Evolution vs. Creation: An Evolutionist View

By Edward Max, MD PhD

(For an ongoing debate centered on these issues, see Debate Page.)

Introduction. Creationists accept several components of evolution (variation due to gene mutation, natural selection, adaptive radiation) but only for explaining "microevolution." Evolutionists believe current evidence supports common descent ("macroevolution"). Scientific evidence for evolution neither supports nor denies a Creator, and is unable to clarify the origin of life.

"Creation science" is non-professional science directed to lay audiences rather than to scientists with training to scrutinize its arguments. Creationist arguments are absent from the professional literature because creationist standards of scholarship are too low for publication in professional peer-reviewed journals. As an example, scientific evidence for evolution from cross-species protein sequence comparisons is rejected by creationists for invalid reasons (bad data or bad interpretations), though these reasons may convince lay audiences. For more examples see: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/cre-error.html

Thermodynamics. Creationists claim that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. But, LOCAL INCREASES IN ORDER CAN OCCUR SPONTANEOUSLY WITHOUT VIOLATING THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS. The evolution of life on the thin skin of the earth's biosphere is such a localized increase in order. The creationists' claim that evolution violates the Second Law is invalid in the absence of calculations of entropy changes outside the biosphere. Their claim is an effective debating ploy for audiences untrained in thermodynamics, but the creationists have avoided presenting a detailed quantitative argument suitable for scientists to evaluate. (See the Challenge on the reverse of this page.) This avoidance of critical scientific scrutiny is the tactic of non-professional science. See: http://members.aol.com/steamdoc/writings/thermo.html

Probability, mutation and selection. Creationists argue that the assembly of a complex gene by selection of random sequences is too improbable to explain the origin of genes. The creationists' "straw man" model misrepresents the evolutionist view of the role of randomness and selection. In fact the real evolutionist model (successive selection of small random mutations) is quite plausible, as shown by the biological example of antibody gene mutations. Dr. Gish's rejection of antibody mutations reveals his ignorance. For more on this see: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/fitness.html

Homology. Similar structures in modern species suggest either derivation from a common ancestor (the evolutionist view) or design by a Creator using similar construction plans (the creationist view). But, as in copyright law, shared errors imply copying. Thus the thousands of shared genetic errors (non-functional retroposon DNA sequences like Alus and retroviruses) in common between humans and apes provide convincing evidence for copying from a shared ancestor. For more details see: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/molgen/

Fossils. The genealogic tree based on similarities of modern species is supported by the chronological order of appearance of different groups in the fossil record, providing evidence for evolution. The creationists' alternative explanation of the fossil record (deposition within a year after a great flood) is strongly refuted by the distribution of fossils and by radiometric dating, which indicates rock and fossil deposition occurred over hundreds of millions of years. The creationists' claim that absence of transitional fossils contradicts a prediction of evolution is wrong: (1) It misrepresents the predictions of evolution and (2) denies reasonable examples of transitional fossils. For more, see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

Conclusion. The real importance of the creation/ evolution debate lies in teaching our science students rigorous standards for evaluating evidence so that they can make wise decisions. In the real world, decisions based on bad science can lead to tragedy. Our students deserve education based on the best professional science.

Evolution resources. National Center for Science Education (NOSE) is an organization devoted to advancing science education and opposing creationist pseudoscience (see http://www.natcenscied.org/). Membership in NCSE costs $30 per year, including a newsletter and discounts on books. NOSE, P.O.Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709 (800) 2906006 ncse{at}crl.com An excellent Internet resource on the controversy is TalkOrigins; check refutations of common creationist arguments at http://www.talkorigins.org.

Author: Title description
Montagu: Science and Creationism Collection of excellent essays, including Asimov, court judgment in Arkansas "balanced treatment" case (paperback)
McGowan: In the Beginning...A Scientist shows why the Creationists are wrong Clear, easy to read discussion of the evidence for evolution from several different disciplines (paperback)
Miller: Finding Darwin's God Clear and forceful refutation of various forms of creationism (ICR, Philip Johnson, intelligent design); 2nd half of book explains how the author reconciles his personal Catholic devotion with evolution
Strahler: Science and Earth History: the Evolution/Creation Contraversy Comprehensive refutation of all Creationist arguments, with detailed Evolution/Creation Controversy references

A Friendly Challenge to the Creationists


1. Creationists believe that their "creation science" arguments against the theory of evolution deserve to be taken seriously as critical challenges to the validity of evolution. They say that their views cannot receive a fair hearing through the normal route of publication in scientific journals because their submitted manuscripts would be rejected for publication by prejudicial journal referees.

2. Evolutionary scientists tend to view "creation science" as pseudoscience, i.e., an attempt to bolster invalid arguments by the inappropriate use of scientific terminology and scientific-sounding arguments. In this view, pseudoscientific arguments succeed in debates before lay audiences only because these audiences are not well enough trained in science to see through a false argument when it is phrased with impressive scientific terms that they don't fully understand.


We would like to offer a friendly challenge to help establish which of these two views of "creation science" is most correct. This challenge focuses on a particular example of a creationist argument that many scientists believe is pure pseudoscience: the creationist argument that the evolution model cannot be correct because it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics... Is the creationists' Second Law argument based on . . a valid thermodynamics analysis, or is it simply a debating ploy that is effective with audiences who are not trained in thermodynamics ... ?

We now invite Dr. Gish to demonstrate that the creationists' Second Law argument is not pseudoscience by publishing the scientific details of such calculations in a rigorous manner suitable for readers who are working scientists specializing in thermodynamics. Dr. Gish need not worry that biased journal referrees will refuse to publish his analysis because at our request, Frederick Edwords, editor of the journal Creation/ Evolution, has agreed to provide a forum for the creationists. He will publish this challenge and a creationist response of up to 15 typewritten double-spaced pages (limited exclusively to a technical analysis of the evolution model in light of thermodynamics) if the response is received before October, 30, 1989. If no response is received, then this challenge will be published alone, and readers will be left to draw their own conclusions as to whether the creationist thermodynamics argument is science or pseudoscience.

We anticipate that the creationists will be eager to respond if they are able to rigorously support their Second Law claims and if they are sincere in their desire to advance their arguments beyond the parochial readership of creationist sponsored publications. We hope that this challenge and the creationist response will be a step towards converting an often acrimonious battleground into a substantive exchange of ideas. If--as sometimes happens when mathematicians are forced to write out the technical details of what seemed to be a quite obvious proof--the creationists find that their Second Law argument against evolution cannot be rigorously and quantitatively supported, and if they therefore decline to respond to this challenge, we hope that the will refrain from using this argument in future debates.

The challenge above (slightly abridged) was issued to Dr. Gish at a debate in 1989 and was published in Creation/ Evolution in 1990 (volume 27, p. 53). It represented an opportunity for "creation scientists" to refute the view that they are pseudoscientists, who direct their arguments exclusively to lay audiences ill-equipped to evaluate them professionally. At the debate, Dr. Gish agreed to submit a response to the challenge. Although the deadline for response was extended indefinitely, creationists have never submitted a written response to this challenge. They continue to use the same thermodynamics arguments in debates. Are they pseudoscientists? Draw your own conclusion.

For An Introduction To Answering Dr. Edward Max Challenge, click HERE.

TCCSA Visitors