The Surprising Reason Why I Don’t Believe in Evolution

I don’t believe in evolution because I have never seen a monkey at the movies.

Excuse me?!

Allow me to unpack.

monkeys_ernestclineI am not scientifically trained; my last science class was in high school.  However, just as everyone is a theologian, forming interpretations and views and convictions about God (or not-God), so too everyone is a scientist, forming hypotheses and gathering information to confirm or challenge those theories.

That said, I have no lab work to back my findings.  I have not participated in an archaeological excavation or visited the Galapagos Islands.  I would jump at such opportunities, but those have not been my life.

My first thought on evolution: It is not a mere theory.

It is certainly a fact.

Excuse me again?!

You heard me rightly.

The movement, by small degrees, from state A to state B to state C is an undeniable reality. I am a different man today than I was yesterday or last year.  The world is changing, along with all of its parts.

In a sentence, I see evolution as a certain process, but not as a limitless process.

Many have used the phrases “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” to speak of the difference to which I’m alluding, while some feel clearer terms are needed.  (One such article is HERE, though I fear the author’s grudge with creationists has actually clouded his ability to express his point.)

Regardless of precise terms, my point of conviction is simply that some fences do exist.  The universe is not so fluid that any substance can become any other substance.  It appears woven into nature that THIS is THIS and THAT is THAT, and we live within a world comprised of a glorious variety of this-es and thats-es (to speak in the tongue of the esteemed Dr. Seuss).

One example is the similarity of DNA observed between humans and primates.  Some estimate that the DNA common between chimpanzees and humans is 93-98%.  To any student, this “test score” sounds impressive, as in, “close to 100%”.  But in the precision realm of genetics, one must raise a different consideration:

What lies in that narrow field of difference?

To be blunt, I don’t need a scientist to tell me that monkeys and men are similar.  Pass a deck of flashcards depicting creature silhouettes, and even a child could conclude that the man’s form is more like the monkey’s than to those of the tiger or elephant or camel, not to even mention creatures of the sky or sea.

So the similarities are easy to establish.  Save your lab fees; I’m already convinced.

As I said earlier, it would be poor logic to see an impressive figure like 93-98% and thus conclude that the remaining 2-7% is of little consequence.  My common-sense theory would argue that every detail found in that thin slice of the genetic pie is part of the proof that evolution exists within solidly established and beyond-compromise boundaries.

How can I make such a firm statement?

Answer: I’ve never seen a monkey at the movies.

I’m confident that some cultured primates might enjoy a film, but they are unlikely to get a chance.

Who is going to ask them on a date?

The rich verses of the childhood taunt sketch out how relationships typically move forward:

Joey and Susan sitting in a tree,
K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
First comes love, then comes marriage,
Then comes Joey pushing a baby carriage.

Conceivably, a movie date with a monkey could very well end in a tree.  Regardless of the specifics though, this romance assuredly could not end with a baby carriage.

Those 2-7% of differences between DNA are forceful enough to deem inter-species reproduction impossible, even when the similarities might run as high as 98%, it appears.  Within those complex amino acid combinations, all sorts of not-compatible-with-life sequences exist.  Giving sperm from one species access to an egg of another is not a creative venture, even when the percentage appears to suggest nearly “can’t miss” odds.

Yet, evolutionary theory claims that given obscene lengths of time, freak genetic mutations, combined with useful survival-geared genetic “slidings”, have created the vast array of species we witness today.  My city’s primate-free theaters suggest that the lines between species are impassably thick, yet evolutionary theory aims to convince me that they have been crossed millions of times by virtual chance.

I’m afraid I’d have to muster more than my mustard seed of faith to enter that realm.

YOUR TURN: What points within the creation/evolution/whatever-else debate have stuck in your mind as key rungs on your ladder to understanding? Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog by RSS or email, in this page’s upper right corner.]

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “The Surprising Reason Why I Don’t Believe in Evolution

  1. interesting read, Jay. however, you suggest that “…given obscene lengths of time…” evolutionary theorists claim that genetic mutations occur. You are right, they likely do claim this. But in the same token, some of these genetic mutations occur and are quite apparent on a much shorter time scale. This is prominently evident in bacteria. Bacteria are constantly evolving, and quite rapidly, to become resistant to antibiotics. And we are struggling to keep up!

    On a slightly longer time scale, but still within our lifetime, many petri dish experiments involving isolation of two groups and exposing them to different conditions while monitoring their response yields different characteristics in these species based on the different conditions they faced.
    On again, a slightly longer time scale, isolation of species of birds and fish to secluded island habitats sees them developing characteristics that are integral to survival.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts that will perhaps get the discussion going

    • Hey Jerms, I was hoping one of my “science friends” would chime in!

      Bacteria is a great example of how we see change happening on a more observable scale; your mention to drug-resistant bugs is especially relevant on a day-to-day level.

      Certainly, your birds and fish mentions are true as well. They give me flashbacks to butterfly examples I have heard as well, depicting shifting characteristics in response to environmental factors.

      For me, these are the types of “evolution” that I find easy to embrace. They are sensible, even measurable, as you’ve indicated. But the word “evolution” typically gets tied into the far wilder (for my mind anyway) theories that this species can actually become that species, given enough of these small changes.

      That is the spot where my monkeys-and-movies metaphor speaks to the belief that some uncrossable lines exist within nature. And it is that belief that causes me to choke on what most mean by “evolution”.

  2. Interesting post.

    The theatre in your city must be deserted. Humans are primates, after all.

    As evolution goes, good point from the last reader. We can actually observe bacteria mutating and evolving in the petri dish because they produce a new generation every twenty minutes. We can see real life examples of bacteria evolving and becoming antibiotic resistant.

    The problem with humans is that takes about 20 years to produce a new generation, so evolution occurs much slower than in bacteria. If we could make a time machine, you might find yourself sitting in a theatre next to an evolved chimpanzee in 10 millions years.

    http://www.understandnutrition.com

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Bill.

      I’ll grant you that humans wear the “primate” label, but even my kids can identify the difference between man and monkey.

      I agree that the bacteria example is a solid core to weave conversation around. It provides a decent test ground for some of our statements; however, it is limited.

      Bacteria adapt, but they’re still bacteria. Intraspecific evolution is an easy-to-grasp fact; interspecific evolution is the theory that initially strikes my mind as closer to science-fiction than science, despite its wide acceptance as fact.

      But again, all this is from a guy with Grade 12 sciences, who is musing about orangutans at the Oscars. 🙂

  3. Hi Jason!
    It’s me, Chad! I’m the divider guy on UsedRegina. I Googled your name on a whim, thinking you were another Pastor Jason I’ve had previous affiliation with.
    Crazy that you wrote an article on evolution as I do have an interest in it outside of Biblical discussion. This is where I add my two cents and blow everyones mind and you go, “woooaaah.”
    The first thing we must realize about evolution is that, in the context of naturalism, it has no ultimate goal in mind. That is, humans purportedly evolved from a common ancestor through a combination of extreme luck, mutation, and natural selection. Humans were not destined biologically to become intelligent rulers of the animal kingdom. Likewise, a modern chimps descendents will not necessarily be sentient, as Bill suggests (though this may have been to illustrate a point on his part).
    Now let’s talk about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. Is this evolution? You bet, if the definition of evolution is ‘change’, as Webster defines it. Does this demonstrate how a simple organism can become genetically complex, or how homo sapien evolved from a primate ancestor? No, and here’s why:
    Bacteria are observed to become resistant through mutations, which has a higher probability of occurring in bacteria due to their rapid reproduction. What many scientists don’t tell you is that mutated bacteria are less functional, and are at a disadvantage outside of the environment of the antibiotic they have become resistant to. By contrast, non-mutated bacteria adapt and reproduce well in said environment. So why isn’t this ‘true’ evolution? Because no unique genetic information has been created, only alteration of existing information. It is important to note that a mutations effectiveness is open to interpretation and dependent on a given situation. Many mutations are harmful as they interrupt important bodily functions.
    Likewise, phenotypes within a species adapting to their respective environments is an example of natural selection, but not necessarily ‘evolution.’

    • Thanks for jumping in, Chad. Who’d have thunk that a random encounter on a second-hand website would lead to solving the mysteries of evolution together?!

      You’ve obviously given this topic some time and thought. It appears that most of our thoughts correspond easily enough, with a key question revolving around why we are so quick to tag the more loaded term “evolution” on to natural instances of “change” that are easily observed, particularly in the bacteria realm that Jerms so helpfully brought up.

      I also appreciate your other remarks about less-than-helpful mutations. It makes me think of a bit from comedian Jimmy Carr: “Ten years after the Chernobyl accident, and am I the only one that’s disappointed? Still no superheroes.”

      Goofy British stand-up acts aside, the joke highlights what I think is a reality that mutations actually have far more ways of going wrong than going right. My wife and I have often discussed a similar dynamic at work in pregnancy. There are so many things that need to go right for a healthy baby to be born. The thread on which life hangs is quite delicate; the recipe quite precise in the midst of countless fatal combinations.

      In my mind, this heightens the improbability that seemingly random alterations, even over piles of years, could unfailingly walk a tightrope long enough to move an organism from cosmic slime to Stephen Hawking.

  4. Not a scientist by training, but I have some of the major theistic evolution and intelligent design blogs in my feed reader. I’d be happy to lock all the I.D. guys and T.E. guys in a cage match a go with whichever wins out. Less impressed by the creationists, their science or their exegesis.

    Recently found this and thought is was definitely worth the read on account of the source — one guy who can’t not be respected as a scientist : http://www.jmtour.com/personal-topics/the-scientist-and-his-%E2%80%9Ctheory%E2%80%9D-and-the-christian-creationist-and-his-%E2%80%9Cscience%E2%80%9D/ and this is related: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/a-world-famous-chemist-tells-the-truth-theres-no-scientist-alive-today-who-understands-macroevolution/

    Even if the evolutionists are right, I think the I.D. critique is important. Evolution is too much of a sacred cow, an unquestionable dogma, and personally I find the accusations against it interesting, whether they end of up being true or not. It seems there are three things no one is allowed to publicly question without being severely marginalized: abortion, homosexuality, and evolution. For that reason alone (and for many, many others), they ought to be questioned.

    Here are some of what’s in my feed reader:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/
    http://biologos.org/blog
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/
    idpluspeterswilliams.blogspot.com

  5. Those instances of change that we can observe, like antibiotic resistance in bacteria, are the mechanism by which evolution occurs. Absolutely, the vast majority of genetic alterations are harmful. When a mutation occurs, it usually ends up killing the organism. 50% of human pregnancies are spontaneously aborted in the first two weeks of pregnancy for this reason.

    In the vast majority of cases, a mutation makes an organism weaker. As Chad points out, a group of organisms that develop an antibiotic resistance gene will usually be weaker if they’re in an environment free of antibiotics. Thus, they will not reproduce as easily and that strain would likely die out. But, if antibiotics are added to an environment then those individuals will be at a selective advantage. Non-antibiotic resistant bacteria will die out, and only antibiotic resistant bacteria will survive.

    Antibiotic resistance shows a simple case of the mechanism by which humans evolved from primate ancestors. Genetic mutations constantly occur. Most are harmful, some are neutral and few are beneficial based on the environment. The most effective life forms replicate, while less effective ones die out.

    The evolution from our primate ancestors to humans is harder to wrap your head around because instead of occurring on a time scale of months, it occurred over millions of years. But, the mechanism is the same.

    We can see left over traits from our early primate ancestors. One example is goosebumps. In hairy animals, goosebumps help spike up hair and hold in heat. Goosebumps are useless to humans, as we do not have much body hair. Nonetheless, there has not been an environmental pressure to selective against goosebumps, so we still get them.

    Another example is wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are left over from when our diets had higher fiber content. Since the advent of agriculture, wisdom teeth have become unneeded and some populations no longer grow wisdom teeth.

    It’s difficult to imagine 3 billion years of time. That’s how long evolution has been occurring. That number means nothing to us because we are only around for 80 years or so. We have to take small scale examples of evolution- like antibiotic resistance in bacteria or pesticide resistance in insects- and extrapolate over millions of generations to understand how humans could eventually evolve from much simpler organisms.

    • Bill, you’ve raised a few good points:

      1) Most mutations are destructive, even fatal. In some sense, these instances stand outside of the “evolution discussion” as they are essentially dead ends–mutations that will not passed along to become observable changes in the future. If anything, the sheer number of these “bad changes” highlights the delicacy of life and the finely tuned conditions necessary for it to even occur.

      2) Your goosebumps example is not one I’ve ever considered. In fact, I’d never even wondered about what the purpose of them was, despite my four-year-old’s recent curiosity about her own goose-bumped arms! While I confess to knowing some men whose body hair actually WOULD succeed at holding in some heat, I would fall (perhaps with you) into the not-hairy-enough-for-goosebumps-to-matter category. That said, I confess ignorance on whether goosebumps serve any purposes beyond raising hairs for heat–anything related to nerves and sensation or blood flow or “energy increases” in the top layers of the skin or anything else.

      3) Both goosebumps and wisdom teeth are interesting examples, but accepting these features as evolved processes only serves to suggest that earlier humans were hairier with different diets. This admission still leave us light-years from feeling any obligation to prove that macro-evolution has occurred, doesn’t it?

      4) You are absolutely correct that time spans of millions (even billions) of years cause our heads to explode! Even the most history-rich nations (like China) only take us back around 10 000 years — to speak of millions OR thousands of millions (ie: billions)… how does one even consider such figures?! Yet here I see an irony. These time spans are literally unimaginable, yet we can state with some measure of confidence that “that is how long evolution has been happening”. How does that work? Somehow there just feels to be too much of a leap in that logic for me. That marks at least ONE of the gorges that I perceive that will require of me a jump that I cannot make with any degree of confidence.

    • One last item I missed (before bed beckons): Your talk of “mechanism” is helpful to the discussion. You say that “antibiotic resistance shows a simple case of the mechanism by which humans evolved from primate ancestors.” There’s a confession there that we may need to rely somewhat on illustrative examples to craft any solid case in this conversation. Your example suggests that the tiny adjustments made in bacteria fighting to survive against new drugs highlights how monkeys became men through a process involving a tonne more such tiny adjustments.

      That almost makes sense to me.

      However, it’s the large leaps rather than the tiny steps that trip me up. Here’s what I mean.

      Technology also gets viewed as movement of tiny steps. Discoveries and inventions keep moving us to new places. Within any given field, small strides are always being taken by the innovative and ingenius among us. However, I heard someone observe once that tracing technology through the ages shows a line that is marked by MORE than just inch-by-inch movement. Every so often, some discovery brings with it the equivalent of a quantum leap forward, like a warp zone was just utilized to deliver humanity to a place it had only previously dreamed about.

      One obvious example would be electricity. Today, we can’t even imagine life without it, despite the fact that the vast majority of human history unfolded before that day. But with its arrival, everything changed. The dreams of “what was possible” became radically different. From that point forward then, we took our small steps onward. Then something like the computer or the internet or the satellite… any of these might serve an another example of a quantum leap forward, far more than a mere step.

      What’s the point?

      Human beings are so spectacularly designed that believing that we arrived from slime via primates is more than I can imagine if “step by step” is the mode of transportation. What about eyes, the brain, sexual reproduction and pleasure, immune systems, and more. Eyes, as a particular example, are often cited as an organ which has an either/or quality to it. Half an eye is no good. It either works or it doesn’t. Perhaps an eye can be refined and perfected through small changes, but it must BE, in the first place.

      Parts of this comment are far fuzzier than I’d intended, betraying the fact that I am indeed up past my bedtime! For now, I will dare to press POST COMMENT and let the conversation continue tomorrow as all see fit.

      Good night friends. Thanks for such thoughtful interactions.

      • The analogy to technology is an interesting one. As you point out, when electricity was invented, the whole field of technology took a big leap. Sometimes we do see similar events in animals and plants. One way this can happen is through a whole-genome duplication where, by mistake, the entire genetic content of an organism is duplicate resulting in the organism now having an extra copy of every gene. Having two copies allows the one gene to perform the original task, while the other copy is free to mutate and possibly create a new function. Genetic evidence shows that after a whole-genome duplicaton, massive speciation occurs. One relatively recent example of this is the split of corn and sorghum (about 5 million years ago) following a whole genome duplication.

        An important note is that technology has been around for thousands of years (or hundreds if you just include modern technology), while evolution has been occurring for billions of years.

        Indeed, half an eye does no good. But that’s not to say an organism had to go from being completely blind to having vision like a human. Geneticists believe that the eye began as a simple light sensing organ, like is seen in hagfish. Hagfish cannot actually see, but they can sense light. This adaptation allowed them to stay out of open water and not be eaten. As evolution continued, the light sensing organ becomes more sensitive, being able to make out broad shapes. Continually, the eye is refined over millions of years until it can sense color and see acutely.

        There is no way to go back in time and watch these things occur, but looking at the organisms around us and comparing genetics, we can begin to understand how we could have evolved from a much more primitive organism.

  6. Thanks for your last post, Bill.

    I confess to needing to do some homework on whole-genome duplication and what those implications are to the discussion, and while I have heard the same theory of light-sensitive cells becoming an eye, every such article seems to be countered with a critique. In general, the eye gets held up as a notoriously tough organ to explain via typical evolutionary theory, as if the “change threshold” (my term) over which one must climb to arrive at the precision of an eyeball is simply too high to be accounted for by slivers of movement over time. You appear to have no qualms about this; I am slower to buy in.

    While part of me grasps how any destination can conceivably be reached by millions or billions of evolutionary shifts, another part of me balks at the idea. It’s comparable to the advice that “we can do anything, so long as we put our minds to it”. While inspiring fodder for countless Disney movies, there are actually quite a number of things I cannot do despite all the mind power I can muster. Back to my original post, I feel relatively certain that some thick lines of differentiation exist within nature, thus limiting evolution to something less than the “absolute freedom” I see it receiving in theories that sketch slime-to-fish-to-monkey-to man.

    In your last post, you end with this: “There is no way to go back in time and watch these things occur, but looking at the organisms around us and comparing genetics, we can begin to understand how we COULD have evolved from a much more primitive organism.”

    I suspect COULD is the key word. Whereas some say COULD with a sense of eagerness, as if this investigation will eventually answer everything about our origins, others say COULD with a skeptical tone as if the search is a lower-rate option for how to proceed toward answers.

    When it gets down to it, I think I’m that second guy… and I’m unsure how many evolutionary steps it would take to turn me into the first fellow!

  7. Pingback: Losing Faith (Part V): Invaded by an Uninvited One | Wandering & Wondering

LEAVE A REPLY...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s