Problems

Display at the Genesis Expo. Portsmouth, England.

Fossil Evidence

Darwinian evolutionists assert that the fossil record provides evidence that organisms have evolved over millions of years. This evidence largely comes in the form of the differential positions of fossils. Many organisms are typically found within a limited span of layers, and frequently above or below other specific fossils. This sorting is interpreted as the history of life on Earth, recorded within layers of rock that are believed to represent vast geologic ages. However, fossil sequences that demonstrate the slow and gradual evolution of organisms are conspicuously absent from the fossil record, and few transitional forms between the different types of organisms have been found. Therefore evolutionists have presented alternative theories, such as punctuated equilibrium to explain the absence fossil evidence for gradual darwinian evolution.

Similarly, supporters of ‘jerky’ evolution (saltationism and its relative, punctuated equilibria) point out that the fossil record does not show gradualism, and that the hypothetical transitional forms would be disadvantageous. But supporters of gradual evolution point out that sudden, large, information-increasing change is so improbable that one would need to invoke a secular ‘miracle.’ Creationists agree with both sides: punctuated evolution can’t happen, and gradual evolution can’t happen—in fact, particles-to-people evolution can’t happen at all![2]

Design

Darwin considered the evidence of advanced instinct in animals, even those newly born, and/or with young lifespans, a serious riddle for his theory of Evolution; one of its four major weaknesses.[11] Darwin devoted all of Chapter VII, "Instinct", in "On the Origin of Species," to addressing this problem.[12]

Equivocation

Meaning of evolution

Quote from: Refuting Evolution 2, By Jonathan Sarfati

It is vitally important that words such as "evolution" be used accurately and consistently...However, many evolutionary propagandists are guilty of the deceitful practice of equivocation, that is, switching the meaning of a single word (evolution) part way through an argument. A common tactic, "bait-and-switch," is simply to produce examples of change over time, call this "evolution," then imply that the GTE is thereby proven or even essential, and creation disproved.[2]

Fact or Theory?

Although advocates of the "theory of evolution" acknowledge that there many unexplained problems, the view is still considered a "fact" and taught at such in public schools. Note the following statements to the effect from Scientific American and Talk.Origins.

Evolutionary biologists passionately debate diverse topics: how speciation happens, the rates of evolutionary change, the ancestral relationships of birds and dinosaurs, whether Neandertals were a species apart from modern humans, and much more. These disputes are like those found in all other branches of science. Acceptance of evolution as a factual occurrence and a guiding principle is nonetheless universal in biology.[13]
Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution—genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc.—is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution. So evolution is both a fact and a theory.[14]

References

  1. G.A. Kerkut, Implications of Evolution (Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1960), p. 157.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sarfati, Jonathan. Refuting Evolution 2. Greenforest AR: Master Books, 2002. (p, 55)
  3. Evolution by The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  4. Materialism by All About Philosophy
  5. Scientific Creationism by Henry M. Morris. 1974., Master Books, Arkansas, p. 215.
  6. Review: Evangelists for Science by Edward J. Larson. Isis, Vol. 90, No. 3 (Sep., 1999), pp. 558-559
  7. Theobald, D.L., Nature 465, 219-222, (2010)
  8. Doolittle, W. Ford (February, 2000). Uprooting the tree of life. Scientific American 282 (6): 90–95.
  9. Nicolas Glansdorff, Ying Xu & Bernard Labedan: The Last Universal Common Ancestor : emergence, constitution and genetic legacy of an elusive forerunner. Biology Direct 2008, 3:29.
  10. Dr. Henry Morris, The Long War Against God, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989, p. 23
  11. Darwin, C.R. On the Origin of Species, 1st ed. London 1859, p. 6.
  12. Darwin, C.R. On the Origin of Species, 1st ed. London 1859, p. 208.
  13. 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense Scientific American, June 18, 2002.
  14. Frequently Asked Questions and their answers by Talk.Origins Archive

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