20 Questions for Evolutionists
1. Where has macro evolution ever been observed?
There are extensive lists of observed speciation on talk.origins' web site (www.talk-origins.org). By speciation, it means a group of one type of organism developed so that it was unable to interbreed with others of its former species. Once they are no longer able to interbreed, they are considered different species and are free to develop differently.
It is common to hear a distinction drawn between 'micro'-evolution and 'macro'-evolution. When pressed, few can even name the distinction point between the two nor any mechanism that would prevent 'micro' evolution from becoming 'macro' evolution given time (other than some mystical "we haven't ever seen it"... as if a few thousand years of humans being sentient even counts in the millions of years of evolution).
It should never be underestimated that humans have only been around a few thousand years. We've only had language for a small part of that time, and have only in the last few hundred years even tried to look for any evidence of how or why. Compared to just a million years, we have just barely begun... and a million years is just a start of a significant 'macro' evolutionary change... so don't put much weight into this "we haven ever seen it" statement. Its meaningless.
- What's the mechanism for getting new complexity such as new vital organs?
One key word game usually played in these questionnaires is using words that have connotations that trigger emotional responses. In this case it is the term 'vital organ'. Pretty much, by definition, an organ that has not evolved yet cant be a 'vital organ' (duh).
On the general question tho, new complexity and new organs develop from existing parts that are adapted to a new task.
For example, many fish have developed an air bladder to help them swim. This originally was just air swallowed into the stomach. This developed into a "bubble" in the stomach to hold the air, and then to a separate organ.
From this air bladder, animals such as the lung fish have adapted to use the air bladder to survive short periods without the normal gills to filter water for air. Some of the species of lung fish are able to survive longer out of water. They developed into early amphibians which could live full time out of water.
Similar processes account for development of other organs.
- How, for example, could a caterpillar evolve into a butterfly?
Irrelevant. Caterpillars don't "evolve" into butterflies, they metamorphose.
In either extent, it is likely that butterflies came first and the caterpillar developed from an early larval stage. Most insects go through a larval stage, the caterpillar is merely a mobile larva.
2. Where are the billions of transitional fossils that should be there if your theory is right? Billions! Not a handful of questionable transitions. Why don't we see a reasonably smooth continuum among all living creatures, or in the fossil record, or both?
First, define "transitional fossil". Transitional from what to what? Again, we are playing the 'word game'. Once we find a new fossil, it fills in a gap and creates two new gaps to either side of it. And by definition, all animals are in transition from what they used to be to what they will be. So the term 'transitional fossil' is kind of meaningless.
As a simple related analogy: There are children who cannot vote. There are adults who can. Children who can't vote cannot possibly become adults who do vote because there is no transitional period between the two.
But to the questions. The mechanisms that create fossils are rare. The utter vast majority of potential fossils are destroyed by decay, erosion, or other natural events. It is estimated that maybe as little as a single fossil worldwide is created for any 10,000 year span. No one ever claimed there would be billions of fossils all over the place (except perhaps as a straw-man to tear down).
In 10,000 years, it is possible for an animal the size of a mouse to evolve to the size of an elephant, and yet, each generation would be so similar to the one before that no one would even notice the increase in a lifetime. With only 1 fossil for 10,000 years, we would be lucky to even catch one of the animals along this chain. If we found only the original mouse sized thing and the "final" elephant sized thing, we would have no idea they were the same animal at first glance.
Continuing that chain, the original mouse might not have just increased in size over the 10,000 years. It likely picked up or lost fur to cover the new body size. It may have developed a different diet. It may have changed lifestyle (not too many elephants live in holes in the ground). How many of these little changes would it take to make the path between the two totally untraceable?
Finally, define "reasonable". Most scientists and biologists who study this do feel there is a reasonable chain of living organisms that demonstrate the smooth continuum. And while the fossil record is patchy at best because of the above concerns, most paleontologists feel it does conclusively show a steady change and a good continuum.
3. Who are the evolutionary ancestors of the insects?
Most likely small water born crustaceans that developed the ability to survive on land.
- The evolutionary tree that's in the textbook: where's its trunk and where are its branches?
I am not sure of this question or its origin.
The tree in the textbooks normally goes back to single celled organisms, they would be the "trunk" and the "branches" are labeled.
4. What evidence is there that information, such as that in DNA, could ever assemble itself?
Self catalyzing molecules form spontaneously all the time. These molecules have the property that they cause others just like them to form. In any environment where you have things that are self catalysing or self replicating, natural selection happens as the things attempt to make more copies just like themselves.
Things that are able to produce more copies are more successful in this simple pool. DNA is the culmination of this process.
- What about the 4000 books of coded information that are in a tiny part of each of your 100 trillion cells?
Word games strike again. 4000 books of coded information sounds like a real big number, but think of how long it had to do it, 4000 is nothing compared to 1,000,000,000 years, that's 1 billion. For example, lets imagine that those 4000 books each had 1000 pages. Each page has 500 words on it. That's 2 billion words, but still only 2 words a year. 2 words. Now throw that into even a small pool. Even a small pool easily has 1,000,000,000,000 molecules in it. That's 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) molecules randomly pounding against each other. Chance alone would almost certainly guarantee at least 2 words a year, just in 1 small pool!
You see, those 4000 books didn't just materialize from random chance. They were built up just like real books are, one word at a time. Two molecules here stick together, three more over there... those two clumps stick to each other, etc... Time passes and more and more clumps form and break longer and longer chains happen. Given time, we get 4000 books.
But that's not how it happens. In a vast amount of time, what we call information is built up through duplication errors and mutations, that's all. Information only seems important to us because we assign importance to it. If it were collected in a slightly different way, we wouldn't be the same, but it would still be information.
In this version, you get small words that make other copies of that same word. Every now and then, something happens and a change happens. This change most likely breaks the word up... but every now and again, the change makes a new word that makes new copies of that new word. If these words stuck together, you'd get small sentences and so on. This makes it even easier, since each word appears more than once in a book, so you only need to make the word once and stick it in other places. Do the math, its not all that hard...
- If astronomers received an intelligent radio signal from some distant galaxy, most people would conclude that it came from an intelligent source. Why then doesn't the vast information sequence in the DNA molecule of just a bacteria also imply an intelligent source?
Because the vast information source in the DNA of even a simple bacteria has a natural origin.
Even the simplest rock is incredibly complex. Diamonds are remarkable in their complexity. But they are also natural. Ever watch ice crystals form? They are incredibly complex and beautiful.... but they are most certainly natural.
5. How could organs as complicated as the eye or the ear or the brain of even a tiny bird ever come about by chance or natural processes?
Simple algae prolly developed early to take advantage of that huge, abundant energy source of the sun. Very simple "sun sensitive" spots would be an advantage, since the algae could orient itself to aim its best side to the sun. This is an 'eye' and is hardly hard to imagine it 'just happening' from a non sun-sensitive spot in one simple mutation.
Over time this "sun sensitive" spot would develop into a better spot or perhaps developed multiple spots to provide better directional control. Then a better one, etc. Eyes are simply refinements of simple spots. At no time was this developed as a benefit, each step was an accidental change or mutation, a tiny alteration of the last generation that just happened to be a handy change.
The brain was simply a central cell location to coordinate sun pointing with the necessary twitching to point.
- How could a bacterial motor evolve?
Again, our friend mutation shows up. A bacteria was "born" that twitched. This was a bad mutation, but it did have a good side effect, the twitching could help keep the bacteria away from danger. This twitching refined over time to the "motor" you speak of, since any improvement in the twitching would help the mutant keep away from dangers.
Tie it to the "sun sensitive" spot above and you have a mobile energy eater that is clearly at an advantage over its cousins, since it could keep itself in the sun light rather than passively sitting by while things moved in the way. Or even better, a simple predator that sits and waits until something gets in the way and then moves towards it.
6. If the solar system evolved, why do three planets spin backwards? Why do at least 6 moons revolve backwards?
Word games again? The solar system did not evolve, it formed via gravity in a process that was known hundreds of years ago. Trying to tie the solar system into biological evolution is just misdirection.
From this point on, the questions no longer have to do with evolution, but with other scientific theories and observations. Contrary to what they want to believe, the fields are separate and distinct. Even if all of cosmology and the big bang were found to be false tomorrow, it would not in any way affect the overwhelming mountain of evidence for evolution.
It is a very common technique to try and make other things look bad and relate them back to the original point so that the original point looks bad too.
Unfortunately for creationists, cosmology and evolution are on strong legs and show no sign of failing anytime soon.
But in the above, most likely, the planets move backwards from collisions with early asteroids. It is also possible that they flipped over time. There is some evidence that the earth has flipped. As for backward moons, they are prolly captured asteroids, so would have no proclivity towards one direction or the other.
7. Why do we have comets if the solar system is billions of years old?
Comets could survive way out there for billions of years. No one is proposing that comets we see today have been passing through the center of the solar system for billions of years (except perhaps creation scientists who like to misdirect, it seems). Most comets orbit far outside of Pluto's orbit in a semi stable ring much like the asteroid belt. Occasionally, because of gravity or other perturbations, some of them get kicked in and become comets as we see them.
Also, some of our 'modern' comets could be captured debris from interstellar space. This debris would have had no connection to us before they happened to fall into the sun's orbit to could easily be billions of years old.
8. Where did all the helium go?
I wasn't aware there was a problem. Seems to be lots of it around.
9. How did sexual reproduction evolve?
This I know little about. However I can postulate a possibility (which I am not sure has not been observed in nature). Early single celled organisms may have "discovered" that by occasionally joining then splitting off with others, the gene pool would be more versatile and able to cope with changes. Or perhaps early amoebae ate other members of its own species and incorporated its dna into its own...
There are distinct advantages to sexual reproduction, so any early life that learned to 'eat' its neighbors then incorporate its genetic material into itself would be at an advantage.
10. If the big bang occurred, where did all the information around us and in us come from? Has an explosion ever produced order? Or as Sir Isaac Newton said, "Who wound up the clock?"
Explosions produce order or a sort. There is usually a nice circle formed around the central point.
Also, if there was an explosion in space, the particles could come back together again by the force of gravity into a new, possibly better shape.
Take that to the "big bang" extreme. All the particles in the universe are thrown out. Some of them would "clump" together naturally from gravity. They would automatically organize, thus creating your "information".
Order comes from chaos all the time. A hurricane is amazingly ordered and yet is very chaotic. The red spot on Jupiter is thousands of years old and it entirely chaotic.
11. Why do so many of the earth's ancient cultures have flood legends?
Early civilizations almost always formed around flood plains. On a flood plain, the ground is incredibly fertile for early agriculture and life is relatively easy.
Back during the 1996(?) Mississippi river flood they showed pictures of the US midwest. They showed water stretched from horizon to horizon that went on forever. To early peoples, a flood of that scale must have looked like it flooded the whole world.
12. Where did matter come from? What about space, time, energy, and even the laws of physics?
Heisenburg's theory allows the creation of energy for a short period of time from nothing. This has been observed and must be accounted for in the world's particle accelerators.
In attrition to this, quarks, the sub atomic particles that make up all mater, always are found in pairs. And one of their properties is that if you pull two of them apart, they actually attract each other more and more the farther apart they are. Again, a property of them is that if you continue to pull them apart, there will be a point where the field between them is so great that two new quarks are created (energy -> matter).
Combining the two theories, we have a mechanism that would create matter from nothing for unlimited amounts of time. (not saying this happened, but it is plausible and does not break any currently known laws of physics).
Where they came from? Who knows. It is possible that time itself is curved much like space is. In that case, it is possible that the end of the universe is actually the same point as the beginning (note, this would not violate anything observed so far and would not require a certain amount of mass to cause the universe to collapse again).
Where things came from is still an unknown. But, once where ships went when they went over the horizon was unknown. By the same reasoning, we will one day know through study and learning.
It is always possible that our observed 'laws of the universe' are just a by product of the universe being here. They are not special, they just are...
13. How did the first living cell begin? That's a greater miracle than for a bacteria to evolve to a man. How did that first cell reproduce?
First, define "life". Take your time, philosophers and scientists have been debating the point for centuries.
Now, imagine the first living cell. The most simplest form of life you could possibly imagine.
Now imagine something just a little bit simpler. Something so close to the cell you just imagined that a single random mutation (perhaps even occurring during copying) would change it into that living cell. Is this new thing alive? Why or why not?
Continue the process indefinitely and you have a chain of events leading back to simple molecules.
As for reproduction, copying is easy, and happens spontaneously all the time in self-catalysing molecules. So by the time the first cells came along, the act of making copies would have been well established.
14. Just before life appeared, did the atmosphere have oxygen or did it not have oxygen?
That is a debate that is still going on in the scientific circles. And there are valid grounds for both.
In either case, it is possible that life originated in deep trenches where sulfur is the primary energy / food source and oxygen would have been an unimportant problem. Also life exists deep in rocks where there is no oxygen, so oxygen is not a precursor or hindrance to life.
However, just because it is a debate does not stop both camps from proposing what would have happened given either condition. And just because we do not know does not mean we will never know or that we should stop looking for answers.
15. Why aren't meteorites found in supposedly old rocks?
Most likely because the we just don't realize we are looking at meteorites because they have eroded or otherwise blended in. Most meteors we find now are less than fist size. Ten thousand years is plenty of time for a rock that sized to become "invisible" to us. Most meteorites are not found themselves, but are found by the effect they have on their surroundings (melting layers, stress fractures), but even these fade with time.
16. If it takes intelligence to make an arrowhead, why doesn't it take vastly more intelligence to create a human?
A rock formation could (and frequently does, witness common outcroppings of flint) spontaneously look like an arrowhead (and were prolly used as the first arrow heads). No one would propose that a stream is intelligent or that an accidental fall from a height onto a hard surface is intelligent.
Also, if it takes an intelligence to create a human, wouldn't it take vastly more intelligence to create that intelligence? Why doesn't the intelligence needed to create humans need explanation?
- Do you really believe that hydrogen will turn into people if you wait long enough?
An appeal to incredulity. A common (if poor) debate practice where you make the opponent's ideas sound impossible, but don't actually say why. The theory is that if they make it look so impossible it makes their argument look stronger and the other weaker. But if you look at the real question, there is no question. Its just random grandstanding.
But yes. Yes I do. And lots and lots and lots of other people do too.
Hydrogen collapses into stars which explode and form all the other elements. Elements do spontaneously form into molecules. Some molecules are spontaneously formed that have the property of causing molecules just like themselves to form. Once you get any kind of self-replication, you get natural selection. And once you get natural selection, you can get life and us.
17. Which came first, DNA or the proteins needed by DNA -- which can only be produced by DNA?
Most likely, a proto DNA that did not need those proteins. The early DNA would be an extension of the above self-replication process taken to an extreme. This DNA would be just happy making copies without the help of RNA. But a mutation in this early DNA could cause it to start producing these RNA proteins with the help of other local molecules. These proteins would help the early DNA and local molecules to make copies better than other cousins of the early DNA that did it themselves. Thus natural selection would favor them.
18. Can you name one reasonable hypothesis on how the moon got there -- any hypothesis that is consistent with all the data?
Yes. An object about 1/3 the size of the earth or so hit us, virtually liquidating the earth and ejecting a large blob of mantle and core... Over millions of years, the earth slowly reformed itself and the blob formed into our moon. The remaining junk in orbit was sucked up over time by both the moon and the earth. This fits virtually all the available data.
- Why aren't students told the scientific reasons for rejecting all the evolutionary theories for the moon's origin?
Depends on the grade level.
Students in early levels may not have the math or science background to understand why certain theories of the moon's origin could and should be rejected. However, this is irrelevant, since in general, the kids are told of the scientific reasons why there is still a debate going on (at least the students where I went to school were).
19. Why won't qualified evolutionists enter into a written, scientific debate?
Again, I was not aware that this problem existed.
Perhaps, however, it is because a qualified creationist wont enter into a scientific debate. Most debates I have witnessed between creationists and evolutionists have been amateur debates and the creationist tended to resort to random attacks that were so baseless and numerous they were hard to defeat in the time allotted.
Another debate technique I've seen has the creationist appealing to emotion rather than logic, science, or reason. The evolutionary scientist would win on technical grounds, but the creationist would win in the hearts of the audience, hardly a real victory, but not one I would be want to join.
20. Would you like to explain the origin of any of the following twenty-one features of the earth:
Most of these questions are answered in any entry level geology course, and are totally irrelevant to the theory of evolution, however I will make statements about them.
o The Grand Canyon and Other Canyons
Erosion. Leave a hose on in your yard for a week and you'll see it at work... now leave it on for a million years and you'll get a canyon.
o Mid-Oceanic Ridge
The separation point of the continents. Magma and mantle are slowly seeping
out from convection inside the mantle. This forms a ridge that pushes
the continents apart.
The rate of separation has been measured and fits the observed distances between the continents perfectly.
o Continental Shelves and Slopes
Places where the crust rides on the mantle. In general the crust is lighter than the mantle and floats on it much like a cork on water. In general, the crust floats along the currents in the mantle. As these currents push it, they cause it to build up, much like if you pushed against sand you would get a hill. The slopes are where the crust drops down to the "bottom" closer to the mantle.
o Ocean Trenches
Subduction zones where the currents in the mantle pull the mantle and crust back down (the opposite of the mid-oceanic ridge).
o Seamounts and Tablemounts
Mountains formed under water. Usually in the form of volcanos. However, they could also be formed as above where the tectonic plate is slowly compressed until it juts up.
As the plates are pushed around on top of the mantle currents, they bump into each other and compress some. Earthquakes are the way of releasing the pressure that builds up from this experience.
o Magnetic Variations on the Ocean Floor
Variations in the iron density of the mantle. The core of the earth is molten iron. The mantle currents pull some of this iron around. This causes small ripples in the magnetic field, much like when you put a iron bar between two other magnets.
o Submarine Canyons
At ridges, the mantle pushes up what will become new crust. That crust could bulge or bunch in weird ways, forming some of the mountains and canyons underwater.
However, much like all liquids, there is the dominant current in the mantle that pushes the big plates around, and smaller currents that push up goop in some small places forming new mountains, and also pulling crust back in forming isolated canyons.
Finally, the ocean itself is not a static thing, it has its own currents. And much like wind for us surface dwellers, it can erode areas and form small canyons.
o Coal and Oil Formations
Dead animals and plants that decay. Through understood processes, rock is laid over them, pressing them and heating them. If the rock is non-porous, the gasses and natural products of the decay would be trapped. If its liquid enough and of the right composition, it will form oil. If there are many minerals in the area of decay and the material can dry out somewhat, coal will form.
These processes are understood and demonstrated.
o Glaciers and the Ice Ages
Glaciers exist even in our day, go look in Alaska or Canada. Snow falls, doesn't melt. Over years, it compacts and forms a glacier.
If the winter is hard and the summer mild (a normal occurrence), the glacier can extend. When the glacier extends, it tends to take more for it to go back. And as it extends it 'pushes' its weather impact further south. It takes only a little of this kind of behavior for glaciers to significantly move.
o Frozen Mammoths
You've never been caught in a storm before? Likely, the mammoths got caught in a bad storm and died. The storm drops several feet of snow on the now dead mammoths. Now the mammoths are buried too deep for predators to get to and so would form a part of the glacier as it rolls by.
o Major Mountain Ranges
Part of continental drift involves continents running together somewhere. These places tend to look like ranges of mountains. And strangely, all the major mountain ranges are right along geologic subduction zones (where the continental plates slide under/over each other).
A formation caused when a local fracture causes one layer of rock to push over another. This can even cause the rock to look inverted relative to its neighbor. The effect is similar to the cause of mountain ranges above.
o Volcanoes and Lava
Lava is just hot rock. The center of the earth is very hot. It was heated during the original formation of the earth as the mass of the solar system congealed. It is well insulated by the surrounding junk, so cools very slowly. So there's one source of heat.
Add to that friction. The continents are sliding over/under/beside each other. They move slowly, but they are huge so they generate an incredible amount of friction, easily enough to melt rocks (you can melt some rocks with a portable torch).
Volcanoes are just places where this lava 'gets out'. Usually at 'weak' points in the crust as near a plate boundary.
o Geothermal Heat
I just finished saying that the center of the earth is very hot. Even fairly near the surface, it is very hot. There are places where this heat is concentrated, or otherwise 'tappable', we call this heat geothermal (heat from the earth).
The original heat was created as the solar system congealed from interstellar dust and gasses via gravity. As the bits of dust collided, they heated up, much like a golf club gets a little hotter when you hit a golf ball (feel a golf club after hitting a few on the range and see what I'm talking about). Lots and lots of these hits were needed to form a body the size of earth, so they made lots and lots of heat. Add to this pressure from the resulting mass, and you have even more heat.
o Metamorphic Rock
Put something under pressure and heat, it can change composition. A similar thing happened every nite when you cook dinner. You put uncooked food in a pan and apply heat and it changes physical characteristics (raw chicken becomes cooked, raw vegetables get tender).
This same effect can happen for rocks too.
Times change. The conditions to create layers of rock change. There could be a volcano that lays down a layer of volcanic ash and rocks, then a flood that makes a layer of silt and sand. Go out to Mississippi and dig a bit and you will see a recent layer added by the recent floods. Do this repeatedly over eons and you get strata.
A mountain with its top shaved off. Erosion is a candidate that comes to mind.
o Salt Domes
Salt water evaporates and forms salt mounds. Solid salt is a very hard and solid thing. Later, water reinfuses the area, covering the mounds. The water would slowly erode the salt, but not before covering it with silt and sand. Once covered with silt and sand the salt would be a block of solid salt under some dirt.
When the water goes away again, it will leave the salt buried under layers of dirt. Normal wind erosion can uncover them again.
o Jigsaw Fit of the Continents
Nothing big here, the continents fit together so nicely because they were once joined in a big land mass. Continental drift slowly pulled them apart. California is a case of what's going to happen. 50,000 years from now, California will be up around Alaska and look like a perfect fit for that gap down at the Arizona and Nevada coast line.
o Fossil Graveyards
Conditions that can form one fossil could happen to several fossils at once. When this happens, we call it a fossil graveyard. It could be a natural 'dying place' for animals (as near a swamp), or it could be many animals caught up and killed in a sandstorm or other natural catastrophe (as in the cases of nesting grounds found).
It bothers me that these questions could be answered so easily, yet are posed as if they totally stump evolutionists.
I'm sure not all my answers are right, but they are possibilities and are likely at least close to the truth. In any case, they are better than just waving my hand and saying "I don't know, I give up." If I really were interested in answering these questions, it prolly wouldn't take more than a day of research in any library.
I thoroughly encourage anyone who found those questions or answers confusing to do their own research. Don't give up quickly. And by no means should you accept what I say or anyone else says, science is all about repeatable experiments. Go out there and test the results and see for yourself.
And even if you do find a point where science just hasn't found the answer yet (as in some of the above), don't just assume the answer is unfindable. 100 years ago, heavier than air flight was 'impossible' and many said we shouldn't even try since no one had ever succeeded before. 1000 years ago, people in Europe thought the whole world had been explored. 50 years ago, travel to the moon was fiction.
We should keep looking for answers and always assume that for any question we will someday answer the question even if that answer doesn't come in our lifetimes. To do otherwise is to fall into the same trap as the people who were skeptical at the Wright Brothers or at Columbus. We can fly and the world isn't flat.