Debate: "Evolution versus Creation: War of the Worldviews!" (Richard Peachey's opening remarks)

On May 5, 2006, a debate was held at Langara College in Vancouver, BC, under the title "Evolution versus Creation: War of the Worldviews!" Scott Goodman argued the case for evolution on behalf of the BC Skeptics, and Richard Peachey, vice-president of the Creation Science Association of British Columbia, presented the creationist view.

Here are Richard Peachey's opening remarks:                                 Richardphoto1

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us in this forum on a topic that is critically important to us all.

Tonight I will argue that Evolution is a dreadful mistake, whereas Creation is obviously true.

My first point: Evolution is a dreadful mistake. I support this point with three subpoints: Evolution is not observed in the present; there’s no compelling evidence evolution has occurred in the past; nor could evolution ever happen at all — it’s simply impossible.

I define evolution, or the evolutionary worldview, as that belief system which includes the origin of the universe from nothing through a “Big Bang” with the subsequent formation of galaxies, stars, and planets through unsupervised physical processes; the origin of living cells through unguided chemical reactions; and the rise of biodiversity on planet Earth through only naturalistic mechanisms.

In other words, we can speak of Cosmic Evolution, or the origin and development of the physical universe; Chemical Evolution, or the origin of the first life; and Biological Evolution, or the rise, over long periods of time, of all Earth’s rich biodiversity. And the evolutionary worldview insists that all of this must arise through undirected, impersonal, mindless processes. In this belief system, either God does not exist or, if God does exist, then God is completely irrelevant to any serious study of the origins of the universe and life.

I take as my first point that Evolution is a dreadful mistake.

Subpoint Number One: Evolution is not observed in the present. What I mean is: evolution in any significant sense is not happening now.

Of course I know that populations of organisms do change over time. Allelic frequencies go up and down. Peppered moth populations have moved from mostly light-coloured to mostly dark — and then back again. In the Galápagos Islands, the average length of finch beaks might increase by a millimeter — or decrease, depending on weather patterns. Bacterial populations may grow more resistant to antibiotics.

Creationists deny none of these observed facts of science. But, ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that such changes are not evolution in any important sense.

Now, I’m fully aware that Darwinists will apply the term “evolution” to such changes; they will claim that evolution is simply “change over time.” You will often hear Darwinists using the term “microevolution” for these genetic fluctuations within a population — as if it’s only a hop, skip and a jump from there to proving so-called “macroevolution,” or large-scale evolution — “particles to people” evolution. If you agree finch beaks can increase by a millimeter, they’ll say, then you must also accept that bacteria can evolve into biologists.

It’s interesting that we can move from the word “microevolution” to the word “macroevolution” by a quick change of just one letter — and for many evolutionists, it seems the transition from the peppered moth story to large-scale evolution can be made just as easily! Evolutionists love extrapolating! They get themselves such an enormous return for their trifling investment of facts!

Niles Eldredge is a paleontologist, a fossil expert, at the American Museum of Natural History. In the year 2000 he published a book with the glorious title, The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism. Eldredge says this: “Microevolution and macroevolution differ only as a matter of scale. . . . there is utter continuity in evolutionary processes from the smallest scales (microevolution) up through the largest scales (macroevolution).”1

But the thing is, many of Eldredge’s fellow evolutionists don’t even agree with that claim! Sean Carroll is a geneticist who has been praised by Skeptical Inquirer magazine as “one of the leading biologists of his generation.”2 Here’s what Sean Carroll says: “A long-standing issue in evolutionary biology is whether the processes observable in extant populations and species (microevolution) are sufficient to account for the larger-scale changes evident over longer periods of life’s history (macroevolution). Outsiders to this rich literature may be surprised that there is no consensus on this issue, and that strong viewpoints are held at both ends of the spectrum, with many undecided.”3

In fact, Niles Eldredge’s old partner, Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard, was adamant in his opposition to Eldredge on this point. Gould declared: “One scale doesn’t translate into another.”4

By the way, the references for these quotations, and more quotations like them, are listed in the printed copy of my opening statement, available at the Creation Science information table.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that all these types of minor change within an interbreeding population provide no definitive help to evolutionists. These are mere horizontal changes, whereas what the evolutionist needs is to demonstrate vertical changes, the arrival of brand new structures, new functions, new and significantly different species. It’s easy enough to give examples of change through loss of information — for instance, that’s how some of the antibiotic resistance in bacteria is acquired. But evolutionists have yet to demonstrate significant gain of information or advances in complexity, such as the production of brand new organs or the arrival of a fundamentally different species. When I say evolution is not observed in the present, I mean we are not currently seeing the kind of change evolutionists need, to be able to prove what is really in dispute tonight.

So Subpoint Number One was: Evolution is not observed in the present.

Subpoint Number Two: There is no compelling evidence evolution has occurred in the past. Here I will treat just one of the arguments that evolutionists typically offer in support of evolution: the fossil record, which is said to document the evolutionary history of life. I argue that the fossil record does not provide compelling evidence for evolution.

Consider that the fossil record is a collection of fragmentary, often mangled and squashed remains of dead organisms. And a host of assumptions go into the often difficult work of interpreting any particular fossil. Misinterpretations and reinterpretations are common due to the limitations of the data.

A stunning example of this problem has cropped up within the last four years. Did you know that the entire first half of the fossil record is now up for dispute? All the fossils from 3.8 billion years old to 1.9 billion years old — half of the fossil record, chronologically speaking, according to the evolutionists’ timeframe — are currently under debate by paleontologists. Many fossils that leading scientists once advertised as “very convincing” and “compelling” have now been thrown into grave doubt.5

In addition to that very serious issue concerning difficulties of interpretation, the fossil record exhibits widespread gaps in terms of missing transitional intermediate forms, as Niles Eldredge has acknowledged in his recent book.6 As well, the fossil record includes the geologically “sudden appearance” of new forms, especially in the so-called “Cambrian explosion” which, Gould suggested, represented the arrival of virtually all animal phyla within a brief 6 to 10 million years. As Ward and Brownlee acknowledge, the Cambrian explosion is “not an obviously predictable outcome of evolution.”7

Besides those problems, the fossil record also shows long periods of “stasis,” or lack of directional change, as highlighted by Eldredge and Gould’s punctuated equilibrium theory, a theory which they invented to deal with those notorious gaps in the fossil record.8 It’s a little amusing because a primary feature of their new evolutionary theory is that: for the most part, real evolution doesn’t happen! That’s what “stasis” implies!

In 1981, zoologist Mark Ridley, at Oxford in those days, wrote: “. . . Darwin showed that the [fossil] record was useless for testing between evolution and special creation because it has great gaps in it. . . . no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.”9

In recent years evolutionists have talked a lot about such entities as “walking whales” and “feathered dinosaurs.” But keep in mind that those “walking whale” claims are less than five years old, and the “feathered dinosaur” stories are not yet ten years old. Give them a bit more time and they’ll fizzle out, as other evolutionary fossil claims have done in the past — such as NASA’s Mars rock,10 and National Geographic’s “Archaeoraptor,”11 and Pilbeam’s Ramapithecus,12 and Schopf’s famous Australian microfossils,13 et cetera, et cetera.

We’re told that science is a self-correcting discipline, which is true to an extent — but sometimes it can take a while. Evolutionary biologist Will Provine of Cornell University recently commented: “Most of what I learned of the field in graduate school (1964-68) is either wrong or significantly changed.”14

I conclude that the fossil record is not compelling evidence for evolution. We are entitled to remain skeptical.

Of course there are other evolutionary arguments, based on homologous structures, or embryology, or vestigial organs, or “junk DNA” — but all of these also are questionable. They all provide fertile ground for anyone who will dare to be skeptical of evolution. Several of these arguments are covered in the free articles that you can pick up from our Creation Science information table.

Well, so far I have argued that Evolution is not observed in the present, and that there is no compelling evidence it occurred in the past.

Subpoint Number Three is: Evolution could never occur at all — it is simply impossible.

I say that Evolution is impossible because the mechanisms evolutionists propose are anti-scientific. They will not work. Evolutionists propose to build complexity by using either miracles — which is obviously cheating, since they’re supposed to stick to naturalistic processes — or else their mechanisms are negative in the sense of being randomizing, destructive, expected to break things down rather than promote evolutionary advances. So, I repeat, their mechanisms are either miraculous, or negative (randomizing, destructive), and therefore unworkable.

First of all, ladies and gentlemen, consider the universe itself, with its magnificent array of galaxies, and especially our own solar system, and our planet Earth. All of this, says the evolutionary cosmologist, can be traced back to an uncontrolled explosion — the so-called “Big Bang,” an unplanned, destructive event — followed by unguided, materialistic processes which somehow crafted the vast and marvelous beauty we now see in the sky. And where did the “Big Bang” itself come from? For that, evolutionists bring in the word “singularity,” which means an event inexplicable by known laws of physics. In other words, it’s a miracle!

Secondly, think about a single living cell — a marvelously complex and intricate system. The first self-reproducing cell, says the evolutionary “origin of life” chemist, must have arisen simply from accidental motions of atoms plus raw energy from the Sun (or from volcanoes, or lightning) — that is, uncontrolled atoms plus unchanneled energy. Nobel laureate Francis Crick once wrote: “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”15 Almost a miracle! Biologist Massimo Pigliucci, writing in the Skeptical Inquirer, recounted Stanley Miller’s classic origin-of-life chemistry experiments, then he concluded: “Unfortunately, such experiments have not progressed much further than their original prototype, leaving us with a sour aftertaste from the primordial soup.”16

Thirdly, would you ponder the wonderful diversity of living things that we find in Earth’s biosphere. All of this, says the evolutionary biologist, arose through mutations — meaning unplanned changes in the DNA; really, a degrading of the cell’s information — plus natural selection — meaning the early deaths of lots of creatures, the weeding out of the unfit before they can reproduce. Mutations and natural selection — both are negative, destructive processes; they are not constructors of complexity.

So to sum up, the typical evolutionist claims that the universe and life — all of this beauty, this majesty, this ordered complexity — happened by itself through random motions of atoms and other naturalistic processes, by chance and necessity, without any requirement for intelligent guidance — no need for God.

I have argued so far that Evolution is a mistake. But it is more than that: it is a dreadful mistake, because it attempts to eliminate the Creator and rob him of his rightful glory.

Evolution is essentially and fundamentally atheistic. Richard Dawkins, currently the most famous atheistic evolutionist in the world, wrote in his best-known book, The Blind Watchmaker, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”17

Will Provine, the noted atheist and evolutionary biologist from Cornell University, has boasted: “Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism.”18

In 1998 a survey was taken of the spiritual beliefs of leading scientists: those who are members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The highest rate of unbelief was found among the biologists: a full 95.5% rejected belief in God, the majority of those being atheists and the rest calling themselves agnostics.19 [Please note correction: should have said "94.5%"].

If, as I have argued, evolution is mistaken, then it is not just a trifling academic error — it is a dreadful mistake, because atheists use evolution powerfully in their misguided attempts to dethrone the God of glory, the Creator of the universe, the one who made each one of us and to whom we are accountable.

And that brings me to my final point: Creation is obviously true. Richard Dawkins defines “biology” as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”20 Dawkins clearly sees design. But he dismisses it as mere “appearance,” and he thinks he can show that all this complexity arose through naturalistic Darwinian processes.

Another noted atheist and evolutionist is Francis Crick, who, along with James Watson, elucidated the structure of DNA. In his autobiography What Mad Pursuit, Crick gave this urgent advice: “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”21 It seems that Crick found the impression of design in organisms exceedingly strong! So he says, we must always be watchful to remind ourselves: it’s not design; it’s evolution!

Sounds like a case of denial to me. And it also sounds very much like what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians at Rome: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”22

In conclusion, I say to each person here tonight: it’s not enough to acknowledge that, OK, there may be evidence of a Creator, in terms of the beauty and complexity of life and the universe. And it’s not enough to merely agree to a skeptical reconsideration of evolutionary arguments. What each of us really needs is a total worldview makeover. So I urge you, go back to the Bible and read it with an open mind. Study the claims of Jesus Christ. Do the empirical investigation for yourself: “Taste and see that the Lord is good. . . .”23

Thank you.


For a hostile review of this debate speech, see the B.C. Skeptics' publication, Rational Enquirer, March 2007, pages 5-7, 10 <http://www.bcskeptics.info/re/2007.04_NL40.pdf>. [Note: this link is no longer functioning.] Make sure to compare the glib, dismissive comments offered by these secular critics, with what was actually said in the above speech!


References

1. Niles Eldredge. 2000. The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co. pp. 88, 119.

2. Sean B. Carroll. 2005 (Nov/Dec). “Endless Forms Most Beautiful: A New Revolution in Biology.” Skeptical Inquirer 29(6):49.

3. Sean B. Carroll. 2001 (Feb 8). “The Big Picture.” Nature 409:669. Other writers have made similar statements. For example:

". . . large-scale evolutionary phenomena cannot be understood solely on the basis of extrapolation from processes observed at the level of modern populations and species. . . . The most conspicuous event in metazoan evolution was the dramatic origin of major new structures and body plans documented by the Cambrian explosion. . . . The extreme speed of anatomical change and adaptive radiation during this brief time period requires explanations that go beyond those proposed for the evolution of species within the modern biota. . . . This explosive evolution of phyla with diverse body plans is certainly not explicable by extrapolation from the processes and rates of evolution observed in modern species. . . .” — Robert Carroll. 2000 (Jan). “Towards a new evolutionary synthesis.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15(1):27f.

". . . biologists have documented a veritable glut of cases for rapid and eminently measurable evolution on timescales of years and decades. . . . to be visible at all over so short a span, evolution must be far too rapid (and transient) to serve as the basis for major transformations in geological time. Hence, the ‘paradox of the visibly irrelevant’—or, if you can see it at all, it’s too fast to matter in the long run. . . . These shortest-term studies are elegant and important, but they cannot represent the general mode for building patterns in the history of life. . . . Thus, if we can measure it at all (in a few years), it is too powerful to be the stuff of life’s history. . . . [Widely publicized cases such as beak size changes in “Darwin’s finches”] represent transient and momentary blips and fillips that ‘flesh out’ the rich history of lineages in stasis, not the atoms of substantial and steadily accumulated evolutionary trends. . . . One scale doesn’t translate into another.” — Stephen Jay Gould. 1998 (Jan). “The Paradox of the Visibly Irrelevant.” Natural History 106(11):12, 14, 64.

"A wide spectrum of researchers—ranging from geologists and paleontologists, through ecologists and population geneticists, to embryologists and molecular biologists—gathered at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History under the simple conference title: Macroevolution. Their task was to consider the mechanisms that underlie the origin of species and the evolutionary relationship between species. . . . The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.” — Roger Lewin. 1980 (Nov 21). “Evolutionary Theory Under Fire.” Science 210:883.

4. Stephen Jay Gould. 1998 (Jan). “The Paradox of the Visibly Irrelevant.” Natural History 106(11):64.

5. J. William Schopf and Bonnie M. Packer. 1987 (Jul 3). “Early Archean (3.3-Billion to 3.5-Billion-Year-Old) Microfossils from Warrawoona Group, Australia.” Science 237:70-73; J. William Schopf. 1993 (Apr 30). “Microfossils of the Early Archean Apex Chert: New Evidence of the Antiquity of Life.” Science 260:640-646; Antonio Lazcano and Stanley L. Miller. 1996 (Jun 14). “The Origin and Early Evolution of Life: Prebiotic Chemistry, the Pre-RNA World, and Time.” Cell 85:793, 795; Rex Dalton. 2002 (Jun 20). “Squaring up over ancient life.” Nature 417:782-784; Martin D. Brasier, Owen R. Green, Andrew P. Jephcoat, Annette K. Kleppe, Martin J. Van Kranendonk, John F. Lindsay, Andrew Steele & Nathalie V. Grassineau. 2002 (Mar 7). “Questioning the evidence for Earth’s oldest fossils.” Nature 416:76-81; John Whitfield. 2004 (Jul 15). “It’s life . . . isn’t it?” Nature 430:288f.; Stephen Moorbath. 2005 (Mar 10). “Dating earliest life.” Nature 434:155. Moorbath, an Oxford geologist, writes: “To my regret, the ancient Greenland rocks have not yet produced any compelling evidence for the existence of life by 3.8 billion years ago. The reader is reminded that another debate on early life is currently in progress on 3.5-billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia, where chains of cell-like structures, long identified as genuine fossils, have recently been downgraded by some workers to the status of artefacts produced by entirely non-biological processes. . . . For the time being, the many claims of life in the first 2.0-2.5 billion years of Earth’s history are once again being vigorously debated: true consensus for life’s existence seems to be reached only with the bacterial fossils of the 1.9-billion-year-old Gunflint Formation of Ontario.” See also Andrew Knoll. 2005. Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 93.

6. Eldredge, The Triumph of Evolution, pp. 77f. Eldredge writes, “. . . there are all sorts of gaps: absence of gradationally intermediate transitional forms between species, but also between larger groups. . . . In fact, the higher up the Linnaean hierarchy you look, the fewer transitional forms there seem to be.” Eldredge then suggests Peripatus or the velvet worm as an apparent intermediate — although modern invertebrate biology texts will disagree with him — and then he says: “But few other phyla have intermediates with other phyla, and when we scan the fossil record for them we find some, but basically little, help.” Similarly, David Raup of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, stated: “The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information. . . .” — David Raup. 1979 (Jan). “Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology.” Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History 50:25.

7. Stephen Jay Gould. 1995 (Oct 26). "Of it, not above it." Nature 377:682; Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee. 2000. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe. New York: Copernicus (Springer-Verlag). p. 150. Ward is an evolutionary geologist and Brownlee is an evolutionary astronomer. Both are at the University of Washington.

8. Stephen Jay Gould. 1977 (May). “Evolution’s Erratic Pace.” Natural History 86(5):14.

9. Mark Ridley. 1981 (Jun 25). “Who doubts evolution?” New Scientist 90(1259):831.

10. Richard A. Kerr. 1998 (Nov 20). “Requiem for Life on Mars? Support for Microbes Fades.” Science 282:1398-1400. See also: Charles Seife. 1998 (Aug 8). “Money for old rock.” New Scientist 159(2146):20f.

11. Christopher P. Sloan. 1999 (Nov). “Feathers for T. rex?” National Geographic 196(5):98-107; Xu Xing. 2000 (Mar). (Letter). National Geographic 197(3):xx; Lewis M. Simons. 2000 (Oct). “Archaeoraptor Fossil Trail.” National Geographic 198(4):128-132; Storrs L. Olson. 1999 (Nov 1). Open letter to Peter Raven (National Geographic Society). <http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4159.asp>

12. Roger Lewin. 1997. Bones of Contention. 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 86, 123, 126f.

13. See footnote 5.

14. William B. Provine. “Teaching About Evolution and The Nature of Science (National Academy of Sciences): A Review.” <http://web.archive.org/web/20040709130607/fp.bio.utk.edu/darwin/NAS_guidebook/provine_1.html>

15. Francis Crick. 1981. Life Itself. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 88.

16. Massimo Pigliucci. 1999 (Sep/Oct). “Where Do We Come From? A Humbling Look at the Biology of Life’s Origin.” Skeptical Inquirer 23(5):24.

17. Richard Dawkins. 1987. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 6.

18. Larry A. Witham. 2002. Where Darwin Meets the Bible. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 23.

19. Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham. 1998 (Jul 23). “Leading scientists still reject God.” Nature 394:313.

20. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 6.

21. Francis Crick. 1988. What Mad Pursuit. New York: Basic Books. p. 138.

22. Romans 1:18-20, New International Version.

23. Psalm 34:8, New International Version.