What are legitimate scientific challenges to evolution?

(SeanO) #1

Continuing the discussion from Are there legitimate scientific challenges to the Big Bang theory?:

@harrisrat @Jimmy_Sellers Since the topic of origins seems to diverge from Big Bang Theory, I figured it would be a good idea to start a new thread. @harrisrat had mentioned he had 5 questions he always asked evolutionists - perhaps you could list those here? My goal with this thread is simply to investigate the scientific challenges to evolution and discuss the validity of integrating it with Christianity.

Here are three Christian views of origins - only theistic evolution accepts macroevolution. The sites were originally listed by @Jimmy_Sellers.

Theistic Evolution

Reasons to Believe Model


(Arthur Tepichin) #2

@SeanO The best book I’ve read on this topic is Seven Days that Divide the World by John C. Lennox.

In conclusion, I submit that, far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point towards his existence, but the scientific enterprise itself is validated by his existence.
-John Lennox

Link to a short talk given by him below:


(SeanO) #3

@Tepichin Great recommendation! I read that book a little while back and really enjoyed Dr. Lennox’s candor and wisdom in navigating the Biblical story of creation and the evidence presented by science.

(Harris Ratnayake) #4

Thanks Sean for starting this thread. Here are my 5 questions. I would love to get comments especially answers from others. There are many more especially philosophical ones. But I usually start with these:

1.Why is it that out of perhaps millions of unique organs we have in living things we don’t have even one example of how any of them formed by evolution?

  1. Why no living intermediates? If A gave rise to Z through B, C, D etc you would expect some of the B to Y to survive at least for some organisms. We have different species of the same genus living side by side so why not some of these other intermediates

  2. Prokaryotes to Eukaryotes: Prokaryotes have only a cell membrane and cell wall. No membrane bound organelles such as the nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes, Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum. Why don’t we see intermediates if one gave rise to the other?

  3. In sexual reproduction, every male and female species have to stay compatible as they evolve to be able to reproduce. Isn’t this a tall order to ask for mistakes in reproduction – which is ultimately what evolution is – to accomplish?

  4. Why are most organisms symmetrical? We have a face with a nose in the middle, a mouth underneath, two eyes and ears symmetrically placed, arms and legs symmetrically placed on either side of the body. If evolution occurred by trial and error shouldn’t we expect to see these organs in numerous places in our bodies sort of like an octopus? At least shouldn’t we expect to see the intermediate species having these organs in weird locations?

The thread previously mentioned I have on-going on Quora is at
See under the Erasmuth Wolf which is the sixth answer given for that question.

(Tim Behan) #5

[Wrote this earlier… only posting now so some of this may have already been mentioned.]

Hi Everyone… love these chats so really interested to see what comes up. Let me chuck a couple of thoughts I have on the topic.

Firstly, the most important question with Evolution is it’s beginnings. That is, if you believe in Evolution you must believe it started from a single point where life began. For me, this is where an Atheistic view of Evolution cannot stand up because, as far as I’ve read, there isn’t any scientific evidence proving that this is even possible. Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for a Creator” was very good on this point, I think. And the point is that if there can be no start, then it can’t have continued.

From a Christian perspective, you can obviously believe that the Evolutionary process was started and guided by God. I would have to have some serious convincing done personally for this to ring true with me, however, as I can’t really fathom why God would do that when he could just as easily create fully formed beings. It would also bring up some serious biblical queries with me around why Genesis is written the way it was if it wasn’t actually representative of the reality of events; how sin entered the world if not through Adam (and the subsequent NT references to this event and its final solution through Jesus). So while I admit that God could absolutely have done it this way if he wanted to, I’m far from being convinced that this is what happened.

My other question is not really based at scientific process, but simply to the evidence itself of transitional animals. Everyone non-Christian I ask about this says that the evidence is overwhelming, but I’ve never had one be able to give me any specifics. Darwin predicted that there would be a plethora (I love that word) of fossils that would back up his theory. But as far as I know there just isn’t anything there. I’ve seen a few quotes from people, but the general gist is covered by the one below:

“I fully agree with your comments on the lack of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. I will lay it on the line - there is not one such fossil…” - Dr Colin Paterson, Curator and Senior Paleontologist at the British National Museum

For me when discussing these ideas I always come back to origins because that is the firmest foundation to build on. No matter what process it took, as a Christian, you believe that God Created… and this makes sense of the evidence since life can’t have just sprung out of nothing. When discussing this with Atheists I’ve never had one give an answer that seems satisfactory to either me or them.

Anyway… enough from me. Look forward to what other people think.

(Arthur Tepichin) #6

I did find many aspects of the ark encounter very enjoyable. I got to spend a day there this past summer.

(Helen Tan) #7

Hi @SeanO, thank you for raising this discussion thread. Here’s a 5 minute video from astrophysicist Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, talking about Dark Energy:

Some key points are:

  1. Discovered in 1999, dark energy is seen to be responsible for the expansion of the universe, and makes up about 75% of all the stuff of the universe. It’s the energy embedded in the space surface of the universe in such a way that as the space surface of the universe expands, it progressively acquires more and more energy to accelerate that expansion which determines what kinds of stuff will form in the universe.

  2. Dark energy is extremely finely tuned. If it were more powerful, the universe would be expanding so rapidly that gravity would never be able to collect gas and dust to make galaxies, stars and planets. There would be no place for life to live. If it were a little weaker, gravity would collect all that gas and quickly compress it into nothing but black holes and neutron stars which have a minimum density of 2 billion tons per level teaspoonful. Molecules, atoms, protons and electrons can’t exist in that density and life would be impossible.

  3. What was astounding to astronomers was the degree to which dark energy has to be fine tuned to get planets and stars. You’ll have to fine tune it to the degree that exceeds the very best example of human engineering creativity and design (as seen in gravity wave telescopes) by 10 to the power of 97 times. The One that created space and time, and designed dark energy is a minimum of 10 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion times more intelligent and knowledgeable than the physicists who designed the gravity wave telescope.

  4. This Agent beyond space and time must be a personal being because only a personal being can manifest the attributes of intellect, knowledge, creativity and power and does it so many times better than us human beings that it eliminates the possibility that it’s the god of Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam. This is the God of the Bible.

  5. Even atheist theoretical physicists recognize the theological implications. Here are 3 quotes from a paper entitled “Disturbing implications of a cosmological constant” by Dylan, Kleban and Susskind : (a) “Arranging the universe as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.” (b) “An unknown agent [beyond space and time] intervened in the evolution [of the universe] for reasons of its own.” (c )“Perhaps the only reasonable conclusion is we do not live in a world with a true cosmological constant.” In other words, what they are saying is that dark energy must be wrong because if it’s real, we’re stuck with a real Agent beyond space and time. The irony is that this paper was released months before astronomers developed 9 independent observational demonstrations that not only is dark energy real, it’s the dominant component.

Do you think this provides a convincing argument to point to fine tuning by a powerful Creator for life to even exist? Have there been more recent discoveries on this subject? Looking forward to learning more about this.

(Anthony Costello ) #8

Great discussion. Actually Sean you beat me to the punch on this one. I had in mind exactly this topic for a new conversation. My approach here is a bit different, since I am interested in the epistemic process of how we might come to hold one of the three or four possible views a Christian might hold. It appears to me that there are three main views that a Christian could hold: Young Earth Creationism (e.g. AIG, CRI), Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creationism (e.g. Biologos, Faraday Institute) or some form of Intelligent Design that either is an Old Earth Creationist view or remains silent on the age of the earth (e.g. Discovery Institute, RTB). Some ID proponents also hold to common descent (Denton, Behe) while others might not.

I see faithful, Jesus-loving Christians in each of these camps even though the views are pretty much incompatible. Each camp has its own set of experts in the sciences and theological studies (e.g. Nathaniel Jeanson at AiG, Loren Haarsma and John Walton at Biologos, and others like Steve Myer, J.P. Moreland and Doug Axe either at or in fellowship with the Discovery Institute.) Thus, there are experts in each camp who also profess Christ. I would also add that there are folks like Jeff Schloss (Evolutionary Creationism) who maybe are spokespersons for a view but may not be attached to a particular ministry. Each camp, therefore, has scientists, philosophers and theologians involved in their ministry. At the same time it looks to me like the majority of experts are either in the ID camp or the Evolutionary Creationist camp, although perhaps the YEC camp is beginning to gain more experts.

The reason I am approaching this particular topic in this way, is that I am no scientist. I’ve tried to read “Darwin’s Doubt” and some other books of that nature, but when I get to the micro-biological, genetic, or paleological data it is not within my capacity to make a sound inference since I do not have the formal training to discern which conclusions seem more plausible or probable. Now, we all say that we don’t want to appeal to authority in order to ground our beliefs, but in reality, that is what was traditionally the case not only in the church, but broadly in human history. I think now more than ever, especially with the increased specialization and diversification within the academic world, we do have to at some point put our trust in this group and its spokespersons, or that group and its spokespersons. In a debate with Dennis Venemma, Nathaniel Jeanson pretty much made this point in his opening statement. In short, while I may be able to see how the conclusions of a particular view have theological implications, I cannot (apart from taking the time to actually become an expert) see if the steps leading from the evidence for that view to its premises and their logical connections are sound or not.

So, as far as I can tell from reading some material (usually from an ID perspective), and listening to some debates, and thinking philosophically and theological about some of the pertinent issues, all of these views can be reconciled with Scripture and a historical Christian faith, HOWEVER, Evolutionary Creationism (which holds to neo-Darwinian evolution as stated in the scientific textbooks) pushes the boundaries with regards to some of the major, historical Christian doctrines, most significantly the doctrine of original sin. The new book, edited by Steve Meyer and J.P. Moreland, points out many of the biblical and theological problems with the Evolutionary Creation/Theistic Evolution view. [See link below.]

However, it still looks to me that the weight of the evidence favors, minimally, common descent. Common descent also seems to be the major touchstone with regard to the doctrine of sin. As far as I can tell, there are three lines of evidence that point to common descent: 1) the paleoanthropological data, which seems to suggest some transitional structural forms, 2) the percentage of the genomic structure shared with chimpanzees and the great apes and 3) the non-functional genes that are the same in both chimps and humans. It is this last piece of evidence that seems to tilt the scale in favor of common descent over and above common design.

That said, there are still ways to defeat common descent. The only problem is they seem to involve extravagant metaphysical claims (something like Hud Hudson’s view in “Hypetime and the Fall”; see below) is logically possible, but to have to posit hyper-time as a metaphysical reality does seems a bit implausible. Finally, while I appreciate awesome metaphysics like Hudson’s that can salvage six-day literal creation, I am holding out for some kind of ID view that also casts doubt on common descent. There seems to be some moves happening in the scientific world that may make common descent look less viable, but that paradigm shift seems a ways off still. At the end of the day, however, when it comes to experts working at the highest levels of Philosophy of Science and Theology (e.g. Peter van Inwagen, Ian McFarland), most seem to be firmly in the Evolutionary Creationist (i.e. Theistic Evolution) camp.

So, all of this just to say that I find myself standing somewhat firmly in the ID camp with a Old Earth view and wanting to reject common descent for philosophical and theological reasons. At the same time I find myself having to hold a certain tension in my beliefs with regard to Theistic Evolution in general and common descent in particular. Also, I am wary of, yet open to some young earth creationism views. Epistemically this puts me in a rather uncomfortable place, because I simply have to withhold judgment on some pretty big issues.


P.S. I used the terms “Evolutionary Creationism” and “Theistic Evolution” synonymously above.

(Arthur Tepichin) #9


The group associated with the Ark encounter is “Answeres in Genesis” I have included a brief description of them(below) and the link goes to a more detailed view of how they “seek to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas”

The group describes itself with the following:

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics (i.e., Christianity-defending) ministry, dedicated to enabling Christians to defend their faith and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christeffectively. We focus particularly on providing answers to questions surrounding the book of Genesis, as it is the most-attacked book of the Bible. We also desire to train others to develop a biblical worldview, and seek to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas, and its bedfellow, a “millions of years old” earth (and even older universe).


(SeanO) #10

@harrisrat Great questions. I think that ever since Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, even he had trouble with #2 - the transitions have simply never been addressed in a meaningful way. The attempts to address them always involve lots of hand waving.

Could you explain #5 in more detail - I am not following - why would we expect intermediates to have organs in weird locations? Could you give an example transitional animal? I understand the general idea that intermediate species often could not survive without the organ / feature already fully developed. Is that what you are going for?

(SeanO) #11

@Tepichin Yes, the ark encounter is a very good exhibit - we just returned from there. We really liked the discussion of ancient flood myths that point to a real event in history.

I have been encouraged through AiG since my teenage years, but I do not like the fact that they sometimes make Old Earth Christians sound like people who have compromised God’s Word. I think there is room within the interpretation of Scripture for the earth to be old and I do not think it is good to ostracize Christians who believe in evolution, even though I think evolution is a failed theory. ICR is an affiliated organization (institute for creation research) - I have a few of their books on geology that are interesting.

(SeanO) #12

@anthony.costello I am encouraged by your honest inquiry into this matter. I think it is better not to have answers than to hold to answers without good reasons.

(SeanO) #13

@Helen_Tan That is a very interesting point - that design at the scale of cosmology can imply design in biology?

(Helen Tan) #14

Hi @anthony.costello, thank you for the comprehensive overview of this topic. I’m not a scientist but am here to learn more. From what I read and learned from the RZIM Academy Science Elective, the junk DNA argument used by evolutionists is becoming increasingly tenuous.

In particular, reference can be made to The ENCODE Project which was set up to identify all functional elements of the human genome in 3 phases, costing an estimated US$300 million. Phase II results showed that 80% likely reflects function while Phase III is expected to raise that to 100%. Quoting Eric Green, the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute:
During the early debates about the Human Genome Project, researchers had predicted that only a few percent of the human genome sequence encoded proteins, the workhorses of the cell, and the rest was junk. We now know that this conclusion was wrong. ENCODE has revealed that most of the human genome is involved in the complex molecular choreography required for converting genetic information into living cells and tissues .”

Do you think this sufficiently addresses the junk DNA argument?

(Helen Tan) #15

Hi @SeanO, I’m also thinking, perhaps simplistically, that if the universe is not made to support life in the first place, there would be no argument as to how it came about :))

(Arthur Tepichin) #16

@SeanO spot on as always! I couldn’t agree more!

(Helen Tan) #17

Hi @anthony.costello

I was wondering if you’ve come across Contested Bones, which was published in 2017 after 4 years of research into the primary scientific literature on bones thought to represent transitional forms between ape and man. It’s written by Dr John Sanford and Christopher Rupe. Here’s a summary found online:

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

For the last 150 years, bones and bone fragments have been used to promote the concept of ape-to-man evolution. One by one, these bones have been questioned, then challenged, and then have been either abandoned or simply put on the shelf. Tens of thousands of bones and bone fragments have now been catalogued, named, and often re-named. Some of these bones have been very strange indeed. Despite all this, the scientists who study these things now conclude that these bones DO NOT SHOW a clear progression from ape to man. All that is seen is a messy, tangled “bush” with no fossil trail leading to man.

What do the bones show? They show that there are basically two types of bones of interest— bones of the ape type (cataloged Australopithecus), and bones of the human type (cataloged Homo). There are no bones that are clearly transitional between the ape type and the human type.

As always, I look forward to more thoughts on this. Thank you.

(Shaun Thomson) #18

I find this topic one of the most interesting, but one of the most controversial when discussing it with anybody. It used to worry me that Darwinian Evolution was correct but I now hold that it does not have any theological implications for me if it is, or it is not.

If I am honest though, I still dont want it to be true.

I am comforted by the likes of Ard Louis, a professor of physics at Oxford who holds, like Francis Collins, to a theistic evolutionary account, in that it does not change what we believe in terms of salvation.

I have read Stephen C Meyers “Signature in the Cell” and “Darwin’s Doubt” and find the arguments incredibly compelling, not to mention the attractiveness of his very humble and polite demeanor. The Cambrian explosion, complexity of the cell and unfathomable probabilities of producing anything like a protein by chance, never mind a replicating molecule, rings alarm bells in favour of design. Likewise, the lack of intermediates and pre-Cambrian fossils swings me toward believing common decent is not true. Doug Axe, the author of “Undeniable”, also published a number of papers on protein folds etc… whilst working in molecular labs in Cambridge, making it look even more improbable of producing anything by chance.

My worry is that not many academics are willing to come out to discuss it due to an orthodoxy in the sciences described by David Berlinksi in “The Devils Delusion” as well as in the film “Expelled”. We all know how difficult it has been for Behe, Meyer etc…In John Lennox book “Has Science Buried God” he even wrote his own obituary:

“Here lies the body of John Lennox. You ask me why he’s in this box? He died of something worse than pox, On Darwinism – heterodox.”

It makes me laugh but you can see the obvious pains it takes to stand up and question Darwinism. As J.Y Chen said whilst visiting Washington in 1999 to discuss his Cambrian finds in ChengJiang:

‘In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America you can criticize the government, but not Darwin."

My comfort comes from knowing that this is not even close to being a fact. Too many people have questions and there exists too many unknowns. Even just this year there was a paper published in the journal of biophysics and molecular biology entitled "Cause of Cambrian Explosion - Terrestrial or Cosmic?).

(Steele, E.J., et al., Cause of Cambrian Explosion - Terrestrial or Cosmic?, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.03.004)

Wow…they are still promoting panspermia! Sure, this is on origins and not evolution but it highlights that even secular academics will go to any length to not postulate God.

(Harris Ratnayake) #19

Evolution is supposed to have happened randomly and the trial and error method selected functioning organisms. So if an appendage sprouted out from a body it seems to me that there is no reason the other appendage should sprout out symmetrically from the other side of the body. It can sprout out anywhere. Hence the weird locations. Some of them would have died out because of the lack of functionality but there should be plenty that survived as long as it was somewhat functional. Evolution only requires good enough functionality not near perfect symmetry.

(SeanO) #20

@harrisrat That is an interesting point - what do you think the counterargument would be?


On the above forum the person made this point:

“In other words, the existence of conserved quantities in nature often leads to symmetries in nature. As to why these quantities are conserved, that would be question of a totally different nature, more a metaphysical question than a physical one.”

Interestingly enough - he still ended up pointing to the question of why properties are conserved - which points to a Designer.