Evolution: Fact or fiction?

In the scientific community, evolution has been determined to be both fact and theory. That is, it is a fact that organisms have changed throughout time as seen through data. The theory of evolution is a well-supported and accepted explanation of this fact. However, AIG argues that evolution is not actually supported, and anyone who believes in this fails to see the reality of creation. In this post, I aim to take a look at AIG’s claims and respond to them.

…we have never observed, repeated, or been able to test animal kind A turning into animal kind B—at all. Sure, there’s some genetic “do-si-do” going on through mutations and gene drift, but there’s no way fish are going to sprout hair and opposable thumbs. Just in case you think by “no way” we mean there’s still a chance, there’s not—none, zilch, nada, not going to happen. What if we add billions of years and cool artistic renderings? Still no.

-Answers in Genesis

AIG starts off their argument against evolution by demonstrating that they have a profound misunderstanding in how evolution works. For instance, this quote shows that they believe that evolution is supposed to occur spontaneously with individuals in a population. The rhetoric of a fish sprouting hair and opposable thumbs is simply a rather apparent attempt to invoke an impossible image in order to make evolution seem ludicrous. Yet, all scientists understand that evolution does not occur at an individual level. No, fish do not just sprout hair and opposable thumbs. Instead, mutations, gene drift, natural selection, and gene flow help change the alleles in a given population over a long period of time, resulting in observable phenotypic changes. This doesn’t result in fish sprouting hair or growing opposable thumbs because mutations and changes in alleles happen slowly over time. Instead of adding brand new features like opposable thumbs, evolution actually occurs by altering existing structures. Michael Coates from the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago explains that the evolutionary perspective actually holds that vertebrate limbs are actually a specialized subset or kind of paired fins we see in fish and other animals. The HOX genes which specify the layout of the embryonic body plan in early development of animals are conserved between most animals, demonstrating a common ancestry with mutations over time that have provided variations between species. This demonstrates the evolutionary change from fins to limbs is not a spontaneous addition as AIG proposes, but rather an evolutionary transition which is an example of changing patterns and processes resulting in morphological change.

In looking at AIG’s other claims against evolution, I see they returned to the fossil record and the idea that C-14 dating demonstrates the earth is not actually old… I’m going to not address that here because I already did. If you’re curious, please check out my response here.

Finally, AIG makes the infamous claim that life cannot begin spontaneously. They argue that scientists cannot reasonably explain how life first began, and that scientists bend the rules of chemistry to fit their argument. They further propose that the idea that RNA was the first genetic material giving rise to living organisms is wrong because there was no cellular machinery to transcribe the code, making RNA useless. They then conclude that the Bible has more evidence than scientists and that it should be believed that God created the earth and life as we know it in 6 days.

I will admit, this is the hardest argument to refute because the origins of life remain a complicated matter even today for scientists. We have experiments such as the famous Miller-Urey study that discovered that under the right conditions, amino acids are relatively easy to make. Therefore, the leading theory regarding the origins of life involve the earth’s primordial chemicals as well as catalyzing events such as lightning and asteroid impacts. The graphic below summarizes what many scientists currently think.

As you can see from this infographic from Scientific American, the chemicals and conditions of the early Earth are thought to have allowed for the construction of nucleotides, simple sugars, and eventually RNA. This remains an exciting field of discovery as we are continuously making progress in repeating these experiments and discovering how life began. In fact, where AIG is wrong is when they suggest that RNA couldn’t have been the first molecule involved in life because there was no cell machinery to transcribe RNA. It is important to remember that all proteins are made from the catalytic activity or RNA subunits that make of the ribosome as well. Therefore, since all life forms using RNA to even translate RNA, it demonstrates that the information-storing and enzymatic processes of RNA were most likely used in the earliest of life forms, passing this down to every life form on earth today.

I will admit, we do not have a single, solid answer as to how life began. Yet, throughout this website I have shown how AIG is unable to give real answers for everything else. The research of how chemistry gave rise to RNA-based life is one of the most exciting new fields in scientific discovery. Think about how much we have discovered in the past century in science. From discovering the double helix DNA structure in 1953 to literally sequencing the entire human genome and unlocking the secrets of what makes us human by 1999, our scientific achievements and understandings are developing faster than ever. While we have plenty of theories as to how life started, we are still learning about each one in the attempt to explain how life began. However, the current lack of hard evidence does not suggest that there is no scientific answer. That is the exciting aspect of science- there is still so much to discover. Until we discover an answer, AIG will have their Biblical scriptures as their only proof while scientists will have their theories about the origin of life based on several proven experiments and knowledge of chemistry.