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National Geographic Shoots
Itself in the Foot—Again!

©  Bert Thompson, Ph.D. and Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced by Permission from Apologetics Press

Introduction: The First Self-Inflicted
Shot in the Foot—November 1999

OVEMBER does not appear to be a very good month for National Geographic magazine.  As we write this, it is November 2004.  Five years earlier, in November 1999, the editor of National Geographic, Bill Allen, published an article that proved to be one of the worst debacles in the long and storied history of the magazine.  It also proved to be one of the worst fiascos in the long and storied history of evolutionary theory.

Mr. Allen published a feature article by Christopher P. Sloan titled “Feathers for T. Rex?”  The article claimed to provide “a true missing link in the complex chain that connects dinosaurs to birds” (Sloan, 1999, 196[5]:100).  The fossil, named Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, was discovered at Xiasanjiazi in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province, and appeared to have the body of a primitive bird with the teeth and tail of a small, terrestrial dinosaur or dromaeosaur.  This definitely fit the criteria of the type of fossil that evolutionists had hoped to find to fill in some of the gaps in their popular “dinosaur-to-bird” scenario because it manifested the long, bony tail of dromaeosaurid dinosaurs along with the specialized shoulders and chest of birds.

The Associated Press quickly picked up the story, and soon all the major news networks were reporting about this “fierce turkey-sized animal with sharp claws and teeth” (Recer, 1999).  Philip Currie of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada, and one of the scientists involved in the examination of Archaeoraptor for National Geographic, boasted:  “We’re looking at the first dinosaur that was capable of flying” (as quoted in Recer, 1999).  However, those words barely had left Currie’s mouth before the questions about this fossil started flying (no pun intended).  After a short-lived period of “pomp and circumstance,” National Geographic suddenly found itself embroiled in one of the hottest scientific controversies in decades.

In an “open letter” dated November 1, 1999, and addressed to Peter Raven, Secretary of the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, Dr. Storrs L. Olson, the eminent curator of birds at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, verbally castigated the Society, Dr. Raven, Christopher P. Sloan (author of the National Geographic article), and Bill Allen, the magazine’s editor, for what he called “an all-time low for engaging in sensationalistic, unsubstantiated, tabloid journalism.”  And that was the nicest thing he had to say!  Dr. Olson continued:

Prior to the publication of the article “Dinosaurs Take Wing” in the July 1998 National Geographic, Lou Mazzatenta, the photographer for Sloan’s article, invited me to the National Geographic Society to review his photographs of Chinese fossils and to comment on the slant being given to the story.  At that time, I tried to interject the fact that strongly-supported alternative viewpoints existed to what National Geographic intended to present, but it eventually became clear to me that National Geographic was not interested in anything other than the prevailing dogma that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Sloan’s article takes prejudice to an entirely new level and consists in large part of unverifiable or undocumented information that “makes” the news rather than reporting it.  His bald statement that “we can now say that birds are theropods just as confidently as we say that humans are mammals” is not even suggested as reflecting the views of a particular scientist or group of scientists, so that it figures as little more than editorial propagandizing.  This melodramatic assertion had already been disproven by recent studies of embryology and comparative morphology, which, of course, are never mentioned.

More importantly, however, none of the structures illustrated in Sloan’s article that are claimed to be feathers have actually been proven to be feathers.  Saying that they are is little more than wishful thinking that has been presented as fact.  The statement on page 103 that “hollow, hairlike structures characterize protofeathers” is nonsense, considering that protofeathers exist only as a theoretical construct, so that the internal structure of one is even more hypothetical.

The hype about feathered dinosaurs in the exhibit currently on display at the National Geographic Society is even worse, and makes the spurious claim that there is strong evidence that a wide variety of carnivorous dinosaurs had feathers.  A model of the undisputed dinosaur Deinonychus and illustrations of baby tyrannosaurs are shown clad in feathers, all of which is simply imaginary and has no place outside of science fiction.

The idea of feathered dinosaurs and the theropod origin of birds is being actively promulgated by a cadre of zealous scientists acting in concert with certain editors at Nature and National Geographic who themselves have become outspoken and highly biased proselytizers of the faith.  Truth and careful scientific weighing of evidence have been among the first casualties in their program, which is now fast becoming one of the grander scientific hoaxes of our age—the paleontological equivalent of cold fusion.  If Sloan’s article is not the crescendo of this fantasia, it is difficult to imagine to what heights it can next be taken.  But it is certain that when the folly has run its course and has been fully exposed, National Geographic will unfortunately play a prominent but unenviable role in the book that summarizes the whole sorry episode (Olson, 1999).

Ouch!  It is unlikely that anyone—outside National Geographic’s offices—ever will know the severity of the damage that Dr. Olson’s highly publicized, widely distributed letter inflicted.  And it is equally as unlikely that Dr. Olson could have known how prescient his predictions would prove to be.  But one thing we do know with certainty:  National Geographic found itself in the embarrassing position of having to retract the entire article because, as it turned out, the Archaeoraptor fossil was a fakea neatly contrived composite of a bird and a dinosaur tail! In the March 2000 issue of National Geographic, the magazine published a “letter to the editor” from Xu Xing, one of the scientists who first examined and discussed the fossil find.

After observing a new, feathered dromaeosaur specimen in a private collection and comparing it with the fossil known as Archaeoraptor, I have concluded that Archaeoraptor is a composite.  The tail portions of the two fossils are identical, but other elements of the new specimen are very different from Archaeoraptor, in fact more closely resembling Sinornithosaurus.  Though I do not want to believe it, Archaeoraptor appears to be composed of a dromaeosaur tail and a bird body (2000, 197[3]:no page number).

Archaeoraptor model, as displayed in The Dinosaur Museum (Stephen Czerkas, director) in Blanding, Utah.  Dr. Czerkas suggests, in text accompanying the model, that this is the only Archaeoraptor model on display for public viewing anywhere in the world.  Comments accompanying the model admit that the tail of the original fossil belonged to a dinosaur (not to a bird), but Czerkas nevertheless contends that Archaeoraptor is one of the earliest known birds to evolve from the dinosaurs.  Photograph taken in May 2004 by Kyle Butt and Eric Lyons of the Apologetics Press staff.

Seven months later, the October 2000 issue of National Geographic contained a five-page article by veteran investigative reporter Lewis M. Simons, describing how this incredible hoax occurred (Simons, 2000).  [For additional information on how this story unraveled, see also:  Dalton, 2000a, 2000b; National Geographic, 2000; Rummo, 2000, Harrub and Thompson, 2001.] In his National Geographic article, Simons explained how farmers in many regions of China have made a very profitable hobby of selling the fossils they find.  The only problem is that these farmers realize that fossil fanciers prefer specimens assembled and suitable for display.  Therefore, on occasion the farmers will “doctor” the fossils to follow basic market economics and thus increase the value of their finds.  Archaeoraptor actually “evolved” in a Chinese farmhouse where homemade paste was used to glue together two completely different fossils.  The result was the now-famous (or infamous, as the case may be) “missing link” that allegedly had the body of a primitive bird with the teeth and the tail of a terrestrial dinosaur.

Unfortunately, National Geographic editor Bill Allen chose to run the November 1999 story before the “find” had been reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  In an effort to capitalize on this rare find, participants in the Archaeoraptor discovery rushed a paper to both Nature and Science but, as USA Today reporter Tim Friend learned, that paper “was never published” (2000).  In his report for National Geographic, Simons acknowledged that

...a plan was cobbled together [to] first write a paper and have it published in the prestigious scientific journal NatureNational Geographic—which attempts to bridge the gap between hardcore science and popular interpretation—prefers not to break scientific discoveries without having them peer reviewed in advance by scientists.  The effort to coordinate publication between Nature and National Geographic would eventually break down, contributing in large measure to the Geographic publishing a false article (2000, 198[4]:130).

With time constraints nipping at its heels, and peer-review rejections piling up, National Geographic decided to go out on a limb (again, no pun intended) and run the story on its own.  Writing for Science News, Richard Monastersky observed:

Red-faced and downhearted, paleontologists are growing convinced that they have been snookered by a bit of fossil fakery....  “There probably has never been a fossil with a sadder history than this one,” says Storrs L. Olson of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (2000).

In an e-mail to his co-authors and to Sloan, Xu Xing wrote:  “I am 100% sure, we have to admit that Archaeoraptor is a faked specimen” (as quoted in Simons, 2000, 198[4]:132).

Proof of that fact was not long in coming.  In the March 29, 2001 issue of Nature, Timothy Rowe and his colleagues published the results of their X-ray computed tomography studies on the Archaeoraptor fossil (2001, 410:539-540).  Their study documented the fact that “the Archaeoraptor slab was built in three layers,” and concluded that Archaeoraptor

represents two or more species and that it was assembled from at least two, and possibly five, separate specimens.  Additional work in China verified that the tail is from an entirely different specimen, which has been described previously as a new species of dromaeosaur.  Sadly, parts of at least two significant new specimens were combined in favour of the higher commercial value of the forgery....  Knowing the history of human handling can be critical to proper evaluation and scientific interpretation of specimens (410:540).

That last statement—that “knowing the history of human handling” is considered a prerequisite to accepting a fossil as genuine—presents a sad commentary on the current state of evolutionary theory, does it not?  In what other area of science do we encounter such embarrassing forgeries as Haeckel’s “human gill slits,” England’s Piltdown Man, or China’s Archaeoraptor?  It seems that all too often someone is prepared to make an outlandish claim—and back it up with what turns out to be “faked” evidence.  In their Nature article on the Archaeoraptor forgery, Rowe, et al.  commented:  “Fortunately, a growing array of techniques can now be applied to forensic analysis of fossils” (410:540).  Good thing—considering the nature and number of the forgeries that continue to appear!

As a side note, we might mention that normally the privilege of naming a fossil goes to the primary author of the scientific paper describing the specimen.  However in this instance, the published name Archaeoraptor liaoningensis appeared in Christopher Sloan’s article in National Geographic (Sloan is the magazine’s art director, not a trained scientist), and therefore the final scientific moniker carries his name:  Archaeoraptor liaoningensis Sloan.  Unfortunately, no correction or retraction ever will be able to separate Sloan’s name from this publicly exposed forgery.

In his investigative report printed in the October 2000 issue of National Geographic, Lewis Simons documented the fact that authors of the original account were told several times of discrepancies in their data and problems with the fossil, but apparently never took the opportunity to establish the accuracy of the specimen (Simons, 2000).  Apparently, “establishing the accuracy” of some of the items it publishes is not one of National Geographic’s strong suits.  As a case in point, we would like to draw your attention to the most recent embarrassing publishing foible from the magazine.

The Latest Self-Inflicted Shot in the Foot—November 2004

The front cover of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic screamed—in giant dark-maroon letters—“Was Darwin Wrong?” The answer, of course, as provided in 250-point bold type at the beginning of an article that began on page 2, was “NO:  the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.”  But long before the reader ever gets to the beginning of the article, there is a strong hint that another disaster similar to that of the Archaeoraptor fiasco is beginning to take shape.  Sure enough, it is.

In his “From the Editor” discourse in the front of the magazine, editor Bill Allen began with these two sentences.  “Humans are not descended from apes.  But then Charles Darwin never claimed we are” (2004, 206[5]:no page number).  Those statements served as a clarion call that something was terribly wrong—because they are as unbelievable as they are erroneous.  As we stated earlier, November does not appear to be a good month for National Geographic.  And in this particular November issue, Bill Allen could not have gotten off to a worse start.  First, he introduced the issue (which quite obviously was intended to substantiate organic evolution as a “fact”) by incorrectly stating that Charles Darwin never claimed humans evolved from apes.  Second, he published and lauded an article (which consumed 33 pages of the magazine!) that is so filled with ancient, time-worn canards that long ago were discarded as “proofs” of evolution, that even stalwart evolutionists surely must be shaking their heads in disbelief and hiding under their laboratory benches out of sheer embarrassment.  We certainly are not evolutionists.  Yet even we are embarrassed by the content of this particular issue of National Geographic.  We also are disappointed (and yes, we admit, even a little bit angry) that an editor of a magazine such as National Geographic would consider, much less permit, the publication of an article as blatantly false as the one in the November 2004 issue.  Permit us to explain.

Bill Allen’s statements—“Humans are not descended from apes.  But then Charles Darwin never claimed we are”—could not be any more in error than they are.  They are absolutely, apodictically wrong!  No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.”  Just plain wrong—w-r-o-n-g! Charles Darwin most definitely did state that humans evolved from apes.  In chapter six (“On the Affinities and Genealogy of Man”) in his volume, The Descent of Man, Darwin concluded:

In the class of mammals the steps are not difficult to conceive which led from the ancient Monotremata to the ancient marsupials; and from these to the early progenitors of the placental mammals.  We may thus ascend to the Lemuridae; and the interval is not very wide from these to the Simiadae [monkeys and apes].  The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and Old World monkeys; and from the latter, at a remote period, Man, the wonder and glory of the Universe, proceeded.

But that is not all that Darwin had to say on this matter.  What organism was it from which Darwin said humans had evolved?  He continued:

[A] naturalist would undoubtedly have ranked as an ape or a monkey, an ancient form which possessed many characters common to the Catarhine [Old World] and Platyrhine [New World] monkey….  There can, consequently, hardly be a doubt that man is an off-shoot from the Old World simian stem; and that under a genealogical point of view he must be classified with the Catarhine division….  We have seen that man appears to have diverged from the Catarhine or Old World division of the Simiadae, after these had diverged from the New World division (p. 521, emp. and bracketed items added).

[“Catarhine” refers to a division of primates that comprises the Old World monkeys, higher apes, and (allegedly) hominids that have their nostrils close together and directed downward, 32 teeth, and a tail that, when present, is not prehensile (i.e., adapted for seizing or grasping, especially by wrapping around something).  “Platyrhine” refers to New World monkeys that are characterized by a broad nasal septum, usually 36 teeth, and often a prehensile tail.  Notice (below) that Darwin plainly stated that man, “from a genealogical point of view belongs to the Catarhine or Old World stock.”] Darwin observed:

And as man from a genealogical point of view belongs to the Catarhine or Old World stock, we must conclude, however much the conclusion may revolt our pride, that our early progenitors would have been properly thus designated (1970, pp. 518,519,520,528, emp. and bracketed items added).

Revolting?  Certainly.  But there it is in black and white.  Darwin hardly could have made his views any plainer.  What he disclaimed was not that man evolved from a monkey or an ape, but (to quote him directly) that man evolved from “any existing ape or monkey” (p. 520, emp. added).  There is a vast difference in that sentiment, and Bill Allen’s comment that Darwin “never claimed” man evolved from apes.  He most certainly did!  Allen could not have gotten it more wrong if had had tried to do so intentionally.  [In introducing the 33-page-long article on evolution, Allen attempted to “massage” Darwin’s theory with this spurious claim, in a desperate appeal not to alienate those who might still choose to believe in God.] But it gets worse.

Was Darwin Wrong?  National Geographic Answers “NO!”

Beginning on page 2 of the November 2004 issue, National Geographic published David Quammen’s article defending organic evolution.  Quammen, strangely enough, is not a biologist (or a scientist of any sort).  His specialty is—literature.  In an interview with him that was published in the October 27, 2003 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter, he admitted to the interviewer, John Marshall:  “I did my graduate work on William Faulkner.  My training was all in literature, not biology.  But when I couldn’t make it as a fiction writer, I turned to this.  And I liked it more—I get to talk to biologists, walk through rain forests and see the world” (Marshall, 2003).  “Talking to biologists, walking through rainforests, and seeing the world” apparently qualifies a person, from Bill Allen’s perspective as the editor of National Geographic, to write from a scientific viewpoint on the intricate biological, biogeographical, and paleontological aspects of evolution.  From our perspective, however, the choice of this particular author might explain why much of Quammen’s article—dealing as it does with such a wide variety of scientific concepts related to organic evolution—is so far off the mark.  And make no mistake about it—it is far off the mark!

But that aside for the moment, there can be no denying the “agenda” that Quammen had in writing his article.  As he began, he assured his readers that, in regard to evolution, “knowledgeable experts accept it as a fact.”  Here we go again!  In philosophical circles, this is known as the “fallacy of consensus gentium,” which is the view that something is true on the basis that the majority of people believe it, or because it is held to be universally true.  Philosophy professors routinely (and correctly) instruct their students on various fallacies of human thought, one of which is the “fallacy of consensus gentium.”  For example, in his book, Fundamentals of Critical Thinking, atheistic philosopher and evolutionist Paul Ricci discussed this very argument and explained its erroneous nature (1986, p. 175).  Interestingly, however, in the pages just prior to his discussion, Mr. Ricci had offered the following as a “proof” of evolution:  “The reliability of evolution not only as a theory but as a principle of understanding is not contested by the vast majority of biologists, geologists, astronomers, and other scientists” (1986, p. 172, emp. added).  So, this type of thinking is a fallacy, and is erroneous—unless one is trying to defend evolutionary theory?  Ah, consistency, thou art a rare jewel.

The co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, James Watson, once stated:  “Today the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority” (1987, p. 2).  One university textbook widely used for almost two decades began with these words:  “Organic evolution is the greatest principle in biology.  Its implications extend far beyond the confines of that science, ramifying into all phases of human life and activity.  Accordingly, understanding of evolution should be part of the intellectual equipment of all educated persons” (Moody, 1962, p. 1x).  In the March 1987 issue of Natural History, evolutionist Douglas J. Futuyma noted:

That evolution has occurred—that diverse organisms have descended from common ancestors by a history of modification and divergence—is accepted as fact by virtually all biologists....  The historical reality of evolution is doubted chiefly by creationists, mostly on doctrinaire religious grounds (96[3]:34).

This kind of diatribe—that evolution is a “fact” accepted by “all educated persons” except a “fundamentalist minority”—can make a real impact on people.  We have no quarrel with Mr. Quammen when he says that most “knowledgeable experts” (read that as “most scientists”) accept organic evolution.  But our response is:  So what?! Any argument based on a mere “counting of heads” is a fallacious argument.

Nevertheless, there are no doubt many “knowledgeable experts” who believe in evolution.  And there no doubt are many reasons why that is so (for an in-depth examination of a number of those reasons, see our article:  “Is Evolution a ‘Fact’ of Science?”).  Part of the reason for that, however, might just be:  “The main reason most educated people believe in evolution is simply because they have been told that most educated people believe in evolution” (Morris, 1974, p. 26).  Numerous people, including many scientists, fall into this category.  For the past century, evolution has been taught from kindergarten to graduate school as a fact that “all reputable scientists believe.”  As a result, people often believe that if they, too, wish to be viewed as “educated,” it is practically a prerequisite that they believe in evolution.  Consider how this might happen.  Take, as just one example, students in schools (and as you are reading this, imagine how many students in public schools will be exposed to the material in the November 2004 issue of National Geographic).  Where, in all likelihood, did the students’ teachers and professors receive their education?  At the feet of evolutionists, no doubt.  And where did they, in turn, receive their education?  At the feet of evolutionists.  And so on.  Thus, the vicious cycle continues unabated.

But truth is not determined by popular opinion or majority vote.  A thing may be, and often is, true even when accepted only by a small minority.  The history of science is replete with such examples.  British medical doctor, Edward Jenner (1749-1823), was scorned when he suggested that he had produced a smallpox vaccine by infecting people with a less-virulent strain of the disease-causing organism.  Afterwards, he lived as a man whose reputation had been sullied.  Yet his vaccine helped the World Health Organization eradicate smallpox.  Physician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) of Austria is another interesting case study.  He noticed the high mortality rate among surgical patients, and suggested that the deaths resulted from surgeons washing neither their hands nor their instruments between patients.  Dr. Semmelweis asked them to do so, but they ridiculed him.  Today, the solutions posed by this gentle doctor are the basis of antiseptic techniques in life-saving surgery.

Often, scientific successes have occurred because researchers rebelled against the status quo.  Sometimes consensual validation must be set aside for the sake of truth.  If it is not, those of us who work in science shall become little more than cookie-cutter scientists rushing to fit into a predetermined mold.

Darrell Huff correctly observed:  “People can be wrong in the mass, just as they can individually” (1959, p. 122).  If something is true, stating it a million times does not make it any truer.  Similarly, if something is false, stating it a million times does not make it true.  And the prestige of a position’s advocates has nothing to do with whether or not the fact is true or false.  It is incorrect (to use one example) to suggest that because a Nobel laureate states something it is true by definition.  Were that the case, when Nobel laureate W.B. Shockley suggested that highly intelligent women be artificially inseminated using spermatozoa from Nobel Prize winners to produce super-intelligent offspring, we should have taken him up on his suggestion.  Of course, such an idea was based on nothing more than the narcissistic dreamings of an over-inflated ego.  At times, the idea of strict objectivity in science is little more than a myth.  While scientists like to think of themselves as broad-minded, unprejudiced paragons of virtue, the fact is that they, too, on occasion, suffer from bouts of bias, bigotry, and presuppositionalism.  As Ian Taylor observed:  “Status in the field of science is no guarantee of the truth” (1984, p. 226).  Nobel laureate James Watson remarked rather bluntly:  “In contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid” (1968, p. 14).  Ouch, again!

Factual knowledge is not based on:  (a) the number of people supporting the claim; or (b) the importance of the one(s) making that claim.  Famed newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst Jr. once wrote about pressures from “fashionable ideas...which are advanced with such force that common sense itself becomes the victim.”  He observed that a person under such pressure might then act “with an irrationality which is almost beyond belief” (1971, p. A-4).  This is exactly what happened in the cases of Jenner and Semmelweis—and that list could be extended with ease.  Common sense became the victim, and people acted irrationally.  Were “the scientists” in the majority?  Indeed.  Were they wrong?  Yes.  Just because “knowledgeable experts” believe something does not necessarily make it right.

Furthermore, as the old saying goes, “that which proves too much, proves nothing at all.”  If we were so predisposed as to turn Quammen’s argument against him, it would not be all that difficult to do so.  In his article, Quammen bemoaned the fact that there are far too many people who, in his words, “remain unpersuaded about evolution.”  He continued this line of thinking by presenting the following facts.

According to a Gallup poll drawn from more than a thousand telephone interviews conducted in February 2001, no less than 45 percent of responding U.S. adults agreed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”  Evolution, by their lights, played no role in shaping us.

Only 37 percent of the polled Americans were satisfied with allowing room for both God and Darwin—that is, divine initiative to get things started, evolution as the creative means.  (This view, according to more than one papal pronouncement, is compatible with Roman Catholic dogma.) Still fewer Americans, only 12 percent, believed that humans evolved from other life-forms without any involvement of a god.

The most startling thing about these poll numbers is not that so many Americans reject evolution, but that the statistical breakdown hasn’t changed much in two decades.  Gallup interviewers posed exactly the same choices in 1982, 1993, 1997, and 1999.  The creationist conviction—that God alone, and not evolution, produced humans—has never drawn less than 44 percent.  In other words, nearly half the American populace prefers to believe that Charles Darwin was wrong where it mattered most (2004, 206[5]:6, emp. added).

Yes, they certainly do!  For a more in-depth examination into some of the “poll numbers” to which Mr. Quammen alluded, consider these facts.  On November 28, 1991, results were released from a Gallup poll regarding the biblical account of origins, the results of which may be summarized as follows.  On origins:  47% believed God created man within the last 10,000 years (up 3% from the 1982 poll mentioned above); 40% believed man evolved over millions of years, but that God guided the process; 9% believed man evolved over millions of years without God; 4% were “other/don’t know.”  On the Bible:  32% believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and that it should be taken literally; 49% believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, but that it should not always be taken literally; 16% believed the Bible to be entirely the product of men; 3% were “other/don’t know” (see Major, 1991, 11:48; John Morris, 1992, p. d).

Two years later, a Gallup poll carried out in 1993 produced almost the same results.  Of those responding, 47% stated that they believed in a recent creation of man; 11% expressed their belief in a strictly naturalistic form of evolution (see Newport, 1993, p. A-22).  Four years after that poll, a 1997 Gallup survey found that 44% of Americans (including 31% who were college graduates) subscribed to a fairly literal reading of the Genesis account of creation, while another 39% (53% of whom were college graduates) believed God played at least some part in creating the Universe.  Only 10% (17% college graduates) embraced a purely naturalistic, evolutionary view (see Bishop, 1998, pp. 39-48; Sheler, 1999, pp. 48-49).  The results of a Gallup poll released in August 1999 were practically identical:  47% stated that they believed in a recent creation of man; 9% expressed belief in strictly naturalistic evolution (see Moore, 1999).

In its March 11, 2000 issue, the New York Times ran a story titled “Survey Finds Support is Strong for Teaching 2 Origin Theories,” which reported on a poll commissioned by the liberal civil rights group, People for the American Way, and conducted by the prestigious polling/public research firm, DYG, of Danbury, Connecticut.  According to the report, 79% of the people polled felt that the scientific evidence for creation should be included in the curriculum of public schools (see Glanz, 2000, p. A-1).

On November 22, 2004, CBS announced the results of the latest poll to date, in an article titled “Creationism Trumps Evolution.”  According to CBS, the poll once again showed that “Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process.  Just 13 percent say that God was not involved” (see “Poll: Creationism…,” 2004).

The amazing thing about all of this, of course, is that these results are being achieved after more than a century of evolutionary indoctrination.  And Mr. Quammen, Bill Allen, and their evolutionary colleagues are extremely upset about it!  As a result, anti-creationist hysteria is in full swing.  Resolutions against creation are being passed, pro-evolution pamphlets are being distributed, “committees of correspondence” are being formed, debates with creationists are being avoided (so that the creationists no longer “tend to win”), and anti-creationist books are streaming from the presses at an unprecedented rate.  For example, in 1977 the American Humanist Association fired a major salvo by publishing a Manifesto affirming evolution as “firmly established in the view of the modern scientific community” (see “A Statement Affirming…,” 1977, 37:4-5).  Following that, Dorothy Nelkin, a professor of sociology at Cornell University, published the first of what became a series of anti-creationist books when she wrote Science Textbook Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time (1977).

Since then, a lengthy list of such books can be documented.  As samples, we might list such volumes as:  (1) The Darwinian Revolution by Michael Ruse (1979); (2) Abusing Science:  The Case Against Creationism by Philip Kitcher (1982); (3) The Monkey Business by Niles Eldredge (1982); (4) Scientists Confront Creationism, edited by Laurie Godfrey (1983); (5) Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution by Douglas J. Futuyma (1983); (6) Science and Creationism, edited by Ashley Montagu (1984); (7) Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality? by Norman D. Newell (1985) (8) The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (1986); (9) Science and Creation by Robert W. Hanson (1986); (10) Cult Archaeology and Creationism by Francis B. Harrold and Raymond A. Eve (1987); (11) Anti-Evolution Bibliography by Tom McIver (1988); (12) Evolution—The Great Debate by Vernon Blackmore and Andrew Page (1989); (13) Evolution and the Myth of Creationism by Tim Berra (1990); (14) The Creationist Movement in Modern America by Raymond A. Eve and Francis B. Harrold (1991); (15) The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism by Ronald L. Numbers (1992); (16) The Myth-Maker’s Magic—Behind the Illusion of “Creation Science” by Delos B. McKown (1993); (17) Creationism’s Upside-Down Pyramid: How Science Refutes Fundamentalism by Lee Tiffin (1994); (18) Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy by Arthur N. Strahler (1999); (19) The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism [the sequel to his 1982 volume, The Monkey Business] by Niles Eldredge (2000); (20) Intelligent Design: Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock (2001); (21) Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer (2001); (22) The Scientific Case Against Scientific Creationism by Jon Paul Alston (2003); (23) Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross (2003); (24) Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh (2004); and (25) Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism by Matt Young and Taner Edis (2004).

But after all the bluster and hoopla of books like those mentioned above has been set aside, doesn’t the question beg to be asked:  If the “argument from the consensus” employed by people such as James Watson, Paul Ricci, and David Quammen is correct (as they apparently think it is), why, then, aren’t they creationists—like most other people in America? After all, if only 12-13 percent accept their view that “humans evolved from other life-forms without any involvement of a god,” shouldn’t that alone be enough to show them that they are wrong?  Generally speaking, as the old familiar adage suggests, “The sauce that’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.”  Apparently not in this case, however.

A Long, Hard Look at Mr. Quammen’s
“Evidence” for Evolution

In his National Geographic article, David Quammen remarked:

Evolution is both a beautiful concept, and an important one….  The essential points are slightly more complicated than most people assume, but not so complicated that they can’t be comprehended by any attentive person.  Furthermore, the supporting evidence is abundant, various, ever increasing, solidly interconnected, and easily available in museums, popular books, textbooks, and a mountainous accumulation of peer-reviewed scientific studies (p. 8).

So what is the evidence that is self-evident to “any attentive person”?  Mr. Quammen summarized it in two distinct parts—the evolution of species, and natural selection.  As corroborating evidence, he listed four main areas:  biogeography, paleontology, embryology, and morphology.  Fair enough.  Let’s examine the evidence he provided in his article, and see if his assertion that evolution is a “fact” can be supported by the available evidence.  As a rebuttal to the information contained in David Quammen’s article in the November 2004 issue of National Geographic, we offer the following.

Natural Selection

Mr. Quammen, in commenting on how evolution is supposed to work, commented:  “Two big ideas, not just one, are at issue: the evolution of all species, as a historical phenomenon, and natural selection, as the main mechanism causing that phenomenon.  The first is a question of what happened.  The second is a question of how” (p. 8, emp. added).  Quammen went to explain how natural selection works as a mechanism of evolution.

The gist of the concept is that small, random, heritable changes among individuals result in difference chances of survival and reproduction—success for some, death without offspring for others—and that this natural culling leads to significant changes in shape, size, strength, chemistry, and behavior among the descendants.  Excess population growth drives the competitive struggle.  Because less successful competitors produce fewer surviving offspring, the useless or negative variations tend to disappear, whereas the useful variations tend to be perpetuated and gradually magnified throughout a population (p. 8).

Conspicuously missing from the National Geographic article, of course, was any reference to the many evolutionists who have stated that natural selection is, in essence, little more than a tautology (viz., it is based on circular reasoning).  The truth is, Mr. Quammen’s evolutionary cohorts have been acknowledging this obvious fact for years.  T.H. Morgan, the eminent geneticist and pioneer of fruit-fly research, seems to have been one of the first to spot the problem.  He wrote early in the twentieth century:  “For it may be little more than a truism to state that the individuals that are best adapted to survive have a better chance of surviving than those not so well adapted to survive” (as quoted in Bethell, 1976).  British evolutionist Francis Hitching observed that “Darwinism, as Darwin wrote it, could be simply but nonsensically stated:  survivors survive.  Which is certainly a tautology; and tells us nothing about how species originate, as even Darwin’s supporters admit” (1982, p. 84, emp. added).  Dr. Hitching even went so far as to note that “a tautology (or truism) is a self-evident, circular statement empty of meaning, such as ‘Darwin was a man,’ or ‘biology is studied by biologists.’ The trouble with natural selection (and survival of the fittest) is that it seems to fall into this category” (p. 84, parenthetical items in orig.).

Some well-known evolutionists have been trying for years to get their own colleagues to concede that natural selection is a tautology.  Somehow, natural selection is supposed to ensure the “survival of the fittest,” but the only pragmatic way to define the “fittest” is (you guessed it!) “those that survive.”  At a professional symposium on Neo-Darwinism, geneticist C.H. Waddington of Edinburgh University opined:

The theory of neo-Darwinism is a theory of the evolution of the changing of the population in respect to leaving offspring and not in respect to anything else.  Nothing else is mentioned in the mathematical theory of neo-Darwinism.  It is smuggled in, and everybody has in the back of his mind that the animals that leave the largest number of offspring are going to be those best adapted also for eating peculiar vegetation, or something of this sort; but this is not explicit in the theory.  All that is explicit is that they will leave more offspring.  There, you do come to what is, in effect, a vacuous statement:  Natural selection is that some things leave more offspring than others; and you ask, which leave more offspring than others; and it is those that leave more offspring; and there is nothing more to it than that.  The whole guts of evolution—which is, how do you come to have horses and tigers and things—is outside the mathematical theory (as quoted in Moorhead and Kaplan, 1967, p. 14, emp. added).

Waddington is not alone in his assessment of the serious problems facing evolution as a result of natural selection having been shown to be a circular argument.  G.A. Peseley joined the ranks of those criticizing natural selection as evolution’s mechanism when he stated:

One of the most frequent objections against the theory of natural selection is that it is a sophisticated tautology.  Most evolutionary biologists seem unconcerned about the charge and make only a token effort to explain the tautology away.  The remainder, such as Professors Waddington and Simpson, will simply concede the fact.  For them, natural selection is a tautology which states a heretofore unrecognized relation:  the fittest—defined as those who will leave the most offspring—will leave the most offspring.

What is most unsettling is that some evolutionary biologists have no qualms about proposing tautologies as explanations.  One would immediately reject any lexicographer who tried to define a word by the same word, or a thinker who merely restated his proposition, or any other instance of gross redundancy; yet no one seems scandalized that men of science should be satisfied with a major principle which is no more than a tautology (1982, 38:74).

Arthur Koestler, vitalist philosopher and author, incisively described the tautology of natural selection in these words:

Once upon a time, it all looked so simple.  Nature rewarded the fit with the carrot of survival and punished the unfit with the stick of extinction.  The trouble only started when it came to defining fitness....  Thus natural selection looks after the survival and reproduction of the fittest, and the fittest are those which have the highest rate of reproduction....  We are caught in a circular argument which completely begs the question of what makes evolution evolve (1978, p. 170).

Yet, as Harvard-trained lawyer Norman MacBeth observed:  “In the meantime, the educated public continues to believe that Darwin has provided all the relevant answers by the magic formula of random mutations plus natural selection—quite unaware of the fact that random mutations turned out to be irrelevant and natural selection a tautology” (1982, 2:18).  James E. Lloyd, editor of the Florida Entomologist, condemned evolution with faint praise (while simultaneously attempting to prop up its alleged factuality) when he wrote:

Natural selection, though it may be tautological and philosophically a poor theory in the various ways it is usually stated (e.g., “survival of the fittest”), and perhaps not even capable of being falsified, is nevertheless profound and axiomatic.  It provides the most useful insight for problem solving that biological science has, and is the heart and soul of behavioral ecology (1982, 65:1, emp. added).

The problem for natural selection, however, does not end there.  In fact, it gets even more serious.  As Stephen J. Gould observed:  “The essence of Darwinism lies in a single phrase:  natural selection is the creative force of evolutionary change.  No one denies that selection will play a negative role in eliminating the unfit.  Darwinian theories require that it create the fit as well” (1977b, p. 28).  Unfortunately, creating the fit is the one thing natural selection cannot do.  As the famous Dutch botanist Hugo deVries put it:  “Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest” (1905, pp. 825-826).  The late English paleontologist Colin Patterson placed the matter in its proper focus when he commented that “…most of the current argument in neo-Darwinism is about this question:  how a species originates.  And it is there that natural selection seems to be fading out, and chance mechanisms of one sort or another are being invoked” (1982).

National Geographic’s Quammen, like a skilled magician, employed natural selection as a mechanism for macroevolutionary processes, and then with a convenient sleight-of-hand trick, proceeded to offer as “proof” examples of microevolution.  With impressive, full-color photographs (provided by Rob Clark), Quammen used the tired old argument of Darwin’s finches (pp. 26-27,30) as a demonstration of natural selection, citing specifically the well-known scientific studies of Peter Grant from Princeton University who, with his wife Rosemary, has spent the past several decades observing changes in finches’ beaks on the Galápagos Islands (p. 30).  In the end, all that the Grants discovered was that finches’ beaks change.  The finches, however, always remained finches.  They did not turn into something else.  Quammen also referred to variation among dogs (pp. 16-17).  If this is the best the evolutionists have to offer, then their theory is in far worse trouble than even they seem to realize.

Creationists never have objected to the idea of natural selection as a mechanism for eliminating the unfit, non-adapted organisms. As a matter of fact, creationists long before Darwin were advocating natural selection as a conservation principle.  Few people are aware, apparently, that natural selection was not Charles Darwin’s discovery.  A creationist zoologist/chemist by the name of Edward Blyth (1810-1873) wrote about it in the years between 1835 and 1837, well before Darwin.  Some evolutionists, like the late Loren Eiseley (Benjamin Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania), even have gone so far as to question the incredible similarity between Blyth’s essays and those of Charles Darwin (1959), hinting at plagiarism on Darwin’s part.  Eiseley wrote that “the leading tenets of Darwin’s work—the struggle for existence, variation, natural selection, and sexual selection—are all fully expressed in a paper written by Blyth in 1835” (1979, p. 55).  That fact has not been lost on creationists.  Ian Taylor, in his book, In the Minds of Men, discussed Darwin’s reading of Patrick Matthew’s 1831 essay, Naval Timber and Arboriculture, which in its appendix contained the phrase “this natural process of selection”—a phrase that Darwin changed slightly to “natural means of selection” and incorporated into his very first essay, published in 1842 (1984, p. 125).

As a screening device for eliminating the unfit, natural selection represents the Creator’s plan for preventing harmful mutations from affecting and even destroying the entire species.  Further, to employ an old adage, that which says too much says nothing at all.  The long neck of the giraffe and the short neck of the hippopotamus are both explicable by natural selection, as are both the dull coloration of the peppered moth and the brilliant colors of the bird of paradise.  Natural selection “explains” everything, and therefore really explains nothing.  It cannot create new genera, families, phyla, etc.  It cannot explain adaptation.  The fact that an organism is adapted to its environment tells us absolutely nothing about how it came to be adapted.  Any organisms not so adapted would not have survived, but this constitutes no proof that those organisms that did survive possessed adaptations produced by evolution.  Yet Gould has admitted that natural selection must be able to “create the fit” if it is to be deemed successful in an evolutionary scenario.  This, it cannot do.  And it certainly cannot explain the vast complexity of life around us.  Tautologous arguments are not equipped with the power to “explain” such, much less “create” such.  As Swedish biologist Søren Løvtrup wrote (mincing no words!):

After this step-wise elimination, only one possibility remains:  the Darwinian theory of natural selection, whether or not coupled with Mendelism, is false.  I have already shown that the arguments advanced by the early champions were not very compelling, and that there are now considerable numbers of empirical facts which do not fit with the theory.  Hence, to all intents and purposes the theory has been falsified, so why has it not been abandoned?  I think the answer is that current evolutionists follow Darwin’s example—they refuse to accept falsifying evidence (p. 352, emp. added).

Enough said!


As one of his supporting pieces of “evidence,” Quammen leaned heavily on biogeography—a branch of science that attempts to document and understand spatial patterns of biodiversity among plants and animals.  In speaking of Darwin, Mr. Quammen commented:

Biogeography, for instance, offered a great pageant of peculiar facts and patterns.  Anyone who considers the biogeographical data, Darwin wrote, must be struck by the mysterious clustering pattern among what he called “closely allied” species—that is, similar creatures sharing roughly the same body plan.  Such closely allied species tend to be found on the same continent (several species of Zebra in Africa) or within the same group of oceanic islands (dozens of species of honeycreepers in Hawaii, thirteen species of Galápagos finch), despite their species-by-species preferences for different habitats, food sources, or conditions of climate….  Why should “closely allied” species inhabit neighboring patches of habitat?  And why should similar habitat on different continents be occupied by species that aren’t so closely allied?  “We see in these facts some deep organic bond,” Darwin wrote.  “This bond, on my theory, is simply inheritance.”  Similar species occur nearby in space because they have descended from common ancestors (pp. 9-10, parenthetical items in orig, emp. added).

So there you have it.  Because certain plants or animals share “roughly the same body plan” and “tend to be found on the same continent,” they therefore are genetically related, and have come from a common ancestor.  Evolutionists suggest that only evolution can explain why there are certain creatures in one location (like kangaroos in Australia), but not in another location.

One thing Mr. Quammen apparently “forgot” to mention as he was discussing his “evidence” is that biogeography is usually not even an “experimental” science.  It is mostly a comparative observational branch, due to the fact that the spatial and temporal scales are commonly too large for true experimentation.  Thus, this field speculates about what determines where a species to lives, and what prevents it from colonizing in other areas.  Most biogeographers try to evaluate three processes in explaining what is found in nature:  evolution; extinction; and dispersal.  Obviously, however, formulating theories and predictions while having already accepted evolution as a “fact,” will grossly bias any interpretation of the scientific data.

For instance, we know today that many species have suspicious resemblances to supposedly different species that “just happen” to live nearby.  They appear this way, even though another species—designed differently—would seem to be a better fit.  For example, the trees on the remote island of St. Helena are unlike the trees anywhere else on Earth.  Sunflowers appear to be the “closest relative” to the strange gumwood tree and to the native cabbage-trees.  And, the most closely related sunflower is the local sunflower.  The scientific explanation is that this volcanic island originally was formed far away from any continent, and therefore started out with no land plants.  Eventually, some sunflower seeds managed to get there.  Since nothing else was filling the role of “tree,” these sunflowers filled that role.  Transformed by time, competition, and the demands of their role, they now look like trees.  The only problem with this explanation is that no macroevolution has occurred.  Sunflowers are still sunflowers.

Examples like this can be found on almost every remote island, and evolutionists are quick to try and use such examples as proof for their theory.  In the Galápagos Islands, the absence of woodpeckers has caused some finches—which obtain their food in a manner similar to woodpeckers—to fit into the “woodpecker” niche.  Most scientists today suspect that finches were one of the only “land birds” to occupy the Galápagos, and as such, the birds have modified beaks that allow them to take advantage of various food sources.  Moving to the North American continent, we now know that birds are the same on both sides of the Grand Canyon, yet there are different rodents on each side.  The obvious explanation is that the canyon isolates groups of rodents, but does not isolate birds.  Such differences permit us to speculate on what allows a species to live where it does, but they do not tell us anything about how the species got there in the first place!

Explaining such things as the origin of Australia’s marsupial population is just as difficult for evolutionists as they claim it is for creationists.  Marsupials like kangaroos, opossums, wallabies, and koalas seem unusual, but monotremes (i.e., the echidna and the platypus) are even more puzzling.  The main difference between marsupials and most other mammals centers on the reproductive system.  Marsupials give birth prematurely, and allow the fetus to develop in an external pouch.  In other mammals, (excluding the monotremes, which lay eggs), the fetus develops within the uterus and is attached to, and nourished by, the placenta.  Neither biogeography nor evolution can explain why animals sharing the same tree, reproduce using an internal uterus (e.g., squirrels) as opposed to an external pouch (e.g., opossums).

One of the most interesting facts about marsupials is that they nearly all have non-marsupial equivalents in other parts of the world (see Dobzhansky, et al., 1977, Figure 9.3, p. 267).  The kangaroo has a similar role to the antelope that roams the African savanna.  The wombat resembles a badger, and even has a backward-pointing pouch so that it will not fill with dirt while burrowing!  There also are many small marsupials that have rodent counterparts.  Evolutionists, of course, are forced to attribute such similarities to “parallel evolution” in both homology (being alike in form) and analogy (occupying a corresponding niche).  That is, they believe that these marsupials and their placental peers developed independently—while they share similar characteristics, they took different paths to get there (see Simpson and Beck, 1965, pp. 499-501).  A common ancestry, combined with similar forces of natural selection, evolutionists assert, will result in the same sort of changes through time.  This common ancestor is thought to be the opossum because it is a marsupial, and is found in other areas of the world apart from Australia.

According to evolutionary theory, the opossum was a primitive mammal living 200 million years ago on a single southern land mass called Gondwanaland.  When parts of this supercontinent divided into what are now Australia and South America, the opossums were separated geographically.  Over eons of time, so the story goes, the Australian descendants of the opossum developed into the various types of marsupials seen today.  But in South America, they “evolved” placentas and eventually migrated to North America and Eurasia.  These evolutionary theories, however, suffer from a number of problems.

(1) There are no intermediate fossils (“transitional forms”) showing the development of the marsupials from an opossum or opossum-like ancestor.  Furthermore, to suggest that one type of mammal could arise by supposed evolutionary mechanisms is incredible enough, but the probability of having both placental and non-placental forms evolve in the same way, at the same time, and in different regions, is remote, to say the least.

(2) The humble opossum has been nominated as the ancestor of all mammals because it is supposed to be so “primitive,” having a relatively small brain and no “specialized” characteristics.  But the opossum has thrived virtually unchanged in many parts of the world.  In general, marsupials are often considered less “advanced” because they lack the complex internal reproductive system of placental mammals.  However, they possess many other characteristics that could give them an edge over their placental counterparts.  For instance, a female kangaroo can nourish two young ones of different ages at the same time, providing the appropriate formula from each teat.  Unlike placental mammals, marsupials can suspend or abort the embryo deliberately if adverse conditions arise.  And, of course, the pouch provides a superior place of protection for the young marsupial.  Yes, marsupials are different, but they are not inferior.

(3) The distribution of marsupials is not well answered by evolutionary theories.  According to Michael Pitman, “the most diverse fossil assemblies have been obtained from South America and, later (Pliocene), Australia” (1984, p. 206, parenthetical item in orig.).  That is, according to the fossil record, the marsupials already were well defined as a distinct group before the alleged separation of Australia from other continents.  Thus, geographic separation cannot be as significant to their development as evolutionists like to think (or as they would like everyone else to think).

There also are numerous other puzzles in regard to the distribution of living (and/or fossil) organisms.  For example, evolutionists are forced to admit that marsupials once lived in Europe, Asia, and in abundance in North America, yet now are largely absent (except for opossums in the Americas).  Consider the following revealing admission from two evolutionists:

Living marsupials are restricted to Australia and South America (which were part of the supercontinent Gondwana); North American opossums are recent immigrants to the continent.  In contrast, metatherian fossils from the Late Cretaceous are exclusively from Eurasia and North America (which formed the supercontinent Laurasia).  This geographical switch remains unexplained (Cifelli and Davis, 2003, 301:1899-1902, emp. added).

Closely related species in a certain geographical area (like the thirteen species of finches in the Galápagos Islands that Quammen mentioned—species which, by the way, are now known to be interbreeding!)—may well have arisen from a single, original species (a.k.a., a “common ancestor”).  But that says nothing about where that single original species came from.  “A finch ‘changing’ into a finch” does not offer any explanation whatsoever as to how finches originated in the first place.  Such instances are textbook examples of sorting already-present genetic information (and far more rapidly than evolutionists would expect!).  But they are not examples of generating new information.  Furthermore, studies have now shown that many changes are actually the result of a built-in capacity to respond (i.e., adapt) to cyclically changing climates.  For example, while a drought might result in a slight alteration in the specific size of a finch’s beak, whatever changes take place during such a period of stress rarely are permanent.  The finch’s beak generally returns to the original condition once the drought ends.  This same type of argumentation applies to the other examples (anoles, mole rats, ants, pigeons, and fruit flies) that Quammen employed in his National Geographic article.

Ascribing evolutionary interpretations to events we find in nature does not make those events the product of organic evolution.  Regardless of what David Quammen thinks, and contrary to what his November 2004 National Geographic article implies, creationists have no problem whatsoever with the production of new species—which are the end result of the reshuffling (or loss) of the genetic information in the original created kinds of organisms.  The disagreement in science today between evolutionists and creationists is not about the production of new species.  Rather, it is about the production of those groupings beyond the species level (genus, family, class, order, or phylum).  Instances from biogeography of “closely allied” species says nothing whatsoever about how one kind of organism was able to “evolve” into another kind of organism.

When Darwin said that he saw in the facts of biogeography “some deep organic bond,” he was seeing exactly what he wanted to see, not what the data themselves revealed.  And when David Quammen, 145 years later, said that “similar species occur nearby in space because they have descended from common ancestors,” he was doing exactly the same.  The facts are one thing; the interpretation of the facts is something else entirely.


In a section of his article that is an inexcusable gaffe on his part, and one that surely must represent a terrible embarrassment to his evolutionary colleagues, Quammen resurrected the long-dead concept of “horse evolution.”  Several decades ago, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City assembled a famous exhibit of fossil horses, from Eohippus (now known as Hyracotherium) to modern Equus.  This exhibit was presented as powerful evidence for Darwinism, with Equus being the ultimate “goal” of equine evolution.  Soon thereafter, this story of the horse family was included in practically all biology textbooks—from which no doubt, Mr. Quammen obtained his outdated information.  He wrote:

In North America, for example, a vaguely horselike creature known as Hyracotherium was succeeded by Orohippus, then Epihippus, then Mesohippus, which in turn were succeeded by a variety of horsey American critters.  Some of them even galloped across the Bering land bridge into Asia, then onward to Europe and Africa.  By five million years ago they had nearly all disappeared, leaving behind Dinohippus, which was succeeded by Equus, the modern genus of horse (p. 12).

Interestingly, another editor of a well-known magazine tried this tact several years earlier, and ended up being publicly scolded for it.  John Rennie, editor of Scientific American, wrote in the July 2002 issue of that publication:  “Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups….  A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus” (2002, 287[1]:83).

The alleged evolutionary tree that gave rise to modern day horses

The alleged evolutionary tree that depicts the rise of modern-day horses

Evolutionists themselves long ago abandoned horse evolution as an example of transitional forms, since they no longer believe the fossil record represents anything like a straightforward progression, but instead a bush with many varying branches.  As Heribert Nilsson correctly pointed out as long ago as 1954:

The family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous only in the textbooks.  In the reality provided by the results of research it is put together from three parts, of which only the last can be described as including horses.  The forms of the first part are just as much little horses as the present day damans are horses.  The construction of the horse is therefore a very artificial one, since it is put together from non-equivalent parts, and cannot therefore be a continuous transformation series (pp. 551-552, emp. added).

Mr. Quammen apparently does not realize that as far back as the 1950s, scientists already had cast aside the false notion of horse evolution via classic Darwinian changes.  [In fact, the vast majority of textbooks (including ones published by National Geographic!) have abandoned the horse in favor of the camel—a species they believe can paint the same picture but that has not been so publicly ridiculed.] David Raup of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, acknowledged:

Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded....  Ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time.  By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information—what appeared to be a nice, simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic (1979, pp. 24,25).

The late eminent paleontologist of Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson, summed it up well when he wrote:  “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature” (1953, p. 125, emp. added).  Another scientist from Harvard—and a man for whom Dr. Simpson served as mentor—Stephen J. Gould, bemoaned the continued use of what he termed “misinformation” such as horse evolution.  He wrote.

Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts.  (I have written two essays on this lamentable practice:  one on the amusingly perennial description of the eohippus, or “dawn horse,” as the size of a fox terrier, even though most authors, including yours truly, have no idea of the dimensions or appearance of this breed…) [2000, 109[2]:45; to read his exposure of the fallacy of horse evolution, see Gould, 1991, pp. 155-167].

Creationist Jonathan Sarfati wrote along these lines:

Even informed evolutionists regard horse evolution as a bush rather than a sequence.  But the so-called Eohippus is properly called Hyracotherium, and has little that could connect it with horses at all.  The other animals in the “sequence” actually show hardly any more variation between them than that within horses today.  One non-horse and many varieties of the true horse kind does not a sequence make (2002a).

Truer words were never spoken:  “One non-horse and many varieties of the true horse kind does not a sequence make.”  It will require much better evidence than this from evolutionists if they hope to convince knowledgeable people that their theory is correct (much less a “fact” of science).  Apparently, however, they have no better evidence, as was evident from Mr. Quammen’s next feeble attempt to produce an intermediate form in the fossil record.

Alleged Reptile-to-Bird Evolution

As if Quammen’s horse-evolution gaffe were not bad enough, he then resurrected the long-defunct idea of Archaeopteryx as some sort of reptile-to-bird transitional form.  [Interestingly, Scientific American’s John Rennie tried using it, too.  He wrote:  “One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx, which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs” (2002, 287[1]:83).]

Both men, as it turns out, are wrong—as many of their own evolutionary colleagues have long admitted.  For over 100 years, evolutionists considered a creature known as Archaeopteryx to be the best example of a transitional form between land-dwelling animals and birds.  In 1860, a single refined, asymmetrical feather was discovered in the Solnhofen Limestone (named after the small town of Solnhofen, Germany).  This discovery provided the ultimate gift of the evolutionary gods to scientists of the day who were searching diligently for something (anything!) in the fossil record that portrayed the combined traits of two distinct classes of animals.  The animal from which the feather was alleged to have come eventually was named Archaeopteryx lithographica, a creature that must have had a considerable impact on a society that already was discussing Darwin’s intriguing proposals regarding the theory of evolution.  This “missing link” was the first real evidence that Darwinists felt supported their position of a transition from land-dwelling animals into birds.

Evolutionists used to consider Archaeopteryx as the transitional form that allowed land-dwelling animals finally to get off the ground.  In the past, practically all evolution-based science textbooks contained a breathtaking photographic reproduction, and equally fascinating description, of Archaeopteryx, with genealogical lines showing the descent of modern birds from this ancient “intermediate.”  According to paleontologists, the available fossils of Archaeopteryx reveal that it was a crow-sized animal that may have been able to fly, but probably not very far.  Archaeopteryx had a wingspan of about 1.5 feet, was approximately 1 foot long from beak to tail, and likely weighed around 11 to 18 ounces.

However, this one “missing link”—which was supposed to revolutionize mankind’s understanding of bird evolution—ultimately created more problems than solutions for evolutionists.  An ongoing debate as to whether or not this animal was merely a bird, or a true intermediate, continued nonstop for over a century.  The famous American dinosaur hunter Othniel C. Marsh once said:  “He is certainly a wise man who today can tell a bird from a reptile, with only the fragments of an ancient form before him” (1890).  Two years after German paleontologist Herman von Meyer published his description of Archaeopteryx, Sir Richard Owen, the curator of the British Museum of Natural History, published his own description.  As far as Owen was concerned, Archaeopteryx was unequivocally a bird—a peculiar and distinctive bird, but a bird nevertheless.  So what is it about this famous fossil that has some people seeing birds and others seeing dinosaurs?

The urgency of needing to find some sort of “intermediate,” caused evolutionists to concentrate on as many features of Archaeopteryx as possible in order to discover “combined” traits.  According to Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History, Archaeopteryx had “advanced characteristics of birds and retained a tremendous amount of ‘primitive’ characteristics, like teeth” (as quoted in Sunderland, 1988, p. 78).  However, some fish have teeth, some do not.  Some amphibians have teeth, some do not.  How can a scientist look at the presence of teeth and simply assume that this animal evolved from something else?

Many scientists point out things like an opposable hallux (big toe), the furcula (wishbone), which is formed by two clavicles that have fused in the midline, and an elongated pubis directed backwards—and see nothing but a bird.  Evolutionist Alan Feduccia stated:  “Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur.  But it’s not.  It is a bird, a perching bird.  And no amount of ‘paleobabble’ is going to change that” (as quoted in Morell, 1993, 259:764, emp. added).  A more recent fossil bird from Mongolia—Mononychus—had hands and arms like those of digging animals (as well as teeth), and is dated at only half as old as Archaeopteryx.  Writing for Science News, Richard Monastersky observed:

Mongolian and U.S. researchers have found a 75-million-year-old, bird-like creature with a hand so strange it has left paleontologists grasping for an explanation....  Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago notes that Mononychus had arms built much like those of digging animals.  Because moles and other diggers have keeled sternums and wrists reminiscent of birds, the classification of Mononychus becomes difficult, he says (1993, 143:245).

Thus, evolutionists now are faced with the possibility that birds may have evolved from moles instead of reptiles!  Consequently, scientists are trying to discern how it is that animals that normally burrow in the ground suddenly decided to abandon their usual environment and “just fly away.”  [We imagine that a goodly number of farmers would be interested in learning how to get these pesky creatures to abandon their fields and “just fly away”!]

So what is the truth about Archaeopteryx?  Perhaps the late Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, summed it up best when he stated that Archaeopteryx

has simply become a patsy for wishful thinking.  Is Archaeopteryx the ancestor of all birds?  Perhaps yes, perhaps no:  there is no way of answering the question.  It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection.  But such stories are not a part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test (as quoted in Sunderland, 1988, p. 102).

The story surrounding Archaeopteryx has been complicated by another discovery that has left evolutionists scratching their heads in regard to where, exactly, the creature actually fits in the evolutionary scheme of things.  In 1986, Sankar Chatterjee and colleagues at Texas Tech University discovered the fossilized remains of two crow-sized birds allegedly 75 million years older than Archaeopteryx (i.e., approximately 225 million years old according to evolutionary dating schemes) [see Beardsley, 1986; Chatterjee, 1991].  Chatterjee named the find Protoavis texensis (“first bird from Texas”), and has reported that the skull of Protoavis has 23 features that are fundamentally bird-like.  In commenting on this, one author wrote in Science concerning Chatterjee’s work:  “His reconstruction also shows a flexible neck, large brain, binocular vision, and, crucially, portals running from the rear of the skull to the eye socket—a feature seen in modern birds but not dinosaurs” (Anderson, 1991, 253:35).

Archaeopteryx lithographica

Archaeopteryx lithographica
All of this has caused evolutionists severe problems because Protoavis appeared at the time of the earliest dinosaurs, which means that if it is accepted as genuine, then birds obviously could not have evolved from dinosaurs, and Archaeopteryx could not be the ancestor of modern birds.  After looking at the evidence for Protoavis, Kansas University paleontologist Larry Martin suggested:  “There’s going to be a lot of people with Archaeopteryx eggs on their face” (as quoted in Anderson, 253:35).

For more than a century, the approach of some evolutionists has been to find some supporting evidence, tout it as “proof” of evolution, and then ignore conflicting theories or data.  But what do the actual facts reveal about creatures such as Archaeopteryx?  In reality, the story that scientists have attempted to weave in regard to this ancient “missing link” is unraveling before their very eyes.  Scientific data have shown colossal differences in reptilian and bird lungs, scales as opposed to feathers, and the embryological hand development of dinosaurs versus birds.  It may well be that we are witnessing the last gasps of a dying hypothesis about how birds evolved from dinosaurs! Faced with such overwhelming evidence against true evolutionary descent, it would be unrealistic to accept the position that Archaeopteryx lithographica is anything like the missing link that evolutionists once claimed it was.

Colin Patterson admitted in his 1999 book, Evolution:  “Fossils may tell us many things, but one thing they can never disclose is whether they were ancestors of anything else” (p. 109).  Henry Gee, the chief science writer for Nature, confirmed that point in his 1999 book, In Search of Deep Time, when he admitted:

We know that it is impossible when confronted with a fossil, to be certain whether it is your ancestor, or the ancestor of anything else, even another fossil.  We also know that adaptive scenarios are simply justifications for particular arrangements of fossils made after the fact, and which relay for their justification on authority rather than on testable hypotheses (p. 127).

While the “Piltdown Man” hoax was able to fool evolutionists for more than forty years, the Archaeopteryx hoax appears to have lasted far longer—and continues in some quarters to this very day, in spite of such admissions as this one from evolutionary ornithologist Allan Feduccia who wrote in Science almost a decade ago:

I conclude that Archaeopteryx was arboreal and volant [i.e., possessing extended wings for flight—BT/BH], considerably advanced aerodynamically, and probably capable of flapping, powered flight to at least some degree.  Archaeopteryx...was, in the modern sense, a bird (1993, 259:792).

And so, once again, it is not merely the “link” that’s missing in evolutionary theory—it’s the entire chain!  Given all the facts about the origin of birds, it is little wonder that Charles Darwin remarked in a letter to his American friend, Asa Gray, on April 3, 1860:  “[T]rifling particulars of structure often make me very uncomfortable.  The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!” (as quoted in MacBeth, 1971, p. 101).  Mr. Darwin, considering the paucity of the fossil record, and the elegance of the design inherent in a single feather (see “Words of a Feather” for evidence regarding the intricate design of feathers), we certainly can understand why.  [For a complete discussion on Archaeopteryx and the dinosaurs-to-birds theory, see our two-part series, “Archaeopteryx, Archaeoraptor, and the ‘Dinosaurs-to-Birds’ Theory.”]

Cows (or Antelopes?) to Whales?

As Quammen continued his (by now) greatly weakened defense of evolution, he dug still deeper into his bag of alleged evolutionary intermediate forms, bringing to the reader’s attention the work of Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan.  Gingerich, a paleontologist, is well known in evolutionary circles for his work on whale evolution.  Falling back on his own field of literature, Quammen wove a tale about being in Gingerich’s office and having him “put a small lump of petrified bone, no larger than a lug nut, into my hand.  It was the famous astragalus, from the species he had eventually named Artiocetus clavis.  It felt solid and heavy as truth” (p. 31).  This, from a man whose experience in biology amounts to walking through rain forests and talking to biologists!  What Quammen forgot to share with his readers was the fact that this “solid” heavy truth (the astragalus) was discovered down a slope, over 2 meters away from the embedded fossils that were identified as Artiocetus.  In the original report, Gingerich admitted:  “No other mammalian specimens were found in the vicinity” (Gingerich, et al., 2001, 293:2240).  Nevertheless, this “solid” evidence was assumed to be a part of a fossil (found in a different location) that “proved” whale evolution.  This appears to be the modus operandi for those who promote whale evolution.  Find a bit of a jaw or skull, have an artist draw a four-legged creature, call a press conference, and offer up unprovable speculations about how whales evolved from land mammals.

The origin of whales has dominated media headlines over the past several years as scientists have wrestled with why aquatic creatures would grow legs, walk the Earth, and then inexplicably decide to return to the water (thus explaining the differences between fish and aquatic mammals such as dolphins and whales).  Scientific American’s editor, John Rennie, in his now-infamous July 2002 issue, concluded:  “Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus helped to make that transition” (2002, 287[1]:83).  Daryl Domning, a paleontologist at Howard University, stated:  “We essentially have every stage now from a terrestrial animal to one that is fully aquatic” (Mayell, 2001).  That bold declaration was made in National Geographic News on-line, October 10, 2001, after a sea-cow skeleton was found in Seven Rivers, Jamaica.  Evolutionists contend that this find, which they have labeled an entirely new genus and species, played an important role in helping terrestrial animals make the transition from land to water.

In 1859, Darwin suggested that whales arose from bears, sketching a scenario in which selective pressures might cause bears to ultimately evolve into whales.  But, embarrassed by criticism (and, we might add, rightly so!), he removed his hypothetical “swimming bears” from later editions of the Origin of Species (see Gould, 1995, p. 359).  Evolutionists were unsure how to proceed, since they knew that whales were different from fish; thus, a different evolutionary account was required.  Whales are warm-blooded vertebrates that regulate their internal temperature via heat generated by a high metabolism.  Like most mammals (the exception being the duck-billed platypus), female whales bear live young, which are nursed by mammary glands.  While adult whales are not covered in hair or fur, they do acquire body hair temporarily as fetuses.  These features make whales unequivocally mammalian—a fact that poses a mountainous hurdle for evolutionists.

The November 2001 issue of National Geographic presented additional propaganda in an article titled “Evolution of Whales.”  While the official scientific names and full-color reconstructions contained in the article appear quite impressive, the data are far from it.  A closer examination of two alleged whale predecessors—Pakicetus and Ambulocetus—reveals that these creatures had little in common with whales, and thus do not represent the animals’ ancient ancestors.

[Remember our earlier statement that “November is not a very good month for National Geographic”?  The fraudulent Archaeoraptor creature appeared in November 1999.  Two years later, in November 2001, the whale-evolution gaffe was published.  Then, three years later, in November 2004, Quammen’s pitiful defense of evolution—using such erroneous examples as horse evolution and Archaeopteryx—appeared.  You would think that Bill Allen, the editor of National Geographic, would learn something from these repeated embarrassing failures.  Apparently not.  Surely, there’s a message of some kind here.]

Pakicetus was discovered in 1983 by Gingerich, who claimed the find as a primitive whale—even though he found only a jaw and skull fragments (see Gingerich, 1994, 2001).  So what makes National Geographic so sure this creature is the long-lost “walking” ancestor of modern whales?  Douglas Chadwick (author of the November 2001 article) stated:

What causes scientists to declare the creature a whale?  Subtle clues in combination—the arrangement of cups on the molar teeth, a folding in a bone of the middle ear, and the positioning of the ear bones within the skull—are absent in other land animals but a signature of later Eocene whales (2001, 200:68).

Artist’s rendition of an “aquatic” Pakicetus

Artist’s rendition of an “aquatic” Pakicetus

So, from mere dimples in teeth and folded ear bones, this animal somehow “qualifies” as a walking whale?  Interestingly, prominent whale expert J.G.M. Thewissen and his colleagues later unearthed additional bones of Pakicetus (Thewissen, et al., 2001).  The skeletons of Pakicetus published by Thewissen, et al. do not look anything like the swimming creature featured in either Gingerich’s original article or in National Geographic.  In fact, in a commentary in the same issue of Nature in which the article by Thewissen, et al. was published, the following statement appeared:  “All the postcranial bones indicate that pakicetids were land mammals, and…indicate that the animals were runners, with only their feet touching the ground” (see de Muizon, 2001, 413:260).  National Geographic, however, deceptively chose to display the Pakicetus in a swimming position, obviously trying to sway the reader into believing that Gingerich’s fossilized jawbone and skull fragments represented some type of aquatic creature—which they do not.

The next alleged ancestor, Ambulocetus natans, was proposed as a whale long before the dust settled from its fossilized remains.  The name itself, “Ambulocetus natans,” comes from the Latin words “ambulare” (to walk), “cetus” (whale), and “natans” (swimming), meaning quite literally a walking, swimming whale.  The scientists who discovered and subsequently named this fossil screamed “walking whale” well in advance of a complete analysis, and the illustrator for National Geographic exercised a vast amount of “artistic license” in assigning webbed feet to the creature.  While such feet definitely make the creature look more aquatic, it is impossible to come to any such conclusion from a study of the fossils themselves.  Soft tissues (such as webbed feet) normally do not fossilize well.  There is no evidence this creature ever spent any amount of time in the water—yet the drawing shows an animal with rear legs that appear to be built for an aquatic environment.  An examination of the actual skeleton (see Carroll, 1998, p. 335) quickly dispels the notion that the rear legs performed as obligatory fins.  The legs on Ambulocetus were not fins at all, but rather legs made for walking and supporting weight.

While artists make the transition appear easy, the logistics of going from a terrestrial environment to an aquatic one would be incredibly complex.  Evolutionist Anthony Martin admitted:  “Principally it meant developing a new mode of locomotion (from walking to swimming), a physiology to cope with a dense medium (water rather than air), new methods of detecting and catching prey, and a means of breathing efficiently at the sea surface” (1990, p. 12, parenthetical items in orig.).  Martin’s analysis did not even address the metabolic, neuronal, reproductive, and cellular changes required for such animals to live underwater.  Duane Gish summed it up well when he stated:

It is quite entertaining, starting with cows, pigs, or buffaloes, to attempt to visualize what the intermediates may have looked like.  Starting with a cow, one could even imagine one line of descent which prematurely became extinct, due to what might be called an “udder failure” (1995, p. 198).

Udder failure indeed!

Yet in his National Geographic article, David Quammen related the story of Philip Gingerich’s find of additional fossils that “challenged the prevailing view in paleontology.”  According to Quammen,

It was half of a pulley-shaped anklebone, known as an astragalus, belonging to another new species of whale.  A Pakistani colleague found the other half.  When Gingerich fitted the two pieces together, he had a moment of humbling recognition….  Here was an anklebone, from a four-legged whale dating back to 47 million years, that closely resembled the homologous anklebone in an artiodactyls.  Suddenly he realized how closely whales are related to antelopes (p. 31, emp. added).

Is this not the most fascinating “tale of a whale” you’ve ever heard?  Gingerich finds two pieces of bone, fits them together, suggests that they look like the anklebone of an artiodactyl (a hoofed land animal, like an antelope), and then leaps from that to the statement:  “Here was an anklebone, from a four-legged whale!” If this were not so serious, it would be laughable.  Terry Mortensen, in a review of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic that he authored, hinted at this when he wrote:

Hold on!  When was the last time you saw a “four-legged whale”?  Evolutionists are playing language games to call the fins and tail of a whale “legs.”  But if, as National Geographic says, the fossil “closely resembled” the anklebone in artiodactyls, then how on earth could this “single piece of fossil evidence” be interpreted as being in any way related to whales?  (2004)

Pakicetus reconstruction chart


Top left: Gingerich’s first reconstruction
Bottom left: what he actually found
Top right: more complete skeleton
Bottom right: more reasonable reconstruction

(courtesy of Answers in Genesis; used by permission)

Good question.  Why would anyone think that antelopes and whales are somehow related?  The answer, of course, has to do with homology and its use as a “proof” in evolutionary theory.  One argument frequently brought out as the “big gun” in support of the evolution has to do with what are known as the “comparative” sciences (comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, comparative physiology, comparative cytology, comparative biochemistry, etc.).  As scientists have worked in these related fields, and have learned to compare one organism with another, basic similarities have arisen among, and between, various groups.  When making comparisons of parts of organisms, scientists commonly speak of homologous structures, suggesting that these particular structures go through similar stages of development, have similar attachments, etc.  In discussing these comparative arguments and homology, R.L. Wysong noted:

Much of the case for amoeba to man evolution is built upon arguments from similarity.  Evolutionists argue that if similarity can be shown between organisms through comparative anatomy, embryology, vestigial organs, cytology, blood chemistry, protein and DNA biochemistry, then evolutionary relationship can be proven (1976, p. 393).

Michael Denton, in his text, Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, devoted a large portion of the book to such arguments and wrote:  “Since 1859 the phenomenon of homology has been traditionally cited by evolutionary biologists as providing one of the most powerful lines of evidence for the concept of organic evolution” (1985, p. 143).  Denton is correct in his assessment.  Charles Darwin himself thought of the argument from homology as one of the greatest single proofs of his theory.  Denton commented that “homology provided Darwin with apparently positive evidence that organisms had undergone descent from a common ancestor” (p. 143).  Darwin stated as much in The Origin of Species when he wrote:  “We have seen that the members of the same class, independently of their habits of life, resemble each other in the general plan of their organization....  Is it not powerfully suggestive of true relationship, of inheritance from a common ancestor?” (1962, pp. 434-435).  Denton therefore observed:  “The phenomenon of homology has remained the mainstay of the argument for evolution right down to the present day” (p. 144).

Strausburg and Weimer, in their text, General Biology, suggested:  “The greater the similarity of structure, the closer the relationship, and, wherever close relationship is found, a common ancestry is indicated” (1947, p. 629).  That statement was made in 1947.  Decades later, the same kind of thinking is still standard fare.  For example, the 1981 edition of the respected Encyclopaedia Britannica gave pride of place to the argument from homology in discussing the evidence for evolution:

The indirect evidence for evolution is based primarily on the significance of similarities found in different organisms....  The similarity of plan is easily explicable if all descended with modification from a common ancestor, by evolution, and the term homologous is used to denote corresponding structures formed in this way....  Invertebrate animals, the skeleton of the forelimb is a splendid example of homology, in the bones of the upper arm, forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers, all of which can be matched, bone for bone, in rat, dog, horse, bat, mole, porpoise, or man.  The example is all the more telling because the bones have become modified in adaptation to different modes of life but have retained the same fundamental plan of structure, inherited from a common ancestor (1981, 7:8).

Denton acknowledged the importance of such thinking within the evolutionary camp, and showed why such thinking is so necessary, when he observed that “without underlying homologous resemblance in the fundamental design of dissimilar organisms and organ systems then evolution would have nothing to explain and comparative anatomy nothing to contribute to evolutionary theory” (1985, p. 145).  The late biochemist, Isaac Asimov, one of America’s most prolific science writers, suggested that our ability to classify plants and animals on a groups-within-groups hierarchical basis virtually forces scientists to treat evolution as a “fact” (1981, 89[9]:85-87).

What is the creationist’s response to all of this?  Do similarities exist?  And if so, is the evolutionist’s explanation the correct, or the only, explanation that fits the facts of the case?

First, let us note how the creationist does not respond to this argument.  Creationists do not deny the existing similarities; similarities do exist.  Creationists are not ignorant of the existence of such facts of science.  It is here, however, that we can learn an extremely valuable lesson in the creation/evolution controversy.  That lesson is this:  rarely is it the data that are in disputeit is the interpretation placed on the data that is in dispute.  In the cases of basic similarities, whether at the anatomical or biochemical level, denying that such similarities exist serves no good purpose.  Creationists and evolutionists both have access to the same data.  The evolutionist, however, looks at the data and says that similarity is proof of common ancestry.  The creationist, on the other hand, examines the exact same data and suggests that similarity is evidence of creation according to a common design.  In essence, a stalemate exists.  Both sides have an answer to the data at hand.  And in many instances, either explanation might appear legitimate.

Second, however, the evolutionists’ argument works only if certain portions of the data on homology are presented.  If all the available data are allowed full exposure, then the evidence from homology fails.  Many years ago, T.H. Morgan of Columbia University, himself a committed evolutionist, candidly admitted what many evolutionists do not want to become common knowledge:  “If, then, it can be established beyond dispute that similarity or even identity of the same character in different species is not always to be interpreted that both have arisen from a common ancestor, the whole argument from comparative anatomy seems to tumble in ruins” (1923, p. 246).  Or, as Wysong wrote:  “If the law of similarity can be used to show evolutionary relationships, then dissimilarities can be used to show a lack of relationship” (1976, pp. 393-394).

Evolution is a complete cosmogony.  It must explain both similarities and differences within its own framework.  It is not the similarities that present the problem; it is the numerous differences.  As Sir Alistair Hardy, former professor of zoology at Oxford University, wrote:  “The concept of homology is fundamental to what we are talking about when we speak of evolution, yet in truth we cannot explain it all in terms of present-day biological theory” (1965, p. 211).  What did Dr. Hardy mean when he said, more than thirty-five years ago, that “we cannot explain it all in terms of present-day biological theory”?  He meant simply this:  only when evolutionists are allowed to “pick and choose” similarities that fit their theory, can the argument from homology be made to work.  When evolutionists are forced to use all the data—including those documenting dissimilarity—the argument from homology utterly fails.

His point is well taken—even today.  It is a documented fact that evolutionists are guilty of filtering the data to make it appear as if homology supports evolutionary theory.  Now, however, that “picking and choosing” method has been exposed, as Lester and Bohlin have observed.

Another problem is that from the raw data alone, not one single phylogeny emerges, but several.  The one that agrees most closely with the traditional phylogeny is assumed to be the most “correct.”  This hardly demonstrates the independent confirmation of evolutionary relationships.  The combining of several phylogenies from different proteins combines not only strengths but also weaknesses (1984, p. 173, emp. in orig.).

Vincent Demoulin likewise pointed out the fallacy inherent in this kind of “pick and choose” game when he noted that “the composite evolutionary tree encompasses all the weaknesses of the individual trees” (1979).  That is to say, adding up all the available data from homology studies makes for an even weaker argument than already is present when examining just a few of the data on this topic.  But there is no need to take any creationist’s word on the subject.  Evolutionist Michael Denton stated quite succinctly just how valuable all this “proof” from similarity studies really is.

Invariably, as biological knowledge has grown, common geneology as an explanation for similarity has tended to grow ever more tenuous.  Clearly, such a trend carried to the extreme would hold calamitous consequences for evolution, as homologous resemblance is the very raison d’être of evolution theory.  Without the phenomenon of homology—the modification of similar structures to different ends—there would be little need for a theory of descent with modification....

Like so much of the other circumstantial “evidence” for evolution, that drawn from homology is not convincing because it entails too many anomalies, too many counter-instances, far too many phenomena which simply do not fit easily into the orthodox picture.  The failure of homology to substantiate evolutionary claims has not been as widely publicized as have the problems in paleontology.

The discussion in the past three chapters indicates that the facts of comparative anatomy and the pattern of nature they reveal provide nothing like the overwhelming testimony to the Darwinian model of evolution that is often claimed.  Simpson’s claim that “the facts simply do not make sense unless evolution is true,” or Dobzhansky’s that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” are simply not true if by the term evolution we mean a gradual process of biological change directed by natural selection....

In the last analysis the facts of comparative anatomy provide no evidence for evolution in the way conceived by Darwin, and even if we were to construe with the eye of faith some “evidence” in the pattern of diversity for the Darwinian model of evolution, this could only be seen, at best, as indirect or circumstantial....

...the same hierarchic pattern which may be explained in terms of a theory of common descent, also, by its very nature, implies the existence of deep divisions in the order of nature.  The same facts of comparative anatomy which proclaim unity also proclaim division; while resemblance suggests evolution, division, especially where it appears profound, is counter-evidence against the whole notion of transmutation (1985, pp. 154-155).

What did Denton mean when he said that the “evidence” for evolution from homology studies “entails too many anomalies, too many counter-instances, far too many phenomena which simply do not fit easily into the orthodox picture”?  The answer to that lies in an examination of the data that have become available during the past several years.  For example, Wysong provided an extensive list of such data, among which were the following examples:

  1. The octopus eye, pig heart, Pekingese dog’s face, milk of the ass, and the pronator quadratus muscle of the Japanese salamander are all very similar to analogous human structures.  Do these similarities show evolutionary relationships?
  2. The weight of the brain in proportion to body weight is greater in the dwarf monkey of South America, the marmoset, than in man.  Since this proportion is used to show relationship between primates and man, is the marmoset, therefore, more evolved than man?
  3. The plague bacterium (Pasteurella pestis [now designated as Yersinia pestisBT/BH]) afflicts only man and rodent.  Does this similarity show close relationship?
  4. Plant nettle stings contain acetylcholine, 5-hydroxytryptamine and histamine.  These chemicals are also found in man.  Are man and plant closely related?
  5. The root nodules of certain leguminous plants and the crustacean, Daphnia, contain hemoglobin, the blood pigment found in man.  Are these organisms closely related to man?
  6. If certain specific gravity tests are run on the blood of various animals, the frog and snake are found to be more similar to man than the monkey is to man.
  7. If the concentration of red blood cells in animals is compared (millions per cubic millimeter of blood), man is more similar to frogs, fish, and birds than he is to sheep.
  8. Since bones are often used to show relationships, bone chemistry should be useful in this regard.  If the calcium/phosphorus ratio is plotted against bone carbonate, man proves to be close to the turtle and elephant, the monkey close to the goose, and the dog close to the horse but distant from the cat.
  9. The tetrapyrole chemical ring is found in plant chlorophyll, in hemoglobin and other animal respiratory pigments, sporadically as a coloring pigment in molluscan shells, and also in the feathers of some bird species.  How does tetrapyrole similarity speak for relationships (1976, pp. 394-395).

After examining examples such as these, it is easy to understand Denton’s point when he said that there are too many “anomalies,” too many “counter-instances,” and “too many phenomena which simply do not fit easily into the orthodox picture.”  Homology does not prove common ancestry.  When someone—like Philip Gingerich—picks up two bones, concludes that they very likely came from an organism like an antelope, and then assigns them to a “four-legged whale,” that is not homology at work.  Nor is it good science at work.  It is sheer imagination and wishful thinking!  Four-legged whales indeed!


In a continuing attempt to locate some type of scientific evidence that “proves” evolution to be a fact, David Quammen turned to the field of embryology, and in doing so, invoked the long-ago-discarded concept of embryonic recapitulation.  He wrote:

Embryology too involved patterns that couldn’t be explained by coincidence.  Why does the embryo of a mammal pass through stages resembling stages of the embryo of a reptile?  Why is one of the larval forms of a barnacle, before metamorphosis, so similar to the larval form of a shrimp?  Why do the larvae of moths, flies, and beetles resemble one another more than any of them resemble their respective adults?  Because, Darwin wrote, “the embryo is the animal in its less modified state” and that state “reveals the structure of its progenitor” (p. 13).

Embryology, as its name implies, is the study of the embryo.  In The Origin of Species (1859), Darwin did indeed employ embryology.  In fact, he asserted (in a discussion occupying no less than twelve pages) that similarity among the various embryos of animals and man was a primary proof of the theory of evolution.  In fact, he called it “second to none” in importance.  In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin devoted the entire first chapter to this line of evidence, stressing how critical it was to the success of his theory.

Then, along came Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834-1919), a German biologist who was such a devoted follower of Darwin that he was dubbed “the apostle of Darwinism in Germany.”  He taught at the University of Jena, and became famous for his popularization of the so-called “theory of embryonic recapitulation” (or, as he referred to it, the great “Biogenetic Law”).  [NOTE:  Haeckel’s “Biogenetic Law” should not be confused with the Law of Biogenesis, which correctly states that all life comes from previous life of its kind.] Haeckel suggested that the successive stages of human embryonic development repeat the evolutionary stages of our animal ancestry.  The catch-phrase he developed to popularize this idea was that “ontogeny [the development of one] recapitulates [repeats] phylogeny [the development of the race].”  In other words, the human embryo passes through all stages representing its ancestors—from the one-celled stage to the human.  Seeing a human embryo grow would therefore be like watching a silent, moving picture of all our ancestral history.

Today, we recognize that this argument is specious, and those who keep up with the scientific literature no longer use it.  Why?  To quote the late George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard:  “It is now firmly established that ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny” (Simpson, et al., 1965, p. 352).  Over seventy years ago, Sir Arthur Keith bluntly stated:

It was expected that the embryo would recapitulate the features of its ancestors from the lowest to the highest forms in the animal kingdom.  Now that the appearances of the embryo at all stages are known, the general feeling is one of disappointment; the human embryo at no stage is anthropoid in appearance.  The embryo of the mammal never resembles the worm, the fish, or the reptile.  Embryology provides no support whatsoever for the evolutionary hypothesis (1932, p. 94, emp. added).

A word of explanation is in order.  Haeckel was an accomplished artist who used his artistic talent to falsify certain of the drawings that accompanied his scientific articles.  One writer summarized the matter as follows:

To support his theory, however, Haeckel, whose knowledge of embryology was self-taught, faked some of his evidence.  He not only altered his illustrations of embryos, but also printed the same plate of an embryo three times, and labeled one a human, the second a dog and the third a rabbit to show their similarity (Bowden, 1977, p. 128).

Haeckel even went so far as to alter the drawings of some of his colleagues, including the famous embryologist, professor L. Rutimeyer of Basel University, and professor Arnold Bass.  The two university professors, after realizing what Haeckel had done, publicly condemned his actions.  In the end, as H.H. Newman of the University of Chicago put it, Haeckel’s works “did more harm than good to Darwinism” (1932, p. 30).

Haeckel’s falsified drawings were published around 1866.  One of the major points stressed by Haeckel in his “research”—and one of the items that has remained ensconced in the evolutionary literature to this very day—is the idea that the human embryo possesses gill slits that are leftovers from its past fish-like ancestor stage.  Evolutionist Irvin Adler, in his book, How Life Began, wrote:

The embryo of each species seems to repeat the main steps by which the species developed from the common ancestor of all living things.  All mammal embryos, for example, pass through a stage in which they have gills like a fish, showing that mammals are descended from fishlike ancestors (1957, p. 22).

Fast-forward almost fifty years to the twenty-first century.  In an educational program produced in 2001 by the University of Chicago for its Newton Electronic Community division, the following statement appeared:  “All mammals have gill slits in their very early fetal development” (Myron, 2001, p. 1).

We have known for almost 150 years that the “Biogenetic Law” is not correct, and that human embryos do not possess gill slits (see Assmuth and Hull, 1915; Grigg, 1996, 1998; Pennisi, 1997; Richardson, 1997a, 1997b; Youngson, 1998).  Even though it was common knowledge by the end of the 1920s that Haeckel’s concepts, to use Stephen Jay Gould’s words, had “utterly collapsed” (1977a, p. 216), Haeckel’s drawings and ideas still continue to turn up in modern biology texts and instructional tools as a “proof” of evolution.  Modern editions of most high school and college textbooks rarely present the latest evolutionary ideas on embryology, but instead remain content to rest their case on century-old woodcuts and misnamed “gill slits.”  As incredible as it seems, even today the “Biogenetic Law” still is being taught as a scientific fact in many public schools and universities.  Of fifteen high school biology textbooks being considered for adoption by the Indiana State Board of Education as late as 1980, nine offered embryonic recapitulation as evidence for evolution.  But advance almost two decades—to 1998.  It was in that year that George Johnson and Peter Raven published their popular, Biology:  Principles and Explorations, which presents the pictures of Haeckel’s embryos—without even so much as a hint to the student that they are fraudulent (and have been known to be so for more than a century)!  Three years later, the eminent professor emeritus and taxonomist of Harvard, Ernst Mayr, published his book, What Evolution Is, and on page 28, used Haeckel’s original drawings—again, with no mention to the reader that they are deceptive as they are fraudulent.

Interestingly, the same year that the Johnson/Raven book was published, researcher Michael Richardson, in a letter to the editor of Science that appeared in the August 28, 1998 issue of that journal, lamented:  “Sadly, it is the discredited 1874 drawings that are used in so many British and American biology textbooks” (281:1289).  Yes, sadly, it is.  Stephen J. Gould lamented:  “We should not therefore be surprised that Haeckel’s drawings entered nineteenth-century textbooks.  But we do, I think, have the right to be both astonished and ashamed by the century of mindless recycling that has led to the persistence of those drawings in a large number, if not a majority, of modern textbooks” (2000, 109[2]:44, emp. added).  One would assume that a well-known publication like National Geographic would possess the ability to internally review and check such basic tenets, in an effort to present only the truth to its readers.  Yet, that same long-discredited material—which even prominent evolutionists admit makes them “ashamed”—is exactly what David Quammen attempted to portray in the November 2004 issue of National Geographic as a “proof” of evolution.  The question is:  Why is the use of such material—which is known to be fraudulent—allowed to continue?

Evolutionists themselves have been forced to concede that the idea of embryonic recapitulation apparently has become so deeply rooted in evolutionary dogma and textbook production that it simply cannot be “weeded out.”  Paul Ehrlich observed:  “Its shortcomings have been almost universally pointed out by modern authors, but the idea still has a prominent place in biological mythology” (1963, p. 66).  Indeed it does!  Gould once wrote that embryonic recapitulation is “an evolutionary notion exceeded only by natural selection itself for impact upon popular culture” (2000, 109[2]:44).  The evidence of such an assessment is obvious when one looks at just how far-reaching Haeckel’s drawings have become.  America’s famous “baby doctor,” Benjamin Spock, perpetuated Haeckel’s recapitulation myth in his well-known book, Baby and Child Care.  Spock confidently assured expectant mothers that

each child as he develops is retracing the whole history of mankind, physically and spiritually, step by step.  A baby starts off in the womb as a single tiny cell, just the way the first living thing appeared in the ocean.  Weeks later, as he lies in the amniotic fluid of the womb, he has gills like a fish (1998, p. 223).

Such imagery persists in the popular media, too.  As an example, consider the position of the late atheist Carl Sagan and his third wife, Ann Druyan.  In an article on “The Question of Abortion” that they co-authored for Parade magazine, these two humanists contended for the ethical permissibility of human abortion on the grounds that the fetus, growing within a woman’s body for several months following conception, is not a human being.  Sagan and Druyan stated that the embryo begins as “a kind of parasite” that eventually looks like a “segmented worm.”  Further alterations, they wrote, reveal “gill arches” like that of a “fish or amphibian.”  Supposedly, “reptilian” features emerge, which later give rise to “mammalian...pig-like” traits.  By the end of two months, according to these two authors, the creature resembles a “primate but is still not quite human” (Sagan and Druyan, 1990, p. 6).  Although they never mentioned Haeckel by name, their point was clear:  abortion in the first few months of pregnancy is acceptable because the embryo or fetus is a lower form of life during this period.  Their conclusion, therefore, was that the killing of this tiny creature is not murder.  And what was the basis for this assertion?  Sagan and Druyan argued their case by subtly employing the concept known as “embryonic recapitulation.”  When, three years later, USA Today published an article on genetic similarities as proof for evolution, the author’s analogy and sole illustration invoked the icons of comparative embryology (Friend, 1993).

The cover story of the November 11, 2002 issue of Time magazine detailed what were at the time the latest findings in human fetal development.  Juxtaposed between the illustrations and the article were photo-captions that contained throwbacks to the outdated concept of embryonic recapitulation theory:  “32 days:  ...The brain is a labyrinth of cell-lined cavities, while the emerging arms and legs still resemble flipper-like paddles.  40 days:  At this point, a human embryo looks no different from that of a pig, chick or elephant.  All have a tail, a yolk sac and rudimentary gills” (Nash, 2002, 160[20]:71).  The article itself presented a “marvelous,” seemingly “miraculous,” and “vastly complicated” embryonic process.  But the glossy pictures that accompanied the article—the ones that people tend to remember—had captions that painted an entirely different picture.

The scientific community has known for decades that Ernst Haeckel—the man responsible for conjuring up this theory and then falsifying drawings to support it—purposely misled the public during the late 1800s.  Embryologist Erich Blechschmidt regarded Haeckel’s “Great Biogenetic Law” as one of the most egregious errors in the history of biology.  In his book, The Beginnings of Human Life, he minced no words in repudiating Haeckel’s fraudulent forgeries:  “The so-called basic law of biogenetics is wrong.  No buts or ifs can mitigate this fact.  It is not even a tiny bit correct or correct in a different form.  It is totally wrong” (1977, p. 32).  Biologist James W. Leach of Ohio State University bluntly commented:

The undeniable tendency of a complex animal to pass through some developmental stages reminiscent of the adult conditions of a selected and graduated series of lower forms has long been described as the “Biogenetic Law.”  But as “law” inscribed by nature it is perhaps more full of “loopholes” and “bypasses” than any law thus far inscribed by man (1961, p. 44).

In their widely used high school biology textbook, Life:  An Introduction to Biology, George Gaylord Simpson and William Beck included a footnote to their student readers on this point.  They wrote:  “The human embryo does not have any differentiated gill tissue, and the gill-like pouches do not have open gill slits as in fishes.  Fins are lacking.  The tail is not at all like any fish’s tail.  Indeed, the resemblance to an adult fish is vague and superficial” (1965, p. 240).  Simpson and Beck went on to conclude:  “It is now firmly established that ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny” (p. 241, emp. in orig.).

Haeckel's drawings of embryos

Haeckel’s drawings of embryos at three different stages for (from left to right):  fish, salamander, tortoise,
chick, hog, calf, rabbit and man (from 1876, Plates VI-VII).  The supposed “gill-slits” are shown in red.

Why, then, does the concept of embryonic recapitulation persist?  Perhaps John Tyler Bonner, former head of the biology department at Princeton University, explained it best when he admitted:  “We may have known for almost a hundred years that Haeckel’s blastaea-gastraea theory of the origin of the metazoa is probably nonsense, but it is so clear-cut, so simple, so easy to hand full-blown to the student” (1961, p. 240).  Yes, it is.  But is it right?  No, it is not.  In fact, recognition of Haeckel’s falsehoods still appears in scientific journals from time to time, as was evident in a letter to the editor in the May 15, 1998 issue of Science.  The seven authors of the letter pointed out (correctly) that Haeckel was overzealous, and purposely gave incorrect details in his embryonic drawings (Richardson, et al., 1998).  In her book, Essays in the History of Embryology and Biology, Jane Oppenheimer observed that Haeckel’s work “was the culmination of the extremes of exaggeration which followed Darwin” (1967, p. 150).  She lamented:  “Haeckel’s doctrines were blindly and uncritically accepted” and “delayed the course of embryological progress.”  Almost thirty years earlier, W.D. Matthew, former chairman of the geology department at the University of California, had acknowledged the fact that, sadly, some doctrines are “blindly and uncritically accepted.”  He wrote:  “Many a false theory gets crystallized by time and absorbed into the body of scientific doctrine through lack of adequate criticism when it is formulated” (1939, p. 159).  Never was there a more blatant case of such, than Haeckel’s “Biogenetic Law” with its catch-phrase of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”

In fact, it is so blatant that Harvard’s late renowned paleontologist, Stephen J. Gould, devoted one of his articles in Natural History (the magazine for which he wrote a column each month for twenty-five years) to the fraud.  He titled it “Abscheulich!,” which is a word from a German dialect meaning “atrocious!” The subtitle of the article was “Haeckel’s distortions did not help Darwin.”  No, fraudulent to the core as they are, they certainly did not.  Yet that did not stop National Geographic’s David Quammen from resurrecting embryonic recapitulation as a proof of evolution.

In his “Abscheulich!” article, Dr. Gould concluded by saying:  “But Haeckel’s High Victorian (or should I say Bismarckian) misdeeds provide no fodder to foes of Darwin or evolution” (p. 48).  Excuse us for asking, but “Why not?!” If fraud in the name of science does not provide such fodder, what would?  The proof from embryology that Darwin claimed was “second to none” in proving evolution true turned out to be worthless at best, and fraudulent at worst.

So what, then, should be the creationist’s response to embryology as an alleged proof of evolution?  Our response—if, indeed, any is needed in light of the startling facts presented above—is exactly the same as that offered by the eminent Canadian biologist, W.R. Thompson, in the “Introduction” he authored for the 1956 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species.  He wrote:  “The ‘Biogenetic Law’ as a proof of evolution is valueless” (1956, p. xvi).  Biologist Aaron Wasserman observed that the mammalian embryo “can in no sense be called a fish; it never actually develops functional gills and is at all times a mammal” (1973, p. 497).  Jonathan Sarfati noted:  “A human embryo never looks reptilian or pig-like.  A human embryo is always a human embryo, from the moment of conception; it is never anything else.  It does not become human sometime after eight weeks” (2002b, p. 202, emp. in orig.).  Indeed, embryology no longer can be offered as a legitimate proof of evolution.

Although Haeckel’s theory has fallen into disfavor, embryonic recapitulation is attempting to survive in a newly modified form.  Why, evolutionists ask (as Quammen did in National Geographic), “do larval forms of a barnacle, before metamorphosis, so similar to the larval form of a shrimp?  Why do the larvae of moths, flies, and beetles resemble one another more than any of them resemble their respective adults?” (p. 13).  In the current version of embryology as a proof of evolution, adherents argue that similar “patterns of embryo development” in different animals establish their common descent.  For example, the neck folds in human embryos (which Haeckel labeled as “gill slits”) eventually give rise to the jaw.  These folds develop from a similar area of the vertebrate column, and are controlled by similar gene sequences, as the gill arches of fish embryos (e.g., Gould, 1990, p. 16; cf. also Gould 2000, p. 49).  The evolutionist concludes from this that fish and humans had a common ancestor.

However, this similarity also is evidence of common design.  Mice, men, and pigs have four appendages and a head, and therefore it is not surprising that embryos should follow a similar path of development.  Indeed, the ability of embryos to form in such perfection demands something more than evolution.  Natural selection works primarily on organisms exposed to the environment or competition.  Yet the embryo is isolated from the outside world.  Evolutionary processes are at a loss to explain the origin of the mechanism that causes a fertilized egg to develop into a young version of the adult.  Life’s startling complexity—complete with DNA-coded instruction causing each embryo to be totally different from all others—is compelling evidence of a masterful plan of design inherent in the system.  As one writer put it:

...in terms of DNA and protein, right at conception each of these types of life is as totally different chemically as each will ever be structurally....  Embryonic development is not even analogous to evolution, which is meant to indicate a progressive increase in potential.  The right Greek word instead would be entelechy, which means an unfolding of potential present right from the beginning.  That’s the kind of development that so clearly requires creative design (Morris, 1982, p. 34, italics in orig.).

What could be clearer?  From DNA to the organs of the body, evidence of design is everywhere, while gradualistic development is countered by the perpetual discontinuity seen in nature.  There is nothing—either in the proposed mechanisms, or by direct observation—to show that Darwin’s theory of general evolution is a “fact” of science.


Mr. Quammen’s section in National Geographic on morphology fares no better than his section on embryology.  Incredibly, he returned to his habit of resurrecting long-discarded “proofs” of evolution by trying to use so-called vestigial structures as another such proof.  (We realize that, by this point in our rebuttal, many evolutionists may be feeling a bit overwhelmed with embarrassment at the specious arguments chosen by Mr. Quammen as support for Darwinism.  We certainly do not envy you, having someone like him as your spokesman, especially in light of the information that follows.) Quammen wrote:

Vestigial characteristics are still another form of morphological evidence, illuminating to contemplate because they show that the living world is full of small, tolerable imperfections.  Why do male mammals (including human males) have nipples?  Why do some snakes (notably boa constrictors) carry the rudiments of a pelvis and tiny legs buried inside their sleek profiles?  Why do certain species of flightless beetles have wings, sealed beneath wing covers that never open?  Darwin raised all these questions, and answered them in The Origin of Species.  Vestigial structures stand as remnants of the evolutionary history of a lineage (p. 20, parenthetical items in orig.).

In The Origin of Species, Darwin cited several instances in which animals have diminished or unused parts (1859, pp. 175-179).  For example, the ostrich has wings but cannot fly, and cave fish have eyes but cannot see (for a discussion of the blind cave-fish example, see:  “Are Blind Cave Fish a Good Example of Organic Evolution?”).  Darwin viewed this as evidence that animals have changed over time:  ostriches descended from birds with functional wings, and blind cave fish descended from fish with functional eyes.  By the end of the nineteenth century, evolutionists had compiled a long list of such vestigial and rudimentary structures alleged to exist in both animals and humans—structures that evolutionists claimed were degenerate, and thus useless.  We were told that these structures, while of no value to present-day animals or humans, were at one time useful to their evolutionary predecessors.  These structures were said to be “leftovers” that eventually would be lost completely through evolutionary processes of selection.  The following table contains just a few examples of alleged vestigial organs that still can be found in some modern biology textbooks.

Alleged Vestigial Organs in Man



Coccyx (tail bone)

Nictitating membrane of eye



Little toe

Wisdom teeth

Nipples on males


Nodes on ears (“Darwin’s points”)

Ear muscles (for wiggling)

Pineal gland

Body hair

In 1931, German scientist Alfred Wiedersheim even produced a list of 180 organs in the human body that were alleged to be vestigial or rudimentary (see Wiedersheim, 1931).  Today, Wiedersheim’s list has been all but demolished—thanks to our advanced knowledge of human physiology.  A review of the medical literature documents one of the last alleged vestigial organs in humans to be the vomeronasal organ (also referred to as Jacobson’s organ), which is found on the nasal septae.  In the 1970s, this particular organ was regarded as vestigial, but recently was discovered to be more common than previously reported.  A study conducted in 1998 found that physicians, using routine nasal examinations, identified the vomeronasal organ in only 16% of the people examined.  Yet when nasal endoscopes were employed in the same procedure, the figure jumped to 76% (Gaafar, et al., 1998).  Additionally there is now impressive evidence substantiating the fact that this organ has a specific sensory function in humans (Gaafar, et al., 1998; Berliner, et al., 1996).  Even many of the so-called vestigial organs in animals (e.g., legs in the python, hip bones in the whale, etc.) are now known to have important functions.

Yet in spite of this kind of accumulating evidence, and the fading importance of vestigial structures, it nevertheless appears that the endless evolutionary quest for vestigial structures is going to continue to plague us—even into the twenty-first century.  Mr. Quammen’s continued use of this tired old argument is proof aplenty of that.

But consider the problems for evolutionary theory that an appeal to so-called vestigial structures causes.  As late as 1997, Encyclopaedia Britannica described the human appendix in the following manner:  “The appendix does not serve any useful purpose as a digestive organ in humans, and it is believed to be gradually disappearing in the human species over evolutionary time” (see “Vestigial Organs,” p. 491).  However, the importance of this alleged “vestigial organ” was being discussed in medical textbooks as long ago as 1976.  As one scientist admitted:  “The appendix is not generally credited with significant function; however, current evidence tends to involve it in the immunologic mechanism” (Bockus, 1976, p. 1135).  More modern medical textbooks describe the appendix as a “well-developed lymphoid organ” (Moore, 1992, p. 205) whose “mucosa and submucosa…are dominated by lymphoid nodules” and whose “primary function is as an organ of the lymphatic system” (Martini, 1995, p. 916).  Yet even with this knowledge, the appendix still is mentioned in some evolutionary literature as being vestigial.

Such reasoning, however, results in utter confusion in evolutionary theory:  Neither “old” nor “new” world monkeys possesses an appendix, which leads to the conclusion that they therefore must be more highly evolved than humans.  One cannot help but wonder then, if, according to evolutionary theory, monkeys evolved from humans?

Another point that needs to be considered is this:  Were it ever the case that man at one time possessed 180 vestigial organs (organs that once were functional), then in the distant past he would have had more functioning organs than he now has.  In the past, he would have been developing the organs that he presently possesses, plus he would have had the 180 functional-but-now-vestigial organs.  So the farther back we go in time, the more complex the organism becomes (see Wysong, 1976, pp. 398-399).  Rather an interesting evolutionary twist, wouldn’t you say?

Those evolutionists who keep up with the scientific literature rarely discuss this issue any longer.  Actually, when you consider that there are no evidences of the transitional stages between functioning organs and useless organs, then these so-called useless appendages would prove devolution, not evolution. Evolution is the rise of new, different, and functioning organs, not the wasting away of already-present, complex organs.  Finally, then, creationists are forced to ask:  Where are all of the nascent [new] organs?

Involved in all of this is the principle of progression versus regression.  Here, information is the key.  Evolution demands progression, and with it there must accompany an increase of new information.  Regression can be described by the loss or corruption of genetic information.  Harvard’s Ernst Mayr defined macroevolution as the “evolution above the species level; the evolution of higher taxa and the production of evolutionary novelties, such as new structures” (2001, p. 287).  He included in his definition the requirement for the “production of evolutionary novelties, such as new structures.”  Once again, the question becomes:  Where are all of the new organs?  This is where so-called evolutionary progression comes to a screeching halt.  Vestigial organs document degeneration, which is a category of regression on a downhill slope, where information is being lost—not gained (see Wieland, 2001, p. 47).  Organic evolution cannot be sustained using examples of “downhill” change.  The basic tenets needed by evolutionists are not met, and thus vestigial organs cannot be touted as an example of the “factuality” of evolution.

Evolutionists may continue to promote this line of thinking (as David Quammen has done in National Geographic), but given time and additional research, the true function of each and every organ will undoubtedly become clear.  R.L. Wysong was prompted to remark:  “As man’s knowledge has increased the list of vestigial organs decreased.  So what really was vestigial?  Was it not man’s rudimentary knowledge of the intricacies of the body?” (p. 397).  Dr. Wysong’s point is well made.  It turns out that evolutionists actually have used the word “vestigial,” not to mean a “useless” organ, but instead to say, in reality, “we’re ignorant of what this organ’s function is at this point in time.”  As our ignorance wanes, so, ironically, does the number of alleged vestigial organs.  No proof of evolution here.

Miscellaneous Erroneous Information:
Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, Herbicide-Resistant Plants,
and Insecticide-Resistant Animals
as “Proofs” of Evolution?

As we previously pointed out, in his 33-page-long article in the November 2004 issue of National Geographic, David Quammen used a number of “sleight-of-hand” tricks to try to “prove” to his readership the factuality of evolution.  He trotted out the alleged “horse lineage”—which “proves” nothing but the fact that horses gives rise to horses (microevolution at work).  He trotted out Darwin’s finches—which “prove” nothing more than that finches’ beaks change, while the finches themselves still remain…finches (microevolution at work).  He trotted out varieties of dogs—which “prove” nothing more than that variation occurs within the canine group (microevolution at work).

But surely the most obvious of all the sleight-of-hand tricks used by Quammen was his use of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a “proof” that evolution has occurred.  He wrote:  “No aspect of biomedical research seems more urgent today than the study of microbial diseases.  And the dynamics of those microbes within human bodies, within human populations, can only be understood in terms of evolution” (p. 21).  And what did Quammen use to establish such a grand claim?  Listen carefully.

The capacity for quick change among disease-causing microbes is what makes them so dangerous to large numbers of people and so difficult and expensive to treat.  They leap from wildlife or domestic animals into humans, adapting to new circumstances as they go.  Their inherent variability allows them to find new ways of evading and defeating human immune systems.  By natural selection they acquire resistance to drugs that should kill them.  They evolveThere’s no better or more immediate evidence supporting the Darwinian theory than this process of forced transformation among our inimical germs (p. 21, emp. added).

[Nine pages later, Quammen made the same point in regard to the mutations that affect viruses, and the resistance of plants and animals to herbicides and insecticides, respectively (p. 30).]

When Quammen suggests that bacteria “evolve,” and that “there’s no better or more immediate evidence supporting the Darwinian theory than this process of forced transformation among our inimical germs,” our response, offered with a tired yawn, is:  “That’s it?  There’s ‘no better or more immediate evidence supporting the Darwinian theory’ than this?” If such is the case, then Darwinism really is in serious trouble.  And it’s little wonder, then, that magazines like Scientific American (September, 1978, July 2002) and National Geographic (November 2004) publish special issues devoted to trying to bolster the flagging concept of organic evolution.  We would like to offer here an in-depth examination of Quammen’s claim that such things as antibiotic resistance in bacteria, or the resistance of plants and animals to herbicides and insecticides, provides “immediate evidence” for the factuality of organic evolution.

We are all familiar with the concept—microorganisms that change over time, appearing to perceive and then thwart our most impressive medical efforts to kill them.  Humanity seemed to have won the battle against many diseases and viruses by using various drug treatments in the 1960s and 1970s.  Evolutionists, however, believe that as humans have developed such drugs, we also have unintentionally created a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, we have outwitted and defeated terrible diseases.  On the other hand, we have toughened the battle by inadvertently producing drug-resistant strains of microorganisms, while at the same time providing “proof” for evolution.  As Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Palumbi put it, “humans may be the world’s dominant evolutionary force” (as quoted in Quammen, p. 30).  Or, as Brown University evolutionist Kenneth Miller has suggested, “the culprit is evolution” (1999, p. 50).

Evolutionists frequently use this idea of the “rapid evolution” of microorganisms as “observed proof” for evolution.  Their claim is that drug-resistant strains of many types of such organisms have evolved from strains that, at one time, were susceptible to these same drug treatments.  Scientists would have us believe that microorganisms are “selectively adapting” to our drug treatments through a mechanism that involves genetic mutations.  But do they do it “on purpose”?  By magically endowing such microorganisms with a “sinister mind,” Palumbi has suggested that “bacterial evolution outwits one antibiotic after another” (as quoted in Hayden, 2002, 133[4]:48).

Yet, studies indicate an alternative explanation for this acquired immunity—one that argues against organic evolution.  Researchers Monica Sala and Simon Wain-Hobson (of the world-famous Pasteur Institute in France) published a paper titled “Are RNA Viruses Adapting or Merely Changing?” (2000).  In this particular study, they examined 85 sets of proteins from viruses that are known to infect bacteria, plants, and mammals.  According to the evolutionary hypothesis, once drug therapy alleviates the majority of susceptible microorganisms, only those that remain have mutated during replication and thus are resistant.  Evolutionists believe that this represents a type of natural selection taking place, in which mutations “purposefully” confer drug resistance.  Speaking about bacterial replication, Miller stated:  “The result is unavoidable, given the millions of genetic duplications that occur in a bacterial population in just a few days.  Sooner or later, the ‘right’ mutation shows up, and it causes the individual bacteria that possess it to prosper at our expense” (p. 50).

However, Dr. Sala’s data indicate that the changes we are seeing are due to simple genetic drift (i.e., random genetic variations) rather than a “selectively adapted response” to drugs.  These studies demonstrated that this genetic drift occurred at a constant rate, even when microorganisms were subjected to drug treatments (in other words, organisms changed whether or not they had been exposed to drugs).  Plus, the appearance of “drug resistance” is not as new as researchers think.  Modeling studies examining HIV-resistant mutants have demonstrated that drug resistant strains were present before drug therapy began (Ribeiro and Bonhoeffer, 2000), which indicates that the changes in these viruses are occurring randomly, rather than in response to a particular drug.  Prominent evolutionary geneticist Francisco Ayala noted:

Insect resistance to a pesticide was first reported in 1947 for the housefly (Musca domestica) with respect to DDT.  Since then resistance to one or more pesticides has been reported in at least 225 species of insects and other arthropods.  The genetic variants required for resistance to the most diverse kinds of pesticides were apparently present in every one of the populations exposed to these man-made compounds (1978, 293[3]:65)

And there is additional evidence to substantiate such a claim.  In an article titled “Superbugs not Super After All,” Carl Wieland wrote:

That some germs were already resistant to man-made antibiotics before these were invented is common knowledge to microbiologists.  Soil samples from villages where modern antibiotics had never been used show that some of the germs are already resistant to drugs like methicillin which have never existed in nature (1997/1998, 20[1]:11).

Additionally, in 1988, researchers did autopsies on three of the Northwest Passage explorers who froze to death in the Arctic in 1845.  Bacteria from their colons were cultured (with great care, to avoid any possible contamination), and many already were resistant to the most powerful modern-day antibiotics (see Wieland, 1994; McGuire, 1998, parenthetical item in orig.).

Dr. Wieland’s reference to the “Northwest Passage explorers” has to do with the famous “Franklin Expedition” of 1845.  Regarding that expedition, one writer noted:

Scientists at the University of Alberta have revived bacteria from members of the historic Franklin expedition who mysteriously perished in the Arctic nearly 150 years ago.  Not only are the six strains of bacteria almost certainly the oldest ever revived, says medical microbiologist Dr. Kinga Kowalewska-Grochowska, three of them also happen to be resistant to antibiotics.  In this case, the antibiotics clindamycin and cefoxitin, both of which were developed more than a century after the men died, were among those used (Struzik, 1990, p. A-1).

Furthermore, microorganisms like bacteria do not become resistant to antibiotics merely by experiencing genetic mutations.  In fact, there are at least three known genetic mechanisms by which such resistance can be conferred.  First, there are instances where mutations produce antibiotic-resistant strains of microorganisms.  Second, there is the process of conjugation, which among bacteria is analogous to copulation in humans.  During conjugation, two bacterial cells join and an exchange of genetic material occurs.  Inside many bacteria there is a somewhat circular piece of self-replicating, extra-nuclear DNA known as a plasmid, which codes for enzymes necessary for the bacteria’s viability.  Certain of these enzymes, coincidentally, are able to catalyze the breakdown of antibiotics, thus conferring upon the bacteria resistance to antibiotics.  During conjugation, plasmids in one organism that are responsible for resistance to antibiotics can be transferred to an organism that previously did not have such resistance.  Third, bacteria can incorporate into their own genetic machinery short, foreign pieces of DNA through either two types of DNA transposition—transformation or transduction.  In transformation, a piece of DNA from the surrounding environment (perhaps left there when another bacterium died) is absorbed into the bacterial cell.  In transduction, a foreign piece of DNA is transported physically into the cell via a virus.  As a result of incorporating new genetic material, an organism can become resistant to antibiotics when heretofore it was not.


Colorized electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria.  Courtesy usda.gov, photo by Eric Erbe, colorization by Christopher Pooley.

Do microorganisms change over time?  Yes.  Are they “purposefully evolving”?  No.  First, the genetic mutations responsible for antibiotic resistance in bacteria do not arise as a result of the “need” of the organisms to develop such resistance.  As evolutionist Douglas Futumya noted:

...the adaptive “needs” of the species do not increase the likelihood that an adaptive mutation will occur; mutations are not directed toward the adaptive needs of the moment....  Mutations have causes, but the species’ need to adapt isn’t one of them (1983, pp. 137,138).

What does this mean?  Simply put, bacteria did not “mutate” as a result of being exposed to antibiotics; the mutations responsible for the resistance were present in the bacterial populations even prior to the discovery or use of the antibiotics.  Joshua Lederberg’s experiments on streptomycin-resistant bacteria in 1952 showed that bacteria that never had been exposed to the antibiotic already possessed the mutations that conferred the resistance (see Lederberg and Lederberg, 1952).

Second, while certain pre-existing mutations may confer to bacteria antibiotic resistance, such mutations also may decrease the organism’s viability in other ways.  For example, “the surviving strains are usually less virulent, and have a reduced metabolism and so grow more slowly.  This is hardly a recommendation for ‘improving the species by competition’ (i.e., survival of the fittest)” [Bowden, 1991, p. 56, parenthetical item in orig.].  Just because a mutation provides an organism with a certain trait does not mean necessarily that the organism as a whole has been helped.  For example, people afflicted with the mutant gene for sickle-cell anemia are “carriers” of the disease, but do not die from it.  Such people are inexplicably resistant to malaria, which at first would seem to be an excellent example of a good mutation.  However, that is not the entire story.  While it is true that these people are resistant to malaria, it also is true that they are not as healthy, do not possess the stamina, and do not live as long as their unafflicted counterparts.  Bacteria may be resistant to a certain antibiotic, but that resistance comes at a price (e.g., reduced metabolism, slower growth, etc.).  From an evolutionary point of view, in the grand scheme of things this is harmful, not beneficial.

Third, regardless of how bacteria acquired their antibiotic resistance (i.e., by mutation, conjugation, or by transposition), the fact remains that they still are exactly the same bacteria after receiving that trait as they were before receiving it.  This “proof” of evolution (like so many others that Quammen used in his article, such as variation in horses, variation in finches, variation in dogs, etc.) turns out to be not vertical macroevolution but horizontal microevolution (i.e., adaptation).  In other words, these bacteria “...are still the same bacteria and of the same type, being only a variety that differs from the normal in its resistance to the antibiotic.  No new ‘species’ have been produced” (Bowden, p. 56).  In commenting on the changing, or sharing, of genetic material, ReMine has suggested:  “It has not allowed bacteria to arbitrarily swap major innovations such as the use of chlorophyll or flagella.  The major features of microorganisms fall into well-defined groups that seem to have a nested pattern like the rest of life” (1993, p. 404).

What does Dr. ReMine mean by his use of the term “nested pattern”?  Microbiologists have studied extensively two specific genera of bacteria in their attempts to understand antibiotic resistance:  Escherichia and Salmonella.  Of these, the genus Escherichia perhaps has been used more than any other in the studies of genetic mutations.  In speaking about Escherichia in an evolutionary context, the renowned zoologist of France, Pierre-Paul Grassé, observed:

Bacteria, the study of which has formed a great part of the foundation of genetics and molecular biology, are the organisms which, because of their huge numbers, produce the most mutants….  [B]acteria, despite their great production of intraspecific varieties, exhibit a great fidelity to their species.  The bacillus Escherichia coli, whose mutants have been studied very carefully, is the best example.  The reader will agree that it is surprising, to say the least, to want to prove evolution and to discover its mechanisms and then to choose as a material for this study a being which practically stabilized a billion years ago (1977, p. 87).

It appears that even though E. coli has undergone billions of years’ worth of mutations (according to the evolutionists’ timetable), it still has remained “stabilized” in its “nested pattern.”  Modern-day evolutionists, of course, sometimes beg to differ.  For example, in a special issue of U.S. News & World Report that was published on July 29, 2002, staff writer Thomas Hayden authored an article defending evolution, titled “A Theory Evolves,” in which he invoked the field of microbiology as proof for evolution.  In his article, Hayden introduced Richard Lenski, a microbiologist at Michigan State University who, since 1988, has been following twelve populations of the bacterium Escherichia coli.  At one point, the populations were genetically identical, but, as Hayden reported, now “each has adapted in its own way to the conditions in its test-tube home” (p. 48).  Interestingly, David Quammen also cited Lenski’s work, stating that Lenski has tracked “20,000 generations of evolution in the bacterium Escherichia coli.  Such field studies and lab experiments document anagenesis—that is, slow evolutionary change within a single, unsplit lineage.  With patience it can be seen, like the movement of a minute hand on a clock” (p. 30).  [At the same time, Quammen also introduced the work of William R. Rice and George W. Salt, who worked with 35 generations of the famous fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and ultimately produced “two distinct fly populations adapted to different habitat conditions, which the researchers judged ‘incipient species’ ” (p. 30).]

There are at least two observations that need to be made here.  First, most mutations are deleterious, if not fatal, to the organism, which therefore is not evolving, but devolving.  Granted, on occasion a mutation may improve the immediate chance of survival, but it always involves a loss of genetic information—which in the long run is not helpful, but harmful.  The late Hermann J. Muller, Nobel laureate in genetics, said:  “Accordingly, the great majority of mutations, certainly well over 99%, are harmful in some way, as is to be expected of the effects of accidental occurrences” (1950, 38:35, emp. added).  Evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky candidly admitted that favorable mutations amount to less than 1% of all mutations that occur (see Davidheiser, 1969, p. 209).  Dr. Dobzhansky even remarked that “most mutants which arise in any organism are more or less disadvantageous to their possessors...”  (1955, p. 105).  C.P. Martin, also an evolutionist, wrote in the American Scientist:  “Accordingly, mutations are more than just sudden changes in heredity; they also affect viability, and, to the best of our knowledge, invariably affect it adversely.  Does not this fact show that mutations are really assaults on the organism’s central being, its basic capacity to be a living thing?” (1953, p. 102, emp. added).  Almost twenty-five years later, in addressing the rarity of these “good” mutations, one researcher commented:  “From the standpoint of population genetics, positive Darwinian selection represents a process whereby advantageous mutants spread through the species.  Considering their great importance in evolution, it is perhaps surprising that well-established cases are so scarce” (Kimura, 1976, 138[6]:260).  And twenty-five years after that, Harvard’s eminent taxonomist, Ernst Mayr, remarked that “…the occurrence of new beneficial mutations is rather rare” (2001, p. 98).  Numerous researchers through the years have written in agreement (Winchester, 1951, p. 228; Martin, 1953, p. 100; Ayala, 1968, p. 1436; Morris, 1984, p. 203; Klotz, 1985, p. 181; Margulis and Sagan, 2002, pp. 11-12).  As Ariel Roth put it:

…[T]housands of laboratory experiments with bacteria, plants, and animals witness to the fact that the changes that a species can tolerate have definite limits.  There appears to be a tight cohesion of interacting systems that will accept only limited change without inviting disaster.  After decades or centuries of experimentation, fruit flies retain their basic body plan as fruit flies, and wool-producing sheep remain basically sheep.  Aberrant types tend to be inferior, usually do not survive in nature, and, given a chance, tend to breed back to their original types.  Scientists sometimes call this phenomenon genetic inertia (genetic homeostasis) [1998, pp. 85-86, parenthetical item in orig.].

Other points bear mentioning here as well.  For example, as paleontologist Kurt Wise observed:

Of carefully studied mutations, most have been found to be harmful to organisms, and most of the remainder seem to have neither positive nor negative effect.  Mutations that are actually beneficial are extraordinarily rare and involve insignificant changes.  Mutations seem to be much more degenerative than constructive… (2002, p. 163, emp. added).

Favorable mutations are indeed “extraordinarily rare.”  It also is a well-known fact that “most mutations are recessive—that is, they will not manifest themselves unless present in both parents.  Furthermore, while mutations producing minor changes may survive, those causing significant modification are especially detrimental and unlikely to persist” (Roth, p. 86, emp. added).  Lester and Bohlin also addressed this point:  “Overall, however, mutations would primarily be a constant source of genetic noise and degeneration….  Mutations occur in organisms that are already adapted to their environment.  Any large-scale, rapid alteration to the organism will not only be deleterious but most likely lethal” (1984, pp. 171,68).  Plus, as David DeWitt of Liberty University observed:  “Successful macroevolution requires the addition of new information and new genes that produce new proteins that are found in new organs and systems” (2002, emp. in orig.).  And therein lies the problem.  Mutations do not add new information.  Jonathan Sarfati correctly commented:  “The issue is not new traits, but new genetic information….  If evolution from goo to you were true, we should expect to find countless information-adding mutations.  But we have not even found one” (2002a, emp. in orig.).  Mutations do not result in new information!  And this is what evolution is all about.  Lester and Bohlin noted:

The usual answer given to the dilemma of new genetic information is that as a gene continues to mutate, eventually something different will arise.  But immediately, several questions come to our minds.  What function, for example, is this protein performing while all this mutating is going on?  Is its function slowly changing?  If so, is its former function still needed?  If not, why not?  And if so, then how is the former function being handled?  (p. 87).

Good points, these.  And that brings us to our second point.  Mutations in bacteria, to use just one example, may result in antibiotic resistance.  But in the end, the resistant microorganisms are still the same species of microorganisms they were before the mutations occurred.  Alan Hayward was right on target when he wrote that

...mutations do not appear to bring progressive changes.  Genes seem to be built so as to allow changes to occur within certain narrow limits, and to prevent those limits from being crossed.  To oversimplify a little:  mutations very easily produce new varieties within a species, and might occasionally produce a new (though similar) species, but—despite enormous efforts by experimenters and breeders—mutations seem unable to produce entirely new forms of life (1985, p. 55, emp. added, parenthetical item in orig.).

In the end, after mutations have occurred, no macroevolution has taken place.  Evolutionary theory requires that mutations occur—in order to add the information needed to push evolution “uphill.”  But the mutations that we observe, generally are neutral (i.e., they do not alter the information or the “message” of the DNA code), or else they go “downhill” (from an informational standpoint), which results in the loss or corruption of information.  In addition, the rare “beneficial” mutations that do occur and that do confer some type of survival advantage, still result in the loss of information, and thus are headed in the wrong direction, from an evolutionary vantage point.

Evolutionists Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, in their 2002 book, Acquiring Genomes:  A Theory of the Origins of Species, expressed their strong disagreement with genetic mutations as the alleged mechanism of evolution.

We certainly agree that random heritable changes, or gene mutations, occur.  We also concur that these random mutations are expressed in the chemistry of the living organism….  The major difference between our view and the standard neodarwinist doctrine today concerns the importance of random mutation in evolution.  We believe random mutation is wildly overemphasized as a source of hereditary variation.  Mutations, genetic changes in living organisms, are inducible; this can be done by X-ray radiation or by addition of mutagenic chemicals to food.  Many ways to induce mutations are known but none leads to new organisms.  Mutation accumulation does not lead to new species or even to new organs or new tissues. If the egg and a batch of sperm of a mammal is subjected to mutation, yes, hereditary changes occur, but as was pointed out very early by Hermann J. Muller (1890-1967), the Nobel prizewinner who showed X-rays to be mutagenic in fruit flies, 99.9 percent of the mutations are deleterious.  Even professional evolutionary biologists are hard put to find mutations, experimentally induced or spontaneous, that lead in a positive way to evolutionary change (pp. 11-12, emp. added).

They went on to say:

We agree that very few potential offspring ever survive to reproduce and that populations do change through time, and that therefore natural selection is of critical importance to the evolutionary progress.  But this Darwinian claim to explain all of evolution is a popular half-truth whose lack of explicative power is compensated for only by the religious ferocity of its rhetoricAlthough random mutations influenced the course of evolution, their influence was mainly by loss, alteration, and refinement….  Never, however, did that one mutation make a wing, a fruit, a woody stem, or a claw appear.  Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies.  No evidence in the vast literature of hereditary change shows unambiguous evidence that random mutation itself, even with geographical isolation of populations, leads to speciation (pp. 28-29, emp. added).

Our point exactly!  Neither mutations nor DNA transposition has altered the fact that bacteria remain exactly what they have always been—down to their very genus and species.  No true (organic) evolution has occurred, or been proved.  Mutations result in a loss of genetic information in the organism.  And the loss of genetic information cannot be used as evidence for the ascendance of a “lowly” creature to a “higher” creature—something that, by definition, would require an increase of information.  Scientists like Lenski, Rice, and Salt (to whom Quammen referred in his National Geographic article) have not produced anything “new.”  E. coli still remains E. coli, and Drosophila still remains Drosophila.  The organisms may be mutated strains of E. coli or Drosophila, but they are still E. coli and Drosophila nevertheless.  As Sarfati noted:  “If evolution from goo to you were true, we should expect to find countless information-adding mutations.  But we have not even found one” (2002a, emp. in orig.).

Consider as an example the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes severe illness or death in humans.  It can be destroyed with an antibiotic.  After the patient takes the antibiotic, it is absorbed through the cell wall of the bacterium.  H. pylori possesses genetic information that allows it to produce an enzyme that reacts with the antibiotic, converting the antibiotic into a poison that kills the bacterium.  However, due to a mutation, some strains of H. pylori cannot make the enzyme, and so cannot convert the antibiotic.  Thus, they do not die, but instead continue to reproduce, thus thwarting attempts to ward off illness caused by H. pylori.  The mutant bacteria have survived through a loss of information, which admittedly is not a sufficient process to eventually lead to an increase of information that can change a bacterium—over millions of years—into a human.  As Lee Spetner, a scientist who is an expert on mutations, stated in his book, Not by Chance:  Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution:

But all these mutations reduce the information in the gene by making a protein less specific.  They add no information and they add no new molecular capability.  Indeed, all mutations studied destroy information.  None of them can serve as an example of a mutation that can lead to the large changes of macroevolution....  Whoever thinks macroevolution can be made by mutations that lose information is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume (pp. 159–160).

So much for mutations being any help to the evolutionist.  Just like natural selection, they do not produce the new genetic information that the theory requires.  As Stephen J. Gould stated publicly during a speech he presented on February 14, 1980, at Hobart College:  “A mutation doesn’t produce major new raw material.  You don’t make new species by mutating the species....  That’s a common idea people have; that evolution is due to random mutations.  A mutation is not the cause of evolutionary change” (as quoted in Sunderland, 1984, p. 106, emp. in orig.).  No, it certainly is not.

[While we are on this subject, let us not fail to call to the reader’s attention the fact that the so-called “incipient species” that Rice and Salt claim to have produced are merely different strains of the same species, which, Rice and Salt believe (on purely theoretical grounds), “might” eventually become new species.  The production of new strains of already existing species was occurring long before Darwin ever published The Origin of Species.  Nothing new here.  For additional information on bacterial antibiotic resistance, see “Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance—Proof of Evolution?.”]


Bill Allen and Dave Quammen contend that evolution is a “proven fact of science.”  We, on the other hand, contend it is not.  And, interestingly, so do an increasing number of evolutionists themselves.  The distinguished evolutionist of Great Britain, G.A. Kerkut, wrote in The Implications of Evolution:

...I believe that the theory of Evolution as presented by orthodox evolutionists is in many ways a satisfying explanation of some of the evidence.  At the same time I think that the attempt to explain all living forms in terms of evolution from a unique source...is premature and not satisfactorily supported by present-day evidence....  [T]he supporting evidence remains to be discovered....  We can, if we like, believe that such an evolutionary system has taken place, but I for one do not think that “it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.”  ...It is very depressing to find that many subjects are being encased in scientific dogmatism (1960, pp. vii,viii, emp. added).

This stinging rebuke of the alleged factuality of evolution is not an isolated instance.  W.R. Thompson, while serving as Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control in Canada, penned the “Introduction” to the 1956 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, in which he wrote:

Darwin did not show in the Origin that species had originated by natural selection; he merely showed, on the basis of certain facts and assumptions, how this might have happened, and as he had convinced himself he was able to convince others....  On the other hand, it does appear to me that Darwin in the Origin was not able to produce palaeontological evidence sufficient to prove his views but that the evidence he did produce was adverse to them; and I may note that the position is not notably different today.  The modern Darwinian palaeontologists are obliged, just like their predecessors and like Darwin, to water down the facts with subsidiary hypotheses which, however plausible, are in the nature of things unverifiable (pp. xii,xix, emp. added).

Or as Charles Darwin’s brother, Erasmus, put it in a letter to Charles on November 23, 1859 (one day before the publication of The Origin of Species):  “Concerning species, in fact the a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won’t fit, why so much the worse for the facts, in my feeling” (as quoted in Francis Darwin, 1888, 2:29).

This attitude of “so much the worse for the facts” is deeply disturbing.  In fact, in the May 1980 issue of Physics Bulletin, H.S. Lipson, the eminent British physicist and evolutionist, authored a thought-provoking article titled “A Physicist Looks at Evolution,” which sparked quite a controversy when he addressed this very concept by stating:  “In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit with it.”  Dr. Lipson then “wondered aloud” in his article about how successfully evolution has withstood rigorous scientific testing.  He concluded:

I have always been slightly suspicious of the theory of evolution because of its ability to account for any property of living beings.  I have therefore tried to see whether biological discoveries over the last thirty years or so fit in with Darwin’s theory.  I do not think that they do.  To my mind, the theory does not stand up at all (1980, 31:138).

We agree completely.  To our minds, the theory “does not stand up at all.”  After examining the material contained in the sections above—information that has come to light in the last several decades since evolutionists like Thompson, Kerkut, and Lipson rendered their harsh assessments—we suspect you may be tempted to agree.  But we’ll let you be the judge of that.

In his monthly “From the Editor” note published in the front of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic, editor Bill Allen wrote:

Our magazine aims to explore the world, often by highlighting scientific concepts such as evolution….  Beginning on page 2, David Quammen explains how scientists, by using techniques unheard of in Darwin’s time, are finding more evidence than ever of the evolutionary links among all living things.

As it turns out, Quammen and Allen included in their “more evidence than ever” category such outdated canards as:  the fraudulent concept (from a century-and-a-half ago!) of embryonic recapitulation; natural selection; the idea that Archaeopteryx is some sort of “missing link” between reptiles and birds (which has been known to be false for more than a decade); the postulate that horse evolution has been documented through a series of intermediate forms going from Eohippus to Equus; the concept that genetic mutations actually possess the power to pass on completely new information and cause evolution at the level of the genus, family, class, order, or phylum; that simple, horizontally flowing variation with species (microevolution) somehow translates into evidence for vertically flowing organic evolution (macroevolution); and so on.  As we read through David Quammen’s 33-page-long treatise, and viewed the “proofs” that provided “more evidence than ever of the evolutionary links among all living things,” we could not help but be reminded of American humorist Mark Twain’s comment in Life on the Mississippi:  “There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact” (1883, p. 156).

We noted at the beginning of this article that, in many ways, National Geographic has a long and storied history.  That is true.  But, as the old saying goes, “that was then, this is now.”  It is a sad, sad thing to witness the current rapid downward spiral that has been occurring over the last several years under the editorship of Bill Allen.  As Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute lamented in a response he wrote to the November 2004 issue of National Geographic:

If Quammen’s article had accurately presented not only the evidence for Darwin’s theory, but also the problems with that evidence, it might have made a valuable contribution to scientific literacy in America.  As it stands, however, the article is nothing more than a beautifully illustrated propaganda piece.  The readers of National Geographic deserve better (2004).

They certainly do.  It is bad enough when Bill Allen allows Quammen to trot out timeworn, long-discarded relics (such as horse evolution) in support of evolutionary theory.  It is still worse when he permits the author to employ fraudulent information (such as embryonic recapitulation) to try to bolster it.  But for him to allow Quammen to suggest that one of the reasons that most adult Americans do not believe in evolution is because they live in a state of “confusion and ignorance” (p. 6), is to add insult to injury.

Yes, National Geographic’s readers do deserve better.  They deserve respect.  They deserve honesty.  They deserve the truth.  They (and the rest of Americans) deserve not to be labeled as “confused and ignorant.”  They deserve better writers for the magazine they are purchasing with their hard-earned paychecks.  And above all, they deserve an editor who knows better than to try to pull the type of shenanigans that Bill Allen has continued to propagate in the November 1999, November 2001, and November 2004 issues of National Geographic.

There is not a shred of doubt that, as a result of the fiasco that is represented by the November 2004 issue of National Geographic, things have now gotten completely out of hand.  We therefore, call on the National Geographic Society’s Board of Governors to remove Bill Allen from his position as editor, and install someone who is not only deserving of the post, but someone whom the readers deserve to have in that post! The Allen/Sloan debacle of November 1999, and the Allen/Quammen travesty of November 2004, should not be allowed to be repeated—ever.  Enough is enough.


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Brad Harrub is a graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he earned a B.S. degree in biology.  He also earned a Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy from the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis.  He is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, and was listed in the 2001-2002 edition of Who’s Who Among Scientists and Researchers.  He was an invited speaker to the 2003 International Conference on Creationism.  He currently serves as the Director of Scientific Information at Apologetics Press, and as associate editor of Reason & Revelation.   [RETURN TO TEXT]

Bert Thompson is a graduate of Abilene Christian University, where he earned a B.S. degree in biology.  He also is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where he earned both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in microbiology.  Dr. Thompson is a former professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, where he taught for several years.  While at Texas A&M, he served as Coordinator of the Cooperative Education Program in Biomedical Science.  Currently, Dr. Thompson is the Executive Director of Apologetics Press and editor of Reason & Revelation.   [RETURN TO TEXT]

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