Yet Another Creationist Misrepresentation of Evolution

Yet Another Creationist Misrepresentation of Evolution

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When creationists continue to reiterate that evolution is not happening, they are perpetuating some serious misunderstandings of the science involved. Either they honestly do not understand how these things work, or they are knowingly misrepresenting them for the laymen, and I don’t know which is worse.

The arguments against evolution – obviously based on the faith that Genesis must be true, lest the Bible loses all relevance – are foolish inasmuch as they have been stated many times, but have all been countered by scientists. Some people of faith purposely elect to disregard these arguments, but hopefully other people are more willing to hear what the true workings of evolution are, as much as we know them at this time.

Among the most foolish ones is the argument that biological complexity cannot increase by way of random changes in DNA. This is completely false, which is quite easily seen, and yet the argument is continually cited in creationist literature (do a google news search for ‘evolution’).

This argument is made leaving out a crucial factor, namely natural selection. The argument goes that random changes (mutations in the genome/DNA) are most likely to have a deleterious effect on the organism, which will therefore die as a result, and no change in the genome will be perpetuated. For every beneficial mutation, there are many deleterious ones, and overall the effect of beneficial mutations will drown in the adverse effects of deleterious mutations. As a consequence, no new variation can evolve.

Or so they say. But this is false, and there are no two ways about it.

The process of acquiring beneficial mutations, many of which will add up in effect to cause a population of organisms to evolve, depends on a second factor – the process of natural selection. Not all the organisms are hit by deleterious mutations. Some are lucky enough to have beneficial mutations – random changes that happen to make them slightly better suited for reproduction. And exactly because they reproduce a little more than average, there will be a higher fraction of organism in the population with that particular change in their genome in the following generations. This is natural selection, and it precisely explains how complexity can increase by the process of random change. Natural selection transforms the random process of mutation into a deterministic process.

The problem in this debate is of course that science claims as its domain anything that the scientific method can be applied to. This means there is an overlap with a literal reading of the Bible (specifically Genesis 1 and 2). Those who have the faith (i.e. a strong belief in God, which can be overcome by no amount of rationality) will of course not let this happen, and only because of this technicality do the creationists object in the first place. Not because they were doing science, which happened to show that evolution does not occur. They got the conclusion first, and have secondly gathered their so-called scientific evidence to arrive at this predetermined conclusion in numerous books and papers, and recently in a creationist museum.

This debate so tedious, there is no denying that. But it will go as with Galileo and the heliocentric system: eventually everybody in their right mind will come around, and this will no longer be something sane people will spend any time debating any more.

Bjorn Ostman

The author has an M.S. in astronomy, an M.A in biology, and us currently working on a Ph.D. in computational biology at Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, CA.

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