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How Did We Get Here?

Letter 6
Phillip E. Johnson, December 3, 1996

Dear Kenneth:

The NOVA show implicitly endorsed recapitulationism, as did Charles Darwin. Haeckel's Law is no strawman, but a widespread illusion that continues to mislead people. Now to the fossils:

Niles Eldredge has written: "No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seems to happen." New things appear suddenly in rocks dated in different ages, but there is no pattern of gradual transformation and no ability to identify specific ancestors of major groups. Although Eldredge admits that the fossil record contradicts the theory of gradual adaptive change, he nonetheless calls himself a "knee-jerk neo-Darwinist," meaning apparently that he believes the theory despite what he knows as a paleontologist.

The non-occurence of Darwinian change is particularly evident where fossils are most plentiful—in marine invertebrates, for example. There it's all variation within the type, with no substantial evolution. Thus Eldredge, a trilobite specialist, tells stories about hominids when he wants to lecture about evolution.

The occasional claims of fossil transitional forms nearly all involve vertebrates, and become "ancestors" only through subjective interpretation. Hominid stories are particularly plentiful because ape and human bones are sufficiently similar that, with a bit of imagination, a variant ape can be seen as on the way to becoming human.

Considering the overall pattern, the claimed transitionals may just be artifacts of the theory. It's commonplace that researchers in any field will find examples to confirm what they already believe, especially where the evidence is scanty and open to interpretation. If you want to test the theory instead of just support it, you have to look at the evidence as a whole without assuming that the theory is true. When we do this, we find that the fossil record remains as it was in 1859: pervasively anti-Darwinian despite unremitting efforts to impose a Darwinian interpretation. (Chapter 4 of Darwin on Trial provides details.)

Now let's suppose for argument's sake that Australopithecus did become Homo, and that wolf-like Mesonyx somehow became Ambulocetus. Was this by an accumulation of micromutations through natural selection? How did the "dog" improve in fitness while its body was in the early stages of this transformation to acquatic life? What mechanism known to science can produce human mental capacities from an ape brain? What is the source of the vast amount of information required to create these wonders?

The mechanism is all-important because that is what gets the Creator out of the picture. In fact, the mechanism finds its primary support in materialist philosophy, not evidence. If materialism is true, then something roughly like Darwinism is a logical necessity regardless of the evidence. That is why so many believe so fervently despite the fossil disappointments. They were taught that materialist philosophy and science are basically the same thing, and that the most plausible materialist speculation constitutes "scientific knowledge."

I'm not proposing another theory; I'm explaining why I'm not convinced by yours. When the truth is that we don't know, it's best to say so.



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