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Evolutionists’ Certainty Comes from Metaphysics, Not Science

Cornelius Hunter

Dennis Venema

We have seen here and here that a new book, Adam and the Genome, co-authored by theistic evolutionist Dennis Venema is influenced by the mythical Warfare Thesis.

The book, for example, informs readers that the basic issue of the 17th-century Galileo Affair was “the veracity of the new science, and its perceived threat to biblical authority.” As we saw, this is the false, evolutionary rendition of history. The Warfare Thesis is a myth, and the Galileo Affair is perhaps the favorite example for evolutionists.

After framing the discussion with this bit of Whig history, Venema introduces scientific evidences that he believes make evolution to be compelling. He begins with the fossil record. This is a bit surprising given how badly the theory fares on the fossil evidence. Later in the book Venema will state that according to evolution truly new features should be rare:

One of the things evolution predicts is that seldom will any feature in an evolutionary lineage be truly “new.” [37]

This is an example of an evolutionary prediction that has gone terribly wrong, and the fossil record gives a plethora of examples. As we have explained many times, the general character of the fossil record is precisely the opposite of what evolutionists had expected. Rather than the traditional evolutionary tree pattern of new species gradually appearing over time, the fossil record reveals the exact opposite. The strata show several bursts of new species appearing on the scene, followed by a winnowing.

This is upside down. Like a Christmas tree, you have a wide expanse of branches and twigs at the bottom, or beginning, and over time there is a narrowing as the species are lost to extinctions. Rather than a tree becoming increasingly wide over time from narrow beginnings, the strata often reveal the opposite pattern. Of course it is far more complicated than this simple analogy, but what is important is that the fossil record reveals so many “explosions” of new species. The so-called “Cambrian explosion” (yes, it is called an “explosion”) is the most famous, but there are several others. In these events, new species appear abruptly in the fossil record. Not only do a great many “truly new” features appear, but entirely new lineages appear as well.

Clearly, the fossil record repeatedly falsifies this prediction of evolution.

In a great example of confirmation bias, evolutionists often downplay the importance of these fossil data and the falsifications they present. In fact, sometimes these are ignored altogether.

And so it is with Venema’s treatment of the fossil record. He appeals to the general pattern of the fossil record, and to the specific example of the evolution of cetaceans. The latter is his primary example of why the fossil record is such strong evidence for evolution.

A collection of fossils can be arranged from land mammals to whales, which is precisely what evolution needs since whales are mammals. The idea is that mammals first evolved on land, and then certain species made their way back into the water, thus introducing mammals to marine environments.

Venema agrees that some of these fossil species may not be in the actual lineage leading to modern whales. That is good because the literature often illustrates these species as forming a clean, simple, lineage, from ancient mammals to modern whales.

While one may draw a line between the fossil species, the fact is there are many species suggesting more of a bush than a branch, and any such line is imposed onto the data rather than read out of the data.

And if these species did arise from evolution, and if the modern whale did arise from such a land-to-sea transition then, as usual, it would be quite a mystery. For a great transition, including the loss of hind limbs, grinding teeth, and pelvises, while developing a host of new features, must have occurred relatively quickly.

The new features include the fluke tail with its unique vertical propelling motion, the huge filter-feeding jaw, and the ability to give live birth and raise young in the marine environment. The latest entry to the community could swim, dive, and feed better than most fish and sharks. All sorts of evolutionary scenarios can explain why the whale acquired such advanced skills, but they are speculative. The whale’s aquatic prowess does not refute evolution, but it raises the question of how we can be so sure about the purported evolutionary change that is supposed to have created the whale.

Why then are evolutionists so taken with the patterns of the fossil record, and examples such as the fossil sequence that is supposed to lead to the whale? Yes, it provides a good sequence, but there are many questions of just how random mutations could accomplish such heroics. And there are the many other aspects of the fossil data that are problematic, such as the many “explosions.”

These are serious evidential problems, and it would seem the fossils would be the last thing to which evolutionists would appeal. What’s going on?

The answer is, as usual, that the evolutionist’s certainty comes from metaphysics, not science. The idea is not that the whale-like fossils prove evolution directly, but that they disprove any notion that God created them independently. Therefore they must have evolved. Venema makes several such arguments. Here is one of his passages (emphasis added):

Of course, some might argue that it simply pleased God, as Creator, to create a series of unrelated species at this time in earth’s history that happen to suggest an evolutionary relationship. Many Christians find this plausible; but note how this type of argument cannot ever be ruled out by additional evidence. Any additional such species we find in the fossil record would then merely be more separate species that God elected to create at this time. This explanation also leaves scientists bereft of a hypothesis to test with further research. If the species we observe in the fossil record are the direct, special creations of God, then we will not necessarily find a pattern in the fossil record. Faced with such an explanation, a scientist would not have the ability to make predictions about what should be found in the fossil record at certain times. [13]

Here Venema makes two strong arguments. First, there is is the classic argument from the intellectual necessity of evolution. Science, as Venema argues, won’t work with creationism. Venema explains that such creationism (i) is not vulnerable to the evidence, (ii) makes it impossible to form testable hypotheses, and so (iii) leaves scientists unable to make predictions.

These are arguments from the philosophy of science that mandate evolution. We must have evolution in order to do science properly. Creationism must be ruled out.

These metaphysics render the scientific evidence irrelevant and, ironically, make evolution untestable and not vulnerable to the evidence. Fossil species appearing abruptly in the strata don’t matter when your philosophical argument makes creation untenable. As usual, the evolutionary argument is guilty of the very criticism it casts.

Second, there is the age-old theological argument about how God would create the world. Rather than using patterns that appear arbitrary to us, God should fill the design space randomly.

Venema goes on to make the usual evolutionary arguments that the patterns we observe are unlikely. The evolutionary premise here is that the alternative to evolution is a random design of the species. For example, Venema writes:

The probability of mammalian characteristics (such as having hair and feeding their young with milk, as well as a number of defining skeletal characteristics) arising in a separate, unrelated lineage is a pretty big stretch. [14]

This argument hinges entirely on random design being the sole alternative to evolution. Either the species are designed randomly, or it’s evolution. This reasoning dates back centuries and, as Venema has explained, entails beliefs about how God would create the world. In other words, it is religious.

What if God would not necessarily create the species randomly? In that case, the evolutionist’s powerful argument absolutely fails. It would be fatal to the entire position.

In other words, the evolutionary argument entirely hinges on a silly, strawman claim about God.

In my studies of the arguments for evolution, I find they fall into two broad categories: philosophical arguments about man, knowledge, and science; and religious arguments about God. In typical fashion, Venema has appealed to both these long-standing categories of strong arguments for evolution.

If the evolutionist’s premises are correct, then evolution is a no-brainer. We must be evolutionists — regardless of the scientific evidence. The species arising from random causes, such as mutations, makes no sense scientifically, but would be a must. As usual the religion and philosophy steer the science.

This new book is yet another example, in a long line of works going back to Darwin and before, of how evolution is our modern-day mythology. New species appearing out of nowhere. Fantastic designs arising from random mutations. And all of this mandated to be a fact. If you cannot see a problem with this, then you must be an Epicurean.

Photo: 50-million-year old Dorudon skeleton, Wadi al-Hitan, by Further to Fly [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Cornelius G. Hunter

Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Cornelius G. Hunter is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he earned a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology. He is Adjunct Professor at Biola University and author of the award-winning Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil. Hunter’s other books include Darwin’s Proof, and his newest book Science’s Blind Spot (Baker/Brazos Press). Dr. Hunter's interest in the theory of evolution involves the historical and theological, as well as scientific, aspects of the theory. His blog is Darwin's God.



creationismDennis VenemaEpicureanismevolutiontheologyWarfare Thesiswhale evolution