What Evolution Can’t Explain

image-18_519e497b08bd4“Let me see if I understand,” I said to my daughter’s high school biology teacher. “The human eye is the evolutionary product of a light sensitive spot on the skin. Is that right?”

“Right,” she said.

“And by evolution, you mean a mindless, random process that didn’t really have an end in mind. In other words, there was no “designer” for the eye, or the body for that matter. Am I getting that right?”

“Right again,” she replied.

But how could an undirected process produce such highly functional complexity, I wondered aloud. She gave me a look that said, “you really don’t have the time or, probably, the background to understand, so do we really have to go there?”

We did, and I persisted, trying another tack that I had been wondering about for a while.

“Okay, well let me ask you just a few questions” I countered. “Would you agree that evolution as you understand it is a gradual process of adaptation over time, where changes that are advantageous accumulate?”

“Yes,” came her quick reply.

“Would you agree that over time these gradual adaptations would lead to the development of complex systems, such as organ systems?”

“Yes, that makes sense,” she said.

“Would you also agree,” I pressed, “that, generally speaking, the more complex the system, the longer it would take for these gradual adaptations to evolve, so that a complex system would take longer to evolve than a less complex system.”

“Yes.” The response was a bit slower, more thoughtful.

Shifting gears a bit, I asked, “In the field of human biology, would you agree that, generally speaking, the human female reproductive system is considerably more complex than its male counterpart?”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” she queried.

“Well,” I started, “the male half of the equation involves dividing cells to get to 23 chromosomes and providing a, uh, delivery mechanism. The female system involves the production of eggs, the delivery of the eggs to a specific location, the means for implantation, and if that occurs, the creation of a placenta that is fine tuned to support the development of the life that is growing. The whole system must work in conjunction with the woman’s body, provide for correction of any mistakes occurring to minimize miscarriages, screen the fetus from harmful substances in the woman’s blood, connect the fetus to the mother by means of a two way umbilical cord, and provide a method for the baby to be safely delivered into the world. More amazingly, the two systems must somehow recognize each other and work together, so that the 23 chromosomes from each half form a single cell that has the complete instructions for a new human life to begin. This seems like a pretty complex, interconnected and interdependent system requiring multiple components to work just right. And yet it does work right millions and millions of times.”

“I suppose there’s something to that, but” she hesitated, “what’s your point?” Her tone matched her more serious expression.

“Just this,” I responded. “What exactly were all those men doing generation after generation waiting for the first fully functional female to evolve?”

She stared at me, no doubt wondering whether I was trying to mock her. But, though my question was of course facetious, I wanted to know where my logic was flawed. After all, the premises seem valid. If designed, it makes perfect sense that God could create a system in which some parts are more complex than others, and still have them work together for a purpose. But how could mammalian sexual reproduction – involving separate male and female individuals -ever evolve simultaneously? I wanted to know where that very first human male and very first human female came from. She took a deep breath and began her answer…. and it didn’t have anything to do with God.

In my next post, I’ll outline her reply.

Posted by Al Serrato

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  1. J says:

    Very interesting argument, Al. I have never heard this one before. Would you please tell me your source?

    • Al says:

      John, I don’t have a particular source. Stephen Meyer’s books and earlier Phillip’ Johnson’s books on Intelligent Design got me thinking. I started trying to back extrapolate through time and the implausibility of the first two sexually reproducing mammals who were supposedly our progenitors just “emerging” from lower forms remained a sticking point for me. The system seems far too complex to believe it simply arose without massive intelligence and power somewhere behind it.

  2. CH says:

    Google Nova Intelligent Design on Trial .

    Scientific experts in support of intelligent design got the chance to defend ID in open federal court against eloquent scientific witnesses for the plaintiffs (anti-ID). The judge was a lifelong Republican and lutheran.

    Discovery Institute, which has taken over the anti-science mantle from the Institute of Scientific Creationism, even bailed out of the case, probably because they could see how the case would end before it even started. It was pitiful.

    Your daughter’s biology teacher probably should have told you that the science curriculum isn’t up for debate. In fact, she should have given you a homework assignment: Refute the case for Darwinian common ancestry on the following website: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html

    So–Let’s see you do it.

    • Al says:

      CH, federal courts decide controversies between parties by using a standard of proof. For example, a not guilty verdict decides a case but doesn’t mean that the defendant was innocent; just that it was not proved. Federal courts don’t get to make sweeping pronouncements about what scientific discoveries and they certainly don’t get to tell us how life originated. By the way, when you say that science isn’t up for debate, you’re tipping your hand. You should really try to keep an open mind when you assess the evidence. There a few too many questions that have not been answered to pretend that the final verdict is in.

      • CH says:

        As you can imagine, I have a number of issues with your reply. First and foremost, you completely sidestepped the extensive evidence for common ancestry provided by the nested pattern of endogenous retrovirus insertions in the genomes of humans and chimpanzees that I provided. This suggests that you aren’t really interested in the actual evidence for evolution, but rather you are more motivated by the fact that evolution offends your religious beliefs.

        This suspicion is further highlighted by your comment “Federal courts don’t get to make sweeping pronouncements about what scientific discoveries and they certainly don’t get to tell us how life originated” In the court case I alluded to, both the creationist side and the evolution side were allowed by the judge to make wide use of expert scientific testimony in order to establish the scientific validity of their respective cases, and the creationist side failed spectacularly. Furthermore, your statement that the courts “don’t get to tell us how life originated” demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of evolutionary theory–TOE makes no attempt to explain the origin of life, nor does it purport to.

        Likewise; you stated “By the way, when you say that science isn’t up for debate, you’re tipping your hand. You should really try to keep an open mind when you assess the evidence. There a few too many questions that have not been answered to pretend that the final verdict is in.” I didn’t say that science isn’t up for debate, I said the public school science curriculum isn’t up for debate. The evidence for TOE is solid and the school systems are in no way obligated to alter the science curriculum just because it offends your religious beliefs any more than they would be obligated to alter lessons in astronomy for a parent who believed in astrology.

        But if you’re as motivated by the evidence as you claim to be, then rebut that webpage I linked you to.

        • J says:

          Very quickly, let me reference an article to rebut your reference to an article: http://creation.com/large-scale-function-for-endogenous-retroviruses
          This is not meant to be an “end-all” as much dealing with DNA/RNA etc. (specifically ERVs) is relatively new to study and not fully understood. Arguing at the point that ERVs prove evolution is similar to claiming that rats from rags or flies from meat prove spontaneous generation. The more we learn of ERVs the more we find that the information contained in them is in fact necessary for many functions of life (including sexual reproduction, which brings us back to Al’s argument). Currently, scientists are unable to prove the origin of these segments of data, and thus postulate they are the result of evolution in order to prove evolution true and engage in circular reasoning. Within the next few year barring the Lord’s return, I fully expect the scientific community to find uses of many of these in humans that correspond to their use in animals God created with similar characteristics and thus show these to not be junk segments of information added in evolutionary process, but rather necessary data created originally with a purpose which they carry on today, as it seems recent study has already tended in that direction. Yet for either you or I to definitively state that scientists currently know one way or another is premature.

        • Al says:

          Evolution doesn’t offend me or my religious beliefs. I just don’t think the evidence supports your conclusion – or your willingness to silence dissent. And I’m still waiting for the answer to mu original inquiry. How did the first sexually reproducing mammals arise?

        • Kate says:

          Site specific integration of viral DNA can be easily accounted for. While most DNA is protected inside densely packed chromatin, a gene transcribed constituitively would be unwound and readily available for viral attack. Just as there are “hotspots” for mutation, there are sites on the genome that are more easily attacked. This could occur independently in many species.

    • Discovery Institute, which has taken over the anti-science mantle from the Institute of Scientific Creationism, even bailed out of the case

      Oh, dear God, here we go. Why does EVERY defender of Darwin’s relig… oops, Darwinian gradualism try to conflate the Discovery Institute with ICR? They are not the same organization, they are not the same people, they do not make the same arguments, they do not believe the same things. Their publications are not similar in any way. The Discover Institute is not even Christian; it’s a secular, scientific group.

      And yet, you guys who defend Darwin and his thesis all manage to get in the rhetorical dig that attempts to link one with the other.

      It’s grotesquely dishonest. And you all do exactly the same thing.

      It makes one think there’s actually a plan being executed. Could it be? Naaaah… Darwinian gradualism is SCIENCE, people don’t try to defend it using propaganda. Do they?

  3. RW says:

    Convincing someone to believe something different from what they believe is a futile effort. That being said, whether or not evolution is fact or fiction, this isolated article raises a very valid question. What answer can be given here from one who accepts evolution as fact? Replies seem to ignore the issue and point to other favored evidence. This is a dodge from the original valid question.

    • I says:

      Mammals evolved a long time after sexual reproduction did – look at how fish breed. The internal structures for carrying a child evolved much much later, well after the sexes were established. Same old story really, men did their bit early and then sat around doing nothing.

      • Al says:

        Ian, I’m afraid that really isn’t an explanation. Take a look at any text book regarding human reproduction. The coupling of the Apollo module and lander was an amazing feat of engineering for its time. It was child’s play compared to what a placenta and growing embryo are doing. No one would assume that two separate systems which work so well in unison just happened without the application of intelligence and energy. Yet you appear to believe that the passage of time is all that is needed for incredibly complex, interdependent functional systems to emerge.

  4. M says:

    I got through about two paragraphs of Capt. Howdy’s suggested light reading before throwing the dictionary across the room. Personally, I don’t understand how all the scientific hypothesis and theory combined serve to parry the mathematical impossibility of two separate, supposedly evolving mammals simultaneously, beneficially mutating without someone or something intelligent calling the shots. Forget human beings, how about the possibility of any one of the protein “machines” found in nature coming about through random, chance, accidental, serendipitous, processes. I’m pretty sure that if Darwin had the technology of our day, he would have used his notes for, not bathroom reading, but another common function of paper in bathrooms.

  5. O says:

    I agree, arguing with an atheist or agnostic is mute. Point him to his conscience. He knows there is a God. They hate the bible cause the bible lays down the law and they don’t want to be held accountable, but yet the bible does say we will be held accountable. Not only that, besides Al excellent post and the body being incredibly complex, without a mind behind it all, is it just coincidental that the body is in tune to what the earth provides it? I mean, how did it know to “evolve” lungs if it didn’t know about “oxygen” or what it does, or how did it know to “evolve” eyes knowing it didn’t know what “light” is or what it does? The digestive system and the way the body heals itself without you having to worry about it. Your body is constantly fighting off diseases on its own.

    Feelings, emotions, love are REAL. Why would it care whether you loved or felt anything at all?

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing – 1 Corinthians 1:18

  6. MF says:

    I would imagine that, in short, the response would be that the woman came first. Of course this presents a whole other set of questions and complexities. After all, if the woman came first, did man originate from her? If so, why was man needed since the woman obviously reproduced without him…. And so it goes on.

  7. Mark Yeager says:

    And, how did the soft eyeballs push their way into the hard bone of the skull and build themselves two perfectly DESIGNED sockets??? Then, attach their own muscles to the socket so that they could turn simultaneously??? Evolutionists are idiots who just want to deny there IS a Creator!


  8. The point, made in such an ingenuous manner in this post, is that the scheme of mutation/genetic drift and natural selection cannot explain biological systems that involve more than one being. Sexual dimorphism is just one example; how do the neo-Darwinians explain the emergence of the community cooperation of bees?

  9. Jim Mudge says:

    Hey Al
    Loved the post, more than anything gratified to see a former colleague so invested in apologetics. I trust all is well; I look forward to your continued works!

  10. Guido Roth says:

    Interesting article and point. The thing I began wondering is the fact that most sharks and snakes “lay” eggs, however there are several species of both that birth live young. (I know more about this, just thought I’d throw that bit out there) Also, as yet; there are no known bird species that deliver live young… just a thought!

  11. Jay says:

    Sexual reproduction did not start in humans. Sexual reproduction was around before us, so obviously our common ancestors already had female and male species before we were even here. The group of ancestors we evolved from and speciated away from already had both sexes so obviously we had them as we began as proto-homosapians were being made… Before that it could have started from Hermaphrodites, basically species which carry both sexual organs such as tapeworms which have penis fights to figure out which is going to be the male and which the female. Before that there most likely was self replicated animals through abiogenesis which does happen in extreme conditions in species present today. Or in the smaller scale if you want to go further back, smaller celled organisms dividing and budding into more new similar organisms.

    • Al says:

      And just how did these smaller celled organized divide and bud into newer organisms that eventually became sexually reproducing? The amount of information required to produce a smaller celled organism is itself staggering. To increase the complexity so that male and female corresponding sexually reproducing mammals “evolve” requires a mechanism capable of producing that effect. Claiming “evolution” over time hardly does justice to the amount of information packed into every strand of DNA.

  12. Deanna Wilson says:

    Hi, can you please send me a link to the teacher’s response?

    Thank you!

    Deanna Wilson

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