Debate: 15 questions for evolutionists

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.In May 2011 Creation Ministries International launched the Question evolution! campaign. Core to this campaign are 15 Questions for Evolutionists. In this debate, I want to collect answers to these questions - and replies to these answers by creationist. I'll try something new: this debate will be somewhat moderated - as I want to get concise arguments, I'll take out all personal attacks on the debate page.

The 15 Questions for evolutionists can be found HERE and there are 15 links on that page for those interested in further study.

Creation Ministries International has issued three response web pages to evolutionists concerning their replies to the 15 questions which can be found at these web locations:

In addition, Creation Ministries International released a series of educational videos designed to rebut evolutionist responses to the 15 questions for evolutionists:


Fan responses to evolutionist objections:

Contents

How did life originate?

Evolutionist Professor Paul Davies admitted, “Nobody knows how a mixture of lifeless chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.” Andrew Knoll, professor of biology, Harvard, said, “we don’t really know how life originated on this planet”. A minimal cell needs several hundred proteins. Even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every possible molecular vibration in the supposed evolutionary age of the universe, not even one average-sized functional protein would form. So how did life with hundreds of proteins originate just by chemistry without intelligent design?

What an evolutionist would say

Darwin's 1859 book was called On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, not On the Origin of Life, his theory didn't cover the very beginnings of life, but what happened when speciation started.

Similarly, we have helpful physical theories about the behavior of objects in the universe, though we there is debate about the creation of the universe...

There are well-understood processes by which the chemicals present in the environment of the ancient earth could have combined into peptides, and eventually into self-catalyzing proteins that gave rise to DNA and unicellular organisms. This is the theory of abiogenesis, a relatively new branch of science distinct from evolutionary biology. As stated above, the theory of evolution does not say anything about how the first lifeforms formed, only how they developed afterwards.TonyPark 15:55, 12 January 2012 (EST)

Agreed, the origin of life is a biochemical question--not really an evolutionary biology one. --JHunter 12:36, 21 January 2012 (EST)
That said, most of modern biology consists of biochemical questions, including the major mechanisms underlying evolution, so the question on the origin of life is not an inappropriate one here. To answer it, I must first address an idea that I've heard quoted by creationists addressing this question in the links provided by User:Conservative. That is the common misconception that the current scientific consensus suggests that life started as self-replicating polypeptides. In light of evidence uncovered in the past couple decades, this hypothesis is now considered highly unlikely; the process that would become "life" was likely already started before the "primordial amino acid soup" came into play. Self-replicating polydeoxyribonucleotides (DNA strands), are also considered an unlikely because of the chemical characteristics of DNA. Self-replicating strands of RNA, on the other hand, can be randomly generated in a laboratory using common, non-biological, reagents. This is a far-cry from the long-discredited Miller-Urey experiment (their experimental conditions turned out to be a wildly incorrect reproduction of the early Earth), that found organic molecules in a solution zapped with electricity. Besides, complex organic molecules seem to form spontaneously (albeit in trace amounts) wherever the right elemental ingredients are present; that's the age-old rule of organic chemistry, if a side reaction can happen, it will happen to some degree.
Life is chemistry, very complex chemistry, but it is still chemistry. The components of a cell consist of biomolecules behaving in a chemical way (drugs are designed to take advantage of this fact). Barring any philosophical discussion on the meaning of life (for the last time, the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42), the purpose of a cell (or a complex organism consisting of a vast network of cells) is to reproduce. Self-reproduction is one of the defining traits of life. Ribonucleotides (present in trace amounts wherever the ingredients are found) will spontaneously form 5' to 3' polymers in a warm, reducing, aqueous environment; such as that found around the edges of a hot-spring (assuming a low oxygen atmosphere, which is unanimously suggested for the early Earth by geological data), or even an oceanic thermal vent. That one or more of these oligomers would have the enzymatic capacity to self-replicate is extremely plausible. When considering the scale (an entire planet), it becomes probable.
How these self-reproducing RNA strands started conspiring with amino acids, became compartmentalized in phospholipids, and then started using a DNA template, is still largely unknown. It is thought that these changes occurred in the order I just mentioned because that is the most chemically plausible order of events; although a plausible scenario is still very far from an established theory. As more evidence becomes available, as more experiments are done, and as geology reveals more information about the chemistry of the early Earth, it is likely that the scientific community will arrive at more of a consensus regarding the origin of life. Obviously, nobody was there to witness the origin of life and, unless the NSF allocates grant money towards a 1981 DeLorean, a conjectural consensus (that is well-supported by all the evidence) will be the closest that science can come to providing an answer to this question. This does not mean that scientists "don't know"; in the absence of first-hand observation,an inference from evidence is the closest that the scientific process can come to explaining anything.
There is evidence that much of the Old Testament (after Genesis) is a historically accurate, if poetically embellished (as all histories were at the time), account of bronze-age Jewish history. Archaeological evidence supports this and so science supports this. However, it is a non sequitur to conclude that because some Old Testament stories are grounded in historical fact that all Old Testament stories are literally true--even St. Paul admits that this is a matter of faith (and open to interpretation), not evidence. To draw an analogy, Livy, a Roman historian, wrote a lengthy account of the history of the Roman people. Much of this account is very historically accurate and is supported as such by archaeological evidence. However, it is very clearly illogical to conclude that because Livy's historical narrative is largely true, his references to the Roman gods playing a hand in these events must be true as well. Similarly science, which by definition can only rely on empirical evidence, must search outside of scripture for evidence regarding the origin of life and draw conclusions based on evidence alone. --JHunter 03:24, 25 January 2012 (EST)
Very well argued. Can you provide a link to something showing that RNA can be randomly generated in a lab? It'd be interesting to read. Thanks :) - JamesCA 02:18, 9 March 2012 (EST)
Happily! --JHunter 23:42, 9 March 2012 (EST)
Here's a better source that I just came across.--JHunter 21:10, 1 November 2012 (EDT)

What a creationist would reply

The only experiments done to test these ASSUMPTIONS were fatally flawed by bad data about the so-called "ancient Earth." Not even evolutionists take them seriously now. If this were true, new species should be rising from the ocean every day, but we see none. OllieB 10:39, 27 March 2012 (EDT)

How did the DNA code originate?

The code is a sophisticated language system with letters and words where the meaning of the words is unrelated to the chemical properties of the letters—just as the information on this page is not a product of the chemical properties of the ink (or pixels on a screen). What other coding system has existed without intelligent design? How did the DNA coding system arise without it being created?

What an evolutionist would say

DNA is not a code, which is encoded information intentionally transmitted by an intelligent agent. The "information" present in DNA is the result of natural selection, which screens out DNA sequences unsuited to reproduction and increases the frequency of those which are useful. The result is a highly complex molecule capable of a large variety of functions, but it is still a chemical, obeying the laws of physics and chemistry in a highly predictable way.TonyPark 15:55, 12 January 2012 (EST)

TonyPark is right again! There is no such thing as the "DNA code" (at least Dan Brown hasn't published it yet). A cell is a biochemical system, similar to how a car is a mechanical system. Actually, if examined closely, most biochemical systems are remarkably mechanical in function. The set of biomolecular actions in any cell, while they may seem quite complex, are actually quite predictable once they are well understood. This is one of the driving principles in modern cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology, pharmacology, medicine (notably oncology), bioinformatics, and every other field (there are hundreds) that deals with functional genomics, proteomics, or metabolism.
Genes are referred to as "information", even studied as information (bioinformatics), because that is a convenient way to model and discuss a very complex system. The article on genes here at Conservapedia is actually pretty well written (when I have time, I do want to tweak a couple minor points in that article, but that is something I will discuss on that article's talk page), I would encourage anybody reading this argument to read that article first if they are unfamiliar with the terms I am going to use.
In the context of this question (and the "answers" posted by CMI), "DNA code" is a very arbitrarily defined term. The trouble is that the interactions between DNA and the biomolecular mediators of cellular homeostasis (the processes that maintain the tightly controlled cellular microenvironment) are quite complex. It is a gross oversimplification (in fact, it is incorrect) to say that DNA only functions as a "template" to be transcribed into mRNA and then translated into protein. It is true that a similar-sounding term, "genetic code", refers to triplets of bases (codons) encoding for particular amino acids in a protein product. However, there is a lot more that goes into regulating cell processes than blind protein production. Gene expression is a very tightly regulated process ensuring that only the right cells express the right genes at the right time (for a good example of when this goes wrong, see cancer). This regulation is highly mechanical. To avoid launching into a lengthy discussion of gene regulatory mechanisms, I will leave the point at that.
Accordingly, I will give the authors of this question the benefit of the doubt and interpret "DNA code" to mean the sum of homeostatic regulation via direct and indirect biomolecular interactions with DNA. On the whole, this question is so broad in scope that it is impossible to properly answer without several thousand pages of text. To illustrate this point, I have a five volume reference book on my bookshelf that summarizes most of the human biomolecular signalling pathways that were known when it was published (2006); in total, the book is 5300 pages long. Given the pace with which biomedical scientists are unraveling the human interactome, a 2011 edition would need to be at least twice as long (and require a giant team of very masochistic editors). The simple fact here is that every chemical process within the cell can (and does) elicit some downstream effect on gene regulation. Therefore, one cannot even functionally explain the "DNA code" without also explaining every last scrap of chemistry that goes on in a cell. Similarly, thoroughly explaining its origin would require tracing the phylogeny of several hundred thousand individual processes.
While creationists may rejoice at the "impossibility" of this question, science is not at all clueless about the evolutionary origin of many of the more central parts in this system. Quite the contrary actually. For instance, the evolutionary origin of introns in eukaryotic genes from ancient self-splicing bacterial transposable elements (which seem to have been retroviral in origin) is practically an air-tight case. The highly conserved sequence homology among members of the most common families of transcription factors (proteins that directly interact with DNA to regulate genes) also strongly hints at the existence of a common root at the base of each family "tree". An even better example is the remarkably high level of homology between the transcriptional machinery in all extant lineages of life. Similarly, there is the striking homology in translational machinery. In fact, sequencing of ribosomal RNAs (which are under quite a bit of selective pressure to stay very static) is a very accurate way to estimate ancestral relationships--oh, and for most clades examined, the "newfangled" rRNA data suggests ancestral relationships that are very similar to (and in plants and animals, often identical to) those suggested by older techniques based on phenotype. All the examples that I just gave are evidence of the common descent of the gene regulatory / expression machinery. Clearly, without going back to the origin of life itself (which is an impossibility), explaining the evolutionary origin of the obscure creationist invention concept that is the "DNA code" is fundamentally impossible. However, just because scientists can not precisely trace every last bit of cellular machinery all the way back to the origin of life (which is the rather disingenuous implication of this question), does not mean that that the scientific community is at a loss for evidence from which to make logical inferences about its approximate naturalistic origin.
Like question number 1, question 2 ignores the fundamental principles of the scientific process; conclusions and hypotheses regarding an un-observable process must strictly rely on logical consideration of the available evidence. The sound practice of science (which, I might add, is meticulously ingrained in any scientist-in-training and very strictly enforced by peer review) requires that evidence is objectively interpreted as only speaking for itself, independent of presupposition or ideological dogma. Science is not about searching for evidence in support of a particular hypothesis; in fact, it is about seeking evidence which contradicts the working hypothesis, so that the working hypothesis may be further refined. It is for this simple reason that "creation science", by relying on the presupposition of divine creation, is not science. A scientific theory, such as evolution or relativity is not a presupposition (as will be claimed in a couple later questions), rather it is a logical paradigm that is compatible with the hypotheses suggested by the available evidence. Scientific theories are, by definition, fluid logical paradigms; when the evidence suggests a paradoxical conclusion, the theory (not the conclusion) is adjusted to accommodate the new finding. --JHunter 13:41, 25 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

The existence of the four genetic bases, AGTC, and the fact that they fit together like puzzle pieces with the correct counterpart molecule, is evidence for intelligent design. If DNA were truly random, we would see adenine binding with guanine, thymine and cytosine in roughly equal numbers, but instead there is a non-random pattern that indicates an intelligent creator. OllieB 10:43, 27 March 2012 (EDT)

This seems a relatively easy point to refute. Note that the bases in DNA interact with each other through hydrogen bonding, an extremely common process with guides interactions between a wide range of compounds including organic molecules, inorganic metal complexes, and water, to name a few. When oriented relative to the backbone structure of the DNA molecule, thymine has one oxygen atom with a lone pair and one hydrogen bonded to a nitrogen exposed to the adjacent base pair. Adenine has one hydrogen atom bonded to a nitrogen and one nitrogen with a lone pair. Thus each of these molecules has two hydrogen bonding sites exposed to the adjacent base which allows for exactly two hydrogen bonding interactions. Cytosine, in contrast, has one oxygen with a lone pair, one nitrogen with a lone pair, and one hydrogen bonded to a nitrogen, and guanine has one oxygen with a lone pair and two hydrogens bonded to two nitrogens. This means cytosine and guanine have three hydrogen bonding sites and thus hydrogen bond to each other three times. This is not to say that interactions between adenine and guanine or thymine and cytosine for example are strictly prohibited. But if all four molecules existed in their free forms in solution, one would absolutely NOT expect adenine to interact with cytosine and guanine as much as it would interact with thymine. The bases are MOST STABLE in their interactions with the corresponding base pair because only the corresponding base pair has the correct number of hydrogen bonding sites. Note that the bases do not readily interact with themselves because they are essentially mirror images of each other; lone pairs must interact with hydrogens and vice versa, so the orientation of a base is not correct for it to hydrogen bond readily with itself. Essentially, thymine pairs with adenine and cytosine pairs with guanine due to simple chemistry. --StevenJP 20:21, 29 April 2013 (EDT)

How could mutations—accidental copying mistakes (DNA ‘letters’ exchanged, deleted or added, genes duplicated, chromosome inversions, etc.)—create the huge volumes of information in the DNA of living things?

How could such errors create 3 billion letters of DNA information to change a microbe into a microbiologist? There is information for how to make proteins but also for controlling their use—much like a cookbook contains the ingredients as well as the instructions for how and when to use them. One without the other is useless. Mutations are known for their destructive effects, including over 1,000 human diseases such as hemophilia. Rarely are they even helpful. But how can scrambling existing DNA information create a new biochemical pathway or nano-machines with many components, to make ‘goo-to-you’ evolution possible? E.g., How did a 32-component rotary motor like ATP synthase (which produces the energy currency, ATP, for all life), or robots like kinesin (a ‘postman’ delivering parcels inside cells) originate?


What an evolutionist would say

DNA mutations alone cannot drive evolution. This is why "living fossils" do not evolve; they are in an environment with little to no selection pressure on them because they are so well adapted. As a result, the animals change very little over time, aside from a small amount of random genetic drift.

When natural selection is added to the equation, there is a mechanism by which good mutations can be screened from bad ones, and a mechanism for gene frequencies to change in a way that allows a species to slowly adapt to their environment. Not all mutations are beneficial, obviously, but the environment punishes bad DNA very quickly, and after billions of years life has become very sophisticated, even on the smallest scales.TonyPark 12:18, 13 January 2012 (EST)

Yet another very well-worded answer. Mr. Park, you are a tough act to follow!
Seriously, what is the deal with the creationist obsession with mutating genes? Seriously, the idea that changing the genes is a major driving force of evolution pre-dates the understanding of how genes work. There are plenty of other (much more common and interesting) ways to generate phenotypic variation within a population. In the past three decades, advances in population genetics, combined with a veritable revolution in the fields of molecular biology and developmental biology, have demonstrated that. In other words, referencing the breakthroughs that have resulted from the new-found understanding of the molecular mechanisms of evolution, "This ain't your daddy's Darwin!"
But first, because the question insists, I will address the boring stuff.
Genes duplicate, entire sections of chromosomes, and sometimes even whole chromosomes, or sets of chromosomes, can be duplicated or even fused. Sometimes, just a portion of a gene is duplicated, or maybe even swapped with a part from a different gene. On a smaller scale, errors in DNA replication, among other factors, can cause single base pairs in DNA to be changed (this is called a "single nucleotide polymorphism" or a SNP--pronounced "Snip"), deleted, or inserted. Sometimes, it's a transposable element (chunks of DNA that like to move around in the genome--a lot) that inserts in the middle of an exon. Or maybe even an endogenous retrovirus that's still intact enough to move around finding itself in between two enhancer elements for an essential gene. Chromosomes are not static structures either. High school biology was only partially right when they taught you that recombination occurs between homologous chromosomes during meiosis; as it turns out, non-homologous chromosomes trade parts too sometimes (quite often, actually, on an evolutionary time scale). In short, on the scale of hundreds of millions of years, the genome has more in common with Mardis Gras in New Orleans than it does with a leather-bound book.
On the genomic level, when and where mutations occur is largely random. The vast majority of mutations have no effect whatsoever on phenotype. However, when a mutation does affect phenotype, whether or not it survives to be present in future populations is not random. Any genomic change that increases an organism's ability to reproduce efficiently, will gradually become increasingly prevalent in subsequent generations because the more-efficiently reproducing individuals generate more offspring. Alternatively, if a variation impairs the ability of an individual to reproduce efficiently, then that variation will become less prevalent in subsequent generations because the individuals carrying it will produce proportionately fewer offspring. This seemingly obvious observation is natural selection. To say that a trait is "selected against" simply means that it has a deleterious effect on the relative reproductive potential of the individuals carrying it.
Random mutations generate novel allelic variations within a population, and the sieve of reproduction keeps the randomly-occurring harmful variations from being present in future populations while at the same time amplifying the number of individuals carrying favorable variations. The net result of this process is anything but random.
That said, ecosystems change, natural disasters happen, geological events happen, new organisms colonize an ecosystem and disrupt the food chain. An allele that was beneficial in one generation, may be quite deleterious four generations later. But, when that happens, selective pressure shifts and individuals carrying the now-harmful allele are out-reproduced by individuals who are better adapted to the new conditions--thus the allelic composition of the population shifts again. Repeating a similar cycle over hundreds of generations will result in a population that is, by and large, phenotypically different (sometimes quite dramatically) from the original population. Repeat the cycle over tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, of generations, and add in a whole host of other possible random events that favor or cause a redistribution of allele frequencies over the generations, and the end population will have changed drastically from the original population.
Now for the fun stuff. The regions of important genes that encode for important proteins are under quite a bit of selective pressure to change as little as possible over the generations; a random mutation in one those regions would be so harmful to the reproductive ability of the individuals carrying it that it is not likely to persist in a population for more than a few generations (assuming it's not lethal to the original carrier, in which case it would not even be present in one). As such, mutations in functional protein coding genes are not a major driving force of phenotypic change across generations. This is why the fruit fly makes a good model for human genetics--the superfluous regions of the genes (that, say, encode for parts of proteins where the amino acid sequence is largely inconsequential) have diverged quite a bit, but the important parts have stayed the same over the hundreds of millions of years since the last common ancestor between the fruit fly and the human. They have retained this "homology" because any changes in those regions was very strongly selected against.
So what is the major cause of morphological change? Among closely related species (and, yes, for the purpose of this explanation humans are very closely related to mice), the major genetic differences underlying morphological variation are not in the protein-coding regions of the genes themselves, but in the promoter (regulatory) regions of these genes. Mutating an essential component gene that is essential to normal embryonic development is going to result in a dead embryo--not a reproductively viable organism. However, subtly adjusting the "on/off" switch of such a gene, and tweaking its expression pattern (which cells express a given gene), will both allow the organism to grow to reproductive viability, and produce a morphological change. If individuals with this new morphological change are able reproduce more efficiently than individuals without it, it will become increasingly prevalent in future generations.
As for how new genetic information is added (by which, I assume, you mean the emergence of new protein-coding genes), we return to the hustle and bustle of the chromosomes. Gene duplication events are very common. When an organism only has one or two (depending on the nature of the gene and the mutation) copies of an important gene to play with, significant changes will be very strongly selected against. When a gene is randomly duplicated, the organism now has a spare copy--and may accrue mutations in one of the copies of that gene without seriously impacting its reproductive potential. As mutations accumulate in the copy of the gene that is now freed from negative selective pressure, it will most likely just wind up as a useless (junk) sequence in the genomic junkyard (there are thousands of such non-functional duplicate-gene remnants in the human genome). If, however, as its sequence diverges from that of its "functional" copy, its mechanical function (or expression pattern, or both) changes in such a way that it provides a survival benefit to the organism carrying it, individuals carrying the divergent copy (now a new gene in its own right) will be selected for in subsequent generations and progressively more beneficial allelic variations of the new gene will be selected for.
Similarly, when a large segment of a chromosome is duplicated, every new duplicate gene contained in that segment is entered into the "new gene lottery", for a chance to become new (repurposed) genetic information. This too is a fairly common occurrence, especially when there is a lot of selective pressure for novel adaptation.
Evolution has been a long road. It's taken 4 billion years for gene duplication, sequence divergence, random catastrophes, population events, and the cut-throat race for reproductive viability to lead to life as we know it today. --JHunter 20:00, 9 June 2012 (EDT)
Hardy Weinberg equilibrium is a model for what the genes of a living thing would be if they did not evolve. In this model, forces that change genetic frequency, such as mutations, genetic recombination, and so on, would have no effect. This concretely means that if a population has Hardy Weinberg equilibrium, and if, say, fifty percent of the individuals having one allele (alleles are versions of a gene) and fifty percent has another, then over, say, a thousand generations, fifty percent would still have one allele and fifty percent the other.
Experiments testing whether this equilibrium exists have been conducted for decades, and the result is that the frequency of alleles in a population change from generation to generation, and they change tremendously over large spans of time because mutations, genetic recombination, genetic drift, and other factors all make tiny changes in genes in individuals.
That withstanding, when individuals in a species pass their genes from generation to generation, it's easily to fathom that tiny observeable changes in alleles mean observeable changes in species over massive spans of time. PabloAbra 18:15, 9 February 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

If genetic mutations were beneficial even 1% of the time, we would see people developing new abilities and new body parts all the time. Instead, we only see people with serious birth defects and disabilities due to genetic mutation. Mutations are entropy affecting the ordered system of DNA, and only intelligent intervention could have brought that order about in the first place. OllieB 10:49, 27 March 2012 (EDT)

Why is natural selection, a principle recognized by creationists, taught as ‘evolution’, as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life?

By definition it is a selective process (selecting from already existing information), so is not a creative process. It might explain the survival of the fittest (why certain genes benefit creatures more in certain environments), but not the arrival of the fittest (where the genes and creatures came from in the first place). The death of individuals not adapted to an environment and the survival of those that are suited does not explain the origin of the traits that make an organism adapted to an environment. E.g., how do minor back-and-forth variations in finch beaks explain the origin of beaks or finches? How does natural selection explain goo-to-you evolution?


What an evolutionist would say

By definition it is a selective process (selecting from already existing information), so is not a creative process. What definition is that? Of course, selecting can be a creative process! A sculptor selects the pieces of marble which have to be chipped of...

Most evolutionists - I think - would subscribe to the sentence: It might explain why certain genes benefit creatures more in certain environments, but not where the genes and creatures came from in the first place!

In addition, in no science classroom is natural selection taught as the entirety of evolution. This is a misconception resulting from the phrase "Survival of the fittest" being used to describe evolution. The other half of the equation is genetic mutation, which provides new material, so to speak, to be vetted by the natural selection process.TonyPark 16:04, 12 January 2012 (EST)

Natural selection is not synonymous with evolution. Nobody who properly understands how evolution works would teach it as such; there would be no purpose in doing so other than to deliberately prevent the students from understanding the intricacies of the evolutionary process. Natural selection is the major driving force of evolution, but it not the same thing as evolution. No competent teacher would present them as the same thing. --JHunter 23:03, 26 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

This is an example of evolutionists "moving the goalposts," so to speak. Natural selection was considered an adequate explanation for evolution until ID pointed out the flaws of that theory. Instead of humbly accepting that their theory is flawed, however, evolutionists merely claim that their theory never said such a thing, and give a new contrived guess at what evolution is. OllieB 10:52, 27 March 2012 (EDT)

How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate?

Every pathway and nano-machine requires multiple protein/enzyme components to work. How did lucky accidents create even one of the components, let alone 10 or 20 or 30 at the same time, often in a necessary programmed sequence. Evolutionary biochemist Franklin Harold wrote, “we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”

What an evolutionist would say

Biochemical pathways do not arise out of nothing; they are built over millions of years, piece by piece, adding new functions as they become useful and dropping functions as they become superfluous. These pathways are, like all of DNA, merely chemical reactions, obeying well understood laws, and provide some function to an organism at every level of complexity. Natural selection allowed new variations on old pathways to be tried, and if they succeeded, propagated.TonyPark 16:09, 12 January 2012 (EST)

If you piece apart the chemical pathways, it is a given that losing a small part of that pathway will render it useless. However, incomplete parts of that pathway can serve different purposes inside the body, meaning that they still have a reason to be selected for.
This argument is not unlike the flagellum argument, with the mousetrap analogy; a mousetrap will not work if it's missing a part. However, you can use the pieces of a mousetrap for other purposes than catching mice. Furthermore, a few of flagellum's parts serve other purposes in the body.
The argument that a chemical pathway's complexity makes it impossible to produce by evolution relies on the assumption that every part of a chemical pathway is entirely useless unless every part is present. However, the body does not exist in a vacuum and countless import chemicals in the body serve multiple purposes. PabloAbra 18:26, 9 February 2012

What a creationist would reply

Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed?

Richard Dawkins wrote, “biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.” Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, wrote, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” The problem for evolutionists is that living things show too much design. Who objects when an archaeologist says that pottery points to human design? Yet if someone attributes the design in living things to a designer, that is not acceptable. Why should science be restricted to naturalistic causes rather than logical causes?


What an evolutionist would say

The appearance of design in natural phenomena is not proof of design, just as seeing a face in a cloud or a piece of rock does not indicate that it is designed. The only "designer" necessary to explain the diversity of life on Earth is the combination of DNA mutation, to create new genetic material, and natural selection, to screen out harmful mutations from the new material.

What we see as "designed" structures and organs are in fact the result of an evolutionary process, without any kind of plan or input besides the environment killing off any variants that don't confer enough of a reproductive advantage.TonyPark 16:17, 12 January 2012 (EST)

Who cares? The potential existence of a designer doesn't have anything to do with the potential existence of evolution. The evolutionary mechanisms in question tend to rely on numbers, on the probability that a mutation will happen here, that random mating will pair this chromosome with that, that genetic drift will change one allele percentage to another. If these numbers are driven by an almighty force, it doesn't change the mechanisms themselves. As far as I'm concerned, this question is thus irrelevant to the debate. PabloAbra 18:38, 9 February 2012

What a creationist would reply

How did multi-cellular life originate?

How did cells adapted to individual survival ‘learn’ to cooperate and specialize (including undergoing programmed cell death) to create complex plants and animals?

What an evolutionist would say

Like our cells, bacteria use chemical signals to communicate with each other, and in large numbers are capable of cooperation in creating structures and solving problems of resource gathering. The ability to cooperate, and eventually form multi-cell colonies and then multicellular organisms, would have conferred a massive survival advantage to the first bacteria who developed the trait. TonyPark 16:24, 12 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

How did sex originate?

Asexual reproduction gives up to twice as much reproductive success (‘fitness’) for the same resources as sexual reproduction, so how could the latter ever gain enough advantage to be selected? And how could mere physics and chemistry invent the complementary apparatuses needed at the same time (non-intelligent processes cannot plan for future coordination of male and female organs).

What an evolutionist would say

Sexual reproduction provides a huge evolutionary advantage by increasing the genetic diversity of offspring, and therefore increasing the rate of evolution. This is why almost all of the complex organisms on Earth reproduce sexually. Even some bacteria have been shown to have "sex", in the sense of exchanging DNA information in order to produce offspring with a combination of both organisms' genes.

The complex sexual specialization we see today in animals did not arise randomly; it is not as though male and female versions of animals evolved separately, by sheer luck. They have existed together since almost the very beginning of life. TonyPark 16:36, 12 January 2012 (EST)


What a creationist would reply

If sexual reproduction is such a huge evolutionary advantage, how is it that there still exist so many species which reproduce asexually ? If it is a huge advantage, we would expect to see every organisms evolve in this direction, wouldn't we ? PhilipN

No, we most certainly would not. Just because a trait is advantageous does not mean every organism will independently develop it. Your argument could be applied to the traits of flight, intelligence, or any other advantageous trait to equally absurd results. TonyPark 17:36, 12 January 2012 (EST)

I don't follow your reasoning.
  • You say that sexual reproduction is a huge advantage
  • You say that Evolution is based upon natural selection
  • Therefore, Evolution should favor species with sexual reproduction and natural selection should wipe out those who do not reproduce sexually.
I did not mean that every organisms should have independently develop it but that the organisms which do not reproduce sexually should have been replaced by others who have this huge advantage. I appreciate that you talk about absurd results, I agree with you on that point.--PhilipN 17:58, 12 January 2012 (EST)
I think what User:TonyPark is trying to get at is that sexual reproduction is advantageous to MOST organisms. Some species may get along quite well with asexual reproduction, and hence have no reason to change. --RedGoliath 23:07, 12 January 2012 (GMT)
I can understand how flying or intelligence might be an advantage to some species and not others but how is it possible that genetic diversity (as you presented the advantage) can not be advantageous to some species ?--PhilipN 18:24, 12 January 2012 (EST)
As the question implied: sexual reproduction comes at a price! For complicated beings is seems to be worth the costs, for very simple not. AugustO 18:31, 12 January 2012 (EST)
It's an interesting subject, though often coming up with reasonable hypotheses can be difficult. The Komodo Dragon comes to mind, however, as a species that breeds both sexually and asexually, depending on its conditions. This is seen in a number of other species, including some bacteria. Obviously, this has it's advantages: If a females cannot find a mate, she can asexually reproduce.

As for species that only reproduce asexually, there may be no selection pressure that requires more diverse offspring. An advantage of asexual reproduction is that it occurs much quicker than sexual reproduction for obvious reasons. There are likely other advantages to asexual rep., but nothing that I can think of at this moment in time --RedGoliath 23:42, January 2012 (GMT)

It is advantageous to every species, but that doesn't mean that every asexual species is going to die out, only that they won't probably do as well as sexual species do over a period of time. This holds to be true in most environments, where almost all complex forms of life are sexual, and the asexual species are comparatively simpler in structure. Don't forget that asexual creatures do evolve and adapt, just slower.

Side question: Don't you think a scientist somewhere might have already thought of that question and answered it? I ask myself that about most of these 15 questions.TonyPark 18:56, 12 January 2012 (EST)

Alright, the 3 of you made a good case here. Now, please explain me how it began? Was it only 1 individual mutation? If so who did it reproduce with ?--PhilipN 20:50, 12 January 2012 (EST)
Bacteria commonly share information from one to the other using plasmids. This is seen in how some bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. Though I have no actual evidence to support it(I didn't google) it seems logical to me that this was the beginning of sexual reproduction. I'm not terribly knowledgeable about evolutionary biology but this seems to be the earliest form of pseudo-sexual reproduction and it obviously came about due to a need for genetic variation in the species since, as is known, asexual reproduction does not provide variation. That is the extent of my knowledge of that so if anyone else knows more about plasmids and how they developed it would be wonderful. Ayzmo :) 21:17, 12 January 2012 (EST)
We should also remember that one of the biggest sources of gene exchange among bacteria, besides plasmids, is in fact bacteriophage viruses. They can infect one bacteria and ferry genetic material from it to another bacteria, and something like 70% of ocean-dwelling bacteria on earth today are in fact infected with a bacteriophage of some kind. So, to answer your question, PhilipN, it is possible for only one bacteria to have developed the trait, but if that bacteria was infected with a virus, as most are, those genes would have been spread to other bacteria in the vicinity, giving them the ability to reproduce sexually as well.TonyPark 12:17, 13 January 2012 (EST)
"Who did it produce with?" - Your question presupposes that there had to be two distinct sexes. My following point will be an educated guess. It may not be right, but it's just an example of how the different sexes could have occured.
If you take a look at flowers, you'll find that each flower has both male and female reproductive organs. This is pretty much universal over all plant species. Animals on the other hand, tend to have distinct males and females (at least, most vertebrates). This would imply that the separate reproductive organs were present before plants and animals diverged from a common ancestor. The common ancestor would likely have both pairs of organs, as plants do today. Plants, perhaps, never lost this trait. However, at some point after the divergance, animals became distinctly male and female (again, at least in vertebrates).
As you know, organisms need energy, and the more body parts and organs you have, the more energy you require. Could it be that in animals, organisms in a species started to become specialised for which organs they used? In half of a population, the female rep. organs were slightly reduced, and vice versa. This would mean that the organisms required less energy. They would all still have both pairs of organs, but one would be reduced. Soon, two sexes would form, as one type of sexual organ would have been reduced/lost in each group.
Again, this is not fact, merely my suggestion. Add to it if you wish, or point out how this would be wrong/unlikely. Hope this helps.
--RedGoliath 17:26, 13 January 2012 (GMT)

Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing?

Darwin noted the problem and it still remains. The evolutionary family trees in textbooks are based on imagination, not fossil evidence. Famous Harvard paleontologist (and evolutionist), Stephen Jay Gould, wrote, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology”. Other evolutionist fossil experts also acknowledge the problem.

What an evolutionist would say

The term "transitional fossil" is not used outside of creationist discussion. Every fossil is a transitional fossil, just as every animal is a transitional form, from what they were in the past to what they will be in the future. The term is usually used to describe fossils with traits from two different taxons, such as Archaeopteryx or Tiktaalik, but it is important to remember that taxonomic categories are human inventions, and there is nothing essentially different about one of these "intermediate" forms and other fossils in other stages of evolution.

In addition, the theory of evolution was formulated by studying animal anatomy, without the benefit of fossil evidence. Though fossil evidence has bolstered and improved the theory, it is not the only, or even the primary, source of evolutionary data. That distinction falls on DNA sequencing, which has provided huge amounts of data to scientists with a level of precision that Darwin could not have dreamed of.TonyPark 16:48, 12 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years, if evolution has changed worms into humans in the same time frame?

Professor Gould wrote, “the maintenance of stability within species must be considered as a major evolutionary problem.”

What an evolutionist would say

DNA mutations alone cannot drive evolution. It is necessary that the environment exert some kind of natural selection pressure on the organism for evolution to occur. This is why "living fossils" do not evolve; they are in an environment with little to no selection pressure on them because they are so well adapted. As a result, the animals change very little over time, aside from a small amount of random genetic drift.

In addition, the statement that evolution has turned "worms into humans" is inaccurate. It would be more accurate to say that evolution has turned a small colony of bacteria in a pool of ooze into the entire majestic diversity of life on Earth. This is more impressive, as well.


What a creationist would reply

How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life? Should students be learning nihilism (life is meaningless) in science classes?

What an evolutionist would say

Evolutionary says nothing about the existence of god, nor does it advocate nihilism or any other philosophical stance. The potential philosophical implications of the theory of evolution can be an interesting topic, but is not relevant to a scientific debate.

It should be noted that there are plenty of Christians who believe in evolution and have no such crisis of faith.TonyPark 20:45, 12 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated?

Evolutionists often use flexible story-telling to ‘explain’ observations contrary to evolutionary theory. NAS(USA) member Dr Philip Skell wrote, “Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.”

What an evolutionist would say

"Just so storytelling" is not a defined term, and is most likely a completely subjective snarl word used to denigrate any scientific theory the asker doesn't agree with. The question is vague in wording, disingenuous in its intent and pointoess to answer, because the asker has already decided that evolution is a fairy tale sight unseen.

Natural selection would prefer men who are faithful protectors/providers since the offspring have a greater chance of success. RaymondZ 09:54, 28 December 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

Dr Marc Kirschner, chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, stated: “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”9 Dr Skell wrote, “It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers … .”10 Evolution actually hinders medical discovery.11 Then why do schools and universities teach evolution so dogmatically, stealing time from experimental biology that so benefits humankind?

What an evolutionist would say

This is an appeal to authority. The truth of evolution is in whether or not it explains the diversity of life, not whether a Harvard professor approves of it. This question uses quote mining to misrepresent the attitudes of scientists, but it is not relevant to a debate of whether or not evolution is true.TonyPark 17:00, 12 January 2012 (EST)

On a more important point: the breakthrough of evolution is the theory itself, and all of the knowledge about the natural world that we gain from it. That knowledge is used to help deal with drug-resistant bacteria, breed new types of plants and find human analogues for biomedical research, to name only a few applications. However, even if there were no "breakthroughs" from evolutionary theory, it would still be one of humanity's greatest triumphs, because it explains how life as we know it came into being, and that knowledge enriches us in ways that cannot be adequately measured.TonyPark 11:50, 13 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

Science involves experimenting to figure out how things work; how they operate. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as this operational science?

You cannot do experiments, or even observe what happened, in the past. Asked if evolution has been observed, Richard Dawkins said, “Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.”

What an evolutionist would say

  • There are experiments: e.g., Richard Lenski's experiments on the e-coli bacterium, which got some attention in 2008.
  • Astronomy is equally a science about history, the history of stars. We can't plan experiments on a galactic scale, but we can observe the experiments of nature.

Obviously, it is impoosible to observe events that occurred before the dawn of history, or indded at any point in the past. It is by studying the evidence left behind that we can draw conclusions as to what has occurred. This is the same epistemological basis behind history, archaeology and even crime scene investigation. It is disingenuous to assert that nothing can be learned about the past unless a direct eyewitness account survives.TonyPark 17:24, 12 January 2012 (EST)

What a creationist would reply

Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes?

Karl Popper, famous philosopher of science, said “Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical [religious] research programme ….”Michael Ruse, evolutionist science philosopher admitted, “Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.” If “you can’t teach religion in science classes”, why is evolution taught?

What an evolutionist would say

Evolution is not a religion, and to call it one is ridiculous. It has no prayers, no churches, and no dogma. Proponents of evolution come from every faith background. The asker of this question is misleading the audience by forcing the assumption that evolution is a dogmatic belief system and not what it properly is, a highly respected scientific theory that explains and unifies a huge amount of evidence collected over many years by thousands of scientists working in a startlingly wide array of fields. The question also implies that dogmatic ideas that don't explain the evidence have no place in science classrooms, a sentiment I agree with. By those criteria, intelligent design should be discarded post-haste.

What a creationist would reply

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