CASE FOR A CREATOR #4 continued

Doubts about Darwinism #2

The Sins of Haeckel

"Wells's first disclosure about Haeckel's embryos was a stunner, but he had said there were a total of three problems with the drawings. I couldn't wait to hear him address the others. "What are the other two problems?" I asked.

"The minor problem is that Haeckel cherry-picked his examples," Wells explained. "He only shows a few of the seven vertebrate classes. For example, his most famous rendition has eight columns. Four are mammals, but they're all placental mammals. There are two other kinds of mammals that he didn't show, which are different. The remaining four classes he showed—reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish—-happen to be more similar than the ones he omitted. He used a salamander to represent amphibians instead of a frog, which looks very different. So he stacked the deck by picking representatives that came closest to fitting his idea—-and then he went further by faking the similarities."

That sounded like a pretty serious breach of scientific protocol to me. "If that's the minor problem," I said sarcastically, "then what's the major one?"

Wells moved to the edge of his chair; clearly, this was tapping into his passion area. "To me, as an embryologist, the most dramatic problem is that what Haeckel claimed is the early stage of development is nothing of the sort. It's actually the midpoint of development," he explained. "If you go back to the earlier stages, the embryos look far more different from each other. But he deliberately omits the earlier stages altogether."

I didn't immediately catch the full significance of this. ""Why is that important?"

"Remember Darwin claimed that because the embryos are most similar in their early stages, this is evidence of common ancestry. He thought that the early stage showed what the common ancestor looked like-—-sort of like a fish.

"But embryologists talk about the 'developmental hourglass,' which refers to the shape of an hourglass, with its width representing the measure of difference. You see, vertebrate embryos start out looking very different in the early cell division stages. The cell divisions in a mammal, for example, are radically different from those in any of the other classes. There's no possible way you could mix them up. In fact, it's extremely different within classes. The patterns are all over the place. Then at the midpoint-—which is what Haeckel claimed in his drawings was the early stage—the embryos become more similar, though nowhere near as much as Haeckel claimed. Then they become very different again."

What a devastating critique! Haeckel's drawings, which had been published countless times over more than a century, had failed on three levels. I couldn't help but ask "Wells: "If they're so misleading, then why did scientists continue to publish them for generation after generation of students?"

"One explanation that's often given," he replied, "is that although the drawings are false, they teach a concept that's basically true. "Well, this is not true. Biologists know that embryos are not most similar in their earliest stages."

With that, Wells picked up his book from the desk and flipped to the chapter on Haeckel. "Yet listen to this: one textbook shows Haeckeis drawings and says, 'Early developmental stages of animals whose adult forms appear radically different are often surprisingly similar.' One 1999 textbook has a slightly redrawn version of Haeckeis work and tells students, 'Notice that the early embryonic stages of these vertebrates bear a striking resemblance to each other.'

Another textbook accompanies its drawings with the statement: 'The early embryos of vertebrates strongly resemble one another.' Another says flatly: 'One fact of embryology that pushed Darwin toward the idea of evolution is that the early embryos of most vertebrates closely resemble one another.'" 28

Wells snapped the book shut. "As I said, it's just false that embryos are most similar in their earliest development. Of course, some Darwinists try to get around Haeckeis problems by changing their tune. They use evolutionary theory to try to explain why the differences in the embryos are there. They can get quite elaborate," he said.

"But that's doing the same thing that the theory-savers were doing with the Cambrian explosion. "What was supposed to be primary evidence for Darwin's theory—the fossil or embryo evidence—turns out to be false, so they immediately say, well, we know the theory's true, so let's use the theory to explain why the evidence doesn't fit. But then, inheres the evidence for the theory?' he demanded, sounding both frustrated and perturbed. "That's what I'd like to know. "Why should I accept the theory as being true at all?"

The Truth about Gills

Wells's explanation made me feel foolish for ever having believed the embryo drawings I had seen as a student, much less the previous two icons that 'Wells had already deconstructed. I felt a little like the victim of a con game, blaming myself for being so uncritical and naive in accepting what evolution textbooks and biology teachers had told me.

But HaekePs drawings weren't the only evidence I had been taught about universal ancestry. I also had been told a fascinating fact that helped convince me that our progenitors dwelled in the ocean: all human embryos, so my teachers said, go through a stage in which they actually develop gill-like structures on their necks.

The encyclopedia I consulted as a youngster declared unequivocally that "the fetuses of mammals at one stage have gill slits which resemble those of fish," which to me was dramatic confirmation of our aquatic ancestry. 29 In 1996, Life magazine described how human embryos grow "something very much like gills," which is "some of the most compelling evidence of evolution." 30 Even some contemporary biology textbooks assert that human embryos have "gill pouches" or "gill slits." 31

This colorful tidbit stayed with me from the first time I heard it. "Aren't gills strong evidence that our ancestors lived in the ocean?" I asked Wells.

He sighed. Apparently, I was not the first person to raise this issue with him. "Yes, that's the standard argument, but—here," he said, gesturing toward me, "look down toward your navel for a moment." Feeling a little awkward, I bowed my head. "Now, feel your neck," he said. "There are ridges in the skin, right?" I nodded. Well, if you look at an embryo, it's doubled over. It has ridges in the neck. I'm not saying they're only skin folds; they're more complicated than that. But it's just an anatomical feature that grows out of the fact that this is how vertebrate embryos develop. Let me be clear: they're not gills!" he stressed. "Even fish don't have gills at that stage. In humans, the ridges become one thing; in fish,'they become gills. They're not even gill slits. To call them gill-like structures is merely reading evolutionary theory back into the evidence. They're never gill-like except in the superficial sense that they're lines in the neck area. As British embryologist Lewis Wolpert said, the resemblance is only illusory. 32

It's interesting how these misconceptions continue to thrive," he went on. "Evolutionists used to teach that famous phrase 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,' which is a fancy way of saying that embryos repeat their evolutionary history by passing through the adult forms of their ancestors as they develop. But this theory has been widely dismissed for many decades, because it's empirically false. Even so, there are aspects of it that still come up. And gill slits' would be a prime example of that."

Wing, Flipper, Leg, Hand

Earlier in our interview, Wells had brought up another category of evidence for universal ancestry: homology in vertebrate limbs. I remember as a student seeing the drawings depicting the similar bone structures in a bat's wing, a porpoise's flipper, a horse's leg, and a human's hand. I was told that even though these limbs have been adapted for different uses, their underlying similarity-—-or "homology"-—-is proof that they all share a common ancestor. Wells had briefly mentioned this phenomenon at the outset of our interview. "Isn't homology good evidence for Darwinism?" I asked.

"Actually, these homologies were described and named by Darwin's predecessors-—-and they were not evolutionists," he replied. "Richard Owen, who was the most famous anatomist of Darwin's time, said they pointed toward a common archetype or design, not toward descent with modification."

"But," I protested, "the similarities are there—-you can't deny that."

"Yes, but the explanation can go either way: design or descent with modification. How do we determine which is true? Listen—similarity alone doesn't tell us. Look at Berra's Blunder."

He threw out that comment assuming I would know what he was referring to. Although the term sounded vaguely familiar, I couldn't pinpoint what it meant. "Berra's Blunder?" I asked. "What's that?"

"Phillip Johnson coined that term based on a book that was written by a biologist named Tim Berra in 1990. Berra compared the fossil record to a series of automobile models, saying that if you compare a 1953 and 1954 Corvette side by side, and then a 1954 and 1955 Corvette and so on, then it becomes obvious that there has been descent with modification. He said this is what paleontologists do with fossils, 'and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people.' 33

"Far from demonstrating his point, the illustration shows that a designer could have been involved," Wells said. "These successive models of the Corvette are based on plans drawn up by engineers, so there's intelligence at work to guide and implement the process. If you wanted to demonstrate that the similar features resulted from a Darwinian process, you would have to show that once you somehow got an automobile, the natural forces of rust, wind, water, and gravity would turn one model into its successor. The point I want to make is this: quite unintentionally, Berra had illustrated the fact that merely having a succession of similar forms does not provide its own explanation. A mechanism is needed. With the Corvette, that mechanism is human manufacturing."

"What mechanism is proposed for Darwinism?" I asked.

"One is called 'common developmental pathways,' which means if you have two different animals with homologous features and you trace them back to the embryo, they would come from similar cells and processes. This happens to be mostly untrue. I mentioned frogs earlier. There are some frogs that develop like frogs and other frogs that develop like birds, but they all look pretty much the same when they come out the other end. They're frogs. So the developmental pathway explanation is false—I don't know anybody who studies development and takes it seriously. A more common explanation nowadays is that the homologies come from similar genes. In other words, the reason two features are homologous in two different animals would be that they're programmed by similar genes in the embryo. But it turns out this doesn't work very well, either. We know some cases where you have similar features that come from different genes, but we have lots and lots of cases where we have similar genes that give rise to very different features. I'll give you an example: eyes. There's a gene that's similar in mice, octopuses, and fruit flies. If you look at a mouse eye and an octopus eye, there's a superficial similarity, which is odd because nobody thinks their common ancestor had an eye like that. What's more striking is if you look at a fruit fly's eye-—a compound eye with multiple facets—-it's totally different. Yet all three of these eyes depend on the same or very similar gene. In fact, it's so similar that you can put the mouse gene into a fruit fly that's missing that gene and you can get the fruit fly to develop its eyes as it normally would. The genes are that similar. So neither the developmental pathway explanation nor the similar gene explanation really accounts for homology."

I asked, "What's the answer, then?"

Wells shrugged. "Frankly, it remains a mystery. If you read the literature on homology, the experts know it's a mystery. They may not give up Darwinism, but they know they haven't solved the problem. To me, if you haven't solved the problem of a mechanism, then you haven't distinguished between common descent and common design. It could be either one. The evidence isn't pointing one way or the other. I think students deserve to know that scientists haven't resolved this problem. Instead, some textbooks simply define homology as similarity due to common ancestry. So the theory becomes true by definition. What the textbook is saying is that similarity due to common ancestry is due to common ancestry. And that's circular reasoning."

Human Genes, Ape Genes

Since Wells had brought up genetics, I was reminded of another question I wanted to raise with him about the theory of common descent. "What about recent genetic studies that show humans and apes share ninety-eight or ninety-nine percent of their genes?" I asked. "Isn't that evidence that we share a common ancestor?"

"If you assume, as neo-Darwinism does, that we are products of our genes, then you're saying that the dramatic differences between us and chimpanzees are due to two percent of our genes," he replied. "The problem is that the so-called body-building genes are in the ninety-eight percent. The two percent of genes that are different are really rather trivial genes that have little to do with anatomy. So the supposed similarity of human and chimpanzee DNA is a problem for neo-Darwinism right there. Second, it's not surprising that when you look at two organisms that are similar anatomically, you often find they're similar genetically. Not always; there's a striking discordance with some organisms. But does this prove common ancestry?"

He shook his head as he answered his own question: "No, it's just as compatible with common design as it is with common ancestry. A designer might very well decide to use common building materials to create different organisms, just as builders use the same materials— steel girders, rivets, and so forth—-to build different bridges that end up looking very dissimilar from one another."

As I mentally wrestled with this concept, I stood to stretch my legs. Walking over to the window, I looked down at cars backed up along the busy street and people hustling down the sidewalks on either side. A rudimentary illustration popped into my mind.

"Let me see if I understand you. If I were to chemically analyze that street and sidewalk," I said, pointing out the window, "I'd find they would be identical or very similar. They'd both be made of concrete. But that wouldn't mean that they shared a common ancestor—say, a path for a golf cart—that got wider and more substantial over millions of years. A better explanation would be that there was a common designer who decided to use basically the same materials to construct similar, but functionally different, structures."

Wells thought about my example for a moment. "Essentially, that's right," he said. "It sounds ridiculous to suggest a golf path could evolve into a sidewalk and street, but it's not any more outlandish than some of the claims for biological evolution. The important point is that similarity by itself doesn't distinguish between design and Darwinism."

We had strayed from Haeckel's embryos, but the issues were the same: is there persuasive evidence through embryology or homology that all living creatures evolved over time from an ancient progenitor? I concluded that Darwin was wrong: examining embryos of different creatures in their early stages does not yield support for his theory. And the undeniable similarities between some vertebrate limbs certainly doesn't distinguish between design or descent as a cause. Once again, the persuasive power of the evolutionary icons had been deflated.

I glanced at my watch; if I were to catch my plane back to Los Angeles, I would need to turn to the last of the four evolutionary images from my days as a student: the awe-inspiring fossil of a prehistoric creature that once effectively silenced many of Darwin's critics.

IMAGE #4: The Archaeopteryx Missing Link

"When Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859, he conceded that "the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory" was that the fossil record failed to back up his evolutionary hypothesis.

"Why," he asked, "if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?" He attributed the problem to the fossil record being incomplete and predicted that future discoveries would vindicate his theory.

As if on cue, two years later scientists unearthed the archaeopteryx (pronounced ar-key-OPT-er-icks) in a German quarry. Darwin's supporters were thrilled—surely this missing link between reptiles and modern birds, unveiled so promptly after the appearance of Darwin's book, would just be the first of many future fossil discoveries that would validate Darwin's claims. Like many people, including the scientist who "actually fell upon his knees in awe" when he first glimpsed the archaeopteryx at the National History Museum in England, 34 I was enthralled by the dramatic pictures of the prehistoric creature. I was under the impression that it was featured in my books on evolution because it is just one example of many transitional links that have been found. But I was wrong. Since that time I have come to learn that the fossil record has utterly let Darwin down. Michael Denton, in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, summarized the bleak situation this way:

... [T]he universal experience of paleontology... [is that] while the rocks have continually yielded new and exciting and even bizarre forms of life ... what they have never yielded is any of Darwin's myriads of transitional forms. Despite the tremendous increase in geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been discovered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as it was when Darwin was writing the Origin. The intermediates have remained as elusive as ever and their absence remains, a century later, one of the most striking characteristics of the fossil record. 35 As a result, said Denton, the fossil record "provides a tremendous challenge to the notion of organic evolution."36 But what about the archaeopteryx. The fossils of this magnificent creature, its detailed image pressed into fine-grained limestone, still seemed to stand in stark contrast to this trend.

"Doesn't archaeopteryx fill the gap between reptiles and modern birds?" I asked Wells.

"There are several problems with that," came his reply. "Does it show Darwinian evolution? Well, no, for the same reason that the Corvettes don't illustrate Darwinian evolution. We would need more than an intermediate form to show that; we would need to know how you get from one to the other. The question is, do you get from a reptile to a bird—which is an astonishingly huge step—by some totally natural process or does this require the intervention of a designer? An archaeopteryx, as beautiful as it is, doesn't show us one way or the other. Besides, we see strange animals around today, like the duck-billed platypus, which nobody considers transitional but which has characteristics of different classes."

"But the archaeopteryx is a half-bird, half-reptile, right?"

"No, not even close," he insisted. "It's a bird with modern feathers, and birds are very different from reptiles in many important ways— their breeding system, their bone structure, their lungs, their distribution of weight and muscles. It's a bird, that's clear—-not part bird and part reptile. But there are more interesting parts to the archaeopteryx story," he added. "The main one comes from a branch of evolutionary theory called cladistics. This takes Darwinian theory to the extreme. Cladists define homology, or physical similarities, as being due to common ancestry. Then they say, well, the main way we can group animals in the evolutionary tree is through homologies, which is already a bit of a circular argument. When they go back into the fossil record, they assume birds came from reptiles by descent, and they look for reptiles that are more bird-like in their skeletal structure."

"Where do they find them?" I asked.

Wells smiled. "That's the fascinating part," he said. "It turns out they find them millions of years after archaeopteryx. So here we have archaeopteryx, which is undeniably a bird, and yet the fossils that look most like the reptilian ancestors of birds occur tens of millions of years later in the fossil record. The missing link is still missing! Now evolutionists are stuck looking for another theoretical ancestor to try to fill the gaps, but it hasn't been found."

"So the archaeopteryx is not an ancestor of modern birds?"

"Not at all. Paleontologists pretty much agree on that. There are too many structural differences. Larry Martin, a paleontologist from the University of Kansas, said clearly in 1985 that the archaeopteryx is not an ancestor of any modern birds; instead, it's a member of a totally extinct group of birds." 37

So much for the power of archaeopteryx to authenticate Darwin's claims. Even ardent evolutionist Pierre Lecomte du Nouy agrees:

We are not even authorized to consider the exceptional case of the archaeopteryx as a true link. By link, we mean a necessary stage of transition between classes such as reptiles and birds, or between smaller groups. An animal displaying characters belonging to two different groups cannot be treated as a true link as long as the intermediary stages have not been found, and as long as the mechanisms of transition remain unknown. 38

Yet even if archaeopteryx had turned out to be a transitional creature, it would have been but a whisper of protest to the fossil records deafening roar against classical Darwinism.

"If we are testing Darwinism rather than merely looking for a confirming example or two," Phillip Johnson said, "then a single good candidate for ancestor status is not enough to save a theory that posits a worldwide history of continual evolutionary transformation." 39

Frauds and Turkeys

Paleontologists, however, have been on a frenzy to try to locate an actual reptilian ancestor for birds. Driven by an all-consuming commitment to evolutionary theory, their zeal has resulted in some recent embarrassments for science. Wells was more than willing to regale me with some examples.

"A few years ago the National Geographic Society announced that a fossil had been purchased at an Arizona mineral show that turned out to be 'the missing link between terrestrial dinosaurs and birds that could actually fly'" he said. "It certainly looked that way. They called it the archaeoraptor, and it had the tail of a dinosaur and the forelimbs of a bird. National Geographic magazine published an article in 1999 that said there's now evidence that feathered dinosaurs were ancestors of the first bird."

"That sounds pretty convincing," I said.

"Well, the problem was that it was a fake!" Wells said. "A Chinese paleontologist proved that someone had glued a dinosaur tail to a primitive bird. He created it to resemble just what the scientists had been looking for. There was a firestorm of criticism—-the curator of birds at the Smithsonian charged that the Society had become aligned with zealous scientists' who were 'highly biased proselytizers of the faith' that birds evolved from dinosaurs."

Then Wells made a blanket statement that struck me at the time as being too cynical. "Fakes are coming out of these fossil beds all the time," he said, "because the fossil dealers know there's big money in it."

I remained skeptical about that charge until I subsequently read an interview with ornithologist Alan Feduccia, an evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When a reporter for Discover magazine raised the archaeoraptor fraud, Feduccia said:

Archaeoraptor is just the tip of the iceberg. There are scores of fake fossils out there, and they have cast a dark shadow over the whole field. When you go to these fossil shows, it's difficult to tell which ones are faked and which ones are not. I have heard there is a fake-fossil factory in northeast China, in Liaoning Province, near the deposits where many of these recent alleged feathered dinosaurs were found. 40

Asked what would motivate such fraud, Fedducia replied: "Money. The Chinese fossil trade has become a big business. These fossil forgeries have been sold on the black market for years now, for huge sums of money. Anyone who can produce a good fake stands to profit." 41

Other outlandish incidents occurred at about the same time the archaeoraptor fraud was coming to light. "Wells was attending a conference in Florida, where the star of the show was a fossil called bambiraptor-- a chicken-sized dinosaur with supposedly bird-like characteristics.

"Again, paleontologists called it the missing link," Wells told me. "And, sure enough, the reconstructed animal on display had feathers or feather-like structures on it. The problem was that no feathers were ever found with the fossil! But because scientists said they should be there, they were added. And the dinosaur looked even more like a bird because the guy who did the reconstruction used the same artificial eyes that taxidermists put in stuffed eagles. While there was a brief disclaimer," he added, "it was rather cryptically written. Then a group of molecular biologists at the conference reported finding bird DNA in dinosaur bones that were sixty-five million years old. Now, that would be pretty exciting! They suggested that this was genetic evidence that birds are closely related to dinosaurs. The problem is that the bones from which the DNA was supposedly extracted are from a branch of dinosaurs that had nothing to do with bird ancestry. Furthermore, the DNA they found was not ninety or ninety-nine percent similar to birds—it was one-hundred-percent turkey DNA! Even chickens don't have DNA that's one hundred percent similar to turkey DNA. Only turkeys have one-hundred-percent turkey DNA. So these people said they found turkey DNA in a dinosaur bone— and it actually got published in Science magazine! This is just incredible to me! The headline in the magazine said with a straight face: 'Dinos and Turkeys: Connected by DNA?'"

That last story begged the next question: "How in the world do you explain how the turkey DNA got in there?"

Shaking his head, "Wells said, "Maybe somebody dropped a turkey sandwich in the dig or there was lab contamination. If I had reported something like this in my grad student research, I would have been laughed out of the room. They would have told me, 'Go do the test again—it's contaminated.' But for goodness sake, this was taken seriously enough to publish it in Science. Even the scientist who reported the finding admitted he was 'quite skeptical' of his own work at this points—-and yet people were willing to seize on it to support their belief in Darwinian theory." 42

The Legend of Java Man

I couldn't end my conversation without touching on one more icon related to the fossil evidence: the pictures I've seen from time to time of a parade of ape-like creatures that morph into modern human beings. In fact, this illustration is emblazoned across the cover of a 1998 edition of The Origin of Species. 43 For many, this "ultimate icon" is not just a theory, but an established fact.

"If you go back far enough," legendary newscaster "Walter Cronkite intoned in a documentary on evolution, "we and the chimps share a common ancestor. My father's father's father's father, going back maybe a half-million generations-—about five million years ago—was an ape." 44

That kind of certainty about human evolution was engendered in me as a youngster, when I would devour my World Book Encyclopedia. One of my favorite entries was "Prehistoric Man," where I would linger for hours, fascinated by the part-ape, part-human nicknamed "Java man." Apparently, I wasn't the only member of this missing link's fan club. Said the author of a book on paleoanthropology:

Java man is like an old friend. We learned about him in grade school In fact, the vast majority of people who believe in human evolution were probably first sold on it by this convincing salesman. Not only is he the best-known human fossil, he is one of the only human fossils most people know. 45

World Book's two-page spread highlighted a parade of prehistoric men. Second in line was a lifelike bust of Java man from the American Museum of Natural History, accompanied by an outline showing his profile. "With his sloping forehead, heavy brow, jutting jaw, receding chin and bemused expression, he was exactly what a blend of ape and man should look like. For me, studying his face and looking into his eyes helped cement the reality of human evolution.

The encyclopedia confidently described how Dutch scientist Eugene Dubois, excavating on an Indonesian Island in 1891 and 1892, "dug some bones from a riverbank." Java man, which he dated back half a million years, "represents a stage in the development of modern man from a smaller-brained ancestor." 46 He was, according to Dubois, the missing link between apes and humans. 47

And I believed it all. I was blithely ignorant, however, of the full Java man story. What is not so well known is that Java man consists of nothing more than a skullcap, a femur (thigh bone), three teeth, and a great deal of imagination, one author would later write. 48 In other words, the lifelike depiction of Java man, which had so gripped me when I was young, was little more than speculation fueled by evolutionary expectations of what he should have looked like if Darwinism were true.

As a youngster beginning to form my opinions about human evolution, I wasn't aware of what I have more recently discovered: that Dubois' shoddy excavation would have disqualified the fossil from consideration by todays standards. Or that the femur apparently didn't really belong with the skullcap. Or that the skull cap, according to prominent Cambridge University anatomist Sir Arthur Keith, was distinctly human and reflected a brain capacity well within the range of humans living today. 49 Or that a 342-page scientific report from a fact-finding expedition of nineteen evolutionists demolished Dubois' claims and concluded that Java man played no part in human evolution. 50

In short, Java man was not an ape-man as I had been led to believe, but he was "a true member of the human family." 51 This was a fact apparently lost on Time magazine, which as recently as 1994 treated Java man as a legitimate evolutionary ancestor. 52

The Narrative of Human Evolution

Wells listened intently as I described to him how my exposure to misinformation about Java man had paved the way for my eventual wholehearted embrace of Darwinian evolution. The factors that contributed to that debacle, he pointed out, are still quite relevant.

"One of the major problems with paleoanthropology is that compared to all the fossils we have, only a minuscule number are believed to be of creatures ancestral to humans," Wells said. "Often, it's just skull fragments or teeth. So this gives a lot of elasticity in reconstructing the specimens to fit evolutionary theory. For example, when National Geographic hired four artists to reconstruct a female figure from seven fossil bones found in Kenya, they came up with quite different interpretations. One looked like a modern African-American woman; another like a werewolf; another had a heavy, gorilla-like brow; and another had a missing forehead and jaws that looked a bit like a beaked dinosaur. Of course, this lack of fossil evidence also makes it virtually impossible to reconstruct supposed relationships between ancestors and descendents. One anthropologist likened the task to trying to reconstruct the plot of War and Peace by using just thirteen random pages from the book." 53

Wells reached over again to pick up Icons of Evolution. "I thought Henry Gee, the chief science writer for Nature, was quite candid in talking about this issue in 1999," Wells said as he searched for the right page. "Gee wrote, 'The intervals of time that separate fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection through ancestry and descent.' He called each fossil 'an isolated point, with no knowable connection to any other given fossil, and all float around in an overwhelming sea of gaps.' In fact, he said that all the fossil evidence for human evolution 'between ten and five million years ago-—-several thousand generations of living creatures—-can be fitted into a small box.' Consequendy, he concluded that 'the conventional picture of human evolution is a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices.' Then he said quite blundy: 'To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story—amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific',"

Wells put down the book. "In other words, you're not going to reconstruct human evolutionary history just based on examining the few fossils we have," he continued. "The only reason anyone thinks the evidence supports human evolution is because Darwinism is assumed to be true on other grounds. If it is, then it makes perfect sense to extrapolate that to human history, which is what Darwin did in his book The Descent of Man. But what if the other evidence for Darwinism is faulty-—which, in fact, it is? You and I didn't even go into the major flaws with a whole host of other evolution icons that are used to teach students today. There's no shortage of books debunking Darwin. And without any compeling evidence for Darwinism in these areas, the whole question of human evolution is up for grabs. Instead, Darwinists assume the story of human life is an evolutionary one, and then they plug the fossils into a preexisting narrative where they seem to fit. The narrative can take several forms depending on ones biases. As one anthropologist said, the process is 'both political and subjective' to the point where he suggested that paleoanthropology has the form but not the substance of a science.' 55 In fact, a paleoanthropologist named Misia Landau wrote a book in which she talked about the similarities between the story of human evolution and old-fashioned folk tales. She concluded that many classic texts in the field were 'determined as much by traditional narrative frameworks as by material evidence' and that these themes 'far exceed what can be inferred from the study of fossils alone.'" 56

I took a few moments to soak in what Wells had said. He was right—certainly Java man's fall from grace is instructive. It highlights how many people, including myself, became adherents of Darwinism through fossils or other evidence that later discoveries have either undermined or disproved. But the damage has already been done in many cases—-the student, unaware of these subsequent findings, has already graduated into full-fledged naturalism.

As I leaf back through my time-worn copies of the World Book from my childhood, I can now see how faulty science and Darwinian presuppositions forced my former friend Java man into an evolutionary parade that's based much more on imagination than reality. Unfortunately, he's not the only example of that phenomenon, which is rife to the point of rendering the record of supposed human evolution totally untrustworthy.

"There is no encompassing theory of [human] evolution," conceded Berkeley evolutionary biologist E Clark Howell. "Alas, there never really has been." 57

Outdated, Distorted, Fake, Failure

At the end of our discussion about the fossil record, I reflected back on the four images that had paved the way for my descent into atheism. I could only shake my head.

I was left with an origin-of-life experiment whose results have been rendered meaningless; a Tree of Life that had been uprooted by the Biological Big Bang of the Cambrian explosion; doctored embryo drawings that don't reflect reality; and a fossil record that stubbornly refuses to yield the transitional forms crucial to evolutionary theory. Doubts piled on doubts.

Are these icons the sole evidence for Darwinism? Of course not. But their fate is illustrative of what happens time after time when macro-evolution is put under the microscope of scrutiny. As I continued to investigate the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of evolutionary theory, in a long-standing probe that goes far beyond my encounter with Wells, I kept getting the same kind of results. No wonder a hundred scientists signed a public dissent from Darwinism.

Yet every time an icon of evolution is discredited, Darwinists claim with religious zeal that it was never really the whole story in the first place and insist that new findings really do buttress macro evolution. New narratives are created; new stories are told. The theory of evolution, now unsupported by the original icon, is never questioned; instead, it's used afresh to justify a redesigned model. For instance, several years ago Gould and a colleague proposed a new hypothesis, called "punctuated equilibrium," in a desperate bid to explain away the fossil gaps. They suggested that radically new species somehow managed to develop rapidly among isolated populations, conveniently leaving behind no fossils to document the process. When these new creatures rejoined the larger, central populations, this resulted in the preserving of fossils that suggested the sudden appearance of new species. This model has been roundly criticized, and rightly so, for creating far more questions than answers. 58 In the end, Darwinism has remained a philosophy still in search of convincing empirical data to back it up.

Similarly, neo-Darwinists have proudly displayed four-winged fruit flies as evidence that small genetic changes can yield major physiological differences in organisms. As Wells reveals in his book, however, these fruit flies must be carefully bred from three artificially maintained mutant strains-—an exceedingly unlikely circumstance in nature. What's more, the males have difficulty mating, and because the extra wings are nonfunctional, these mutant flies are seriously handicapped. "As evidence for evolution," he said, "the four-winged fruit fly is no better than a two-headed calf in a circus sideshow." 59

Once again, closer investigation revealed that even the latest icons cannot buttress the sagging credibility of evolutionary theory. As for me, I finally came to the point where I realized that I just didn't have enough faith to maintain my belief in Darwinism. The evidence, in my estimation, was simply unable to support its grandest and most sweeping claims.

The Cry of "Design!"

Before I packed my belongings and grabbed a cab for the airport, I wanted to ask Wells a few closing questions about the overall case for Darwinian evolution. 

"After years of studying this," I said, "when you take the most current scientific evidence into consideration, what is your conclusion about Darwin's theory?"

Wells's answer began as soon as the words left my mouth. "My conclusion is that the case for Darwinian evolution is bankrupt," he said firmly. "The evidence for Darwinism is not only grossly inadequate, its systematically distorted. I'm convinced that sometime in the not-too-distant future—I don't know, maybe twenty or thirty years from now —-people will look back in amazement and say, 'How could anyone have believed this?' Darwinism is merely materialistic philosophy masquerading as science, and people are recognizing it for what it is.

"Now, having said that," he continued, "I still see room for some evolutionary processes in limited instances. But saying evolution works in some cases is far from showing that it accounts for everything."

I asked, "If macroevolution has failed to prove itself to be a viable theory, then where do you believe the evidence of science is pointing?"

There was no equivocation in Wells's voice. Speaking with conviction, he said: 

"I believe science is pointing strongly toward design. To me, as a scientist, the development of an embryo cries out, 'Design!' The Cambrian explosion—the sudden appearance of complex life, with no evidence of ancestors-—-is more consistent with design than evolution. Homology, in my opinion, is more compatible with design. The origin of life certainly cries out for a designer. None of these things make as much sense from a Darwinian perspective as they do from a design perspective."

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You're not merely saying that the evidence for evolution is weak and therefore there must be an intelligent designer. You're suggesting there is also affirmative evidence for a designer."

"I am," he replied. "However, the two are connected, because one of the main functions of Darwinian theory is to try to make design unnecessary. This is what you experienced as you became an atheist. This is what I experienced. So showing that the arguments for evolution are weak certainly opens the door to design. And then," he said, "when you analyze all of the most current affirmative evidence from cosmology, physics, astronomy, biology, and so forth—well, I think you'll discover that the positive case for an intelligent designer becomes absolutely compelling."

I stood and shook Wells' hand. "That," I said, "is what I'm going to find out."

Science versus Faith

The plane ride through the black velvet sky over the Pacific Coast was exceptionally smooth that evening, and I closed my eyes as I reclined my seat as far as it would go. I felt satisfied by my interview with Wells and was anxious to determine whether the most up-to-date scientific evidence supports the existence of the intelligent designer he had talked about. Still, though, some pesky questions continued to bother me.

I remained troubled by the intersection of science and faith. I needed to resolve whether these two domains are destined to be at war with each other, as some people claim. Can a scientific person legitimately entertain the idea of the supernatural? How much can empirical data tell us about the divine? Should scientists merely stick to their test tubes and let the theologians ponder God? Should pastors be allowed to poke their nose into the research laboratory? Can science and faith ever really be partners in pursuit of the ultimate answers of life?

I knew I needed to get some answers to those questions before I could go any further. I pulled the blanket up to my neck and decided to get some sleep. Tomorrow, I'd be planning another journey.


More Resources on This Topic

Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda, Md.: Adler & Adler, 1986.

HanegraafF, Hank. The Face That Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution. Nashville: Word, 1998.

Johnson, Phillip. Darwin on Trial. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, 111.: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Wells, Jonathan. Icons of Evolution. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2000.