The Cumulative Argument Against Evolution

Evolution is a topic that raises emotions on several sides of the discussion. By itself it is not a subject that should divide people, whether disagreements be between Christians or atheists or faculty members of respected universities. It does divide, however, and raises the interest of many.

The following is a very brief summary of several lines of argument against evolution. They are all summaries, and no attempt is made to build each in detail, for a thorough treatment would take volumes for each. These are merely presented as summaries for thought and further study. This is presented as a summary of a cumulative case. I would ask that any responses be in the same vein.

1. If evolution were true, then all life is only geared toward survival, and what exists is only there due to natural forces, such as gravity or electromagnetism, or natural selection, commonly called survival of the fittest. In an evolutionary world, we cannot explain anything that goes above and beyond the need to survive. Therefore we have no explanation for why the human brain is so extraordinary. If we only need to catch animals and grow vegetables and kill enemies, why would we ever need to figure out advanced math, or complex, abstract concepts. We do not need to figure out nuclear physics to survive. We do not need differential equations, the ability to determine theoretical physics, or art of most any sort. If evolution is true, there is no explanation for the complexity in the human brain.

2. If evolution were true, our senses only exist to help us survive. Problem: If every rabbit runs from every bobcat because they think the bobcat is playing a fun game of tag, the same result will happen as if the bobcat were trying to eat the rabbit. Therefore our senses are not geared toward perceiving reality, but only to help us survive. We have no guarantee our senses are not lying to us, but only that they help us survive. For more on this, see Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism.

3. For most of the years since Darwin, evolutionary biology has dealt with large-scale questions: primates to human, or dinosaurs to birds, or amphibians and reptiles. The actual mechanism of mutations has largely been assumed. It has just been in the last few years that researchers have been able to actually look at DNA and see what is going on. In fact, the world of DNA is still being researched, and there is much still not understood. So far, the data is somewhat questionable as to whether it supports random mutations being able to make evolution work. At least, at the level of DNA mutations, we are just now peeking into that world. Mutations are the starting mechanism that supposedly drives evolution, and DNA is a field that is still relatively new. At the very least, it seems prudent to wait and see. The dogmatism that accompanies evolution seems unwise in the light of the primary mechanism being so much as yet unproven.

4. Similar to 3, the actual mutations that supposedly cause evolution are just now being able to be measured. The mathematicians are just recently getting involved. Unless the math works, then evolution will fail.  While I admit ignorance of mathematical theory, evolutionists are trying t work their way out of some dead ends presented by mathematical models of how evolution would work. Any workable model would have to be a statistical model that had enough random mutations to be able to be filtered by natural selection. To date, there is no valid mathematical model has been shown to work, at least so that the model has widespread acceptance in mathematical circles. The discussion is getting interesting. For more, see “introduction to Evolutionary Informatics” by Marks, Dembski, & Ewert.

5. The world of microbiology has increased by leaps and bounds over the last few years. The level of complexity within each living cell has been shown to be extreme, beyond anything ever dreamed in the past.  This field also has a great deal yet to be understood and is still still being researched. it would seem that standard evolutionary process would break down at the sub-cell level, for claiming that sub-cell systems composed of mechanical and chemical elements should compete with each other seems difficult, yet is essential to standard evolution. Further, the complexity there is so extreme as to stretch the credulity of the explanation of trying to make the sub-cell systems evolve from simple to complex.

6. Even if we eventually find immediate material causes for complex sub-cell structures and systems, material causes cannot explain the information found in DNA. The human genome is not merely a machine that causes something else, for it contains more than mechanisms. DNA contains information and fits well into information theory. The people in the field even use information-centered terms. The words on a page or on a screen are not merely ink and paper or pixels of light and dark, but contain ideas and concepts, reference data, the coding of the computer. I once asked an evolutionary biologist whether DNA contains information. He knew the conundrum he was facing, and answered that “it’s sort of information.”

7. If you get the scientists alone, they will often admit that even in their own areas of specialization, they can at best only understand a portion of the field. When you consider any field anywhere near a whole, the best minds simply do not understand the majority of the subject matter. It’s not because of lack of intelligence or lack of time and focus, but rather because of the level of complexity in most fields of study. Every field of science is extremely complex, and the more they dig, the more they realize they have yet to unlock the mysteries of what they are studying. Further, they have trouble keeping up with the research in their own sub-field or area of specialization. In fact, as much as has been learned in the last few generations leads researchers to realize how much is not yet known. It stretches credulity that all the accumulated knowledge of the history of science understands such a small percentage of something that is unguided and without intelligence.

8. Similar to 7, no one can be expected to understand the other fields of science that they do not study. However, for evolution to work, it would require many, many areas of science: astronomy, astrophysics, microbiology, paleontology, geology, and on and on, each of which must be considered in light of logic and philosophy of science. Each of these fields has many sub-fields, each of which in turn has areas of specialization. So no one has grasped all of their own field, let alone all of every field, yet evolution requires all of these areas for the process to work. At the very least, it would seem wise for evolutionists to dial down the dogmatism and be a bit more humble. It is entirely possible that people within a single field have misunderstood the working together of multiple areas of content.

9. Evolution is not testable and cannot be falsified. Whatever facts that get measured in a lab, evolution can explain, even contradictory facts. For example: Say you are walking on a mountain, and spot a man who has fallen off a cliff and is hanging by one arm, almost ready to fall to his death. You have a choice: you can risk your own life to save him, or let him die. If you risk your life to save his, the evolutionist calls this proof of evolution:  you risk your life to save him because of “tribal instinct” or “herd instinct.” The tribe or heard has a greater chance of survival than an individual. But suppose you take the other choice: you say “If he dies, there will be more food and women for me” and you walk on by, hoping he falls to his death. Well, evolution can explain this too……a selfish person is more likely to survive than a non-selfish one…..more food and women to reproduce with. Other examples exist in biology: If a series of animals can be placed in an evolutionary sequence, then their environment must have changed and they have evolved. If another animal shows long period of stasis, their environment did not change and they did not evolve. So evolution explains whatever data is observed, and there is no scenario that could arise that the evolutionary model could not explain within its scope. Evolution cannot be disproved based on data because it explains contradictory data. Models that explain too much reek of fallacies.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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9 Responses to The Cumulative Argument Against Evolution

  1. Daniel Ang says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not a biologist nor expert in evolution, so I’m going to refrain commenting too deeply on some of the arguments you presented. I can only refer to accounts by actual evolutionary biologists that I as a layman have found convincing, compared to the arguments of ID advocates and others.

    1. This is only an argument against metaphysical naturalism, not simply evolution. One could argue that evolution developed the survival functions of the brain and that God miraculously imparted the capacities for higher-order reasoning, including morality.

    However, responding directly to the argument, it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine that many of the strategies we used to survive over other species could have depended on our ability to do complex tasks – such as coordinating hunts in groups, being able to forage intelligently and efficiently, and so on. Being able to do complex math and physics is a convenient byproduct of these skills. It also kind of explains why, for example, we find it really hard to understand special relativity in an intuitive way, because our brains evolved to understand projectiles moving at 10 m/s, not 10% of the speed of light.

    2. Again, I love Plantinga’s EAAN (and many theistic evolutionists do as well), but again, it is only an argument for evolution and metaphysical naturalism. As Plantinga himself suggests, God could have implanted a “divine spark” at any point during the evolutionary process, or subtly guided it in a way that would make our faculties truth-tracking.

    3, 4, 6. Not a biologist nor geneticist, although I can say that 1) many mathematicians are working out mathematical models of evolution, and 2) based on my experience with modelling and simulation, it is hard to comprehensively simulate even a relatively simple, real-world isolated system whose laws we completely understand (for example, the N-body problem). For something as complex as evolution (spanning billions of years, billions of species, and countless environmental variables), I would imagine that we would never be able to create a comprehensive computer/mathematical model of how it happened, even if it did happen in that way. So I doubt that evolution will ever be falsifiable in this way.

    I can also say that there is great evidence for evolution from genetics. For example, this article (by a Christian who believes in the special creation of Adam and Eve) presents it well: http://peacefulscience.org/evidence-and-evolution/.

    5. This is yet another iteration of the “argument from complexity”. I dislike these types of arguments as they are essentially God-of-the-gaps, vulnerable to any refutation consisting of even just a plausible evolutionary pathway of how something evolved.

    7. This is an odd argument to me, or perhaps I’m misunderstanding it. Just because something is “unguided” (in a scientific sense), doesn’t mean that it’s easy to understand. Nobody thinks that a Designer is needed to explain what happens when protons are smashed together in a particle collider, yet we are still trying to understand the fundamental particle physics of what is happening inside.

    Secondly, science depends on both theory and experiment. Theoretical understanding often hits a roadblock when there is no data available to compare it with (which could be due to lack of resources, funding, technology, or manpower). In contrast with your pessimistic opinion of why we understand so little, I marvel instead at how much we can understand, considering the complexity of nature. One hundred years ago we were barely beginning to understand quantum mechanics. Today, we are capable of manipulating particles at the quantum level at will. I regard this intelligibility of nature as a divine gift.

    8. Indeed, to fully understand the evolutionary story, experts in multiple fields increasingly have to work together (although I don’t see how astronomy contributes to this). And this collaboration is happening wonderfully in many universities, between leading mathematicians, biologists, physicists, chemists, paleontologists, and others. And the majority of scientists, including many Christians, find the standard evolutionary account convincing (such as Francis Collins, who has greater scientific credentials and accomplishments compared to any advocate of ID I can think of).

    In contrast, there are comparatively fewer researchers in the field of Intelligent Design – many of whom are philosophers and theologians, not scientists. If I were a neutral party I would tend to trust that the side with more intellectual brainpower and resources on it – the evolutionists, by far – are more likely to get closer to the truth. Perhaps it is the anti-evolutionists who need to be more humble?

    9. It’s true that most paradigms of science are rarely falsifiable in a strict sense (see Thomas Kuhn). This applies not only to evolution, but Intelligent Design as well. The difference is that evolution, as a paradigm of thought, operates in a way that is consistent with science as I know it, which is to not invoke supernatural causes when trying to find explanations for natural phenomena. It’s true that evolution has to often deal with seemingly contradictory data. But at least the mechanisms they propose can be carefully broken down, examined, and argued upon. In contrast, ID advocates either
    1) propose a wide range of hypotheses, all of which are compatible with the existence of a Designer. None of these would be refutable using science, for who can restrict the mind of God? or
    2) rely on negative arguments against evolution to bolster their case, which is unsatisfactory, because even if evolution is false, it doesn’t prove that no other naturalistic mechanism (instead of a Designer) could have explained the diversity of life. The history of science contains many accounts of new successful naturalistic explanations of phenomena, and almost no instances of proving that something can’t be explained by naturalistic causes.

    • humblesmith says:

      One of my biggest concerns with theistic evolution is that it is indistinguishable from atheistic evolution. If an atheistic naturalist can observe the same data and hold all causes to be exclusively natural, then the theist really has not much to offer to the conversation. By contrast, what I read in scripture is that when God acts, there is no doubt as to the cause. Theistic evolution seems to mysteriously put God’s providence being indistinguishable from natural causes.

      If we define the subject as you say, the most thinkers being the arbiters of the conclusion, then evolution is a naturalistic paradigm, and any injection of theism is wishful fancy. Any attributes of theism being involved would be left to deism at best. As our atheist friends are apt to say, there’s nothing left for God to do. By contrast, the reality is that we do not find natural forces sufficient to produce the marvel we find around us.

      As to the accusation of god of the gaps, I submit evolution is an “atheist of the gaps theory.” As my points in the post show, whatever the data shows, why it must be evolution as the cause. We don’t yet know how it happened? No problem, evolution to the rescue, for it causes whatever we have today.

      The point of the mathematicians, if I understand correctly, is not that math will disprove evolution. So I’m told, one cannot use math to prove that that the earth is not the center of the solar system, but rather the math for the sun being the center simply works, while the math for geocentrism is tortured at best. Again, see the book I referenced.

      As for the ID folks, I’ll leave them to defend themselves, they do not need me. But scholarly literature commonly has people writing with no other point but to show that someone else’s conclusions have failed.

      • Daniel Ang says:

        “One of my biggest concerns with theistic evolution is that it is indistinguishable from atheistic evolution. If an atheistic naturalist can observe the same data and hold all causes to be exclusively natural, then the theist really has not much to offer to the conversation. By contrast, what I read in scripture is that when God acts, there is no doubt as to the cause. Theistic evolution seems to mysteriously put God’s providence being indistinguishable from natural causes.”

        You are right in that theistic evolution argues that God cannot be detected scientifically. But speaking as a Christian physicist, to me this is not a weakness, but a potential strength. Even if scientific arguments for God no longer work, we have plenty of strong philosophical arguments for God (some of which are informed by scientific data), so it is absolutely false that “the theist would not have much to offer to the conversation.”

        Instead of looking for gaps or shortcomings in scientific explanations where God can be hiding, I can reflect on God’s role in making scientific explanations possible in the first place. God set up the laws. God sustains the existence of those laws. God made it possible for us to have minds that can discover those laws. Thus God is present everywhere in creation, instead of in the gaps. I am astonished that many people who find ID arguments convincing seem to rarely reflect upon this.

        “If we define the subject as you say, the most people, then evolution is a naturalistic paradigm. Any attributes of theism being involved would be left to deism at best. As our atheist friends are apt to say, there’s nothing left for God to do. By contrast, the reality is that we do not find natural forces sufficient to produce the marvel we find around us.”

        Two responses to this:
        1) I’m surprised that that you seem to view theistic evolution is a deistic view of nature, given your appreciation for Thomistic philosophy. I’m not an expert in Thomism (yet), but as Verschuuren explains in Aquinas and Modern Science (2016), this would be conflating primary and secondary causality (p. 46, 171). The laws of nature (including those of evolution) are only secondary causes for anything that happens in nature. These secondary causes are all caused by the Primary cause, which is God. Thus (to echo what I wrote earlier) at least in Verschuuren’s understanding of Thomism, God is present everywhere in all the laws of nature. So contra the atheist, God does everything! The laws of nature cannot exist by themselves – they are only possible due to their role in the cosmic order that God has created.
        2) Theistic evolution doesn’t necessarily preclude special divine action (SDA) through other means. This is why theistic evolutionists can accept miracles, including those that are foundational to our faith, such as the resurrection of Jesus. God could suspend the laws of the universe at any time, or act specially within those laws through subtler means, such as the fundamental uncertainty of quantum mechanics, or the fundamental unpredictability of chaos theory. There are many speculative but interesting theories on how this could happen. It’s true that these means of action would not be scientifically detectable like a law of physics. But that is to be expected, because God would not be God if we could formulate an equation which constrains His will.

        “As to the accusation of god of the gaps, I submit evolution is an “atheist of the gaps theory.” As my points in the post show, whatever the data shows, why it must be evolution as the cause. We don’t yet know how it happened? No problem, evolution to the rescue, for it causes whatever we have today.”

        I don’t think you properly understood my earlier reply about scientific paradigms and how even “evolution of the gaps” is more scientifically (and I would argue theologically) respectable than “god of the gaps”. My only comment is this: if the rationality of our faith is based on “god of the gaps”, then it would soon be in peril. Four centuries of scientific progress have only steadily eliminated these gaps. A famous example: Newton used to marvel that God is needed to keep the planets of the Solar System stable in their orbit. He was unable to explain them using his mechanics. But only a century later Laplace would find a mathematical solution which did explain them without the need for divine intervention.

  2. Daniel Ang says:

    By the way, while I’ve been making comments related to Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, that wasn’t really my original attention of stopping by your blog! I’m an evangelical Protestant who has recently become interested in Thomism. Regardless of our differing opinions of evolution (and from my limited research, it seems that Thomists are divided over this issue), I am glad to find someone from a similarly non-Catholic background who is more experienced in Thomism.

    • humblesmith says:

      I find Thomism to be very well thought out and align with scripture well. So far I agree with the vast majority of it and think it should be taught more in protestant circles. I somehow find Thomas to be easier to understand than the Thomists trying to explain Thomas. I have several posts over the years directly on Thomas, but should do more. Perhaps soon.

  3. Daniel Ang says:

    “One of my biggest concerns with theistic evolution is that it is indistinguishable from atheistic evolution. If an atheistic naturalist can observe the same data and hold all causes to be exclusively natural, then the theist really has not much to offer to the conversation. By contrast, what I read in scripture is that when God acts, there is no doubt as to the cause. Theistic evolution seems to mysteriously put God’s providence being indistinguishable from natural causes.”

    You are right in that theistic evolution argues that God cannot be detected scientifically. But speaking as a Christian physicist, to me this is not a weakness, but a potential strength. Even if scientific arguments for God no longer work, we have plenty of strong philosophical arguments for God (some of which are informed by scientific data), so it is absolutely false that “the theist would not have much to offer to the conversation.”

    Instead of looking for gaps or shortcomings in scientific explanations where God can be hiding, I can reflect on God’s role in making scientific explanations possible in the first place. God set up the laws. God sustains the existence of those laws. God made it possible for us to have minds that can discover those laws. Thus God is present everywhere in creation, instead of in the gaps. I am astonished that many people who find ID arguments convincing seem to rarely reflect upon this.

    “If we define the subject as you say, the most people, then evolution is a naturalistic paradigm. Any attributes of theism being involved would be left to deism at best. As our atheist friends are apt to say, there’s nothing left for God to do. By contrast, the reality is that we do not find natural forces sufficient to produce the marvel we find around us.”

    Two responses to this:
    1) I’m surprised that that you seem to view theistic evolution is a deistic view of nature, given your appreciation for Thomistic philosophy. I’m not an expert in Thomism (yet), but as Verschuuren explains in Aquinas and Modern Science (2016), this would be conflating primary and secondary causality (p. 46, 171). The laws of nature (including those of evolution) are only secondary causes for anything that happens in nature. These secondary causes are all caused by the Primary cause, which is God. Thus (to echo what I wrote earlier) at least in Verschuuren’s understanding of Thomism, God is present everywhere in all the laws of nature. So contra the atheist, God does everything! The laws of nature cannot exist by themselves – they are only possible due to their role in the cosmic order that God has created.
    2) Theistic evolution doesn’t necessarily preclude special divine action (SDA) through other means. This is why theistic evolutionists can accept miracles, including those that are foundational to our faith, such as the resurrection of Jesus. God could suspend the laws of the universe at any time, or act specially within those laws through subtler means, such as the fundamental uncertainty of quantum mechanics, or the fundamental unpredictability of chaos theory. There are many speculative but interesting theories on how this could happen. It’s true that these means of action would not be scientifically detectable like a law of physics. But that is to be expected, because God would not be God if we could formulate an equation which constrains His will.

    “As to the accusation of god of the gaps, I submit evolution is an “atheist of the gaps theory.” As my points in the post show, whatever the data shows, why it must be evolution as the cause. We don’t yet know how it happened? No problem, evolution to the rescue, for it causes whatever we have today.”

    I don’t think you properly understood my earlier reply about scientific paradigms and how even “evolution of the gaps” is more scientifically (and I would argue theologically) respectable than “god of the gaps”. My only comment is this: if the rationality of our faith is based on “god of the gaps”, then it would soon be in peril. Four centuries of scientific progress have only steadily eliminated these gaps. A famous example: Newton used to marvel that God is needed to keep the planets of the Solar System stable in their orbit. He was unable to explain them using his mechanics. But only a century later Laplace would find a mathematical solution which did explain them without the need for divine intervention.

  4. Pingback: Weekly Apologetics Bonus Links 1/13 – 1/19 | Apologetics315

  5. Stardusty Psyche says:

    “1. If evolution were true, then all life is only geared toward survival, ”
    False.
    Evolution tends to select for reproduction, not merely survival, and not only survival or only reproduction but byproducts or spandrels due to basic limitations of physics and side effects due to incidental structural effects.

    Sorry, but if you open with such a fundamental lack of understanding of the subject it is difficult to take your overall argument very seriously..

    “In an evolutionary world, we cannot explain anything that goes above and beyond the need to survive. ”
    False, see above.

    “Therefore our senses are not geared toward perceiving reality, but only to help us survive. ”
    False. Our senses are basically reliable and closely track reality because if they didn’t then reality would really kill us.

    “6. Even if we eventually find immediate material causes for complex sub-cell structures and systems, material causes cannot explain the information found in DNA.”
    False. DNA is just a molecule. Molecules can combine with other molecules. DNA is not a “code” that needs an input of “information”. DNA is just part of a set of chemical reactions.

    DNA is a sort of polymer, a string-like molecule that repeats over and over and can grow in length merely by binding two lengths together, thereby doubling the “information” with one small localized binding reaction.

    There is no “information source” problem with DNA. That is all just nonsense made up of buzzwords.

    • humblesmith says:

      As to your reply to my point 1., “tends to select” toward reproduction with “byproducts” does not explain the hugely complex areas of life such as mathematics and the incessant drive toward beauty. If it were, then your point would be that not only can very complex features of life arise through incremental advances filtered by natural selection, but could arise incrementally over vast time for no particular reason, an idea that is not supported by science or logic. The position seems to be saying that the entirety of life, all the billions of incremental changes, are all created by mutations filtered by the need to survive, except when they aren’t, This seems to support my position in a rather backhanded way.

      Your comment about my understanding of the topic is a persuasion technique, all too often used by atheists these days instead of reasoned argument.

      As to our senses, I’d suggest you research the evolutionary argument against naturalism, first pitched by Alvin Plantinga. Much back and forth has been generated on this to which you seem unaware.

      As to my point 6, you seem to be saying that the information is not there, and that doubling can be done by simply doubling the molecule. The first time I saw this argument was surprisingly done by Richard Dawkins, who should have known better. The problem is that the functions of the molecule are not just doubled versions of the previous secctions…….Dawkins’ argument was that a left arm could be generated by copying the right arm. Instead, the complexity of the molecule is huge and distinct. The sections of DNA have function, not merely chemistry. Waving away function by bringing in chemistry goes back to my earlier point that if we start with chemistry and physics, we do not arrive at anything outside of chemistry and physics. Purpose of any kind is unavailable to us. Merely waving away the information component of DNA is just calling the problem by another name.

      For example, if you listen to James Tour’s talk that I have posted, he points out that the carbohydrates on the cell walls have the specific purpose of identifying what type of neighbor cell is being touched, and the abilities of these carbohydrate structures are more than that of DNA. Saying that these functions are just chemistry and physics, “nonsense buzzwords,” does not deal with the problem.
      You can find Tour’s talk here: If you are interested in evolution, I would strongly urge you to listen:
      https://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/dr-james-tour-the-problems-evolution-must-overcome/

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