Evolutionists and E x t r a p o l a t i o n

by Richard Peachey

[Featured as an advertorial in Cascade News, University of the Fraser Valley student newspaper, Sept. 17, 2009]

"Ex trap o • late": — To project beyond the range of known values on the basis of values already determined; to infer a possibility beyond the strict evidence of a series of facts, events, observations, etc.

When it comes to extrapolation, evolutionists are the undisputed experts! Within the evolutionary worldview there are three major components, and each one of them has been tainted by extreme extrapolation:

COSMIC EVOLUTION: If we allow that the universe seems to be expanding (based on one interpretation of the phenomenon of "red shift"), then the evolutionary cosmologist will grab that idea, throw it into reverse, and shrink the whole cosmos backward in time — to yield an infinitely hot, dense point much smaller than a proton!

(Furthermore, to obtain such a universe-producing particle in the first place requires outrageous extrapolation from the theoretical properties of "quantum fluctuations" calculated on the basis of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.)

CHEMICAL EVOLUTION: If we agree that chemical reactions involving simple gases can produce amino acids in the lab, then the evolutionary origin-of-life researcher will see no problem in principle with creating life in the test tube!

(Many years after his famous experiments of 1953, Stanley Miller confessed his disillusionment: "The problem of the origin of life has turned out to be much more difficult than I, and most other people, envisioned" [Scientific American 264(2):117, 1991].)

BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION: If we grant that the current generation of organisms does vary from the previous one, the evolutionary biologist will cheerfully amplify this admission into a process that, given billions of years, turns prokaryotes into people!

Leading evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins has written, "Most sceptics about natural selection are prepared to accept that it can bring about minor changes like the dark coloration that has evolved in various species of moth since the industrial revolution. But, having accepted this, they then point out how small a change this is. . . . But . . . the moths only took a hundred years to make their change. . . . just think about the time involved" (The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1986, p. 40).

Not all evolutionists, however, are as comfortable as Dawkins appears to be with the concept that it's reasonable (given lots of time) to extrapolate from small observed variations to much larger changes.

Molecular biologist Sean B. Carroll — praised by Skeptical Inquirer as "one of the leading biologists of his generation" (29[6]:49, 2005) — notes that not all scientists agree with Dawkins' viewpoint: "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" (Nature 409:669, 2001).

According to McGill University paleontologist Robert Carroll, ". . . large-scale evolutionary phenomena cannot be understood solely on the basis of extrapolation from processes observed at the level of modern populations and species." With reference to the "Cambrian Explosion," he states: "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" (Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15[1]:27f., 2000).

Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was North America's leading spokesman for evolution until his death on Victoria Day, 2002. In a memorable article titled "The Paradox of the Visibly Irrelevant," Gould showed that he also differed from Dawkins on this question: ". . . 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. . . . 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 the Galápagos Islands 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" (Natural History 106[11]:14, 64, 1998).

Not a lot has changed, it seems, since the renowned "Macroevolution" conference at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, where a wide range of scientific researchers exchanged views. "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, "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire." Science 2120:883, 1980).

Several years ago, evolutionist biology professor Robert Root-Bernstein gave this warning: "Unfortunately, there is no science of extrapolation. It is, at best, an art, and a highly fallible art at that" (Discover, November 1993, p. 44).

Good advice, professor! So I suggest we should all do our best to avoid being taken in by evolutionists who so often excel at s t r e t c h i n g the truth!

Richard Peachey is vice-president of the Creation Science Association of British Columbia. He was UFV's first science graduate (BSc, Biology and Chemistry, 1995), and the winner of the 1995 SFU Dean's medal for excellence in the faculty of science. Since 1996, to the dismay of some UFV instructors, Peachey has been a science teacher in the Abbotsford public school system.