A conference was recently held at the Bosphorus University (BU) in Istanbul, following another held at the Middle East Technical University (METU), Turkey, to which the State University of New York’s evolutionary biologist Douglas J. Futuyma was invited as a guest of the METU Biology Department teaching staff member Aykut Kence. Futuyma divided his conference address, entitled “Evolution: The Most Important Theory in Biology,” into two parts, the first concerning supposed evidence for evolution and the second, a claim that creationism is not scientific. The conference, held at 17:00 hours on 11 May 2006, in the Assembly Hall, was attended by academics including Professor Aslı Tolun, head of the BU Molecular Biology and Genetics Department, and Dr. Aykut Kence, as well as some 100 students. Below, we provide a general critique of Futuyma’s address, followed by individual responses to his misleading comments regarding the theory of evolution.
General comments on the address
Unsurprisingly, Futuyma completely ignored the evidence against the theory of evolution. The audience was offered no ideas concerning the following scientific facts or their relevance to the theory of evolution:
The extraordinarily complex structure of life
The mathematical impossibility of even a single one of the proteins constituting the cell emerging by chance
The molecular machines resulting from the interconnected and exceedingly sensitive systems in the cell and that cannot function in the event that any of their components are impaired or defective, thus making Darwinism impossible
The presence of large quantities of genetic information in the cell and the impossibility of that information emerging through cumulative random changes
The existence of code systems that “read” and “decipher” the genetic information in the cell, which cannot be accounted for from a materialist perspective
The emergence of all the phyla in existence today in the sudden biological phenomenon known as the Cambrian Explosion, a time frame no more than the blink of an eye in geological terms, with no intermediate forms that can be pointed to as their evolutionary forerunners
The fact that the early complexities emerging in the Cambrian Period have survived unchanged for over 500 million years and that the life forms concerned were even more complex than others that existed at later times under the same phyla
The lack of intermediate forms, considered by Darwin himself as a serious problem
The fact that it remains unanswered what natural mechanism added the genetic information, which, according to the theory of evolution, must have accumulated gradually in the DNA of living things, and that the mutation on which evolutionists rely on with regard to that issue is at an impasse.
If Futuyma had really been someone who considered the theory of evolution scientifically then, as with every scientific theory, he should have accepted right from the start that there are points that it cannot account for. He should have put these up for debate right from the outset, examined their relevance to the theory, and only then have presented his argument, in the face of these, for still supporting the theory of evolution.
If Futuyma had really believed that evolution was a strong scientific theory, he would have had no hesitations over considering criticisms against it and informing his audience of them. Futuyma did no such thing. In beginning his address, he swept the problems of evolution under the carpet. From his first sentence he frequently stated that evolution was a fact. He could not respond a single scientific criticism of evolution and did not give any details. In short, Futuyma came to BU to “preach a sermon,” and having done so, left.
Responses to Futuyma
1. Errors regarding family trees
Futuyma began his address by setting out three claims regarding evolution.
The claim that all living things are related to one another via common descent
The claim that these relationships can be shown in the form of a branching family tree
The claim that each line evolved along a particular branch.
Futuyma cited an example, pointing to the fictitious family tree of gorilla, chimpanzee and human. Adopting a serious tone of voice, as if to give his audience the impression he was providing serious scientific evidence, he then said that this illustration showed that, if we went back 4 billion years, he was directly related to a bacterium.
In listening to evolutionists, while maintaining impartiality, one can detect many such flaws of logic. If someone makes an assumption regarding an observation and then uses that observation as supporting grounds for the assumption, his or her claim is a circular argument.
The American professor Marvin Lubenow gives an example of one of these circular reasonings in an analogy: Picture a man walking down the street in Chicago, and snapping his fingers. When asked why he is snapping his fingers, he tells that it keeps the elephants away from him. The man responds that there are no elephants in 10,000 miles. The snapper smiles with a knowing look and says that snapping his fingers must be pretty effective! (Marvin L. Lubenow, Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of the Human Fossils, Baker Books, 1995, p. 19)
Futuyma is also saying, “Look, you see, don”t you, how well this illustration shows me to be related to bacteria?” Yet that illustration was drawn up on the supposition that human beings are related to bacteria!
Futuyma”s statement that relationships between living groups can be shown in the family tree provides no support for evolution. The branches of the evolutionist family tree are imaginary lines drawn between living groups and contain no scientific information. Indeed, Stephen J. Gould, an expert on natural history and himself an evolutionist, admitted in the extract that follows that such branching contains no scientific data:
The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches… (Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution”s Erratic Pace,” Natural History, May 1977, p. 13)
For example, if someone so wishes, he or she can set out the similarities between sea, land and air vehicles and show these in a branching tree form. Simpler forms of transport, such as the bicycle and the canoe, can be placed on the lower branches, while cars running on solar energy and jet planes are placed on the upper branches. But this tree only shows relations of similarity. It does not lead us to conclude that these evolved from one another through chance and natural phenomena.
All this can be summed up in a single sentence: The fact that similarities in the living world can be shown in a hierarchically organized form (a tree, for instance) does not constitute evidence of evolution. Mark Ridley, an eminent evolutionary zoologist and Oxford University researcher, is one person who openly states this, saying in an article published in the British scientific magazine New Scientist:
The simple fact that species can be classified hierarchically into genera, families, and so on, is not an argument for evolution. It is possible to classify any set of objects into a hierarchy whether their variation is evolutionary or not. (Mark Ridley, “Who Doubts Evolution?” New Scientist, vol. 90 (25 June 1981), p. 832)
In fact, these are points that anyone can see. There is no doubt that Futuyma is just as well informed on this subject as Gould or Ridley. He is merely less outspoken about the matter.
2. The error of “proof from DNA comparison”
Futuyma maintains that there are consistent relationships between DNA sequences from members of different groups of organisms, and that this constitutes evidence for the theory of evolution. First, this claim contains the error we have just pointed to in the transport vehicle analogy. Whether at the anatomical or genetic level, the concept of similarity constitutes no evidence for evolution. Besides, the claim that DNA analyses have produced results consistent with the assumptions of the theory of evolution is not a reflection of the truth.
For example, the well-known biochemist Professor Michael Denton writes that findings obtained in the field of molecular biology produce results that are the exact opposite of evolutionist hypotheses:
Each class at a molecular level is unique, isolated and unlinked by intermediates. Thus, molecules, like fossils, have failed to provide the elusive intermediates so long sought by evolutionary biology… At a molecular level, no organism is “ancestral” or “primitive” or “advanced” compared with its relatives… There is little doubt that if this molecular evidence had been available a century ago… the idea of organic evolution might never have been accepted. (Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, London: Burnett Books, 1985, pp. 290-291) [Emphasis added]
3. Microevolution distortions
Microevolution is a concept used by evolutionist biologists in describing changes within species. The process that evolutionists refer to as microevolution is actually one that expresses fluctuations in a specific gene”s frequency in a population”s gene pool. The fact is that this has nothing to do with the change required by the theory of “evolution.” We can clarify this by way of an example.
If we were to leave a lizard population in a rocky field, we would see that long-tailed lizards found it relatively more difficult to hide in cracks in the rocks, and thus from predators. Thus, long-tailed lizards would be hunted more often by predators, and their relative presence in the population would gradually decline. Together with these lizards, the long tail variant of the gene that determines tail length would also decline proportionally, and at the end of this process, there would be a relative proportional increase in the frequency of the variant producing short tails in the population. As a result, the ratio of short-tailed lizards would rise, and that of long-tailed lizards would fall. Thus, the population would undergo a change.
On close inspection, however, this change is restricted in the species; no new genetic information is added to the lizards” DNA, and this change does not turn them into a new animal. The population consisted of long- and short-tailed lizards before being left in the field. Long- and short-tailed lizards would still emerge after the population was left. The only change would be in their relative frequency. No matter how long this process continues for, no new living form would emerge because no new information is added to the lizards” DNA.
Futuyma refers to the gradual changes observed in the ratio of poisonous individuals in a snake population or in that of individuals resistant to poison in a rat population, and regards these as evidence of evolution. The fact is, however, that no new genetic information is added to the DNA of any of these living things.
Evolution, on the other hand, is a claim that all living things are descended from a bacterium-like single cell, and that therefore requires new genetic information to be added to their DNA. A process in which no new genetic information is added to living things” DNA cannot constitute evidence for evolution, and Futuyma”s examples in support of the theory are therefore invalid.
Moreover, and quite astonishingly, Futuyma also included peppered moths among his examples. The change in this tale, once regarded as among the most powerful evidence for evolution, consists merely of variations in the gene frequencies. In addition, scientists have known for at least the last 15 years that the British biologist at the center of the story made clear distortions in his experiments and depicted them very differently from the facts. The fact that Futuyma offers this fraud-filled tale to his audience as evidence of evolution is incompatible with his identity as a scientist.
4. The natural selection myth concerning complexity level
Futuyma, who set dogmatic evolutionist claims out one after the other at the conference, also included another distorted example, saying that biological complexity consisted of stages and that natural selection alone was sufficient for these to come about. Within the framework of that claim, Futuyma described how the eagle has an eye structure permitting highly acute vision, whereas the snail has no need of such an ability and structure, for which reason it does not possess them. He subsequently claimed, without offering any scientific evidence, that eye structures exhibiting complexities at different levels emerged gradually by way of natural selection.
However, saying that one form is simpler or more complex in comparison to another does not lead to the conclusion that these emerged through coincidental changes. For example, we may say that an antique camera is relatively simpler than a digital camera contained inside a mobile phone, but none of this shows that either the camera, the eagle or the snail eye emerged as the result of random changes.
In addition, it is actually odd that Futuyma should make an evolutionist claim by citing different eye types. There are some 40 different types of this complex organ, spread among very different living groups. Because of the taxonomic distance between these groups, Darwinists are unable to draw up a table for eye types beginning with a single form and extending as far as the most complex form – the vertebrate eye. To put it another way, the living groups in question are so different from one another that evolutionists have to claim that their different eye types evolved “separately” in more than 40 lines of descent, rather than evolving from a single common ancestor.
No organism can be shown to have acquired even a single new characteristic at the genetic level through the mechanisms of mutation and natural selection, on which Darwinism is based. To claim that an organ as complex as the eye emerged through these mechanisms, and to furthermore maintain that this process took place some 40 times, means disregarding reason and science for the sake of the dogma of evolution. Evolutionists have no justifiable reply to give to the question of “how?” in relation to such an irrational claim, and seek an escape route by saying they find the subject a headache. The leading evolutionist Frank Salisbury, for instance, writes this on the subject:
Even something as complex as the eye has appeared several times; for example, in the squid, the vertebrates, and the arthropods. It”s bad enough accounting for the origin of such things once, but the thought of producing them several times according to the modern synthetic [neo-Darwinist] theory makes my head swim. (Frank Salisbury, “Doubts About the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution,” American Biology Teacher, September 1971, p. 338)
Futuyma, however, chose to camouflage this serious difficulty in front of his BU audience, telling them in effect “There are types of eyes that exhibit different degrees of complexity in nature, which means that these evolved through natural selection.” Instead of offering evidence regarding an evolutionist claim in difficulty, the way that this scientist glossed over the subject and avoided giving his audience any impression that there was any problem at all, is important evidence that he has adopted the theory of evolution as a dogma.
5. The “evolution is a fact” deception
Futuyma offered supposed evidence in four areas to the effect that evolution is a fact. However, these, too, consisted of fairy tales meant to pull the wool over the audience”s eyes, even though the problems are very well known. These are examined one by one below.
Homology is defined in biology as “structural similarity due to descent from a common ancestor or form.” Futuyma suggested that homologies (similarities) at the phenotypical, developmental and molecular levels represent evidence for the theory of evolution.
The claim that similarities in biological structures emerged through descent from a common ancestor is a line of reasoning adopted by Darwin. However, it does not lead to the “conclusion” that evolution is the “only” explanation for similarities. Structural similarities are a feature observed in cars, computers, etc., which are designed by engineers; in other words in devices and vehicles that are intelligently designed. Merely pointing to similarity between biological structures says nothing about the origin of those structures.
The accumulation of knowledge in the fields of biology and embryology have irreparably damaged the homological argument. Although this once stood as a serious evolutionist thesis, it is now discredited. The most damaging factor in that process is the fact that organs regarded as homologous by evolutionists actually possess very different genetic sequences.
Similar organs are generally determined by very different genetic codes (DNA codes). In addition, similar genetic codes in the DNA of different life forms correspond to very different organs. In the chapter headed “The Failure of Homology” in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton cites several examples on this subject and summarizes the issue in the words:
Homologous structures are often specified by non-homologous genetic systems and the concept of homology can seldom be extended back into embryology. (Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, London, Burnett Books, 1985, p. 145)
In his book Homology: An Unsolved Problem, published in 1971, the well-known evolutionary biologist Gavin De Beer asked the following with regard to this problem:
What mechanism can it be that results in the production of homologous organs, the same “patterns”, in spite of their not being controlled by the same genes? I asked this question in 1938, and it has not been answered. (Gavin De Beer, Homology: An Unsolved Problem, London: Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 16)
Thirty-five years after De Beer posed that question, evolutionists still have no answer to give. Moreover, from the evolutionist perspective, the embryological development of similar structures, in other words the stages of growth in the egg or womb, should be parallel to one another, yet the embryological process for similar organs is different in every living thing. As the biologist Pere Alberch says, it is “the rule rather than the exception” that “homologous structures form from distinctly dissimilar initial states.” (Pere Alberch, “Problems with the Interpretation of Developmental Sequences,” Systematic Zoology 34 (1): 46-58, 1985)
In short, scientific advances have revealed that the concept of homology, described by Darwin as evidence that living things evolved from a common ancestor, has lost all credibility. This concept, that appears quite convincing at first sight, can be seen on closer examination to be an evolutionist error filled with inconsistencies. (Futuyma claims that evolution is the only answer to the question of five-finger homology, a claim invalidated by scientific findings. For further detail on this subject, click here.)
“Flawed design” and “vestigial organs” errors
Futuyma”s “flawed features in living things” argument is similarly an idea that began with Darwin but that later lost all validity in the face of scientific findings. The British zoologist Richard Dawkins and the American paleontologist Stephen J. Gould are two known proponents of this. These people maintained, respectively, that the inverted retina in vertebrates and the panda”s thumb were inefficient and therefore possessed flawed characteristics, and thus sought to eliminate the fact that a flawless creation predominates. However, detailed scientific research has revealed that the structures in question are actually highly efficient, and has completely discredited these claims.
Futuyma points to the situation of blind cave fish. These emerged when some members of a fish population lost their way and were imprisoned in underground caves, the fish spawning down the generations gradually losing their eyes. Although it is true that the fish in question did gradually become blind, this is not a change based on an increase in genetic information. It is not, therefore, evidence of the kind required by the theory of evolution. The sense of sight ceases to be an advantage for an organism in a dark environment, for which reason mutations damaging the eye structure do not cause a reduction in the organism”s reproduction advantage. To put it another way, individuals blinded as the result of mutations have the same advantage as individuals with fully functioning eyes in this environment. Thus, the mutations that lead to blindness are able to spread within the population, and after a few generations individuals whose eyes are totally blind emerge. However, this is not a phenomenon that shows how this fish or the eyes of this fish emerged in the first place. Since the theory of evolution maintains that complex structures such as the eye emerged gradually, and that fish evolved from invertebrates like starfish, Futuyma needs to provide examples that indicate how a better eye structure was acquired. The way he pointed to “loss” instead of “acquisition,” with regard to the ability to see, is a distracting deception.
The error regarding geographical distribution
Futuyma proposed the distribution of the living groups on earth as the third foundation of his claim that evolution is a fact. The branch of science that studies the geographical distribution of species is known as biogeography. In his view, the biogeography of species must be definitive evidence of an evolutionary process. However, this claim of Futuyma”s is not based on a consistent analysis of the scientific data. In their book Systematics and Biogeography, Gareth Nelson and Norman Platnick from the American Museum of Natural History in New York analyzed the research conducted in this field and stated their conclusion as follows:
We conclude, therefore, that biogeography (or geographical distribution of organisms) has not been shown to be evidence for or against evolution in any sense. (Gareth J. Nelson, Norman Platnick, Systematics and Biogeography: Cladistics and Vicariance, Columbia University Press, 1981, p. 223)
As we have seen, comprehensive biogeographical research has revealed results that are the exact opposite of what Futuyma said at BU.
Futuyma”s last and most astonishing foundation for his claim regarding the reality of evolution was fossils, our most important source of information about natural history. The two basic facts they teach us about natural history definitively refute Darwinism”s expectations regarding the origin of species. These two paleontological phenomena, sudden emergence and stasis, show that living things did not evolve through small and gradual changes, but that they appeared “suddenly” with all their distinguishing features already in existence. These two fundamental facts led to paleontologists, the American paleontologists Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge in particular, raising their voices against Darwinism ever since the 1970s and to their eventual parting of the ways with that theory.
In a book that Eldredge wrote with another well-known evolutionist paleontologist, Ian Tattersall, they made this important point:
That individual kinds of fossils remain recognizably the same throughout the length of their occurrence in the fossil record had been known to paleontologists long before Darwin published his Origin. Darwin himself, … prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search … One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin”s predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction is wrong. The observation that species are amazingly conservative and static entities throughout long periods of time has all the qualities of the emperor”s new clothes: everyone knew it but preferred to ignore it. Paleontologists, faced with a recalcitrant record obstinately refusing to yield Darwin”s predicted pattern, simply looked the other way. (Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution, Columbia University Press, 1982, pp. 45-46)
As we have seen, fossils show that there are no intermediate forms, and paleontologists confirm this, stating that Darwinism is incompatible with the facts. Therefore, Futuyma”s claim regarding fossils is one devoid of any scientific foundation and based on the blindly held idea that natural history is the product of evolution. (Fossils such as Archaeopteryx, Microraptor gui and Tiktaalik roseae referred to by name by Futuyma without going into detail are also of no help in rescuing evolutionists from this predicament. For detailed information regarding the invalidity of these fossils, follow the relevant links.)
6. The myth that birds are dinosaurs
During his short discussion of fossils, Futuyma said that birds are dinosaurs and claimed that there was a direct evolutionary link between the two. However, this claim again consists of another dogmatic approach expressed without any scientific basis. Anatomically and physiologically, birds and dinosaurs exhibit very different characteristics. Flight is a function supported by structures based on a highly complex physiology, as well as an irreducible complexity. To claim that a clumsy terrestrial life form acquired the anatomy needed for flight through random changes in an undirected process, and thus turned into a bird, is speculation based on pure imagination and far removed from the scientific sphere. Leading ornithologists openly admit that this claim, blindly propagated by Futuyma, is plagued by serious problems. For example, Storrs L. Olson, curator of the Division of Birds at the famous US scientific institution, The Smithsonian Institution”s National Museum of Natural History, said this in a statement in The Washington Times newspaper:
The “birds-are-dinosaurs” people have dominated this discussion [as to whether birds supposedly evolved from dinosaurs or some other reptile group] for a long time. There are a lot of problems with birds being dinosaurs, although the theory has been publicized in the popular media. (Larry Witham, “Sue Makes Debut in Latest Attack of Dino-Mania,” The Washington Times, 16 June 2000)
(For more detail on the scientific dilemmas facing Futuyma”s dogmatic claim see, Why the Idea of Bird Evolution Is No Longer Tenable)”
7. Exaggeration about the importance of evolution
At the end of the conference, Futuyma commented that the theory of evolution was of great importance from the point of view of human health, the fight against pests in agriculture, and biotechnology. According to Futuyma”s claim, the theory of evolution was as necessary as it was productive in terms of scientific progress in these spheres.
This was another inaccurate and exaggerated piece of praise for the theory of evolution from Futuyma because research in the fields listed by him draw no particular support from Darwin”s theory, which may be summarized as saying that all living things are descended from a single cell. For example, researchers working on changes in bacteria and viruses in order to improve human health have never witnessed bacteria or viruses changing into other species in any study. Moreover, the resistance to antibiotics in bacteria or that against DDT in the fight against agricultural pests are not phenomena that indicate that these living things evolved. These are phenomena based either on the spread within the population of individuals that are already resistant, or have been deformed by mutation, in other words based on a loss of genetic data. Research in the field of biotechnology concerns the manipulation or transfer of genes for a specific purpose. Even if it is possible to improve a living thing in terms of any characteristic as a result of these studies, that still is not evidence that the living thing in question emerged by way of evolution. On the contrary, it is proof that living things were intelligently created. The changes in question are carried out using “technology” in the light of an “objective” by scientists possessed of “intelligence” and “knowledge,” rather than the random and blind mechanisms on which the theory of evolution is based. Therefore, the theory of evolution does not represent a factor in scientific discoveries in biotechnology either.
The words of Professor Louis Bounoure are particularly striking in terms of Futuyma”s exaggerated interpretation of the contributions the theory of evolution makes to mankind. Bounoure, a respected scientist who held the posts of president of the Biological Society of Strasbourg, director of the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, and later director of Research at the French National Center of Scientific Research, said this on the subject:
Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless. (Louis Bounoure, The Advocate, 8 March 1984, p. 17)
8. Objections to the scientific nature of creation
In the second part of the conference Futuyma voiced his objections along the lines that intelligent design and creation are not scientific. When one looks at the grounds for this claim of Futuyma”s, however, it can be seen that this is not a justified criticism and that Futuyma wishes to make a description of science in the light of materialist preconceptions. Richard Lewontin, a geneticist from Harvard University, has expressed the attempt to exclude creation from science, which Futuyma is also engaged in, in these terms: “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” Lewontin revealed his materialist dogmatism in terms of the definition of science as follows:
… [W]e have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations… Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons, The New York Review of Books, 9 January 1997, p. 28)
Furthermore, the most concrete fact showing the unfairness of materialists” criticism and the invalidity of the claim that creation is not scientific comes from history itself, because the foundations of modern science themselves rest on the belief in creation.
The way one observes great harmony in the universe instead of chaos and disorder is one of the clear proofs that God created the universe. This harmony made science possible and encouraged it. The evolutionist philosopher Loren Eiseley describes how the foundations of modern science were built upon the belief that the universe was created:
The philosophy of experimental science … began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith … that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator… It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption. (Loren Eiseley: Darwin”s Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It, Doubleday, Anchor Books, New York, 1961, p. 62)
The belief that there is “meaning” in the universe, in other words that it is the work of a Creator, was influential at the heart of many scientific discoveries. Indeed, the foundations of the basic disciplines were laid by scientists who were also believers:
Physics: Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin
Chemistry: Boyle, Dalton, Ramsay
Biology: Ray, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Virchow, Agassiz
Geology: Steno, Woodward, Brewster, Buckland, Cuvier
Astronomy: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Herschel, Maunder
Mathematics: Pascal, Leibniz, Euler
(For detailed information, see The Qur”an Leads the Way to Science by Harun Yahya)
Futuyma, who has adopted evolution a priori, provided only one alternative on the question of the origin of life and species, and then told his audience that this sole alternative was evolution. All the claims he put forward throughout the conference are the product of this dogmatic perspective. We hope that those who organized Futuyma”s address at BU will hold conferences that include the information we have provided above rather than suppressing students” critical faculties.