Evolution Icon Evolution

The Evolution Revolution: Physicist Lee Spetner Shows Why Convergence Challenges Neo-Darwinian Evolution

ter.jpgMany ENV readers might have read, or at least heard of, a well-argued 1996 book by Lee Spetner, Not By Chance. Spetner, who holds a PhD in physics from MIT, has recently published a sequel titled The Evolution Revolution: Why Thinking People Are Rethinking the Theory of Evolution (Judaica Press, 2014). The new book provides some wonderful arguments that challenge common descent and neo-Darwinian explanations of evolution.

Spetner goes through many examples of non-random evolutionary changes that cannot be explained in a Darwinian framework. He covers some of the natural genetic engineering mechanisms reported by James Shapiro, which can modify an organism’s genome during a period of stress. Of course the big criticism of Shapiro’s arguments is that he never explains how those “natural genetic engineering” mechanisms arose in the first place. Whatever the case, these abilities appear to be built-in mechanisms designed to allow an organism to adapt to a changing environment. Spetner comments:

An organism thus has the built-in ability to adapt to a new environment heritably by altering its DNA. These adaptations occur just when they are needed, because they are triggered by an input from the new environment. Since they are triggered by the environment, their occurrence in a population s not rare. They will occur in a large fraction of the population, leading to rapid evolutionary changes — possibly even in one generation! If such adaptive changes had to be achieved by random DNA copying errors (point mutations), they would require long expanses of time, if they could be achieved at all. (p. 49)

Spetner thus proposes what he calls the “Nonrandom Evolutionary Hypothesis” (NREH) where changes in populations occur due to nonrandom processes, as if they are preprogrammed to evolve in certain ways.

One of the best examples he gives for his NREH is the prevalence of “convergent evolution” in biology. He argues that convergent evolution undermines the theory of common descent, and really doesn’t explain anything:

If comparing all possible biological features yields the same tree, then the tree could have some objective reality. Richard Dawkins (2009, pp. 321 ff.) offered what he calls “powerful evidence” for Common Descent based on the (presumed) existence of a phylogenetic tree. … An argument for Common Descent would be helped if anatomical data and molecular data would always lead to the same tree. However, the fact is they don’t. Phylogenetic trees based on different genes are known to give contradictory results. There was hope that the use of whole genomes, or at least large portions of genomes, for phylogenetic studies would resolve those contradictions, but that only made the problem worse.

The lack of uniqueness of the phylogenetic tree is usually explained away by what is called “convergent evolution.” Convergent evolution is the appearance of the same trait or character in independent lineages. It is, however, an invention. It was invented solely to avoid addressing the failure of phylogenetic trees to support Common Descent. There is no theoretical support for convergence, and whatever evidence has been given for it is the product of a circular argument. Richard Dawkins (2010) seems to revel in describing numerous examples of convergent evolution without realizing that any of those examples destroy his case for evolution.


Convergent evolution is the Darwinists’ lollapalooza. They made it up to keep their phylogenetic tree from falling apart, but they can’t say how convergence happens. As Joseph Keating (2002) wrote in another context, it is no more than a “pseudo-explanation, and may deceive us into believing we have explained some aspect of biology when in fact we have only labeled our ignorance.” (pp. 87-89, 92; internal citations removed)

Spetner goes on to list nearly six pages worth of striking examples of convergent evolution. You’ll have to pick up the book to get the full impact of this, but here’s a brief summary of a few highlights:

  • Similar physical mechanisms are used to transmit sound waves from the ear to the brain in both vertebrates and certain insects.
  • Unrelated frogs from Madagascar and India “converged” on similar morphological, physiological, and developmental traits.
  • Hawaiian honeyeater birds and Australian honeyeater birds look and act very similarly and thus were once classified together, but their DNA shows they’re not closely related and are “a particularly striking example” of convergent evolution.
  • Spetner writes: “Convergence is invoked for evolutionary similarities among the proteins in the venoms found in all animal phyla, including arthropods, cephalopods, and vertebrates.” (p. 95)
  • Spetner explains “The ATPase of the monarch butterfly and of the leaf beetle … are said to have arrived at the same ATPase molecule by convergent evolution.” (p. 96)

He concludes:

These examples are labeled “convergence” and are called “surprising,” “spectacular,” “remarkable,” and “striking.” They are “surprising,” but only under the neo-Darwinian paradigm. Under the NREH, they are not surprising but expected. (p. 145; internal citations removed)

Many other topics are covered in The Evolution Revolution. I highly recommend this short, up-to-date, well-informed, and well-written book for a review of some key, compelling evidence showing that species did not arise through neo-Darwinian mechanisms.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



convergent evolutionLee SpetnerscienceThe Evolution RevolutionViews