One Man's Opinion On Evolution vs. Creationism
Paul V. Hartman
Evolution is the process whereby a group of living things of a particular type undergo change - with the passage of time and under certain influences - into a different group of living things. A presumption is often made (although there is no requirement that it be made) that the original group is somehow deficient in some character which the new group has acquired, or the new group has developed an enhanced ability to survive in a difficult environment, or some other feature. This is what is meant by the notion that evolution is equivalent to "progress", or by the notion that evolution represents survival of the "fittest". Neither of these notions is necessarily true, although the general sweep of evolution DOES seem to be in the direction of "progress" and in a better "fit" to the environment, especially when we consider that if the environment changes, which we know it will do, things which once had a "good fit" in the old environment may have a poor one in the new.
As a topic of scientific discussion, "evolution" is typically divided into "MICROevolution" and "MACROevolution."
MICROevolution is represented, for example, by the changes that occur in a particular breed of animal when a breeder makes a deliberate effort to mate a male and female with the intended
purpose of getting a particular feature, such as color, size, speed, or what have you. In nature, for one reason or another, we see microevolution at work without the participation of a breeder.
An example of this is the steady increase in the size of antlers in deer or moose, because they have "survival advantage". How? Because in the competition for mates, male deer and other antlered or horned animals with the largest antlers will be able to overcome smaller antlered males for the privilege of breeding with the "better" female deer (however deer may define "better").
Until the arrival of the rifle, the history of antler size was one of steady increase. But when the rifle arrived, suddenly very large antlers had a NEGATIVE survival advantage: hunters were either deliberately shooting deer because of the large size of the antlers, OR, deer with very large antlers would have greater trouble escaping through a thick grove of trees. Antler size, therefore, had become a compromise between what is desired to mate (go big) and to avoid being shot (go not so big).
MICROevolution occurs within groups of animals of the same species. A species is a group of living things which can breed among themselves, producing new individuals resembling the parents. There are many types of dogs, but all belong to the dog species. Therefore you can take two very unlike dogs, breed them, and get something with features of both, or maybe more one than the other, and whatever it is you get, it is still a dog. But you may not breed a dog with a
cat: a cat is a different species.
MACROevolution is change which occurs from one species to another, or more accurately, it is the process by which a species BECOMES another species. Most people talking about "evolution" are really talking about MACROevolution. Whereas MICROevolution is readily observable in the form of breeding experiments, MACROevolution has never been observed HAPPENING: there is no case
whereby scientific conditions have been arranged in order to get a known species to change into a "new" species while you watch, nor is the human life span long enough to observe such a sequence over a long period of time. All of the science about this process is based on fossils, for no better reason than that the fossils have made a recording of what happened while we were absent.
In the rocks are the skeletons or other evidence of critters that are no longer living. By studying the patterns and the ages of the rocks,
scientists have put together a THEORY, known as the Theory of Evolution. Briefly stated it is this: In the millions of years of life on this planet, living things have appeared, ultimately
changed into other living things, and then changed into other living things, in a vast parade over time, beginning with the simplest single cell organisms and, with time, steadily changing
into more "complex" living things, and then, in their turn (for the most part) dying out. Some experts in evolution would also argue that this long series of changes is also in the direction of "better" in addition to the direction of increasing complexity, although this is an arguable point.
Most evolutionists argue that MICROevolution, which is change that everyone understands because they can see it at work, is the best evidence for the validity of MACROevolution; macro is simply micro painted on a large canvas with the benefit of immense periods of time. But they also argue on the basis of fossils, which display the previous existence of billions of living things. There are at least 2 million known species in the world today, but 99% of all the species that have ever lived have long since died out. On the other hand, the appearance of new species in nature roughly equals the number of those which periodically go extinct. From the perspective of the evolutionist, the only thing certain in the history or future of all living things is to DIE OUT.
Evolution can be described with two attributes which at first seem contradictory: DIVERSITY and UNITY. Diversity because all species differ in some important features from others. Unity
because all living things share certain COMMON FEATURES. It is the presence of common features that evolutionists use to argue against Creation. The evolutionists argue that mammals evolved from reptiles, and that is why mammals retain some of the features of reptiles. And reptiles evolved from amphibians, which is why reptiles (and man) have some features in common with amphibians. And amphibians evolved from fish, and so on. If every living thing was Created, there would have been no need for any species to have anything in common with any other species, which they all obviously do.
The Creationist can argue that a Creator can make all things with common features, either for no reason at all, or, like General Motors, as an economy move, in selling Buicks and Chevrolets with some of the same parts but at different sale prices. The fly in this ointment is that some "left over" parts in subsequent species either have no use or are counterproductive. But in the various forms of life the exact same few fundamental "building blocks" or chemical entities appear, out of the many many more chemical entities in existence which have absolutely no role in living things.
One interesting question: what drives evolution? Why should living things, once in existence, change at all?
It appears to be this: with all living groups, more offspring are produced than can possibly survive. This group is composed of offspring with genetic differences, perhaps small, perhaps large. Some of the differences may afford a competitive advantage in, let us say, acquiring food. Chances are these individuals will survive when others don't, and in the process, pass on their "genes" to the next level of offspring. If so, the group may not "look" different, even if the genetic composition is different, although different looks often goes along with different abilities. With enough time, and enough changes of this type, the individuals of this group
might eventually share nothing, appearance wise, with the original parent group. However, the Species will not likely be different, as the changing group has continued to breed among themselves, re-distributing the characteristics which define the species. Unless an ISOLATION event occurs.
In the course of history, there are many opportunities - they seem often to be calamities - whereby a portion of a breeding group becomes separated - Isolated - from the main herd. A river might appear which divides the land into two groups. An earthquake may block a once-used mountain pass. Whatever: a small group loses its ability to continue to exchange genetic material with the large herd, and must exchange within a small herd. What happens here is that new changes in either group are no longer distributed among all. The two groups will now (likely) begin to diverge in visible character traits. It could take years, it could take centuries. It is much more likely if the two groups are now living in different environmental conditions, with different situations determining survival. With enough time, the two groups may become so different that a member of the isolated group, if re-introduced back into the larger herd, may not be able to breed with it. When this happens, the smaller group is said to have become a
new species, because we DEFINE a species as one which may breed only with members of its own group.
Creationists - by which I will simplify to mean those who believe that humans were created exactly as they are today, without having "ascended" from ape-like forms or any other living form - take the point of view that what appears in the Bible is True, and if Science is contrary, then Science is wrong. There are two traps here. The first trap is when the Bible scholar reads into a passage an interpretation that is not required for scriptural accuracy. The best known example of this involved the trial of Galileo, in which the (Catholic) church argued that its interpretation of the scripture was such that the Sun rotated about the Earth and not the other way around. Galileo had a telescope, and he knew it was the opposite. But the church insisted he recant his "heresy" or pay the penalty. (Prison, banishment, or death.) The church would
subsequently, sheepishly, drop its insistence on this orthodoxy, yet it was never scripturally necessary in the first place. Rather, it was faulty interpretation. A trap.
The second trap occurs when theologians attempt to argue science within the arena of Science. There are very few scientists who attempt to argue theology within the arena of Science, or
science within the arena of Theology. Within each discipline there are ground rules, and the Creationists, especially the ones who founded the various "creation research centers", regularly ignore the ground rules of science while in the arena of Science. In doing so they may convince others with limited scientific backgrounds as to the "validity" of their "science", but they will convince no true scientists.
Creationists begin with a bias, based on the Bible. The scientist begins with no bias, or perhaps the bias that if he studies a situation long enough, Science will reveal the underlying mechanism. The Creationist looks for evidence of creation, sifting the data, discarding what does not fit with the bias and accepting that data which supports it. The scientist looks for all evidence. No data is discarded. Some data may not "fit" a particular theory, in which case it is placed on a shelf under the title "Data which does not fit the theory." But it is not discarded. The Creationist is looking for Support. The scientist is looking for the Truth.
They may be the same thing, but along the road to discovery the Creationist will walk a straight path from A to Z whereas the scientist is likely to wander a meandering path, as theories gain strength on the basis of new data or are rejected.
The Theory of Evolution embraced by most scientists today is little different from the grand scheme announced by Charles Darwin in 1859, contained in the first paragraph of this essay. A
corollary of this Theory is that one of the products of this steady parade of living things was the animal we call Man, descended, or "ascended" if you prefer, from less complex things such as fish, amphibian, reptile, and ape.
The Creationist takes the position that since the Bible says that Man was created "in God's Image", it MEANS that man began just as you see him: upright posture, five fingers, five toes, capable of speech, visual acuity good in day but bad at night, and carrying around a useless organ called an appendix which occasionally would burst and kill him.
Call me Galileo, but I just don't think God looks anything like me, with or without an appendix. I don't know what "Image" means, in the sentence used above, but I'm quite sure it is not physical appearance. Maybe it has something to do with Spirituality, or some other feature beyond our level of understanding. Furthermore, call me an Artist, but I see more Majesty in life through evolution (an unfolding rose as seen in time-lapse video) than I see in static fiat creation (a rose as a single photograph).
So here's my theory: life was Created on earth, and let go. To do its thing. And millions of years later, there was this group of hairy tree dwellers which had "advanced" to the point where they could string together related notions: "If I put my hand in that tree stump I will get something sweet to eat but the little yellow things hovering around it will give me pain." Perhaps this same group had evolved the ability to think abstractly, and may have considered the question "Where did I come from?"
God stepped in and said: "These having sprung from the clay of the earth which I initiated, now will I make them over in my Image..." at which point, the ape became Man (but with no change in physical appearance) and acquired something which evolution was incapable of providing: Soul. Conscience. The "image" of God. And an ability to Contemplate the Spiritual world as well as the Physical, and the Creator of all of it.
That is Glory. That is Majesty. That is a Good Story. It fits with everything Science tells us about evolution. It may even be True.
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