Yale U. professor: Darwinian theory of evolution cannot explain the origin of species

In a recent article published in the Spring 2019 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University, maintains that the Darwinian theory of evolution is not just accepted as “settled truth,” it is “the basis of a worldview” and a “replacement religion”.

The problem is this: Although called a “theory,” Darwinism is not a scientific theory because it neither predicts nor explains what it means to explain, which is the actual origin of species, because:

  1. Darwinian evolution is “gradual, step by step” as new life forms evolve gradually from old ones “in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life.” However, fossils of those predecessors of new life forms cannot be found. Instead, the fossil record shows the opposite: “In general, most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” During the Cambrian explosion of around half a billion years ago, for example, the fossil record shows that a striking variety of new organisms — including the first-ever animals — just “popped up suddenly”.
  2. At the molecular biology level, according to Darwinism, evolution is the consequence, over millions of years, of small good-for-survival (“natural selection”) mutations to genetic information within cells which are passed on to the next generation(s), thus changing the future of the species. Inventing a new gene by mutation requires inventing or creating a new protein. But it has been calculated that the mathematical odds of creating a new protein stable enough to be useful are zero, which means that the odds of producing “a single promising mutation in the whole history of life” is also zero. 

Gelernter concludes that “The exceptional intricacy of living things, and their elaborate mechanisms for fitting precisely into their natural surroundings, seemed to cry out for an intelligent designer.” That intelligent designer did not act just once, but “interferes repeatedly,” which suggests (what Thomas Aquinas called) “the first cause” must have a purpose — “some sense of the big picture of life on earth.”

David Gelernter

Below are excerpts from Gelernter’s essay, “Giving Up Darwinism“:

Darwinian evolution is . . . basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview. Accepting the theory as settled truth—no more subject to debate than the earth being round or the sky blue or force being mass times acceleration—certifies that you are devoutly orthodox in your scientific views; which in turn is an essential first step towards being taken seriously in any part of modern intellectual life. But what if Darwin was wrong?

Like so many others, I grew up with Darwin’s theory, and had always believed it was true….

Charles Darwin explained monumental change by making one basic assumption—all life-forms descend from a common ancestor—and adding two simple processes anyone can understand: random, heritable variation and natural selection . . . conceived to be operating blindly over hundreds of millions of years….

Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.

Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed. He cannot answer the big question. Two other books are also essential: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009), by David Berlinski, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer…. These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore. Bringing to bear the work of many dozen scientists over many decades, Meyer, who after a stint as a geophysicist in Dallas earned a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge and now directs the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, disassembles the theory of evolution piece by piece. Darwin’s Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact.

Meyer doesn’t only demolish Darwin; he defends a replacement theory, intelligent design (I.D.) … [but]  never uses religious arguments, draws religious conclusions, or refers to religion in any way….

Some I.D.-haters have shown themselves willing to use any argument—fair or not, true or not, ad hominem or not—to keep this dangerous idea locked in a box forever. They remind us of the extent to which Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one….

Darwin himself had reservations about his theory, shared by some of the most important biologists of his time. And the problems that worried him have only grown more substantial over the decades. In the famous “Cambrian explosion” of around half a billion years ago, a striking variety of new organisms—including the first-ever animals—pop up suddenly in the fossil record over a mere 70-odd million years. This great outburst followed many hundreds of millions of years of slow growth and scanty fossils, mainly of single-celled organisms, dating back to the origins of life roughly three and half billion years ago.

Darwin’s theory predicts that new life forms evolve gradually from old ones in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life. Those brave new Cambrian creatures must therefore have had Precambrian predecessors, similar but not quite as fancy and sophisticated…. Each must have had a closely related predecessor, which must have had its own predecessors: Darwinian evolution is gradual, step-by-step. All those predecessors must have come together, further back, into a series of branches leading down to the (long ago) trunk.

But those predecessors of the Cambrian creatures are missing. Darwin himself was disturbed by their absence from the fossil record. He believed they would turn up eventually. Some of his contemporaries (such as the eminent Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz) held that the fossil record was clear enough already, and showed that Darwin’s theory was wrong. Perhaps only a few sites had been searched for fossils, but they had been searched straight down. The Cambrian explosion had been unearthed, and beneath those Cambrian creatures their Precambrian predecessors should have been waiting—and weren’t. In fact, the fossil record as a whole lacked the upward-branching structure Darwin predicted.

The trunk was supposed to branch into many different species, each species giving rise to many genera, and towards the top of the tree you would find so much diversity that you could distinguish separate phyla—the large divisions (sponges, mosses, mollusks, chordates, and so on) that comprise the kingdoms of animals, plants, and several others—take your pick. But, as Berlinski points out, the fossil record shows the opposite: “representatives of separate phyla appearing first followed by lower-level diversification on those basic themes.” In general, “most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” The incremental development of new species is largely not there. Those missing pre-Cambrian organisms have still not turned up.

Some researchers have guessed that those missing Precambrian precursors were too small or too soft-bodied to have made good fossils. Meyer notes that fossil traces of ancient bacteria and single-celled algae have been discovered: smallness per se doesn’t mean that an organism can’t leave fossil traces…. The story is similar for soft-bodied organisms…many fossils of soft-bodied organisms and body parts do exist. Precambrian fossil deposits have been discovered in which tiny, soft-bodied embryo sponges are preserved—but no predecessors to the celebrity organisms of the Cambrian explosion.

This sort of negative evidence can’t ever be conclusive. But the ever-expanding fossil archives don’t look good for Darwin, who made clear and concrete predictions that have (so far) been falsified….

Darwin’s main problem, however, is molecular biology. There was no such thing in his own time. We now see from inside what he could only see from outside….

Darwin’s theory is simple to grasp…variation occurs naturally among individuals of the same type—white or black sheep…. A sheep born with extra-warm wool will presumably do better at surviving a rough Scottish winter than his normal-wooled friends. Such a sheep would be more likely than normal sheep to live long enough to mate, and pass on its superior trait to the next generation. Over millions of years, small good-for-survival variations accumulate, and eventually (says Darwin) you have a brand new species….

[M]olecular biology…explains (it doesn’t merely cite) natural variation, as the consequence of random change or mutation to the genetic information within cells that deal with reproduction. Those cells can pass genetic change onward to the next generation, thus changing—potentially—the future of the species and not just one individual’s career….

But what does generating new forms of life entail? Many biologists agree that generating a new shape of protein is the essence of it. Only if… Darwinian evolution is creative enough to do that is it capable of creating new life-forms and pushing evolution forward….

Inventing a new protein means inventing a new gene…. Genes spell out the links of a protein chain, amino acid by amino acid. Each gene is a segment of DNA….

Your task is to invent a new gene by mutation—by the accidental change of one codon to a different codon…. But if you mutate your way to an actual, valid new gene, your new gene can create a new protein and thereby, potentially, play a role in evolution….

Douglas Axe did a series of experiments to estimate how many 150-long chains are capable of stable folds—of reaching the final step in the protein-creation process (the folding) and of holding their shapes long enough to be useful. (Axe is a distinguished biologist with five-star breeding: he was a graduate student at Caltech, then joined the Centre for Protein Engineering at Cambridge…. He estimated that, of all 150-link amino acid sequences, 1 in 1074 will be capable of folding into a stable protein. To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. It’s not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller. Axe puts them at 1 in 1077.

In other words…The odds bury you. It can’t be done…. The odds against blind Darwinian chance having turned up even one mutation with the potential to push evolution forward are 1040x(1/1077)—1040 tries, where your odds of success each time are 1 in 1077—which equals 1 in 1037. In practical terms, those odds are still zero. Zero odds of producing a single promising mutation in the whole history of life. Darwin loses….

You don’t turn up a useful protein merely by doodling on the back of an envelope, any more than you write a Mozart aria by assembling three sheets of staff paper and scattering notes around. Profound biochemical knowledge is somehow, in some sense, captured in every description of a working protein. Where on earth did it all come from?….

There are many other problems besides proteins. One of the most basic, and the last I’ll mention here, calls into question the whole idea of gene mutations driving macro-evolution—the emergence of new forms of organism, versus mere variation on existing forms.

To help create a brand new form of organism, a mutation must affect a gene that does its job early and controls the expression of other genes that come into play later on as the organism grows. But mutations to these early-acting “strategic” genes, which create the big body-plan changes required by macro-evolution, seem to be invariably fatal. They kill off the organism long before it can reproduce. This is common sense. Severely deformed creatures don’t ever seem fated to lead the way to glorious new forms of life. Instead, they die young….

Meyer explains: “genes that are obviously variable within natural populations seem to affect only minor aspects of form and function—while those genes that govern major changes, the very stuff of macroevolution, apparently do not vary or vary only to the detriment of the organism.”….

Darwin would easily have understood that minor mutations are common but can’t create significant evolutionary change; major mutations are rare and fatal….

The exceptional intricacy of living things, and their elaborate mechanisms for fitting precisely into their natural surroundings, seemed to cry out for an intelligent designer…now that we understand so much cellular biology, and the impossibly long odds facing any attempt to design proteins by chance, or assemble the regulatory mechanisms that control the life cycle of a cell….

If Meyer were invoking a single intervention by an intelligent designer at the invention of life, or of consciousness, or rationality, or self-aware consciousness, the idea might seem more natural. But then we still haven’t explained the Cambrian explosion. An intelligent designer who interferes repeatedly, on the other hand, poses an even harder problem of explaining why he chose to act when he did. Such a cause would necessarily have some sense of the big picture of life on earth. What was his strategy? How did he manage to back himself into so many corners, wasting energy on so many doomed organisms? Granted, they might each have contributed genes to our common stockpile—but could hardly have done so in the most efficient way. What was his purpose? And why did he do such an awfully slipshod job? Why are we so disease prone, heartbreak prone, and so on? An intelligent designer makes perfect sense in the abstract. The real challenge is how to fit this designer into life as we know it. Intelligent design might well be the ultimate answer. But as a theory, it would seem to have a long way to go.

~Eowyn

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Jackie Puppet
Member

Evolution believers also cannot tell us how life began. I enjoyed ridiculing their belief that lightning strikes in some “primordial soup” of amino acids & rocks somehow caused cells to form and begin multiplying

Billy Twoknives
Guest
Billy Twoknives

How life began is as mystifying as to how the Universe began. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering both.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Hey Jackie,

But let us assume that your theory did happen. The odds of that life form “evolving” into other forms of life, forms of life that are completely different than the host form, are beyond impossible. How many variations of “functional” and reproducing life forms do we know of?

theengineer
Guest
theengineer

So Jackie to you it makes more sense to believe in magic and wish fulfillment. You know the kind you have been brainwashed to believe in all your life in the little building you visited every Sunday.

William
Member
William

That life evolved by random unguided processes is probabilistically impossible. To state that has nothing to do with magic, wish fulfillment, or little houses

Whisperin Pints
Guest
Whisperin Pints

All of the technical engineering jargon you use to make your point is lost on me! Whew!

William
Member
William

Stanley Miller in 1953 I beleive concocted his own verison of “primordial soup” (the recipe has been lost) and ran electricity through it and claimed that the reaction produced organic molecules – cyanide and formaldehyde, along with some brown sludge. A miracle!

bob
Guest
bob

Also, where did morality come from? Or why is there morality in the 1st place if evolution is true? Survival of the fittest leaves no room for compassion, mercy, and especially altruism, etc..

mdphd
Guest

The Math is not there when you look at Darwin’s Evolution. Especially when getting down to the end product of Darwin which is the primordial pool theory and supposedly from random bonding of nucleotides from within that pool eventually you will create a nucleotide stand to in turn have the ability to create an active product protein. There is a little bit of the chicken and egg paradigm here with the ribosome having a combination of protein and rRNA. And so considering a 150 unique amino acid strand making an active protein provides the odds of 10 to the 37th… Read more »

Whisperin Pints
Guest
Whisperin Pints

Very interesting and written in a manner that a relatively uneducated person, like myself, can understand with ease.

I had anticipated a more positive conclusion regarding Intelligent Design, but understand the focus was the theory of evolution. Perhaps in the future it will be addressed in more detail.

Thank you.

I found this article via Whatfinger.

mickjt
Guest
mickjt

I think God slips in new species to keep us on our toes…many have not yet been discovered. As is said, ‘If humans evolved from apes, why do we still have apes’? That covers almost all species that are around today. As for sheep growing longer hair/wool in colder climates, that is not evolution, it is an adaptation to external issues, temperature, altitude, etc. Even Humans adapt…if you go to an area that is high altitude everyone that lives there breathes fine but you being a newcomer has a hard time getting the oxygen you are used to and it… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

As for Whispering Pints comment, all of Stephen C Meyers books are written for people like us. Before Darwin’s Doubt he wrote Signature in the Cell, which is an excellent and easy read about the nature of the scientific process, as well as an intro to the discovery of DNA and those areas of sub-cellular biology that flat out prove Darwinism is wrong. The best site for a general audience like ourselves exposing the lies of the atheists pushing Darwinism as science might be evolutionnews.org, well worth checking out. It’s part of the Discovery Institute. Darwinism is toast thanks to… Read more »

William
Member
William

They have nothing to replace it with, and the way things are going they may just round up Meyer, Dembski, et al. and burn them at the stake as heretics. Check out Uncommon Descent (website) also

Dan
Guest
Dan

Dembski’s book Uncommon Descent is excellent as well. The atheists who own science may not have anything yet, but they’re working on it. Have you seen the video of Prof James Tour’s demolition of abiogenesis? They still haven’t recovered and never will. His lecture gets very technical, but he’s brilliant enough to separate the key concepts so we all can grasp the sheer impossibility of the OOL Darwinians. One question Dr Tour raises, from Dostoevsky so I’ve read, is, Why are they all lying? I’d say it ties in with, Why do they hate God so much? One answer might… Read more »

William
Member
William

Tour is a one-of-a-kind intellect and as a Jewish-born Christian something of a heroic figure IMO. His beyond-prestigious CV has given him some protection, although one of his critics recently called him an idiot. Which is laughable. He somehow manages to make even very technical concepts understandable although that requires, for me at least, pause and rewind to keep up with his rapid-fire brilliance. I think the A-Mats hate God because God is far beyond their conceptual scope. I suppose that makes them feel inadequate and even humbled. They are also under the influence, so to speak, although most are… Read more »

Phil
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Phil

Thank you for the link.

Whisperin Pints
Guest
Whisperin Pints

Thank you for the heads up. I will definitely check them out.

William
Member
William

Darwinism doesn’t really explain much of anything, it merely describes natural variation within species via descent with modification. Darwin himself was a mediocrity, a “third-rate barnacle collector”. Darwinism more or less coincided with Marxism and provided a “scientific” cover for the atheist/materialist worldview that predominates still. That life in all of it’s almost inconceivable complexity and variety and precision happened by random undirected chance is preposterous on its face. The only known source for complex functionally specified systems is an intelligent mind, the mind of God

Bill
Guest
Bill

Liberals have told us for decades, that they came from monkeys. I believe them.

Lou Minati
Guest
Lou Minati

Want to mess with a proponent of evolution’s mind?

1. If natural selection were in play, why can’t humans re-grow adult teeth? With all the people out there needing dentures, you would think this trait would be biologically selected as an advantageous one (to eat, for example). If sharks can do this, why can’t humans?

2. If man is descended from apes, why are there still apes?

Old Guy
Guest
Old Guy

If man is descended from apes, why are there still apes?

Liberals need love too.

D3F1ANT
Guest
D3F1ANT

Basically the same arguments, on both sides, as we’ve had since Darwin.

AOT
Guest
AOT

The Earth is not 4.5 Billion years old. The world’s largest desert..the Sahara has been determined to be about 4000 to 6000 years old. The world’s oldest tree…the Methuselah Tree has been determined to be about 4800 years old. The world’s largest barrier reef…the Great Barrier reef off the coast of Australia has been determined to be 4000 to 20000 years old. Interestingly they date to about the time of Noah’s flood. The moon, moves away from the Earth about 2 inches each year….extrapolated back the moon would have been sitting on the Earth 1.6 billion years ago…long before that,… Read more »

William
Member
William

There is an abundance of evidence to support young Earth/creationism, I’m sure you must be familiar with it. “Science” rules out, a priori, a supernatural explanation for the origin of the Earth and life. As Richard Lewontin put it, “we cannot allow a divine foot in the door”. So, painted into a corner, they must have billions and billions of years, they make up the “facts” to fit the theory; the message is, given enough time, stuff happens. And of course “science” says all kinds of things these days, for instance that some girls have a penis and some boys… Read more »

mickjt
Guest
mickjt

Obviously you haven’t kept up with current archiology…they are finding fossils in the Million year old category…

Reuben G
Guest
Reuben G

It’s important for people to know how extreme low probabilities like those mentioned in this article work, and it’s important to know this because the evolutionists, like the Marxists, make a god out of time. If I shake up a box containing a jigsaw puzzle and empty it out, looking for it to land completely assembled, the odds of that might be 1 in 10^30 (just making that up, it would be some very high number). COMMON UNDERSTANDING of probability values, which is wrong, has it that if someone could only stand there for the next few eons performing that… Read more »

mickjt
Guest
mickjt

Marxists figured out a long time ago that if they change the narrative they change expectations and eventually, as Joseph Goebbels put it: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth… Read more »

larrythelogger
Guest
larrythelogger

As a degreed physical scientist, I’ve been confused for decades why the probabilities-of-random-events math has been ignored wrt evolution for so long. Like Gelertner states, the chance of just one mutation that creates a benefit to an organism is zero. Add many, many more, billions and billions more good mutations, to “evolve” into an organism with sexual reproduction and the probability science deems evolution an impossibility and it is definitely NOT science. Leonard Susskind nailed intelligent design (which he still does not believe) by accident in one of his lectures regarding the accuracy of the cosmological constant to one over… Read more »

Theyr Organized
Guest
Theyr Organized

You cant trust anything coming out of Yale. 1. I live a couple miles from Yale. My friend has dj’d 2 Yale professor parties, one male, one female, both tenure parties, both flaming gay bashes. At the woman’s party she got up to make a speech n said “We’re gonn make all boys pussies!” 2. I know a kid with a couple degrees that Yale is recruiting hard. Cant give too much info, dont want to reveal him, but he said Yale offered him his ph.d for free and will give him his first job at $125 grand, however theres… Read more »

Alma
Member
Alma

1961 Gene McDaniels sang “A Hundred Pounds of Clay” -only the Supreme Being, the Almighty God, is the creator of all things that are and will be done.

Robert Glass
Guest
Robert Glass

How can I take seriously an argument that includes “millions of years”?

Mad Celt
Guest
Mad Celt

Darwinism is merely the device to eliminate God from the equation.

Philly
Guest
Philly

The proposition that what existed one millisecond before the Big Bang is “unknown and unknowable” drives Darwinists and other atheistic liberals crazy. What?Our science can’t explain everything?

bob
Guest
bob

Darwinian Evolution also has no answer to how life came into being. Or how nothing can create something.