Paul Braterman, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, recently claimed that evolutionists can “slam dunk” creationists by simply confronting them with the evidence for evolution.1 What evidence is he referring to?
Braterman noted that evolution skeptics have sometimes claimed that “evolution is just a theory” and have argued that since theories are uncertain, then evolution is also uncertain. He takes issue with this reasoning because when scientists use the word theory, they are usually referring to a hypothesis “supported by a vast body of evidence.”1 So, those who criticize evolution by calling it “just a theory” are implying that it’s an uncertain hypothesis even though scientists generally use the word theory to mean a hypothesis strongly supported by observations, not just any hypothesis.
But actually there is no convincing evidence for evolution despite the blustery claims made in his editorial, some of which are discussed below. Hence, evolution should not be classified as a theory by this definition.
It’s worth noting in passing that scientists are not perfectly consistent in their use of the word theory. As one observer astutely pointed out while commenting on Braterman’s editorial, physicists have devised “theories” that currently have zero experimental evidence to support them—string and multiverse theories being prime examples.2
Nevertheless, Braterman correctly argues that the focus of the debate should be on the evidence for or against evolution, not on semantics. Actually, creation scientists wholeheartedly agree with this approach! In fact, creationists have long urged against using the “evolution is just a theory” argument.3
So, what actual evidence does Braterman present for evolution? For starters, he asserts that similar characteristics imply common descent. But a Designer might very well use similar features in different organisms, not because the organisms are related, but because the feature works so well!
Braterman also claims that evolutionary family trees constructed from fossils agree well with family trees constructed from molecular data. But this is patently false; such family trees often strongly disagree.4 In fact, this disagreement is strong evidence against his earlier claim that similar structures imply common descent.
Braterman also claims that the breeding of tame foxes and the emergence of pesticide resistance are examples of evolution.1 But Braterman is here using the word evolution to mean minor variation within a basic kind of organism. No one disputes that such minor observable changes occur. Rather, the debate is over a special kind of change, the change of one basic kind of life form into another—the kind of change that can transform molecules into men over billions of years. Hence, Braterman is using the word evolution to mean “molecules to man” change at one point in his editorial but then to mean simple change at another. So, Braterman is committing what is known as the logical fallacy of equivocation.
Even more important, molecules-to-man evolution requires enormous increases in new genetic information. But the very process of mutation in DNA that evolutionists invoke to achieve this actually corrupts and decreases information. If this is evolution, then it’s going the wrong way!
There are other errors in Braterman’s editorial, many, if not all, of which have already been addressed by creation scientists.5,6,7,8 For instance, the caption for one of the accompanying photos in his article repeats the old canard that human and chimpanzee DNA are 99% similar.1 Yet, evolutionary anthropologist Jonathan Marks has publicly charged that the original research upon which this claim was based was fraudulent.9 And ICR’s own geneticist Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins soundly refuted this claim with his own independent examination of the data, showing that an unbiased comparison of human and chimpanzee DNA puts their true similarity at 85% at best.10
Creation scientists agree with Dr. Braterman that the creation-evolution debate should focus on evidence, not rhetoric. We are confident that an honest examination of the evidence completely rules out evolutionary explanations for the origin of life.