Author: Tom Shipley
If I was limited to recommending reading one, and only one, book about evolution among all the hundreds (or possibly thousands) of books on the subject published over the last 150 years, I would recommend Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis is a virtual tour-de-force, a juggernaut, and unquestionably a superb masterpiece of scientific polemics.
Aside from the sheer power of Denton’s internal argumentation, Denton is an agnostic and has the advantage of being immune from being accused of being a Bible-thumping, young-earth creationist. Not only is Denton an agnostic, he is an evolutionist. He is careful not to indulge in advocacy in the book, focusing instead upon negative critique of Darwinism, but to judge from certain remarks he has made he appears to lean towards Punctuated Equilibrium or some form of Vitalism, or a combination of the two, as an evolutionary model. Moreover, Denton made the remark somewhere that “evolution always hits her mark.” Clearly, such a statement eliminates the idea of random mutation and natural selection as driving forces of evolution. Denton may be an evolutionist but he is clearly not a Darwinist. Moreover, Denton is not an advocate of a young earth. He accepts the old-earth speculations of the evolutionists and uniformitarians apparently without dispute (and apparently without scrutiny–else he would not accept old-earth speculations).
The heart and soul of Darwinian evolutionary argumentation at its most basic and fundamental level is its’ deep taproot in comparative anatomy, specifically homology, that is to say the similarity in body plan and characteristics of various living creatures, the pentadactyl (five digit) design of the mammalian limb being the classic example. Denton comments:
“Since 1859 the phenomenon of homology has been traditionally cited by evolutionary biologists as providing one of the most powerful lines of evidence for the concept of organic evolution.”—pg. 143.
Upon superficial consideration the evolutionists have at least a plausible argument here. The pentadactyl (five digit) design of the human hand is, indeed, strikingly similar to the design of the limbs of many animals. Evolutionists have taken this fact and ran with it to argue that the similar design is indicative of common biological descent. Of course a plausible argument is not necessarily a correct argument.
Let me make an illustration. When I was a child, my parents took me and my sister to some sort of theme park. There was a re-creation of a log cabin from colonial America and a plaque with a story written on it. According to the plaque, the cabin was the home of a woman who was the only known person in all of human history confirmed to have been struck dead by a direct hit by a meteorite.
Even as a child, the extreme improbability of the event was astounding to ponder. Let me use this incident, and a second scenario, to make my point. Suppose you are driving deep in a rural area very far from a main road and your cell phone battery is dead. You’re lost. You have no charger for your phone. You have no navigation or map. You need directions from a local resident. You drive up into the driveway of a farm house. As you get out of your car and walk up to the front porch, you see a dead man in farmer’s clothes sprawled out on the ground with a large bloody hole in his chest. As you are staring stunned at the dead man, you see another man in a bright orange jumpsuit run out of the house with a rifle in one hand and a large wad of cash in the other hand. As he runs past you, you see the words “County Correctional Institute” emblazoned on the back of his jumpsuit. Now here is the question. How did the man lying on the ground die? Do you conclude that he was shot dead by the man in the bright orange jumpsuit? Or do you conclude that he was struck dead by a meteorite?
Now bear in mind, the meteorite theory is a plausible explanation. The explanation for his demise could plausibly be a direct hit by a meteorite. But a plausible hypothesis is not necessarily a correct hypothesis nor even the most likely hypothesis when all the facts are brought to bear on the subject. Our unfortunate farmer may even have been killed by some third unknown possibility. It is my contention that evolutionists’ assertion that similar features of living organisms (homology) indicates common descent is the equivalent of believing that the cause of death of our unfortunate farmer is due to a meteorite. The evolutionists are ignoring the man in the bright orange jumpsuit. Let me explain.
To get a clear sense of the significance of this subject, Denton quotes Darwin at length. Here is a portion of Darwin’s comments:
“We have seen that the members of the same class, independently of their habits of life, resemble each other in the general plan of their organization….What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of a bat should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include similar bones, in the same relative positions?…the kangaroo…koala…bandicoots…Australian marsupials…
“Professor Flower, from whom the statements are taken, remarks in conclusion, ‘We may call this conformity of type, without getting much nearer to an explanation of the phenomenon,’ and he then adds, ‘but is it not powerfully suggestive of true relationship, of inheritance from a common ancestor?’”—pg. 143, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, quoted from “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life,” 6th ed, 1962, Collier Books, pp 434-435
As I said above, this is the heart and soul, or the bottom line, if you will, of Darwinism. What the Darwinists had going against them in paleontology (the absence of intermediate forms in the fossil record), and animal husbandry (the empirical limits to variability within species), and biology (the impossibility of random processes producing multiple coordinated mutations) they seemed to possess in homology. But even at Darwin’s level of knowledge and logical inference, ought it not to have been glaringly obvious to Darwin that if common descent were true then ALL of the fields of science would have dovetailed to corroborate the thesis? This is the man in the bright orange jumpsuit. We need much more than homology to distinguish between common descent and a common Designer. So even with homology suggesting plausible evidence of possible common descent, homology would not be sufficient by itself. This is why I have asserted in another article, “The Speciousness of ‘The Origin’,” that Darwin’s evolutionary assertions were specious even in his own time. Moreover, homology, even considered standing alone, is both a kind of two-edged sword and a Trojan horse for evolutionists. What looked like a gift to evolutionists had a vast genetic horde of anti-evolution soldiers hiding inside. Denton observes:
“The same deep homologous resemblance which serves to link all the members of one class together into a natural group also serves to distinguish that class unambiguously from all other classes.”—pg. 155
The deep differences between classes of living organisms, which are comparable to light years of astronomical distances between galaxies, are just as striking as the similarities, and the similarities are just as equally attributable to intelligent design as they are to common ancestry. There is no way to empirically validate the one explanation over the other without corroborative evidence. Evidence from embryology or genetics could have bolstered evolutionary speculations to some degree but even if embryology and genetics had turned out as evolutionists had hoped (they didn’t), this still would not have been decisive for evolution. Favorable evidence of homology in embryology and/or genetics could not have disproved intelligent design, but evidence contradictory to evolution via non-homology in embryology and genetics can (and, in my view, does) conclusively falsify evolutionary speculations. The Evolution hypothesis requires systematic homology at the genetic and embryological level. If homology is not there in genetics and embryology, and systematically so, not just anecdotally, then natural evolution is empirically and demonstrably false. Denton quotes Sir Alister Hardy to this effect:
“The concept of homology is absolutely fundamental to what we are talking about when we speak of evolution—yet in truth we cannot explain it at all in terms of present day biological theory.”—pg. 151
And Denton notes himself:
“Clearly, such a trend carried to the extreme would hold calamitous consequences for evolution, as homologous resemblance is the very raison d’etre of evolution theory.”—pg. 154
For evolutionists, everything stands or falls with homology. Darwin and evolutionists after him had confidently expected that the study of embryology and the study of genetics would bolster evolutionary claims but this hope has been resoundingly dashed in pieces. The march of scientific progress in these fields has been very, very unfriendly to evolutionary claims, to understate the case.
“Homologous structures are often specified by non-homologous genetic systems and the concept of homology can seldom be extended back into embryology. The failure to find a genetic and embryological basis for homology was discussed by Sir Gavin de Beer, British embryologist and past Director of the British Museum of Natural History, in a succinct monograph Homology, an Unsolved Problem.”—pg. 145, emphasis supplied
“It appears that Darwin’s usage of the term ‘homology,’ which he defines in the Origin as ‘that relationship between parts which results from their development from corresponding embryonic parts’ is, as De Beer emphasizes, just what homology is not.
“The evolutionary basis of homology is perhaps even more severely damaged by the discovery that apparently homologous structures are specified by quite different genes in different species.”—pg. 149
“In the homology of living organisms we see conceptual design and “Over and over again, as knowledge of invertebrate zoology has increased over the past two centuries, structures of astonishing similarity which were first thought to be homologous were later found to be only analogous. In botany, too, homologous resemblance has often had to be later reclassified as convergence, or analogy.”—pg. 153
In the homology of living organisms we see conceptual design and common themes and hierarchical order, similarities in a way that automobiles or houses manifest the conceptual designs of their makers and are then translated into tangible similar objects. In the final analysis, homology is extremely damaging to evolutionary speculation and supportive of creationism. Nevertheless, evolutionists feel absolutely compelled to promote homology because it is so deeply rooted, indeed central to Darwinism, and entrenched historically in evolutionary speculation. Evolutionists are stuck with advocating homology as indicative of common descent whether they like it or not. I doubt if evolutionists will ever abandon the argument from homology. To do so means to concede that evolution has been conclusively falsified. They are tightly between a rock and a hard place on the issue of homology: the evolutionists are holding steadfastly to their meteorite explanation. That’s their story and they are sticking to it.
Homology is real and it is often astonishing. The homology we see in the natural world is an empirical fact, but we have no genetic or embryological basis consistent with common descent to account for it. There is no known natural reason for homology to exist, yet there it is staring us all in the face, as in the case of the pentadactyl limb. The collapse of homology as support for evolutionary claims also powerfully spotlights the order we see in nature via homology as being the imposition of mental or conceptual classifications upon the material biological world, in other words, an imposed order according to a plan. THIS IS DIRECT AND COMPELLING EVIDENCE OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN! Homology is the signature of God.