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Could Life Originate by Chance?
WHEN Charles Darwin advanced his theory of evolution he conceded that life may have been “originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.”1 But present-day evolutionary theory generally eliminates any mention of a Creator. Instead, the theory of the spontaneous generation of life, once repudiated, has been revived in a somewhat altered form.
2 Belief in a form of spontaneous generation can be traced back for centuries. In the 17th century C.E., even respected men of science, including Francis Bacon and William Harvey, accepted the theory. However, by the 19th century Louis Pasteur and other scientists had seemingly dealt it a deathblow, having proved by experiments that life comes only from previous life. Nevertheless, out of necessity, evolutionary theory assumes that long ago microscopic life must somehow have arisen spontaneously from nonliving matter.
A New Form of Spontaneous Generation
3 A current evolutionary position on life’s starting point is summarized in his book, The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins. He speculates that in the beginning, Earth had an atmosphere composed of carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and water. Through energy supplied by sunlight, and perhaps by lightning and exploding volcanoes, these simple compounds were broken apart and then they re-formed into amino acids. A variety of these gradually accumulated in the sea and combined into proteinlike compounds. Ultimately, he says, the ocean became an “organic soup,” but still lifeless.
4 Then, according to Dawkins’ description, “a particularly remarkable molecule was formed by accident”—a molecule that had the ability to reproduce itself. Though admitting that such an accident was exceedingly improbable, he maintains that it must nevertheless have happened. Similar molecules clustered together, and then, again by an exceedingly improbable accident, they wrapped a protective barrier of other protein molecules around themselves as a membrane. Thus, it is claimed, the first living cell generated itself.2
5 At this point a reader may begin to understand Dawkins’ comment in the preface to his book: “This book should be read almost as though it were science fiction.”3 But readers on the subject will find that his approach is not unique. Most other books on evolution also skim over the staggering problem of explaining the emergence of life from nonliving matter. Thus Professor William Thorpe of the zoology department of Cambridge University told fellow scientists: “All the facile speculations and discussions published during the last ten to fifteen years explaining the mode of origin of life have been shown to be far too simple-minded and to bear very little weight. The problem in fact seems as far from solution as it ever was.”4
6 The recent explosive increase of knowledge has only served to magnify the gulf between nonliving and living things. Even the oldest known single-celled organisms have been found to be incomprehensibly complex. “The problem for biology is to reach a simple beginning,” say astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. “Fossil residues of ancient life-forms discovered in the rocks do not reveal a simple beginning. . . . so the evolutionary theory lacks a proper foundation.”5 And as information increases, the harder it becomes to explain how microscopic forms of life that are so incredibly complex could have arisen by chance.
7 The principal steps en route to the origin of life, as envisioned by evolutionary theory, are (1) the existence of the right primitive atmosphere and (2) a concentration in the oceans of an organic soup of “simple” molecules necessary for life. (3) From these come proteins and nucleotides (complex chemical compounds) that (4) combine and acquire a membrane, and thereafter (5) they develop a genetic code and start making copies of themselves. Are these steps in accord with the available facts?
The Primitive Atmosphere
8 In 1953 Stanley Miller passed an electric spark through an “atmosphere” of hydrogen, methane, ammonia and water vapor. This produced some of the many amino acids that exist and that are the building blocks of proteins. However, he got just 4 of the 20 amino acids needed for life to exist. More than 30 years later, scientists were still unable experimentally to produce all the 20 necessary amino acids under conditions that could be considered plausible.
9 Miller assumed that earth’s primitive atmosphere was similar to the one in his experimental flask. Why? Because, as he and a co-worker later said: “The synthesis of compounds of biological interest takes place only under reducing [no free oxygen in the atmosphere] conditions.”6 Yet other evolutionists theorize that oxygen was present. The dilemma this creates for evolution is expressed by Hitching: “With oxygen in the air, the first amino acid would never have got started; without oxygen, it would have been wiped out by cosmic rays.”7
10 The fact is, any attempt to establish the nature of earth’s primitive atmosphere can only be based on guesswork or assumption. No one knows for sure what it was like.
Would an “Organic Soup” Form?
11 How likely is it that the amino acids thought to have formed in the atmosphere would drift down and form an “organic soup” in the oceans? Not likely at all. The same energy that would split the simple compounds in the atmosphere would even more quickly decompose any complex amino acids that formed. Interestingly, in his experiment of passing an electric spark through an “atmosphere,” Miller saved the four amino acids he got only because he removed them from the area of the spark. Had he left them there, the spark would have decomposed them.
12 However, if it is assumed that amino acids somehow reached the oceans and were protected from the destructive ultraviolet radiation in the atmosphere, what then? Hitching explained: “Beneath the surface of the water there would not be enough energy to activate further chemical reactions; water in any case inhibits the growth of more complex molecules.”8
13 So once amino acids are in the water, they must get out of it if they are to form larger molecules and evolve toward becoming proteins useful for the formation of life. But once they get out of the water, they are in the destructive ultraviolet light again! “In other words,” Hitching says, “the theoretical chances of getting through even this first and relatively easy stage [getting amino acids] in the evolution of life are forbidding.”9
14 Although it commonly is asserted that life spontaneously arose in the oceans, bodies of water simply are not conducive to the necessary chemistry. Chemist Richard Dickerson explains: “It is therefore hard to see how polymerization [linking together smaller molecules to form bigger ones] could have proceeded in the aqueous environment of the primitive ocean, since the presence of water favors depolymerization [breaking up big molecules into simpler ones] rather than polymerization.”10 Biochemist George Wald agrees with this view, stating: “Spontaneous dissolution is much more probable, and hence proceeds much more rapidly, than spontaneous synthesis.” This means there would be no accumulation of organic soup! Wald believes this to be “the most stubborn problem that confronts us [evolutionists].”11
15 There is, however, another stubborn problem that confronts evolutionary theory. Remember, there are over 100 amino acids, but only 20 are needed for life’s proteins. Moreover, they come in two shapes: Some of the molecules are “right-handed” and others are “left-handed.” Should they be formed at random, as in a theoretical organic soup, it is most likely that half would be right-handed and half left-handed. And there is no known reason why either shape should be preferred in living things. Yet, of the 20 amino acids used in producing life’s proteins, all are left-handed!
16 How is it that, at random, only the specifically required kinds would be united in the soup? Physicist J. D. Bernal acknowledges: “It must be admitted that the explanation . . . still remains one of the most difficult parts of the structural aspects of life to explain.” He concluded: “We may never be able to explain it.”12
Probability and Spontaneous Proteins
17 What chance is there that the correct amino acids would come together to form a protein molecule? It could be likened to having a big, thoroughly mixed pile containing equal numbers of red beans and white beans. There are also over 100 different varieties of beans. Now, if you plunged a scoop into this pile, what do you think you would get? To get the beans that represent the basic components of a protein, you would have to scoop up only red ones—no white ones at all! Also, your scoop must contain only 20 varieties of the red beans, and each one must be in a specific, preassigned place in the scoop. In the world of protein, a single mistake in any one of these requirements would cause the protein that is produced to fail to function properly. Would any amount of stirring and scooping in our hypothetical bean pile have given the right combination? No. Then how would it have been possible in the hypothetical organic soup?
18 The proteins needed for life have very complex molecules. What is the chance of even a simple protein molecule forming at random in an organic soup? Evolutionists acknowledge it to be only one in 10113 (1 followed by 113 zeros). But any event that has one chance in just 1050 is dismissed by mathematicians as never happening. An idea of the odds, or probability, involved is seen in the fact that the number 10113 is larger than the estimated total number of all the atoms in the universe!
19 Some proteins serve as structural materials and others as enzymes. The latter speed up needed chemical reactions in the cell. Without such help, the cell would die. Not just a few, but 2,000 proteins serving as enzymes are needed for the cell’s activity. What are the chances of obtaining all of these at random? One chance in 1040,000! “An outrageously small probability,” Hoyle asserts, “that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.” He adds: “If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated [spontaneously] on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely out of court.”13
20 However, the chances actually are far fewer than this “outrageously small” figure indicates. There must be a membrane enclosing the cell. But this membrane is extremely complex, made up of protein, sugar and fat molecules. As evolutionist Leslie Orgel writes: “Modern cell membranes include channels and pumps which specifically control the influx and efflux of nutrients, waste products, metal ions and so on. These specialised channels involve highly specific proteins, molecules that could not have been present at the very beginning of the evolution of life.”14
The Remarkable Genetic Code
21 More difficult to obtain than these are nucleotides, the structural units of DNA, which bears the genetic code. Five histones are involved in DNA (histones are thought to be involved in governing the activity of genes). The chance of forming even the simplest of these histones is said to be one in 20100—another huge number “larger than the total of all the atoms in all the stars and galaxies visible in the largest astronomical telescopes.”15
22 Yet greater difficulties for evolutionary theory involve the origin of the complete genetic code—a requirement for cell reproduction. The old puzzle of ‘the chicken or the egg’ rears its head relative to proteins and DNA. Hitching says: “Proteins depend on DNA for their formation. But DNA cannot form without pre-existing protein.”16 This leaves the paradox Dickerson raises: “Which came first,” the protein or the DNA? He asserts: “The answer must be, ‘They developed in parallel.’”17 In effect, he is saying that ‘the chicken’ and ‘the egg’ must have evolved simultaneously, neither one coming from the other. Does this strike you as reasonable? A science writer sums it up: “The origin of the genetic code poses a massive chicken-and-egg problem that remains, at present, completely scrambled.”18
23 Chemist Dickerson also made this interesting comment: “The evolution of the genetic machinery is the step for which there are no laboratory models; hence one can speculate endlessly, unfettered by inconvenient facts.”19 But is it good scientific procedure to brush aside the avalanches of “inconvenient facts” so easily? Leslie Orgel calls the existence of the genetic code “the most baffling aspect of the problem of the origins of life.”20 And Francis Crick concluded: “In spite of the genetic code being almost universal, the mechanism necessary to embody it is far too complex to have arisen in one blow.”21
24 Evolutionary theory attempts to eliminate the need for the impossible to be accomplished “in one blow” by espousing a step-by-step process by which natural selection could do its work gradually. However, without the genetic code to begin reproduction, there can be no material for natural selection to select.
25 An additional hurdle for evolutionary theory now arises. Somewhere along the line the primitive cell had to devise something that revolutionized life on earth—photosynthesis. This process, by which plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, is not yet completely understood by scientists. It is, as biologist F. W. Went states, “a process that no one has yet been able to reproduce in a test tube.”22 Yet, by chance, a tiny simple cell is thought to have originated it.
26 This process of photosynthesis turned an atmosphere that contained no free oxygen into one in which one molecule out of every five is oxygen. As a result, animals could breathe oxygen and live, and an ozone layer could form to protect all life from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. Could this remarkable array of circumstances be accounted for simply by random chance?
Is Intelligence Involved?
27 When confronted with the astronomical odds against a living cell forming by chance, some evolutionists feel forced to back away. For example, the authors of Evolution From Space (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe) give up, saying: “These issues are too complex to set numbers to.” They add: “There is no way . . . in which we can simply get by with a bigger and better organic soup, as we ourselves hoped might be possible a year or two ago. The numbers we calculated above are essentially just as unfaceable for a universal soup as for a terrestrial one.”23
28 Hence, after acknowledging that intelligence must somehow have been involved in bringing life into existence, the authors continue: “Indeed, such a theory is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific.”24 Thus an observer might conclude that a “psychological” barrier is the only plausible explanation as to why most evolutionists cling to a chance origin for life and reject any “design or purpose or directedness,”25 as Dawkins expressed it. Indeed, even Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, after acknowledging the need for intelligence, say that they do not believe a personal Creator is responsible for the origin of life.26 In their thinking, intelligence is mandatory, but a Creator is unacceptable. Do you find that contradictory?
Is It Scientific?
29 If a spontaneous beginning for life is to be accepted as scientific fact, it should be established by the scientific method. This has been described as follows: Observe what happens; based on those observations, form a theory as to what may be true; test the theory by further observations and by experiments; and watch to see if the predictions based on the theory are fulfilled.
30 In an attempt to apply the scientific method, it has not been possible to observe the spontaneous generation of life. There is no evidence that it is happening now, and of course no human observer was around when evolutionists say it was happening. No theory concerning it has been verified by observation. Laboratory experiments have failed to repeat it. Predictions based on the theory have not been fulfilled. With such an inability to apply the scientific method, is it honest science to elevate such a theory to the level of fact?
31 On the other hand, there is ample evidence to support the conclusion that the spontaneous generation of life from nonliving matter is not possible. “One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task,” Professor Wald of Harvard University acknowledges, “to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible.” But what does this proponent of evolution actually believe? He answers: “Yet here we are—as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”27 Does that sound like objective science?
32 British biologist Joseph Henry Woodger characterized such reasoning as “simple dogmatism—asserting that what you want to believe did in fact happen.”28 How have scientists come to accept in their own minds this apparent violation of the scientific method? The well-known evolutionist Loren Eiseley conceded: “After having chided the theologian for his reliance on myth and miracle, science found itself in the unenviable position of having to create a mythology of its own: namely, the assumption that what, after long effort, could not be proved to take place today had, in truth, taken place in the primeval past.”29
33 Based on the evidence, the spontaneous generation of life theory appears better to fit the realm of science fiction than scientific fact. Many supporters apparently have forsaken the scientific method in such matters in order to believe what they want to believe. In spite of the overwhelming odds against life originating by chance, unyielding dogmatism prevails rather than the caution normally signaled by the scientific method.
Not All Scientists Accept It
34 Not all scientists, however, have closed the door on the alternative. For example, physicist H. S. Lipson, realizing the odds against a spontaneous origin for life, said: “The only acceptable explanation is creation. I know that this is anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject a theory that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports it.” He further observed that after Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, “evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit in with it.”30 A sad but true commentary.
35 Chandra Wickramasinghe, professor at University College, Cardiff, said: “From my earliest training as a scientist I was very strongly brainwashed to believe that science cannot be consistent with any kind of deliberate creation. That notion has had to be very painfully shed. I am quite uncomfortable in the situation, the state of mind I now find myself in. But there is no logical way out of it. . . . For life to have been a chemical accident on earth is like looking for a particular grain of sand on all the beaches in all the planets in the universe—and finding it.” In other words, it is just not possible that life could have originated from a chemical accident. So Wickramasinghe concludes: “There is no other way in which we can understand the precise ordering of the chemicals of life except to invoke the creations on a cosmic scale.”31
36 As astronomer Robert Jastrow said: “Scientists have no proof that life was not the result of an act of creation.”32
37 Yet, even assuming that a first living cell did somehow spontaneously arise, is there evidence that it evolved into all the creatures that have ever lived on the earth? Fossils supply the answer, and the next chapter considers what the fossil record really says.
What Does Genesis Say?
AS WITH other things that are misrepresented or misunderstood, the first chapter of the Bible deserves at least a fair hearing. The need is to investigate and determine whether it harmonizes with known facts, not to mold it to fit some theoretical framework. Also to be remembered, the Genesis account was not written to show the “how” of creation. Rather, it covers major events in a progressive way, describing what things were formed, the order in which they were formed and the time interval, or “day,” in which each first appeared.
2 When examining the Genesis account, it is helpful to keep in mind that it approaches matters from the standpoint of people on earth. So it describes events as they would have been seen by human observers had they been present. This can be noted from its treatment of events on the fourth Genesis “day.” There the sun and moon are described as great luminaries in comparison to the stars. Yet many stars are far greater than our sun, and the moon is insignificant in comparison to them. But not to an earthly observer. So, as seen from the earth, the sun appears to be a ‘greater light that rules the day’ and the moon a ‘lesser light that dominates the night.’—Genesis 1:14-18.
3 The first part of Genesis indicates that the earth could have existed for billions of years before the first Genesis “day,” though it does not say for how long. However, it does describe what earth’s condition was just before that first “day” began: “Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.”—Genesis 1:2.
How Long Is a Genesis “Day”?
4 Many consider the word “day” used in Genesis chapter 1 to mean 24 hours. However, in Genesis 1:5 God himself is said to divide day into a smaller period of time, calling just the light portion “day.” In Genesis 2:4 all the creative periods are called one “day”: “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day [all six creative periods] that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.”
5 The Hebrew word yohm, translated “day,” can mean different lengths of time. Among the meanings possible, William Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies includes the following: “A day; it is frequently put for time in general, or for a long time; a whole period under consideration . . . Day is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens.”1 This last sentence appears to fit the creative “days,” for certainly they were periods when extraordinary events were described as happening. It also allows for periods much longer than 24 hours.
6 Genesis chapter 1 uses the expressions “evening” and “morning” relative to the creative periods. Does this not indicate that they were 24 hours long? Not necessarily. In some places people often refer to a man’s lifetime as his “day.” They speak of “my father’s day” or “in Shakespeare’s day.” They may divide up that lifetime “day,” saying “in the morning [or dawn] of his life” or “in the evening [or twilight] of his life.” So ‘evening and morning’ in Genesis chapter 1 does not limit the meaning to a literal 24 hours.
7 “Day” as used in the Bible can include summer and winter, the passing of seasons. (Zechariah 14:8) “The day of harvest” involves many days. (Compare Proverbs 25:13 and Genesis 30:14.) A thousand years are likened to a day. (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8, 10) “Judgment Day” covers many years. (Matthew 10:15; 11:22-24) It would seem reasonable that the “days” of Genesis could likewise have embraced long periods of time—millenniums. What, then, took place during those creative eras? Is the Bible’s account of them scientific? Following is a review of these “days” as expressed in Genesis.
8 “‘Let light come to be.’ Then there came to be light. And God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night. And there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day.”—Genesis 1:3, 5.
9 Of course the sun and moon were in outer space long before this first “day,” but their light did not reach the surface of the earth for an earthly observer to see. Now, light evidently came to be visible on earth on this first “day,” and the rotating earth began to have alternating days and nights.
10 Apparently, the light came in a gradual process, extending over a long period of time, not instantaneously as when you turn on an electric light bulb. The Genesis rendering by translator J. W. Watts reflects this when it says: “And gradually light came into existence.” (A Distinctive Translation of Genesis) This light was from the sun, but the sun itself could not be seen through the overcast. Hence, the light that reached earth was “light diffused,” as indicated by a comment about verse 3 in Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible.—See footnote b for verse 14.
11 “‘Let an expanse come to be in between the waters and let a dividing occur between the waters and the waters.’ Then God proceeded to make the expanse and to make a division between the waters that should be beneath the expanse and the waters that should be above the expanse. And it came to be so. And God began to call the expanse Heaven.”—Genesis 1:6-8.
12 Some translations use the word “firmament” instead of “expanse.” From this the argument is made that the Genesis account borrowed from creation myths that represent this “firmament” as a metal dome. But even the King James Version Bible, which uses “firmament,” says in the margin, “expansion.” This is because the Hebrew word ra·qi′a‛, translated “expanse,” means to stretch out or spread out or expand.
13 The Genesis account says that God did it, but it does not say how. In whatever way the described separation occurred, it would look as though the ‘waters above’ had been pushed up from the earth. And birds could later be said to fly in “the expanse of the heavens,” as stated at Genesis 1:20.
14 “‘Let the waters under the heavens be brought together into one place and let the dry land appear.’ And it came to be so. And God began calling the dry land Earth, but the bringing together of the waters he called Seas.” (Genesis 1:9, 10) As usual, the account does not describe how this was done. No doubt, tremendous earth movements would have been involved in the formation of land areas. Geologists would explain such major upheavals as catastrophism. But Genesis indicates direction and control by a Creator.
15 In the Biblical account where God is described as questioning Job about his knowledge of the earth, a variety of developments concerning earth’s history are described: its measurements, its cloud masses, its seas and how their waves were limited by dry land—many things in general about the creation, spanning long periods of time. Among these things, comparing earth to a building, the Bible says that God asked Job: “Into what have its socket pedestals been sunk down, or who laid its cornerstone?”—Job 38:6.
16 Interestingly, like “socket pedestals,” earth’s crust is much thicker under continents and even more so under mountain ranges, pushing deep into the underlying mantle, like tree roots into soil. “The idea that mountains and continents had roots has been tested over and over again, and shown to be valid,” says Putnam’s Geology.2 Oceanic crust is only about 5 miles thick, but continental roots go down about 20 miles and mountain roots penetrate about twice that far. And all earth’s layers press inward upon earth’s core from all directions, making it like a great “cornerstone” of support.
17 Whatever means were used to accomplish the raising up of dry land, the important point is: Both the Bible and science recognize it as one of the stages in the forming of the earth.
Land Plants on Third “Day”
18 The Bible account adds: “‘Let the earth cause grass to shoot forth, vegetation bearing seed, fruit trees yielding fruit according to their kinds, the seed of which is in it, upon the earth.’ And it came to be so.”—Genesis 1:11.
19 Thus by the close of this third creative period, three broad categories of land plants had been created. The diffused light would have become quite strong by then, ample for the process of photosynthesis so vital to green plants. Incidentally, the account here does not mention every “kind” of plant that came on the scene. Microscopic organisms, water plants and others are not specifically named, but likely were created on this “day.”
20 “‘Let luminaries come to be in the expanse of the heavens to make a division between the day and the night; and they must serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years. And they must serve as luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to shine upon the earth.’ And it came to be so. And God proceeded to make the two great luminaries, the greater luminary for dominating the day and the lesser luminary for dominating the night, and also the stars.”—Genesis 1:14-16; Psalm 136:7-9.
21 Previously, on the first “day,” the expression “Let light come to be” was used. The Hebrew word there used for “light” is ’ohr, meaning light in a general sense. But on the fourth “day,” the Hebrew word changes to ma·’ohr′, which means the source of the light. Rotherham, in a footnote on “Luminaries” in the Emphasised Bible, says: “In ver. 3, ’ôr [’ohr], light diffused.” Then he goes on to show that the Hebrew word ma·’ohr′ in verse 14 means something “affording light.” On the first “day” diffused light evidently penetrated the swaddling bands, but the sources of that light could not have been seen by an earthly observer because of the cloud layers still enveloping the earth. Now, on this fourth “day,” things apparently changed.
22 An atmosphere initially rich in carbon dioxide may have caused an earth-wide hot climate. But the lush growth of vegetation during the third and fourth creative periods would absorb some of this heat-retaining blanket of carbon dioxide. The vegetation, in turn, would release oxygen—a requirement for animal life.
23 Now, had there been an earthly observer, he would be able to discern the sun, moon and stars, which would “serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Genesis 1:14) The moon would indicate the passing of lunar months, and the sun the passing of solar years. The seasons that now “came to be” on this fourth “day” would no doubt have been much milder than they became later on.—Genesis 1:15; 8:20-22.
24 “‘Let the waters swarm forth a swarm of living souls and let flying creatures fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.’ And God proceeded to create the great sea monsters and every living soul that moves about, which the waters swarmed forth according to their kinds, and every winged flying creature according to its kind.”—Genesis 1:20, 21.
25 It is of interest to note that the nonhuman creatures with which the waters were to swarm are called “living souls.” This term would also apply to the “flying creatures [that] fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse.” And it would also embrace the forms of sea and air life, such as the sea monsters, whose fossil remains scientists have found in recent times.
26 “‘Let the earth put forth living souls according to their kinds, domestic animal and moving animal and wild beast of the earth according to its kind.’ And it came to be so.”—Genesis 1:24.
27 Thus on the sixth “day,” land animals characterized as wild and domestic appeared. But this final “day” was not over. One last remarkable “kind” was to come:
28 “And God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.’ And God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:26, 27.
29 Chapter 2 of Genesis apparently adds some details. However, it is not, as some have concluded, another account of creation in conflict with that of chapter 1. It just takes up at a point in the third “day,” after dry land appeared but before land plants were created, adding details that were pertinent to the arrival of humans—Adam the living soul, his garden home, Eden, and the woman Eve, his wife.—Genesis 2:5-9, 15-18, 21, 22.
30 The foregoing is presented to help us understand what Genesis says. And this quite realistic account indicates that the creative process continued throughout a period of, not just 144 hours (6 × 24), but over many millenniums of time.
How Did Genesis Know?
31 Many find it hard to accept this creation account. They contend that it is drawn from the creation myths of ancient peoples, primarily those from ancient Babylon. However, as one recent Bible dictionary noted: “No myth has yet been found which explicitly refers to the creation of the universe” and the myths “are marked by polytheism and the struggles of deities for supremacy in marked contrast to the Heb[rew] monotheism of [Genesis] 1-2.”3 Regarding Babylonian creation legends, the trustees of the British Museum stated: “The fundamental conceptions of the Babylonian and Hebrew accounts are essentially different.”4
32 From what we have considered, the Genesis creation account emerges as a scientifically sound document. It reveals the larger categories of plants and animals, with their many varieties, reproducing only “according to their kinds.” The fossil record provides confirmation of this. In fact, it indicates that each “kind” appeared suddenly, with no true transitional forms linking it with any previous “kind,” as required by the evolution theory.
33 All the knowledge of the wise men of Egypt could not have furnished Moses, the writer of Genesis, any clue to the process of creation. The creation myths of ancient peoples bore no resemblance to what Moses wrote in Genesis. Where, then, did Moses learn all these things? Apparently from someone who was there.
34 The science of mathematical probability offers striking proof that the Genesis creation account must have come from a source with knowledge of the events. The account lists 10 major stages in this order: (1) a beginning; (2) a primitive earth in darkness and enshrouded in heavy gases and water; (3) light; (4) an expanse or atmosphere; (5) large areas of dry land; (6) land plants; (7) sun, moon and stars discernible in the expanse, and seasons beginning; (8) sea monsters and flying creatures; (9) wild and tame beasts, mammals; (10) man. Science agrees that these stages occurred in this general order. What are the chances that the writer of Genesis just guessed this order? The same as if you picked at random the numbers 1 to 10 from a box, and drew them in consecutive order. The chances of doing this on your first try are 1 in 3,628,800! So, to say the writer just happened to list the foregoing events in the right order without getting the facts from somewhere is not realistic.
35 However, evolutionary theory does not allow for a Creator who was there, knew the facts and could reveal them to humans. Instead, it attributes the appearance of life on earth to the spontaneous generation of living organisms from inanimate chemicals. But could undirected chemical reactions relying on mere chance create life? Are scientists themselves convinced that this could happen? Please see the next chapter.
Letting the Fossil Record Speak
FOSSILS are the remains of ancient forms of life preserved in the earth’s crust. These may be skeletons or parts of them such as bones, teeth or shells. A fossil also may be some trace of the activity of what was once alive, such as an imprint or trail. Many fossils no longer contain their original material but are made up of mineral deposits that have infiltrated them and have taken on their shape.
2 Why are fossils important to evolution? Geneticist G. L. Stebbins noted a major reason: “No biologist has actually seen the origin by evolution of a major group of organisms.”1 So, living things on earth today are not seen to be evolving into something else. Instead, they are all complete in form and distinct from other types. As geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky observed: “The living world is not a single array . . . connected by unbroken series of intergrades.”2 And Charles Darwin conceded that “the distinctness of specific [living] forms and their not being blended together by innumerable transitional links, is a very obvious difficulty.”3
3 Thus, the distinct varieties of things now alive offer no support to the theory of evolution. That is why the fossil record became so important. It was felt that at least fossils would provide the confirmation that the theory of evolution needed.
What to Look For
4 If evolution were a fact, the fossil evidence would surely reveal a gradual changing from one kind of life into another. And that would have to be the case regardless of which variation of evolutionary theory is accepted. Even scientists who believe in the more rapid changes associated with the “punctuated equilibrium” theory acknowledge that there would still have been many thousands of years during which these changes supposedly took place. So it is not reasonable to believe that there would be no need at all for linking fossils.
5 Also, if evolution were founded in fact, the fossil record would be expected to reveal beginnings of new structures in living things. There should be at least some fossils with developing arms, legs, wings, eyes, and other bones and organs. For instance, there should be fish fins changing into amphibian legs with feet and toes, and gills changing into lungs. There should be reptiles with front limbs changing into bird wings, back limbs changing into legs with claws, scales changing into feathers, and mouths changing into horny beaks.
6 In this regard the British journal New Scientist says of the theory: “It predicts that a complete fossil record would consist of lineages of organisms showing gradual change continuously over long periods of time.”4 As Darwin himself asserted: “The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, [must] be truly enormous.”5
7 On the other hand, if the Genesis creation account is factual, then the fossil record would not show one type of life turning into another. It would reflect the Genesis statement that each different type of living thing would reproduce only “according to its kind.” (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) Also, if living things came into being by an act of creation, there would be no partial, unfinished bones or organs in the fossil record. All fossils would be complete and highly complex, as living things are today.
8 In addition, if living things were created, they would be expected to appear suddenly in the fossil record, unconnected to anything before them. And if this was found to be true, what then? Darwin frankly admitted: “If numerous species . . . have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution.”6
How Complete Is the Record?
9 However, is the fossil record complete enough for a fair test of whether it is creation or evolution that finds support? Over a century ago, Darwin did not think so. What was “wrong” with the fossil record in his time? It did not contain the transitional links required to support his theory. This situation caused him to say: “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.”7
10 The fossil record in Darwin’s day proved disappointing to him in another way. He explained: “The abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear in certain formations has been urged by several paleontologists . . . as a fatal objection to the belief in the transmutation of species.” He added: “There is another and allied difficulty, which is much more serious. I allude to the manner in which species belonging to several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks. . . . The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the [evolutionary] views here entertained.”8
11 Darwin attempted to explain these huge problems by attacking the fossil record. He said: “I look at the geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept, . . . imperfect to an extreme degree.”9 It was assumed by him and others that as time passed the missing fossil links surely would be found.
12 Now, after well over a century of extensive digging, vast numbers of fossils have been unearthed. Is the record still so “imperfect”? The book Processes of Organic Evolution comments: “The record of past forms of life is now extensive and is constantly increasing in richness as paleontologists find, describe, and compare new fossils.”10 And Smithsonian Institution scientist Porter Kier adds: “There are a hundred million fossils, all catalogued and identified, in museums around the world.”11 Hence, A Guide to Earth History declares: “By the aid of fossils palaeontologists can now give us an excellent picture of the life of past ages.”12
13 After all this time, and the assembling of millions of fossils, what does the record now say? Evolutionist Steven Stanley states that these fossils “reveal new and surprising things about our biological origins.”13 The book A View of Life, written by three evolutionists, adds: “The fossil record is full of trends that paleontologists have been unable to explain.”14 What is it that these evolutionary scientists have found to be so “surprising” and are “unable to explain”?
14 What has confounded such scientists is the fact that the massive fossil evidence now available reveals the very same thing that it did in Darwin’s day: Basic kinds of living things appeared suddenly and did not change appreciably for long periods of time. No transitional links between one major kind of living thing and another have ever been found. So what the fossil record says is just the opposite of what was expected.
15 Swedish botanist Heribert Nilsson described the situation this way, after 40 years of his own research: “It is not even possible to make a caricature of an evolution out of palaeobiological facts. The fossil material is now so complete that . . . the lack of transitional series cannot be explained as due to the scarcity of material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.”15
Life Appears Suddenly
16 Let us take a closer look at the evidence. In his book Red Giants and White Dwarfs Robert Jastrow states: “Sometime in the first billion years, life appeared on the earth’s surface. Slowly, the fossil record indicates, living organisms climbed the ladder from simple to more advanced forms.” From this description, one would expect that the fossil record has verified a slow evolution from the first “simple” life forms to complex ones. Yet, the same book says: “The critical first billion years, during which life began, are blank pages in the earth’s history.”16
17 Also, can those first types of life truly be described as “simple”? “Going back in time to the age of the oldest rocks,” says Evolution From Space, “fossil residues of ancient life-forms discovered in the rocks do not reveal a simple beginning. Although we may care to think of fossil bacteria and fossil algae and microfungi as being simple compared to a dog or horse, the information standard remains enormously high. Most of the biochemical complexity of life was present already at the time the oldest surface rocks of the Earth were formed.”17
18 From this beginning, can any evidence at all be found to verify that one-celled organisms evolved into many-celled ones? “The fossil record contains no trace of these preliminary stages in the development of many-celled organisms,” says Jastrow.18 Instead, he states: “The record of the rocks contains very little, other than bacteria and one-celled plants until, about a billion years ago, after some three billion years of invisible progress, a major breakthrough occurred. The first many-celled creatures appeared on earth.”19
19 Thus, at the start of what is called the Cambrian period, the fossil record takes an unexplained dramatic turn. A great variety of fully developed, complex sea creatures, many with hard outer shells, appear so suddenly that this time is often called an “explosion” of living things. A View of Life describes it: “Beginning at the base of the Cambrian period and extending for about 10 million years, all the major groups of skeletonized invertebrates made their first appearance in the most spectacular rise in diversity ever recorded on our planet.” Snails, sponges, starfish, lobsterlike animals called trilobites, and many other complex sea creatures appeared. Interestingly, the same book observes: “Some extinct trilobites, in fact, developed more complex and efficient eyes than any living arthropod possesses.”20
20 Are there fossil links between this outburst of life and what went before it? In Darwin’s time such links did not exist. He admitted: “To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer.”21 Today, has the situation changed? Paleontologist Alfred S. Romer noted Darwin’s statement about “the abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear” and wrote: “Below this [Cambrian period], there are vast thicknesses of sediments in which the progenitors of the Cambrian forms would be expected. But we do not find them; these older beds are almost barren of evidence of life, and the general picture could reasonably be said to be consistent with the idea of a special creation at the beginning of Cambrian times. ‘To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system,’ said Darwin, ‘I can give no satisfactory answer.’ Nor can we today,” said Romer.22
21 Some argue that Precambrian rocks were too altered by heat and pressure to retain fossil links, or that no rocks were deposited in shallow seas for fossils to be retained. “Neither of these arguments has held up,” say evolutionists Salvador E. Luria, Stephen Jay Gould and Sam Singer. They add: “Geologists have discovered many unaltered Precambrian sediments, and they contain no fossils of complex organisms.”23
22 These facts prompted biochemist D. B. Gower to comment, as related in England’s Kentish Times: “The creation account in Genesis and the theory of evolution could not be reconciled. One must be right and the other wrong. The story of the fossils agreed with the account of Genesis. In the oldest rocks we did not find a series of fossils covering the gradual changes from the most primitive creatures to developed forms, but rather in the oldest rocks, developed species suddenly appeared. Between every species there was a complete absence of intermediate fossils.”24
23 Zoologist Harold Coffin concluded: “If progressive evolution from simple to complex is correct, the ancestors of these full-blown living creatures in the Cambrian should be found; but they have not been found and scientists admit there is little prospect of their ever being found. On the basis of the facts alone, on the basis of what is actually found in the earth, the theory of a sudden creative act in which the major forms of life were established fits best.”25
Continued Sudden Appearances, Little Change
24 In the layers above that Cambrian outburst of life, the testimony of the fossil record is repeatedly the same: New kinds of animals and new kinds of plants appear suddenly, with no connection to anything that went before them. And once on the scene, they continue with little change. The New Evolutionary Timetable states: “The record now reveals that species typically survive for a hundred thousand generations, or even a million or more, without evolving very much. . . . After their origins, most species undergo little evolution before becoming extinct.”26
25 For example, insects appeared in the fossil record suddenly and plentifully, without any evolutionary ancestors. Nor have they changed much even down to this day. Regarding the finding of a fossil fly that was labeled “40 million years old,” Dr. George Poinar, Jr., said: “The internal anatomy of these creatures is remarkably similar to what you find in flies today. The wings and legs and head, and even the cells inside, are very modern-looking.”27 And a report in The Globe and Mail of Toronto commented: “In 40 million years of struggling up the evolutionary ladder, they have made almost no discernible progress.”28
26 A similar picture exists for plants. Found in the rocks are fossil leaves of many trees and shrubs that show very little difference from the leaves of such plants today: oak, walnut, hickory, grape, magnolia, palm and many others. Animal kinds follow the same pattern. The ancestors of those alive today appear in the fossil record suddenly and were much like their living counterparts. There are many variations, but all are easily identified as the same “kind.” Discover magazine notes one such example: “The horseshoe crab . . . has existed on earth virtually unchanged for 200 million years.”29 Those that became extinct also followed the same pattern. Dinosaurs, for example, appear suddenly in the fossil record, with no links to any ancestors before them. They multiplied greatly, then became extinct.
27 On this point the Bulletin of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History states: “Species appear in the sequence very suddenly, show little or no change during their existence in the record, then abruptly go out of the record. And it is not always clear, in fact it’s rarely clear, that the descendants were actually better adapted than their predecessors. In other words, biological improvement is hard to find.”30
No Transitional Features
28 Another difficulty for evolution is the fact that nowhere in the fossil record are found partially formed bones or organs that could be taken for the beginning of a new feature. For instance, there are fossils of various types of flying creatures—birds, bats, extinct pterodactyls. According to evolutionary theory, they must have evolved from transitional ancestors. But none of those transitional forms have been found. There is not a hint of them. Are there any fossils of giraffes with necks two thirds or three quarters as long as at present? Are there any fossils of birds evolving a beak from a reptile jaw? Is there any fossil evidence of fish developing an amphibian pelvis, or of fish fins turning into amphibian legs, feet and toes? The fact is, looking for such developing features in the fossil record has proved to be a fruitless quest.
29 New Scientist noted that evolution “predicts that a complete fossil record would consist of lineages of organisms showing gradual change continuously over long periods of time.” But it admitted: “Unfortunately, the fossil record does not meet this expectation, for individual species of fossils are rarely connected to one another by known intermediate forms. . . . known fossil species do indeed appear not to evolve even over millions of years.”31 And geneticist Stebbins writes: “No transitional forms are known between any of the major phyla of animals or plants.” He speaks of “the large gaps which exist between many major categories of organisms.”32 “In fact,” The New Evolutionary Timetable acknowledges, “the fossil record does not convincingly document a single transition from one species to another. Furthermore, species lasted for astoundingly long periods of time.”33—Italics added.
30 This agrees with the extensive study made by the Geological Society of London and the Palaeontological Association of England. Professor of natural science John N. Moore reported on the results: “Some 120 scientists, all specialists, prepared 30 chapters in a monumental work of over 800 pages to present the fossil record for plants and animals divided into about 2,500 groups. . . . Each major form or kind of plant and animal is shown to have a separate and distinct history from all the other forms or kinds! Groups of both plants and animals appear suddenly in the fossil record. . . . Whales, bats, horses, primates, elephants, hares, squirrels, etc., all are as distinct at their first appearance as they are now. There is not a trace of a common ancestor, much less a link with any reptile, the supposed progenitor.” Moore added: “No transitional forms have been found in the fossil record very probably because no transitional forms exist in fossil stage at all. Very likely, transitions between animal kinds and/or transitions between plant kinds have never occurred.”34
31 Thus, what was true in Darwin’s day is just as true today. The evidence of the fossil record is still as zoologist D’Arcy Thompson said some years ago in his book On Growth and Form: “Darwinian evolution has not taught us how birds descend from reptiles, mammals from earlier quadrupeds, quadrupeds from fishes, nor vertebrates from the invertebrate stock. . . . to seek for stepping-stones across the gaps between is to seek in vain, for ever.”35
What About the Horse?
32 However, it has often been said that at least the horse is a classic example of evolution found in the fossil record. As The World Book Encyclopedia states: “Horses are among the best-documented examples of evolutionary development.”36 Illustrations of this begin with a very small animal and end with the large horse of today. But does the fossil evidence really support this?
33 The Encyclopædia Britannica comments: “The evolution of the horse was never in a straight line.”37 In other words, nowhere does the fossil evidence show a gradual development from the small animal to the large horse. Evolutionist Hitching says of this foremost evolutionary model: “Once portrayed as simple and direct, it is now so complicated that accepting one version rather than another is more a matter of faith than rational choice. Eohippus, supposedly the earliest horse, and said by experts to be long extinct and known to us only through fossils, may in fact be alive and well and not a horse at all—a shy, fox-sized animal called a daman that darts about in the African bush.”38
34 Placing little Eohippus as the ancestor of the horse strains the imagination, especially in view of what The New Evolutionary Timetable says: “It was widely assumed that [Eohippus] had slowly but persistently turned into a more fully equine animal.” But do the facts support this assumption? “The fossil species of [Eohippus] show little evidence of evolutionary modification,” answers the book. It thus concedes, regarding the fossil record: “It fails to document the full history of the horse family.”39
35 So, some scientists now say that little Eohippus never was a type of horse or an ancestor of one. And each type of fossil put into the horse line showed remarkable stability, with no transitional forms between it and others that were thought to be evolutionary ancestors. Nor should it be surprising that there are fossils of horses of different sizes and shapes. Even today, horses vary from very small ponies to large plow horses. All are varieties within the horse family.
What the Fossil Record Really Says
36 When we let the fossil record speak, its testimony is not evolution-oriented. Instead, the testimony of the fossil record is creation-oriented. It shows that many different kinds of living things suddenly appeared. While there was great variety within each kind, these had no links to evolutionary ancestors before them. Nor did they have any evolutionary links to different kinds of living things that came after them. Various kinds of living things persisted with little change for long periods of time before some of them became extinct, while others survive down to this day.
37 “The concept of evolution cannot be considered a strong scientific explanation for the presence of the diverse forms of life,” concludes evolutionist Edmund Samuel in his book Order: In Life. Why not? He adds: “No fine analysis of biogeographic distribution or of the fossil record can directly support evolution.”40
38 Clearly, the impartial inquirer would be led to conclude that fossils do not support the theory of evolution. On the other hand, fossil evidence does lend strong weight to the arguments for creation. As zoologist Coffin stated: “To secular scientists, the fossils, evidences of the life of the past, constitute the ultimate and final court of appeal, because the fossil record is the only authentic history of life available to science. If this fossil history does not agree with evolutionary theory—and we have seen that it does not—what does it teach? It tells us that plants and animals were created in their basic forms. The basic facts of the fossil record support creation, not evolution.”41 Astronomer Carl Sagan candidly acknowledged in his book Cosmos: “The fossil evidence could be consistent with the idea of a Great Designer.”