Dr. John T. Robinson vs. Dr. Duane T. Gish
University of Wisconsin, Madison
February 10, 1978. Edited slightly for grammar and clarity only.
|Author: Dr. Jerry Bergman
Tape #1 – Dr. Robinson Evolutionist
This debate is typical of many on this topic—the evolutionists spend much time on religion, creationists on science.
[The editor’s responses to his arguments are in brackets]
Mr. Chairman, Dr. Gish, ladies and gentlemen, and the dog, if he is still around…
At the outset I wish to make a few points clear. The first may seem to be trivial, though this is not how it seems to me. And it is this…It is my firm opinion that every person has the clear right to believe whatever they choose, and no one should try to ridicule the beliefs of others, or attempt to coerce them into believing something they don’t wish to believe, or attempt to prevent them from explaining what it is that they believe [I wish this true among scientists—it clearly is not! They have ridiculed without end Darwin skeptics and have fought tooth and nail against allowing criticism of Darwinism anywhere they can].
I do not feel threatened by ideas that are different from my own, nor do I have any missionary urge to convince other people to believe as I believe [This is good to learn, but as I read the debate, I wonder how valid it is], because I think that what one believes is a personal matter, but I am, of course, perfectly happy to explain what I believe and why.
Now the second point is crucial. It concerns clear perception of the viewpoint, the basic point of departure, of creationists. Creationists of the Creation Research Society frequently make the point that they represent…and I quote from Dr. Gish, “the scientific case for creation devoid of all references to the Bible or Genesis,” and state that all members of the Creation Research Society are scientists with advanced degrees. The letters of invitation that started this proceeding this evening emphasized that the arguments would be made from a scientific, not religious, viewpoint. So let us see then what their viewpoint is and some quotations from their publications will guide us.
The first are from Dr. Henry M. Morris, who is Director of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego of which Dr. Gish is Associate Director and these quotes are from the Impact series number 5. “It is more productive to take the Bible literally and then to interpret the actual facts of science within it’s revelatory framework. If the Bible cannot be understood, it is useless as revelation.” I take that to mean that, unless it speaks for itself perfectly clearly and doesn’t have to be interpreted, then it’s not doing its job as revelation. The quote continues, ”If it contains scientific fallacies, it could not have been given by inspiration.” And further from the same article…”The specific purpose of this study is to show that all such theories …” evolution … “which seek to accommodate the Bible to evolutionary geology are invalid and, therefore, should be abandoned.” Further… “Thus evolution is Biblically unsound, theologically contradictory, and sociologically harmful.” Still further…”We must conclude, therefore, that if the Bible is really the Word of God, then evolution and its geological age-system must be completely false. Since the Bible cannot be reinterpreted to correlate with evolution, Christians must diligently precede to correlate the facts of science with the Bible” [this is typical—Darwinists, instead of focusing on science, attack the religious beliefs of Darwin skeptics and creationists alike].
Our good Dr. Gish, himself, adds to this in Acts and Facts, …”I have always accepted the Bible and God’s unchanged, and unchangeable revelation to man, and since it describes man and his universe as a special creation of God, I’ve always been a Creationist.”
Now still further in the book Scientific Creationism, Dr. Morris, assisted by Dr. Gish and others, writes…
It should be emphasized that this order is followed, not because…that of putting the scientific discussion before the theological discussion…”it should be emphasized that this order is followed not because the scientific data are considered more reliable than Biblical doctrine. To the contrary, it is precisely because Biblical revelation is absolutely authoritative and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will give the same testimony as that of Scripture. There is not the slightest possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible and, therefore, there is no need to fear that a truly scientific comparison of any aspect of the two models of origins can ever yield a verdict in favor of evolution.
We see here, ladies and gentlemen, clearly expressed a basic viewpoint that is the antithesis of that of science [hardly, science is the search for truth, both about the physical world and about religion—the existence of the “Scientific Study of Religion” Association attests to this fact]. Now I’m not here concerned with comparing one with the other to decide which is right and which is wrong [Yet he does this here!]. That decision is for each person to make for himself. I’m concerned here merely to point out that these points of view, the one expressed in those quotations, and the scientific point of view are very different; and they are all together incompatible.
The scientific point of view involves the sustained attempt to build a coherent body of knowledge of the external world on the basis of the fewest possible unsupported assumptions [so does religion]. The only authority allowed in science is that of well-documented fact. No person or book in science has absolute authority to dictate what scientists must believe [this, of course, is not true. Science has clear authorities, such as Nobel Laureates, journals (Science and Nature), and schools (Harvard, Yale)]. Doubt is an integral part of the way in which science precedes. Scientists all know that science contains errors. But science is a self-correcting system [it often takes much time, though]. It proceeds by a method, which uncovers its own errors and therefore tends always to produce a closer and closer approximation to “truth,” whatever that may mean.
So error, you see, is no crime in science. The normal way in which science grows is for a better theory to replace one that is less effective, or has proved to be faulty. And facts that are proved wrong are discarded [this is the ideal, not the real, especially as it concerns Darwinism].
One should also, it seems to me, distinguish very clearly between science, the body of knowledge, and the scientist, the person, if a scientific researcher or any person with a science degree expresses an opinion it is not therefore automatically a scientific opinion. To be a scientific opinion, it must be based only on at least reasonably tested evidence that was generated within the scientific framework and by the procedures of science. If an opinion goes beyond the tested scientific evidence it ceases to be a scientific opinion by that very fact that it goes beyond what has been established. [Good point, and well stated! Darwinism goes well beyond fact.]
The creationists’ explanation of their point of view demonstrates that it is all together incompatible with the viewpoint of science, which I have just described. On the one hand a person cannot function within the creationists’ framework according to the rules of science because no matter what his experiments may show, he may not believe anything that is inconsistent with the creationists’ literal interpretation of the Bible [this is totally false, as shown by the fact that creationists disagree among themselves both about the Bible’s meaning and creationism. Most creationists don’t take a literal interpretation, but a historical interpretation]. He is locked into an inflexible system that is laid down for all time, as the quotation from Dr. Morris points out, what may be accepted and what is not. So you see, he’s not free in this situation in the way that a scientist is to follow where the evidence leads [totally false—creationists of today hold very different ideas then even 50 years ago, such as the canopy theory is no longer accepted]. On the other hand, the creationist cannot function within the scientific framework because, unlike scientists, he is not free to follow the evidence, but may believe only that which his inflexible authoritarian religious system allows him to believe. [Totally false! Even critics of creationism commonly stress that science and religion are two separate worlds that are not bridgeable. This view contradicts his claim. Also, what if a science fact supports the Bible? What is wrong with using it as evidence to support the Bible? If a section of the Bible is true, why not note the evidence? It appears to me that some people do not want the Bible to be true.] Now may I repeat, I am not here concerned with which of these two systems is best, I’m simply trying to compare them and show the ways in which they differ [it is obvious that you are clearly concerned about which system is best here]. One’s own psychological makeup will dictate which of these systems one prefers, and one person cannot validly decide for another, which, if any, they should embrace. [Psychological make-up? What about the facts! Should not the facts determine the answer to this question?] That is a decision that each person has to make for himself. [Are students given both sides in public schools so as to do this? Clearly they are, as a whole, not.]
But what does become clear from this analysis is that there can be no such thing as a scientific case for creation as understood by members of the Creation Research Society “devoid of all references to the Bible or Genesis” [totally false!]. What science they accept, and what they reject is, you see, on the basis of this explanation from Scientific Creationism, in no way related to the quality of the evidence which supports the scientific facts which are accepted. The sole criterion is, as the quoted material from Morris makes very clear, whether the science agrees with the literal interpretation of the Bible. That’s the criterion that decides which science is acceptable and which isn’t [the facts are much more complex than this gross oversimplification!].
So the criterion that dictates absolutely what science is acceptable to them, according to their own descriptions, that criterion lies right outside of science. Now for this reason, it seems clear to me that it is futile to suppose that Dr. Gish and I can have a scientific debate, on the validity of evolution. It cannot be scientific in the ordinary sense of the term, because Dr. Gish and his colleagues—use a special definition of science, a religious definition [again, this is a typical response in these debates—scientists talk about religion, and creationists about science! Dr. Robinson, get to the science!].
To shorten the last quotation which I have already given from Dr. Morris, “Biblical revelation is absolutely authoritative, not the slightest possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible, therefore there is no need to fear that a truly scientific comparison can ever yield a verdict in favor of evolution.”
In other words, “True Science” is defined as that scientific information which does not contradict a literal interpretation of the Bible [no—read the whole statement]. Also, by their definition, and scientific information, now and in the future, that supports evolution, or appears to support evolution, is thereby automatically not “true science” [or it can be interpreted from both world views].
I do not, and most scientists do not, accept this “religious” definition of what is good science and what isn’t, so it seems to me just mere pretense to say that the debate is purely on scientific grounds [we are only saying that science fact supports our creation belief]. The essential difference in the connection between Dr. Gish and myself, is not that we are two scientists who interpret the scientific evidence differently, the essential difference is that, unlike me, Dr. Gish holds a religious belief that absolutely prohibits him from accepting as valid and scientific evidence of whatever kind that supports evolution, and I do not believe anyone can really understand him without recognizing this point. [This is a false, gross distortion!]
Yet another factor reduces the possible meaningfulness of this debate; I accept neither of the two sides as presented. The creationists argue that there are only two valid viewpoints, their view of literal acceptance of the Bible, and an atheistic materialistic evolutionary interpretation on the other hand. Now this later point of view, (an atheistic, materialistic, evolutionary view), is not the scientific view of evolution. [Most of the leading top scientists will disagree with you.] It is a philosophical view incorporating what science knows about evolution, but going well beyond that into metaphysics. Now I do not accept that point of view. I do not accept an atheistic, materialistic, view of the universe. And I believe it highly misleading to give the impression that one is concerned with discussing the scientific view of evolution, when in fact, the creationists are contrasting two philosophies, and special kind of theism on the one hand, and materialism on the other.
There are other positions than these two, and large numbers of Christians, followers of other religions, and many scientists, fall into the position of, in fact, accepting positions other than the two which are presented as the only valid ones here. [Still on religion! Are we ever going to get to the science?]
Creationists categorize those who believe in evolution as atheists and materialists and quote some statements from a few well-known biologists to prove this. This procedure involves the fallacy that anything a scientist says is science. Dr. Gish quotes, among others, G. G. Simpson, a very well known evolutionary biologist and paleontologist of this country, in passages where he is expressing his own philosophical beliefs as proof of the basically atheistic, materialistic, viewpoint of scientists about evolution. He does not, however, quote Simpson where he writes in his book The Meaning of Evolution,
Scientists, and particularly the professional student of evolution, are often accused of a bias toward mechanism or materialism, even though believers in vitalism and finalism are not lacking among them. Such a bias as may exist is inherent in the method of science. The most successful scientific investigation has generally involved treating phenomena as if they were purely materialistic, rejecting any metaphysical hypothesis as long as a physical hypothesis seems possible. The method works, the restriction is necessary, because science is confined to physical means of investigation. And so it would stultify its own efforts to postulate, that its subject is not physical, and so not susceptible to its methods. Yet few scientists would maintain that the required restrictions of their methods necessarily delimit all truth, or that the materialistic nature of their hypotheses imposes materialism on the universe.
You see this is making a clear distinction between how one has to proceed scientifically because we can not, in the laboratory, show the existence of spirit, or determine that a soul exists and show what its characteristics are [is it wrong to try? Also, he is still on religion! What does this have to do with the validity of Darwinism?].
Therefore, it is not possible to distinguish between a hypothesis that includes such views, and one that does not. You cannot test them, and therefore we have to proceed without that. But he points out, “This doesn’t mean to say, that because scientists have to proceed this way that their philosophies are all that of materialism. This is the way one has to proceed as a scientist, as distinct from what one views are as a person with a philosophy. [Yet many scientists also have a clear philosophy—it is called naturalism.]
Dr. Gish also quotes Dobzhansky, a very famous evolutionist who died recently, as evidence that evolution is materialistic in principle, again where he is expressing his philosophical views. But look at the definition that Dobzhansky and colleagues give of evolution in their 1977 textbook on evolution. This is what they give as their formal definition of evolution at the beginning of this textbook on evolution:
Organic evolution is a series of partial or complete and irreversible transformations of the genetic composition of populations, based principally upon altered interactions with the environment. It consists chiefly of adaptive radiations into new environments, adjustment to environmental changes that take place in a particular habitat, and the origin of new ways for exploiting existing habitats. These adaptive changes occasionally give rise to greater complexity of developmental pattern, of physiological reactions, and of interactions between populations and their environment.
As you see, there is nothing metaphysical about that definition; it does not commit one to any particular kind of philosophy. Here are a few other scientific definitions of evolution:
Sewall Wright says “Evolution is the statistical transformation of populations.”
Dodson & Dodson in the 1976 edition of their text Evolution say “Evolution is the process by which related populations diverge from one another, giving rise to new species, or higher groups.” Moody, in the 1970 edition of his text Introduction to Evolution says, “We may define organic evolution as the theory that plants and animals, now living, are the modified descendants of a somewhat different plants and animals that lived in time past. And so on, step by step, back to a beginning shrouded in mystery.” [If this were true, creationists would not have a problem. The fact is,this is not what Darwinism is about!]
Charles Darwin himself referred to evolution as “descent with modification.” And one might note in passing, incidentally, that the final sentence of Darwin’s most famous book on evolution, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, is as follows: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” [Ah, he is a creationist! The fact is, he regretted this statement later in his life.]
So you see, one sees here then that the definitions of evolution by working biologists who are concerned with evolution, contain no metaphysics, and bear little resemblance to the creationist’s definition of evolution. [Not in 2005! Many scientific organizations make it very clear as to where they stand—evolution has no room for God anywhere!] On the other hand, the personal philosophies of these same biologists range anywhere from theism all the way to atheism, at the other end of the spectrum. So you see there is a distinction between what is scientifically regarded as evolution, and what philosophies people hold. And scientists surely are entitled to their philosophy or having a philosophy just as any other person has. [Are they? Then why do you condemn Gish’s philosophy?]
In my own course on evolution on this campus, I always point out that the scientific evidence for evolution is completely neutral with respect to whether or not God, or any other spiritual agencies exist [This is clearly teaching a religious belief!]. On that question one has to make up ones own mind on evidence which is not scientific. Of course, what science has found out should be considered when you are making up you philosophy. But you cannot make a complete philosophy of scientific evidence only, because science does not cover anything near the whole realm of human experience and therefore it is not complete enough to give you a philosophy even if it had, so to speak, completed its investigations, which it is, of course, a long way from having done [well stated].
Now, looking into the validity of the scientific view of evolution involves two questions; does it occur and if so, by what mechanism? The first is of the most relevance here and the biologists concerned believe that its validity has been proved as well as any scientific theory or explanation can be [micro yes, macro no]. As Sir Karl Popper, and David Hume two centuries before him, pointed out, no amount of logical support can, in fact, prove any theory to be absolutely correct. There is always the possibility, the real probability, that it will be replaced by something better, and therefore you can never prove its complete validity. But that evolution as understood by scientists, is a fact of nature is as certain as it can be. About the mechanism there is a lot more doubt [Many try to deny this fact. Also, if we cannot agree on a method, does this not lend doubts as to the process?].
Now all of biology provides evidence that supports evolution as understood by science. But the fossil record provides direct historical evidence for testing whether the scientific kind of evolution does occur. Now strictly speaking, if there is no evolution, that is, if there is no change, than one should find that always whenever one looks back in the past organisms are essentially the same [this is what is found for most kinds of life except for life forms no longer with us appear suddenly, and either are still with us or become extinct]. But if evolution of the scientific kind is true, that is to say the organisms change with the passing of time, then one should find, as one goes back in time, that the fossils that one finds become increasingly unfamiliar, as compared to the forms that we know at the present time. And this is indeed what one finds [what one finds is little, if any, change. The fact is stasis, not change, dominates the fossil record by far].
Going back one reaches a point where, for example, there are no more mammals and birds. You go back further in time; you reach a point where there are no more reptiles. You go back still further in time; you reach a point where there is no more amphibians. And still further back, there are no more fish. You have only invertebrates represented in the fossil record. [This is way oversimplified. Also, major problems exist with this view!] So the scientific view that evolution involves patterned change in living organisms as time passes is therefore clearly shown to be the case.
But creationists object saying this certainly does not satisfy them. Evidence within a “kind” is not evolution… Now what then is a “kind”? They define it so loosely, largely by example, that it may be a species, it may be a genus, it may be a family, it may be an order, and it may even be a class, or even slightly larger than a class because one of the examples given is the distinction between fish on one hand and other kinds of animals on the other; and fish consist of a number of classes so you have to go above the class level even to include all fish. [No, many creationists define “kind” up to the genus level in many cases, and possibly, in some cases, even the order level.] Now this concept is so flexible that it is unusable [the concept of species is also very flexible]. Anything can be called a kind that the occasion demands [not true, and much work is going into this now].
An addition to this definition by Dr. Gish does not help. Dr. Gish explains that they had shared a common gene pool, that is to say, anything that has come from a common gene pool can be considered a kind. If scientists could trace every known species of animal all the way back to an original species of single celled creature, the creationist could still say, “Ah, but you haven’t proved evolution because they all come from that one gene pool right at the beginning. So all of nature could, by this definition, be tied into being a single kind. [If this could be done, the point is valid. The fact is, it cannot be done.]
This kind of thinking underlines my point, that the creationists’ use of a religious definition of science makes a debate, such as this, really pointless [not at all. What is wrong with exploring ideas?]. But let us persevere. Dr. Gish says that the fossil record has provided no transitional forms between different sorts of animal, and that if evolution were true, there should be many of these. Actually there are many long family histories known, horses, elephants, camels, ammonites, literally dozen of such extended groups, that are all tied together as being a clear evolutionary group, are now well documented [and all are still being debated! Many are examples of microevolution]. And some of these histories may run over 50 or 60 million years, with many branches presented. But creationists say “No, that’s not evidence of evolution. Each of these kinds, each of these groups, trace back to an original ancestral form and, therefore, this definition of having belonged to a single gene pool applies and therefore one is, in fact, dealing with one kind. So change within a kind is not evolution.”
But is this view reasonable? What is a transitional form? The history of horses, for example, has been traced back through 50 or 60 million years to a form called Hyracotherium [this is very debatable and even horse experts are not in agreement]. This animal was, however, extremely different from the modern horse [true, and for this reason this animal may not have been a horse]. It was small, with relatively shorter legs and neck. It had high hindquarters and low front quarters, and it had a convexly curved back, not the straight kind of firm back that one sees in horses. The brain was more like that of a reptile in fact, than like that of a horse. The teeth were entirely different in structure, and even between Hyracotherium and modern horses, a new tissue, a whole new tissue, a cement, has come into existence in the horse line so that later horse teeth have a different kind of structure in principle from that of the earlier ones. And on top of this, these early Hyracotheriums were forest dwelling, browsing animal, not a plains dwelling, and grazing animal. [On this basis, many argue it was a different animal, not a transitional form that evolved into a horse.]
Hyracotherium would not be regarded as any relation whatsoever to the horse of today if it was not for these transitional forms that line it to the modern horse [this is very questionable]. In fact, this is not simply a post facto statement. Hyracotherium was the first of the fossil horses that was found. And when Sir Richard Owen described it, and he looked around for what animals were most like it, he did not consider it had any relation to the horse at all. He called it Hyracotherium because he thought it was like the hyrax which is a small rabbit-like animal lacking long ears, and a tail, which lives in Africa [some today argue that is what it is, a hyrax-like animal].
He didn’t think it had any relation at all to horses. It’s only by finding the intermediate forms that we can now in fact link that creature to the horses at all. It is not a horse; it’s far more like a condylar than anything else. It is the transitional forms that establish the relationship. Now the same sort of thing is true of most of these other extended family histories. The animals that they have been traced from could not be linked to those modern forms if it were not for the transitional forms that link them. Rather than having no transitional forms, there are actually museums full of them. Each such history represents a very large amount of evolution, both in time in the amount of change that has occurred vertically, and also laterally, in the amount of diversification that has happened within the group. But let us, however, accommodate the creationists by considering still larger transitions, say reptile to mammal. That, after all, is surely a pretty large-scale transition.
Even here the fossil record has provided good transitions. In the particular case of reptile to mammal, one of the numbers that are known, one in fact has got such a good transitional series that we’ve gotten into serious classification problems. We’ve got in the earlier portion of the sequence animals that we all agreed are reptiles – no argument. Later on in the transition there are animals, which we are all agreed are mammals – no argument. But in between are a lot that are just impossible to classify so what we’ve done is simply take an arbitrary definition, draw a line and say, we will consider these from there are up mammals and ones below that line we will regard as reptiles. [This is partly because all we have to go on to make these judgments is bones and teeth—less than 10% of the whole animal.]
Reptile to mammal evolution is also very debatable. Not one skeletal feature distinguishing reptiles from mammals. The most important differences are, of course, physiological and embryological and you can’t see those from fossils, but there are a lot of significant skeletal differences between mammals and reptiles and one of these is the nature of the jaw hinge, the way the lower jaw attaches to the upper jaw. And in reptiles one has this hinge consisting of an articular bone. The early jaws consist of many bones, and one of them is the articular. It attaches or articulates with the quadrate bone in the upper jaw. In mammals those two bones are not involved at all. It’s the dentory in the lower jaw, the only bone that’s left in mammals, the one that has the teeth in, and it’s the Squamosal bone in the upper jaw.
So here you have just the sort of thing that anti-evolutionists commonly say proves that evolution couldn’t happen. You have two totally different kinds of structure in those two beasts and any transition, which would not be functional. But, in fact, the fossil record has shown very beautifully what happened [it has not done this at all]. It has shown that, for awhile, both hinges worked side by side in the same animal and then the old reptile hinge disappeared into the middle ear as two of the old reptile hinge disappeared into the middle ear as two of the bones that transmit sound in the middle ear – another of the distinctions between mammals and reptiles. In reptiles there is only one bone in the ear transmitting sound. In mammals you’ve got three, the original reptilian one and two more. And those two more are these two bones from the reptilian hinge that have disappeared and have gone into the middle ear. Surely, this is a very beautiful transition from a reptilian condition into a mammalian condition through an observed rather unexpected intermediate condition [this conclusion is also based on little empirical information and much assumption].
Another of the things that is different between mammals and reptiles is the presence of a solid bony, secondary bony palate, which separates the nasal cavity from the mouth cavity. There is no such separation in the parent reptiles from which the mammals arose. But again, this series of fossils shows this transition very beautifully. You actually see again something that the anti-evolutionists say can’t happen and that, instead of there being no palate and then a complete palate, with creation in between, one sees a little bony ridge start growing out from the level of the roots of the teeth on either side [all this shows is that much variation exists].
And gradually over millions of years, it extends out until eventually it meets and fuses and then expands forward and backwards and you have a complete bony palate and those intermediate stages where there isn’t complete fusion right across are represented there in the fossil record. Along with these changes of the jaw hinge and so on showing that a lot of them were going on not exactly the same speed but approximately parallel with each other. The same thing is true of the teeth. Reptiles have quite different teeth from mammals and the earlier reptiles in the transition have typical reptilian teeth but are constantly being replaced that are opposite each other.
At least you have two next to each other, one falls out the other one is operative and this one falls out and meantime this one is growing back again and they keep on doing this right through the life of the individual in that kind of socketed tooth reptile from which the mammals came. Mammals on the other hand have totally different kinds of teeth, all just conical teeth. Mammalian teeth are differentiated into a different kind in front and the canine and then the cheek teeth consisting of premolars and molars and they have fit right opposite each other because you can’t have the specialization of the cusps to work properly as effective comminuters of food if you don’t have them properly laced opposite each other and they can’t keep on falling out so you have only two sets of teeth instead of a multiple of sets all through the life of the individual. In mammals you only have two. This transition you can also see through that sequence: you start off with typical reptilian teeth and the end of the sequence you’ve got typical mammalian teeth and you’ve got all stages I between right across that transition [this is not accurate at all! At best, it shows normal morphological variation, sexual variation, and developmental variation—not evolution].
Now interestingly, Dr. Gish quotes a leading expert whom I have already referred to, G. G. Simpson as an authority for the statement that there are no known transitional forms in the fossil record. This quotation is from a 1944 book. This book was extensively revised and issued under a new title in 1953. On the basis of much newer evidence, Simpson says—in 1953—that in fact between the two books more work of relevance had been done in that particular field than had been done in all the time before 1944—and is this 1953 book Simpson says
Among the examples are many in which beyond the slightest doubt a species or genus has been gradually transformed into another. Such gradual transformation is also fairly well exemplified for sub-families and, occasionally, for families. As the groups are commonly ranked splitting and gradual divergence of species is also exemplified although not as richly as phyletic transformations which means straightforward changes in the group without the group splitting. No doubt because paleontological samples are really adequate in spatial distribution splitting and gradual divergence of genera is exemplified very well, and in a large variety of organisms complete examples of sub-families and families are also known.
Now much more new information of this kind has accumulated since 1953 when this book was written. For example, some of the things I’ve been talking about in the reptile-mammal transition have come to light since that 1953 book. Once can only wonder then why Dr. Gish quoted the rather negative 1944 statement rather than the very positive 1953 statement since references in his book shows that in fact he used both books. [You should ask him rather then assume he that he is dishonest.] Now Simpson goes on, after having made this clear cut statement about transitions in the record, to make a very reasonable point that, since the record has now provided examples from tiny transitions through to major transitions that the gaps that still remain were presumably filled by similar transitions, that is to say that, having established a few transitions, major transitions proves the principal valid.
Creationists often say no one has ever observed the origin of a new species [who said this?]. Now this is not so. In 1927 for example Karpechenko crossed cabbage and radish producing a new kind of plant. It was a useless plant because it didn’t have the head of the cabbage and it didn’t have the root of the radish, but it was, in fact, an extraordinarily interesting plant because it was freely fertile itself but could not breed with either of its parents and therefore was a genetically isolated new kind of plant quite separate from its parent forms. [The concern is evolution by natural selection, not humans using intelligence to produce new varieties of plants or animals as we have been doing for thousands of years. This example is a hybrid, not a new, higher evolved species that evolved as a result of natural selection of mutations.]
Around this time from 1925 to about 1935 a number of such experiments produced this kind of new plant. And what’s more, chromosome studies because, genetically, such a plant is widely different from either of its parents because it contains the complete genetic makeup of both of the parents. But studies on the chromosomes of flowering plants have shown that this process, which has been done experimentally in this way, apparently is very common in flowering plants because there are many plants with a chromosome make-up that indicates that this type of thing has been happening that there were new plants derived from hybridization between other plants.
Now in his book, Dr. Gish states that mutations are crucial to the scientific view of evolution, yet observed mutations, he says, always prove to be harmful. That’s a quote. And he goes on to say that probably not a single observed mutation could definitely be said to have increased the viability of the organisms involved. Now this statement is contradicted by an extensive scientific literature on the topic.
Most people are probably perfectly well aware of this because I’m sure most of you heard of the cases where some disease organism that was well controlled by some particular antibiotic develops by mutation forms which are resistant to the antibiotic and this produces problems particularly in hospitals where these organisms become established in the hospitals because of the presence of the antibiotics. These resistant forms become established in the hospital and then produce a particular bad medical problem. Now to investigate that Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg (who used to be a professor of genetics on this campus) did an experiment in which he showed that a particular bacterium that he was studying in the presence of as little as .2 micrograms per milliliter of streptomycin were unable to survive, but a mutation occurred in that strain after quite a long time.
A mutation occurred in it, which allowed the mutated form to survive quite happily in a 125,000 micrograms per milliliter of streptomycin. In other words, the capacity for that organism to survive in that particular situation where there is streptomycin present had been enormously increased. [This has been extensively studied and written about by creationists—and does not prove Gish wrong! It is irresponsible to use this example!]
Much experimental evidence now exists demonstrating improved viability caused by mutation in a wide range of organisms. Drosophila the vinegar fly, commonly known as the fruit fly, has been studied enormously in this respect. There are a large number of mutations that have been observed, and it has been calculated by the people working most extensively on it that about 10% of mutations are not harmful and that, of those 10%, a significant amount are in fact beneficial and many studies have been shown to demonstrate this in detail. The studies such as, in the case of one particular, just to name one, out of many mutation that compared to the stock which produced that mutation the controls that if tested at a temperature of 16o Celsius the new mutated form was 2% less viable than the original, and if tested at 29o centigrade it was 2% less viable than the original stock, but at 25o it was .4% more viable than the original stock. [This is probably microevolution. I would love to see the reference on this.]
So this kind of detailed documentation of the fact that mutations do improve, can improve viability is very well established. There are many other examples. Probably many people have heard of the numerous examples more than 100 cases of industrial melanism in moths where light colored moths have produced dark populations in areas that have been industrially polluted. Now this has been genetically well established that this is a mutation at the site that produces the normal coloration of the light moths [I have never seen evidence that this trait is due to a mutation, but is a normal color variation]. But where the environment is becoming very dark, the light moths are so conspicuous they get eaten and they become very unsuccessful even though there were very successful in unpolluted areas where they’re very camouflaged when they sit on the mottled tree trunks and are preyed on by the birds, if they are conspicuous, they get seen by the birds and are eaten immediately.
If they’re inconspicuous they can survive and breed and pass on those successful characteristics. But where the environment starts becoming affected by pollution, as it commonly was around the middle of last century, where these mutations that produced the dark individuals show up, they enable the moths to survive more easily because the dark forms against the polluted tree trunks are not easily seen by birds. So here you find a mutation which is in those circumstances producing a very much more viable organism because in fact in some cases the mutations didn’t occur quickly enough and in those cases the populations disappeared from those areas. They couldn’t survive as well as light moths in those areas, but if the mutation producing the dark form showed up they were able to survive. [This whole account is very questionable. See Judith Hopper, Of Moths and Men.]
So, ladies and gentlemen, what I’ve been trying to show here is what the assumptions are from the point of view of the creationists, in their own writings. I am not trying to give my definition of what they believe and to contrast that with what scientists believe about evolution, and to show that there is a great deal of detailed evidence and, of course, there are large areas of evidence that I have not gone into [except the fact is you have tried to make your case but failed].
There simply isn’t time for that to demonstrate that what scientists mean by evolution is something that is very well documented and, in fact, so much so that almost any field—well in fact any field of biology—produces large amounts of evidence in favor of this fact that you’ve got an enormous amount of patterns in nature. You’ve got the kinds of evidence such as that that I have just lightly touched on here, of studies of populations and there are many besides those of the moths which show the action of natural selection. All natural selection is, it’s nothing mysterious, is the natural interaction of organisms with their environment, the consequence of which is certain kinds of individual survive more easily than others, and by so doing, and reproducing, bias the characteristics of the next generation before. [Well stated! The problem is not the survival of the fittest, but the arrival of the fittest.]
And so we’ve not only got then from the fossil record evidence of minor transitions, very small scale changes which could be brought about quite easily by the sort of natural selection operation that we see, in natural populations that have been studied, over long periods of time, but we’ve also got in the fossil record a clear indication that this process leads to very small transitions, larger transitions, right through to major transitions, where in fact, you have something like a clear cut reptile being converted over a period of around one hundred million years, into a clear cut mammal.
So it seems to me that if one divorces the scientific point of view (and after all, the statement was that we would be discussing the scientific evidence, discussion it from the scientific point of view.), if one divorces the philosophical, if one gets away from this common notion that what evolution means is an atheistic interpretation of the Universe. It doesn’t mean that [many would disagree with you!]. That is the philosophy of materialism. If one gets away from that, one realizes that there is a multitude of evidence for evolution. And, in fact, the situation is such that biology would consist of a series of isolated studies that have very little relation to each other, if you take evolution, as the scientist understands it, out of biology. [Not true! Biology did well for generations without evolutionary naturalism.] It is the scientific theory of evolution, which ties biology into a single, recognizable, whole. Thank you very much.