A Short History
Despite having its roots in ancient Greece, the theory
of evolution was first brought to the attention of the scientific world
in the nineteenth century. The most thoroughly considered view of evolution
was expressed by the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, in his Zoological
Philosophy (1809). Lamarck thought that all living things were endowed
with a vital force that drove them to evolve toward greater complexity.
He also thought that organisms could pass on to their offspring traits
acquired during their lifetimes. As an example of this line of reasoning,
Lamarck suggested that the long neck of the giraffe evolved when a short-necked
ancestor took to browsing on the leaves of trees instead of on grass.
This evolutionary model of Lamarck's was invalidated
by the discovery of the laws of genetic inheritance. In the middle of the twentieth
century, the discovery of the structure of DNA revealed that the nuclei of the
cells of living organisms possess very special genetic information, and that this
information could not be altered by "acquired traits." In other words, during
its lifetime, even though a giraffe managed to make its neck a few centimeters
longer by extending its neck to upper branches, this trait would not pass to its
offspring. In brief, the Lamarckian view was simply refuted by scientific findings,
and went down in history as a flawed assumption.
evolutionary theory formulated by another natural scientist who lived a couple
of generations after Lamarck proved to be more influential. This natural scientist
was Charles Robert Darwin, and the theory he formulated is known as "Darwinism."
The Birth of Darwinism
Charles Darwin based his theory on various
observations he made as a young naturalist on board the H.M.S Beagle, which sailed
in late 1831 on a five-year official voyage around the world. Young Darwin was
heavily influenced by the diversity of species he observed, especially of the
different Galapagos Island finches. The differences in the beaks of these birds,
Darwin thought, were a result of their adaptation to their different environments.
After this voyage, Darwin started to visit animal markets
in England. He observed that breeders produced new breeds of cow by mating
animals with different characteristics. This experience, together with
the different finch species he observed in the Galapagos Islands, contributed
to the formulation of his theory. In 1859, he published his views in his
book The Origin of Species. In this book, he postulated that all
species had descended from a single ancestor, evolving from one another
over time by slight variations.
made Darwin's theory different from Lamarck's was his emphasis on "natural selection."
Darwin theorized that there is a struggle for survival in nature, and that natural
selection is the survival of strong species, which can adapt to their environment.
Darwin adopted the following line of reasoning:
Within a particular species, there are natural and coincidental
variations. For instance some cows are bigger than others, while some
have darker colors. Natural selection selects the favorable traits. The
process of natural selection thus causes an increase of favorable genes
within a population, which results in the features of that population
being better adapted to local conditions. Over time these changes may
be significant enough to cause a new species to arise.
Darwin developed his theory when science was still in a primitive state. Under
primitive microscopes like these, life appeared to have a very simple structure.
This error formed the basis of Darwinism.|
this "theory of evolution by natural selection" gave rise to doubts from the very
1- What were the "natural and coincidental variations"
referred to by Darwin? It was true that some cows were bigger than others, while
some had darker colors, yet how could these variations provide an explanation
for the diversity in animal and plant species?
asserted that "Living beings evolved gradually." In this case, there should have
lived millions of "transitional forms." Yet there was no trace of these theoretical
creatures in the fossil record. Darwin gave considerable thought to this problem,
and eventually arrived at the conclusion that "further research would provide
3- How could natural selection explain
complex organs, such as eyes, ears or wings? How can it be advocated that these
organs evolved gradually, bearing in mind that they would fail to function if
they had even a single part missing?
4- Before considering
these questions, consider the following: How did the first organism, the so-called
ancestor of all species according to Darwin, come into existence? Could natural
processes give life to something which was originally inanimate?
was, at least, aware of some these questions, as can be seen from the chapter
"Difficulties of the Theory." However, the answers he provided had no scientific
validity. H.S. Lipson, a British physicist, makes the following comments about
these "difficulties" of Darwin's:
On reading The Origin of Species,
I found that Darwin was much less sure himself than he is often represented
to be; the chapter entitled "Difficulties of the Theory" for example,
shows considerable self-doubt. As a physicist, I was particularly intrigued
by his comments on how the eye would have arisen.1
invested all his hopes in advanced scientific research, which he expected to dispel
the "difficulties of the theory." However, contrary to his expectations, more
recent scientific findings have merely increased these difficulties.
The Problem of the Origin of Life
In his book, Darwin never mentioned
the origin of life. The primitive understanding of science in his time rested
on the assumption that living things had very simple structures. Since mediaeval
times, spontaneous generation, the theory that non-living matter could come together
to form living organisms, had been widely accepted. It was believed that insects
came into existence from leftover bits of food. It was further imagined that mice
came into being from wheat. Interesting experiments were conducted to prove this
theory. Some wheat was placed on a dirty piece of cloth, and it was believed that
mice would emerge in due course.
Pasteur destroyed the belief that life could be created from inanimate substances.
Similarly, the fact that maggots appeared in meat
was believed to be evidence for spontaneous generation. However, it was only realized
some time later that maggots did not appear in meat spontaneously, but were carried
by flies in the form of larvae, invisible to the naked eye.
Even in the period when Darwin's Origin of Species
was written, the belief that bacteria could come into existence from inanimate
matter was widespread.
five years after the publication of Darwin's book, Louis Pasteur announced his
results after long studies and experiments, which disproved spontaneous generation,
a cornerstone of Darwin's theory. In his triumphal lecture at the Sorbonne in
1864, Pasteur said, "Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover
from the mortal blow struck by this simple experiment."2
of the theory of evolution refused to accept Pasteur's findings for a long time.
However, as scientific progress revealed the complex structure of the cell, the
idea that life could come into being coincidentally faced an even greater impasse.
We shall consider this subject in some detail in this book.
The Problem of Genetics
Another subject that
posed a quandary for Darwin's theory was inheritance. At the time when Darwin
developed his theory, the question of how living beings transmitted their traits
to other generations-that is, how inheritance took place-was not completely understood.
That is why the naive belief that inheritance was transmitted through blood was
Vague beliefs about inheritance led Darwin to base
his theory on completely false grounds. Darwin assumed that natural
selection was the "mechanism of evolution." Yet one question remained
unanswered: How would these "useful traits" be selected and transmitted
from one generation to the next? At this point, Darwin embraced the
Lamarckian theory, that is, "the inheritance of acquired traits." In
his book The Great Evolution Mystery, Gordon R. Taylor, a researcher
advocating the theory of evolution, expresses the view that Darwin was
heavily influenced by Lamarck:
Lamarckism... is known as the inheritance
of acquired characteristics... Darwin himself, as a matter of fact, was
inclined to believe that such inheritance occurred and cited the reported
case of a man who had lost his fingers and bred sons without fingers...
[Darwin] had not, he said, gained a single idea from Lamarck. This was
doubly ironical, for Darwin repeatedly toyed with the idea of the inheritance
of acquired characteristics and, if it is so dreadful, it is Darwin who
should be denigrated rather than Lamarck... In the 1859 edition of his
work, Darwin refers to 'changes of external conditions' causing variation
but subsequently these conditions are described as directing variation
and cooperating with natural selection in directing it... Every year he
attributed more and more to the agency of use or disuse... By 1868 when
he published Varieties of Animals and Plants under Domestication
he gave a whole series of examples of supposed Lamarckian inheritance:
such as a man losing part of his little finger and all his sons being
born with deformed little fingers, and boys born with foreskins much reduced
in length as a result of generations of circumcision.3
However, Lamarck's thesis, as we have seen above,
was disproved by the laws of genetic inheritance discovered by the Austrian
monk and botanist, Gregor Mendel. The concept of "useful traits" was
therefore left unsupported. Genetic laws showed that acquired traits
are not passed on, and that genetic inheritance takes place according
to certain unchanging laws. These laws supported the view that species
remain unchanged. No matter how much the cows that Darwin saw in England's
animal fairs bred, the species itself would never change: cows would
always remain cows.
The genetic laws discovered by Mendel
proved very damaging to the theory of evolution.
Gregor Mendel announced the laws of genetic inheritance
that he discovered as a result of long experiment and observation in a scientific
paper published in 1865. But this paper only attracted the attention of the scientific
world towards the end of the century. By the beginning of the twentieth century,
the truth of these laws had been accepted by the whole scientific community. This
was a serious dead-end for Darwin's theory, which tried to base the concept of
"useful traits" on Lamarck.
Here we must correct a general misapprehension:
Mendel opposed not only Lamarck's model of evolution, but also Darwin's.
As the article "Mendel's Opposition to Evolution and to Darwin," published
in the Journal of Heredity, makes clear, "he [Mendel] was familiar
with The Origin of Species ...and he was opposed to Darwin's theory;
Darwin was arguing for descent with modification through natural selection,
Mendel was in favor of the orthodox doctrine of special creation."4
laws discovered by Mendel put Darwinism in a very difficult position. For these
reasons, scientists who supported Darwinism tried to develop a different model
of evolution in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Thus was born "neo-Darwinism."
The Efforts of Neo-Darwinism
A group of scientists who were determined
to reconcile Darwinism with the science of genetics, in one way or another, came
together at a meeting organized by the Geological Society of America in 1941.
After long discussion, they agreed on ways to create a new interpretation of Darwinism
and over the next few years, specialists produced a synthesis of their fields
into a revised theory of evolution.
who participated in establishing the new theory included the geneticists G. Ledyard
Stebbins and Theodosius Dobzhansky, the zoologists Ernst Mayr and Julian Huxley,
the paleontologists George Gaylord Simpson and Glenn L. Jepsen, and the mathematical
geneticists Sir Ronald A. Fisher and Sewall Wright.5
To counter the fact of "genetic stability" (genetic homeostasis),
this group of scientists employed the concept of "mutation," which had
been proposed by the Dutch botanist Hugo de Vries at the beginning of
the 20th century. Mutations were defects that occurred, for
unknown reasons, in the inheritance mechanism of living things. Organisms
undergoing mutation developed some unusual structures, which deviated
from the genetic information they inherited from their parents. The concept
of "random mutation" was supposed to provide the answer to the
question of the origin of the advantageous variations which caused living
organisms to evolve according to Darwin's theory-a phenomenon that Darwin
himself was unable to explain, but simply tried to side-step by referring
to Lamarck. The Geological Society of America group named this new theory,
which was formulated by adding the concept of mutation to Darwin's natural
selection thesis, the "synthetic theory of evolution" or the "modern
synthesis". In a short time, this theory came to be known as "neo-Darwinism"
and its supporters as "neo-Darwinists."
The architects of Neo-Darwinism: Theodosius Dobzhansky,
Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley.
Yet there was a serious problem: It was true that mutations changed
the genetic data of living organisms, yet this change always occurred to the detriment
of the living thing concerned. All observed mutations ended up with disfigured,
weak, or diseased individuals and, sometimes, led to the death of the organism.
Hence, in an attempt to find examples of "useful mutations" which improve the
genetic data in living organisms, neo-Darwinists conducted many experiments and
observations. For decades, they conducted mutation experiments on fruit flies
and various other species. However, in none of these experiments could a mutation
which improved the genetic data in a living being be seen.
the issue of mutation is still a great impasse for Darwinism. Despite the fact
that the theory of natural selection considers mutations to be the unique source
of "useful changes," no mutations of any kind have been observed that are actually
useful (that is, that improve the genetic information). In the following chapter,
we will consider this issue in detail.
Another impasse for
neo-Darwinists came from the fossil record. Even in Darwin's time, fossils were
already posing an important obstacle to the theory. While Darwin himself accepted
the lack of fossils of "intermediate species," he also predicted that further
research would provide evidence of these lost transitional forms. However, despite
all the paleontologists' efforts, the fossil record continued to remain a serious
obstacle to the theory. One by one, concepts such as "vestigial organs," "embryological
recapitulation" and "homology" lost all significance in the light of new scientific
findings. All these issues are dealt with more fully in the remaining chapters
of this book.
A Theory in Crisis
just reviewed in summary form the impasse Darwinism found itself in from the day
it was first proposed. We will now start to analyze the enormous dimensions of
this deadlock. In doing this, our intention is to show that the theory of evolution
is not indisputable scientific truth, as many people assume or try to impose on
others. On the contrary, there is a glaring contradiction when the theory of evolution
is compared to scientific findings in such diverse fields as the origin of life,
population genetics, comparative anatomy, paleontology, and biochemistry. In a
word, evolution is a theory in "crisis."
That is a description by Prof. Michael Denton,
an Australian biochemist and a renowned critic of Darwinism. In his book
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985), Denton examined the theory
in the light of different branches of science, and concluded that the
theory of natural selection is very far from providing an explanation
for life on earth.6 Denton's intention in offering his
criticism was not to show the correctness of another view, but only to
compare Darwinism with the scientific facts. During the last two decades,
many other scientists have published significant works questioning the
validity of Darwin's theory of evolution.
In this book,
we will examine this crisis. No matter how much concrete evidence is provided,
some readers may be unwilling to abandon their positions, and will continue to
adhere to the theory of evolution. However, reading this book will still be of
use to them, since it will help them to see the real situation of the theory they
believe in, in the light of scientific findings.