This is the second installment about the arguments lodged against evolution. From here on we take a look at the more scientific arguments.
The second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution
One of the most common arguments used against evolution is that evolution claims that everything is improving, but the second law of thermodynamics states that everything is degenerating. This argument is one of those propagated by the Accelerated Christian Education system. David T. Williams makes the same case: “the process of evolution seems to be contrary to another basic principle of the universe, that of entropy. Whereas the natural trend in all things is of deterioration, evolution is a process of improvement. In itself, evolution would then go against the normal run of things.” There are two problems with this argument. Robert T. Pennock explains the double fault of this argument as follows: “The first is a misunderstanding of evolution: evolution is not always toward increasing complexity. Species can and do become less complex in certain environments. … The second misunderstanding is more significant. When presenting their argument from the second law, many creationists conveniently leave out the part of the definition that limits it to closed systems.” Stanley A. Rice agrees with Pennock that “evolution does not require an increase in complexity.”
It is true that on the whole, all the energy in the universe is being degraded, but as Richard Dawkins puts it, “while the universe as a whole is hurtling downhill towards its inevitable heat death, there is scope for small quantities of energy to drive little local systems in the opposite direction.” Rice mentions an important point, namely that to achieve a decrease in entropy, one needs the input of information. This information is contained in DNA. Natural selection thins the herd of disadvantageous mutations and thus allows an increase of information. Gene duplication and horizontal gene transfer increases information rapidly. Thus, through the course of evolution by natural selection, the amount of information is increased, which leads to a decrease of entropy within the closed system.
A valid and humorous point is made by Richard Dawkins regarding this argument: “When creationists say, as they frequently do, that the theory of evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, they are telling us no more than that they don’t understand the Second Law.”
Charles Darwin recognized the sudden appearance of a wide variety of fossils at the start of the Cambrian and mentioned that it was problematic for his theory: “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.”
During the Cambrian era, a vast variety of complex multicellular organisms appeared, especially during the early to mid-Cambrian period, a time of about 20 million years, 540 to 520 million years ago. The Cambrian organisms are some of the strangest in the fossil record. This “explosion” was discovered from the appearance of new and more varied fossils in the fossil record, which were discovered in the Burgess Shale, first excavated in 1909. The Cambrian fossils include mostly aquatic forms, such as trilobites, echinoderms, brachiopods, mollusks, crustaceans, primitive graptolites, and worms.
Pennock writes that:
The Cambrian may reckon as a sudden explosion from the point of view of geologic time, but we are still talking about millions of years and this could have been quite sufficient for evolution. Much of the talk about a sudden ‘explosion” during the Cambrian period might be exaggerated, for example, given that recently several independent lines of new evidence suggest that animal phyla began to diverge well before the Cambrian period, during the mid-Proterozoic period about a billion years ago. Moreover, Pre-Cambrian organisms were relatively small and lacked hard parts, so their fossil record is even more scarce than usual.
The fossilization of soft-bodied organisms is exceedingly rare and consists of small imprints made by radially symmetrical (meaning they are circular, similar all the way around and have a top and bottom, like a sea urchin) soft-bodied (lacking bones and shells) organisms. The soft-bodied Ediacaran organisms also left trace fossils, which are fossils of eg. burrows. The Ediacaran era was the one before the Cambrian era and spanned from about 600 to about 540 millionyears ago. From these trace fossils it can be seen that some of the Ediacaran organisms exhibited bilateral symmetry (meaning they had a front and a back, a head and a tail).
A variety of factors were probably responsible for what is described as the “Cambrian explosion.” Cotner and Moore mention the “evolution of eyes, an end-Ediacaran mass extinction, and disruptions of food chains.” Certain global environmental changes that took place before the Cambrian era made the diversification of species possible. Oxygen gas, probably produced by photosynthetic algae, accumulated in the atmosphere and oceans, which enabled the oxygen-driven metabolism of complex animals. The worldwide glacial cover melted and released nutrients, which could then be used by organisms.
The biggest clue comes from the appearance of animals with hard parts. The fossils found in the Burgess Shale are all well protected with natural defenses, whereas the Ediacaran organisms seemed undefended (remember that they were soft-bodied). It is possible that the first predators sparked the need for natural defenses and thus started, as Rice describes it: “an arms race of coevolution between ever more efficient predators and ever more cleverly defended prey.”
Richard Dawkins points out a fundamental flaw in the logic behind the creationist argument: Turbellarians, a type of flatworm, are very numerous, there are about 4,000 species. Yet there exist no fossil evidence for these creatures, apart from “a handful of ambiguous trace fossils” (because they are soft-bodied). Dawkins wraps up the logical flaw as follows: “If the gap before the Cambrian Explosion is used as evidence that most animals suddenly sprang into existence in the Cambrian, then exactly the same ‘logic’ should be used to prove that the flatworms sprang into existence yesterday. … You cannot have it both ways.”
The Paluxy Mantracks
This is an interesting one. In the Paluxy riverbed in Texas, tracks were found that creationists claimed were made by a dinosaur and a human being. The tracks in question are believed by creationists to be evidence for humans and dinosaurs living together. In a science text for grade 8, Accelerated Christian Education states that “[s]ome of these print fossils show the distinct impression of a reed sandal. The man who made some of these prints appeared to have been running from a dinosaur that stepped in his track. Whether the man escaped we’ll never know. However, these tracks do prove that humans and dinosaurs lived together on Earth before the Flood and that their tracks were preserved for us by fossilization.” I’m just wondering what kind of sandals the man was wearing that would allow his feet to make toe-prints. Perhaps he borrowed his smaller brother’s sandals that day, which would be a bad idea if you could get hunted down by dinosaurs.
During 1982 and 1983 scientists who visited the site, as well as other alleged mantracks sites, came to very different conclusions. The tracks were not shaped like human prints and were made by much larger beings than humans. The creationist reply on the size of the prints was Genesis 6:4 “There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” What was seen as toe-prints were found to be erosional pits or invertebrate burrow casts of Thalassinoides. Pennock explains that the tracks were found to be dinosaur prints by “the changing patterns of coloration of the prints, which were a result of a secondary infilling of the original track depression by an iron-containing sediment. … When the coloration patterns were observed in addition to the indentations they clearly revealed the shape of dinosaur digits on the “mantracks.”
Interplanetary dust infall
The creationist argument regarding interplanetary dust infall is that if the world and universe was indeed billions of years old, then the moon would be covered with a layer of dust over 55m thick. Accelerated Christian Education states that
since Creation, the moon has been continually bombarded with meteorites ranging in size from dust particles to particles that are miles (km) in diameter. This bombardment, along with the constant force of solar wind, has pounded and crushed the surface rock of the moon, creating a layer of dust. Three to five inches (8 to 13 cm) of dust on the moon’s surface is just what one would expect to find on a moon that is about six thousand years old.
The rate of infall used in the calculation is derived from the experiments done by Hans Petterson atop the Muana Loa volcano in Hawaii, but, as Pennock explains: “ there were several weaknesses with his preliminary estimate, problems that Petterson himself mentioned in his report, and subsequently improved measurements showed his initial estimate to be too high by at least one or two orders of magnitude.” Thus, his faulty measurements cannot be used as an argument for anything. According to the young-earth timescale, the initial rate of infall would have to be much larger than the current rate when the observed craters of the moon are taken into account. The earth would also have more craters that didn’t have enough time to erode. The creationist view does not explain the erosion found on the moon which indicates a “prolonged slow bombardment.” Radiometric tests upon rocks brought back from the moon reveal ages no less than 3.1 billion years and up to 4.5 billion years. Howard van Till states the following regarding the continuing publication of the planetary dust infall argument:
The claim that a thick layer of dust should be expected on the surface of the moon, and the claim that no more than a few inches of dust were found on the surface of the moon, are contradicted by an abundance of published evidence. The continuing publication of those claims by young-earth advocates constitutes an intolerable violation of the standards of professional integrity that should characterize the work of natural scientists.
Accelerated Christian Education 1998. Science 1086. sl: sn.
______ 1998. Science 1096. sl: sn.
Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.
Daintith, J & Martin, E (eds.) 2010. Oxford dictionary of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Darwin, C 1909. Origin of species. New York: P F Collier and Son.
Dawkins, R 2009. The greatest show on earth: The evidence for evolution. London: Bantam Press.
Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.
Ruse, M 2006. Darwinism and its discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press
Williams, D T 2010. Evolution through kenosis. The Expository Times 121:390. 390-394.