By David N. Menton, Ph.D.



The creation evolution controversy in public education has grown in

intensity since the famous Scopes Trial of 1925. At that time the

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, Clarence Darrow, argued

for the inclusion of evolutionary theory in the science curriculum.

Today the ACLU and others insist that creationism should be excluded

from the science class room and that only evolutionism should be taught

as a scientifically acceptable theory of origins. Recent legislation in

Arkansas and Louisiana requiring that "equal time" be given to the

scientific evidence for both creation and evolution in the science

curriculum has been successfully challenged by the ACLU.


Surveys have consistently shown that a substantial majority of

Americans believe that man and the cosmos were created by a process

involving supernatural intervention. A Gallup Poll in July of 1982, for

example, showed the following breakdown of beliefs among 1,518 people

sampled from 300 areas across the nation:

"God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the

last 10,000 years" ------- 44% agreed.

"Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of

life, but God guided this process including man's creation" --------

38% agreed.

"Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of

life, God had no part in this process" -------- 9% agreed.

"Other, or don't know" -------- 9%

We may conclude that nearly half of the students in our public schools

might find disturbing inconsistencies between their religious beliefs

and the evolutionary ideas encountered in books, films and discussions.

Scientific truth is not established by popular vote, and scientific

facts must not be ignored or modified to accommodate the religious

beliefs of our students, still, we should be quite sure of our facts on

the matter of origins lest we unnecessarily burden our student's


How we view our origin has profound religious and

philosophical implications. The introduction of explicitly religious

material in the science curriculum, on the other hand, is likely to be

successfully challenged in the courts. Can we then teach and discuss

the best scientific evidence for origins in a way that is sensitive to

the cherished beliefs of our students and their parents, while

adhering to the required separation of Church and State? I am convinced

that it not only can be done, but should be done.


First I propose that Biblical creation not be taught in our public

schools. There are two reasons for this, 1) Biblical creation

necessarily involves supernatural intervention, a subject outside the

scope of the scientific method, and 2) evolution is the only

explanation for origins currently being seriously considered within the

"mainstream" of science.

This is not to suggest that creation is implausible

or even that evolution is more plausible, but simply that,

for better or worse, evolutionary ideas are the "Zeitgeist" of

scientific attempts to explain the origin of the cosmos and it is these

ideas which now appear in our instructional materials and are the

subject of concern to many students and their parents.

A persistent criticism of science instruction is that evolution is

often taught as "dogma" or as a "just so story." Mere scenarios of

major evolutionary transformations are often presented as though they

were "historical" observations, when neither the events nor their

mechanism is actually known or perhaps even knowable. While some

teachers do emphasize the theoretical nature of evolution, rarely is a

critical view taken of this highly speculative field of science. As a

result, the student and even the teacher are often led to conclude that

there is no substantive criticism of evolutionary ideas among

professional scientists, but such is hardly the case as we shall see.

The proposed solution to the problem is simply to: TEACH EVOLUTION IN


EMPIRICAL SCIENCE. Thus we would present evidence that seems to support

evolutionary theory as well as evidence that seems incompatible with

this interpretation of origins.

Unfortunately, the biological training

of most teachers has not included a critical evaluation of the

evolutionary paradigm; this gap would need to be filled with inservice


Naturally, it is hoped that the education of our future

science teachers would include a critical review of the evidence both

for and against evolution. There is presently a substantial body of

literature in respected scientific journals which documents numerous

specific criticisms of evolution by scientists from many fields

including evolutionists themselves. While some of this literature may

be too technical or even inaccessible for many teachers, attempts

should be made by qualified science educators to summarize the

principle lines of criticism for study and evaluation by the class room




Evolution is necessarily speculative:

A growing number of scientists are becoming highly critical of various

aspects of the neodarwinian theory of evolution and it seems certain

that currently accepted beliefs regarding the mechanism, rate and

sequence of evolution will change substantially in the next few years.

It is not clear to what extent, if any, empirical (experimental)

evidence can replace mere speculation and scenario. In his foreword to

the Dutton centennial edition of Darwin's Origin of Species, the

distinguished biologist W.R. Thompson concluded:

"A long-enduring and regrettable effect of the success of the Origin of

Species was the addiction of biologists to unverifiable speculation."1

In a sobering introduction to a published symposium dealing with the

evolution of the cell, Roger Stanier warned:

"Evolutionary speculation constitutes a kind of metascience, which has

the same intellectual fascination for some biologists that metaphysical

speculation possessed for medieval scholastics. It can be considered a

relatively harmless habit, like eating peanuts, unless it assumes the

form of an obsession."2

It behooves the teacher to fairly distinguish fact from speculation in

any discussion of evolution as this will not always be obvious to the

student. Even the term "theory" ought to be strictly limited to those

hypotheses which are subject to the scientific method and thus are

capable of being disproven by a critical experiment.

The improbability of origin by chance:

Most people intuitively sense that the origin of life by means of

chance and the intrinsic properties of matter and energy is extremely

unlikely. It is quite easy, using elementary mathematics, to calculate

the probability for the chance assembly of a SINGLE copy of any

particular biologically useful protein, yet even this trivial but

necessary step in the evolution of life is an extremely unlikely event.

Such calculations show that there is simply not enough time and matter

in the known universe to reasonably expect to achieve the ordered

assembly of any ONE particular protein of average size by chance alone!

The origin of man by chance and natural selection is incalculable and

totally outside the realm of empirical science, but this comment by

Dr. Murry Eden, Professor of Engineering at MIT, gives us a sense of

magnitude of the problem:

"The chance of emergence of man is like the probability of typing at

random a meaningful library of one thousand volumes using the following

procedure: Begin with a meaningful phrase, retype it with a few

mistakes, make it longer by adding (random) letters; then examine the

result to see if the new phrase is meaningful. Repeat this process

until the library is complete."3

It would be an instructive class room exercise to calculate the

probability of the chance assembly of a short sentence using the 26

letters of the alphabet plus a space. Is the probability problem

overcome by invoking tens of billions of years and billions of

earth-like planets? What happens to complex machines if we attempt to

improve them by randomly changing their parts?

Evolution cannot be observed:

A basic requirement of empirical science is that the object or

phenomenon to be studied must be observable and repeatable, yet no one

has actually witnessed the evolution of a fundamentally new organism of

a higher taxonomic group .

There may be considerable variation among the

individuals of a species, such as the nearly 150 varieties of dogs,

but this simply is the result of selection among the alleles in the

existing gene pool of the species. This process is strictly limited and

has no known relation to "macroevolution". Mutations, on the other

hand, may cause a new arrangement in a gene but this is vastly more

likely to harm an organism than improve it. Dr. H.J. Muller, who won

the Nobel Prize for his work on mutations puts it this way:

"It is entirely in line with the accidental nature of mutations that

extensive tests have agreed in showing the vast majority of them

detrimental to the organism in its job of surviving and reproducing ---

good ones are so rare we can consider them all bad."4

Most current science and biology text books mention "industrial

melanism" in the peppered moth as an example of "visible evolution" by

means of natural selection. This example provides an ideal opportunity

to discuss the genetic basis of variation and to explore its putative

relationship to "macroevolution."

There are many interesting subjects that might

be discussed in the class room on the known effects of

mutations on living organisms. Interestingly, virtually every living

organism known has a highly complex mutation repair system that

actually cuts mutations out of the gene and patches them with a correct

sequence of DNA!

It seems obvious that life as we know it would be

impossible without such a gene repair mechanism. An example of what

happens when this repair system fails to work may be seen in the fatal

human disease xeroderma pigmentosum. We know that mutations can cause

cancer but can they produce a healthier and better adapted organism?

Evolution seems incompatible with the second law of thermodynamics:

Perhaps the reason that there is so little compelling scientific

evidence in support of evolution is that it appears to contradict one

of the most fundamental laws of nature - the second law of


This law says what is intuitively obvious to most

people, that all real processes tend toward a condition of greater

probability and disorder. Thus a house is more likely to spontaneously

disassemble over a period of a thousand years than it is to assemble

itself into an even more complex and more highly organized structure.

Order can be achieved out of disorder, but it requires information,

programs, energy and machines. Energy from the sun can help to

transform an acorn into an oak tree but it requires the indescribably

complex biological machinery and information in the living cells of the

acorn to do it. Dead oak trees are destroyed by the same energy from

the sun. Speaking of evolution, Julian Huxley said:

"Nowhere in all its vast extent is there any trace of purpose, or even a

prospective significance. It is impelled from behind by blind physical

forces, a gigantic and chaotic jazz dance of particles and radiations,

in which the only over-all tendency we have so far been able to detect

is that summarized by the second law of thermodynamics -- the tendency

to run down."5

Lord Kelvin, the discoverer of the second law of thermodynamics, was

quite aware of the incompatibility of Darwinian evolution and the

second law:

"The only contribution of dynamics to theoretical biology is absolute

negation of automatic commencement or automatic maintenance of life."6

A class discussion of what is required to produce order and complexity,

in an informational sense, out of disorder could be stimulating and

useful. Is energy and an "open system" all that is necessary to produce

order out of chaos as evolutionist suggest? What about snow flakes and

crystals? Is the second law compatible with evolution? - defend your


Fossil evidence for evolution:

The fossil record provides the only unambiguous evidence of prehistoric

life on earth and thus is the only evidence that could show if one

organism gradually transformed into another through a sequence of

intermediate forms.

Darwin was well aware that the fossil record did

not, in fact, show the intermediate forms his theory required but he

attributed this to the incompleteness of the fossil evidence at his

time and earnestly hoped that it would in time support his theory.

Paleontologist Dr. David Raup of the Field Museum of Natural History in

Chicago points out that Darwin's hopes have not been fulfilled:

"Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the

fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a

million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much ... We

have fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's

time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change

in the fossil record such as the evolution of the horse in North

America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more

detailed information."7

Evolutionists are becoming increasingly blunt about the failure of the

fossil record to document evolutionary transformation:

"The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic

evolution accomplishing a major morphologic transition..."8

Not only are the higher taxonomic groups separated by vast unbridged

gaps, but gaps are also the rule at the level of the species:

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists

as the trade secret of paleontology.... In any local area, a species

does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors;

it appears all at once and fully formed."9

The popular Harvard author and evolutionist Steven J. Gould raises the

provocative question of just what good partially developed organs

might do for a hypothetical transitional organism:

"Can we invent a reasonable sequence of intermediate forms, that is,

viable, functioning organisms, between ancestors and descendents? Of

what possible use are the imperfect incipient stages of useful

structures? What good is half a jaw or half a wing?"10

The lack of transitional forms in the fossil record has led many

evolutionists to virtually abandon fossils as evidence for evolutionary


Still others invoke an ad hoc hypothesis (punctuated

equilibrium) which attempts to account for the missing evidence by

arguing that the animals which appear as fossils represent highly

stable organisms which remained unchanged for vast periods of time,

while the evolutionary transformations occurred so quickly that no

fossil record was preserved!

In an effort to deal with the fossil record,

many taxonomists are now adopting a "cladistic" approach to the

classification of animals and plants which entirely ignores presumed

evolutionary relationships.

Some very distinguished evolutionists are denying

that there is ANY evidence for common ancestry at all! In a

recent address at the American Museum of Natural History in New York

City, Dr. Colin Patterson, paleontologist at the British Museum and

author of the book Evolution, told a distinguished gathering of


"The explanatory value of the hypothesis of common ancestry is nil...I

feel that the effects of the hypotheses of common ancestry in

systematics has not been merely boring, not just a lack of knowledge, I

think it has been positively anti-knowledge...Well, we're back to the

question I've been putting to people, 'Is there one thing you can tell

me about evolution?,' The absence of answers seems to suggest that it

is true, evolution does not convey any knowledge or if so, I haven't

yet heard it."11

Even the much touted sequence of lower to higher organisms in the

geological column is far less convincing than the geology and biology

text books would have us believe. In nearly every mountainous region on

earth there are numerous examples of "old" strata (bearing fossils of

more primitive organisms) resting on top of "young" strata (bearing

fossils of higher organisms).

This is typically explained away by over thrusting

of strata but often, the only geological evidence for this is

"out of order" fossils according to the evolutionary interpretation of

origins. The circular reasoning implicit in our interpretation and

dating of the geological column has not gone unnoticed by geologists

and evolutionists:

"I regard the failure to find a clear 'vector of progress' in life's

history as the most puzzling fact of the fossil record...we have sought

to impose a pattern that we hoped to find on a world that does not

really display it."12

"A circular argument arises: Interpret the fossil record in the terms

of a particular theory of evolution, inspect the interpretation, and

note that it confirms the theory. Well it would, wouldn't it?"13

It would be an excellent class room exercise to critically evaluate

what we might expect the fossil record to look like if life evolved by

random changes and natural selection and then to determine if it does

indeed look that way?

Are there transitional forms in the fossil record,

for example, showing the unambiguous evolution of invertebrates

into vertebrates (the process is said to have taken over one hundred

million years)? Are fossils being produced today? What conditions are

necessary for the production of fossils and how long does it take? Can

we give ANY example of a known transitional form - what is our


The recapitulation myth:

At one time the development of the embryo was thought to provide an

abbreviated view of the evolutionary history of the organism. This

idea, first proposed by Ernst Haeckel and supported with obviously

falsified data, has remained a persistent "law" of evolution despite

having been shown to be false for over 100 years! It is this so called

"biogenetic law" that is the basis of the oft repeated text book

example of "gill slits" in mammalian embryos which presumably are

supposed to tell us something about our aquatic ancestors.

It is a well known fact that there are

NO gills or slits in the pharyngeal region of

ANY mammalian embryo yet this myth still continues to appear in science

text books and films. Even a recent museum guide from the American

Museum of Natural History in New York still considers embryological

recapitulation "evidence" for evolution. This is strange indeed as

evolutionists seem to be quite aware of this false interpretation of


"This interpretation of embryological sequences will not stand close

examination. It's shortcomings have been almost universally pointed

out by modern authors, but the idea still has a prominent place in

biological mythology."14

Out of 15 high school text books being considered for adoption by the

Indiana State Board of Education in 1980, 9 offered embryological

recapitulation as evidence for evolution and 2 specifically mentioned

"gill slits." It would be an interesting class room exercise to discuss

why recapitulation continues to be presented as evidence for evolution

when it has been known to be untrue for over 100 years.

Another example of a known interpretational error that keeps coming up

in science text books is the "vestigial" organ. According to this

concept, certain organs of our body are remnants of our primitive

ancestors and are no longer useful. What about the oft mentioned

"vestigial" organs of our body such as the appendix and "tail bone,"

are these really left over and largely useless organs of our primitive


At one time virtually all of the endocrine and lymphoid

organs (like the appendix) were thought to be useless vestiges from our

ancestors. How could we tell an organ is vestigial assuming they exist?

Are the male mammary glands vestigial? Does it make any difference what

your surgeon thinks about vestigial organs?

Is the similarity of biological structures evidence of common


For years, evolutionists have argued that the similarities of various

body parts between organisms of different classes is evidence for

common evolutionary descent. The forelimbs and fingers of bats and

birds are clearly homologous though distinctly different in detail.

While this observation is certainly consistent with evolution it hardly

proves it. Our left hand is obviously homologous to our right hand but

does this tell us something about its evolution? There is evidence that

homologous organs and structures are often completely unrelated


"It is now clear that the pride with which it was assumed that the

inheritance of homologous structures from a common ancestor explained

homology was misplaced."13

Since fossils are now falling out of favor as evidence for common

ancestry, a new field of "molecular evolution" is emerging which

compares the molecular similarity of homologous proteins in various


In this way it is assumed that not only ancestry but even the

time of divergence can be numerically assessed. But problems are

emerging here as well. It is indeed true that organisms that live in

similar ecological niches and eat similar diets do share considerable

common chemistry, but does this tell us something about evolution or

required chemistry?

Even more important is the fact that molecular

homologies are often in total disagreement with evolutionary sequences

based on the fossil record. On the basis of the protein insulin, for

example, humans and pigs are very closely "related" but on the basis of

the protein calcitonin, man is distantly related to the pig but closely

related to the salmon! No wonder the microbiologist Michael Denton

said in his recent book, Evolution: a Theory in Crisis:

"The really significant finding that comes to light from comparing the

proteins' amino acid sequences is that it is impossible to arrange

them in any sort of an evolutionary series."16

As for determining the relative date that two organisms diverged on the

phylogenetic tree by molecular difference or "distance", the situation

appears to be no better. James Farris, who was a principle developer of

this technology, has concluded that the use of molecular distance data

in phylogenetic analysis is very questionable:

"It seems that the only general conclusion one can draw is that nothing

about present techniques for analyzing molecular distance data is

satisfactory...None of the known measures of genetic distance seems

able to provide a logically defensible method..."17



One of the most disturbing criticisms of the proposed approach to

teaching evolution has come from teachers who claim that students

don't want to critically examine anything, they just want to know the

"facts" for the exam.

The critical approach, some say, will only confuse

and frustrate the student and perhaps even lead him to conclude

that the evidence for the evolution of man from an expanding cloud of

hydrogen gas is really not all that good. If any of this is true, then

it only serves to emphasize that a critical and investigative approach

to learning is long overdue. In fact, teachers who have used this

approach in the class room find that it makes the potentially dull

subject of evolution much more exciting and interesting.

As for the possibility of students

loosing their faith in evolution, it may

comfort some to know that most scientists still accept the evolutionary

explanation of our origins despite the lack of empirical evidence.

There are often reasons for believing what we believe which transcend

the empirical evidence as is evident in this comment:

"Evolution is a theory universally accepted not because it can be

proved to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation,

is clearly incredible."18

Whether we are philosophically biased toward evolution or creation, we

must not compromise the facts of science or the scientific method, to

accommodate the beliefs of any individual.

Some have expressed fear that it may be illegal to even criticize

evolution in scientific terms. As outrageous as this sounds, there may

be some basis for this fear.

It is conceivable that the ACLU, and perhaps

others, might challenge the scientific criticism of evolution

in the science class room should they choose to perceive religious

motives behind such criticism. No court, however, has thus far

prohibited voluntary instruction concerning purely scientific evidence

merely because it "happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of

some or all religions." (McGowan, 366 U.S. at 442, 81 S.Ct. at 113;

Crowley, 636 F.2d at 742)

Finally, some have argued that if we were to critically examine the

evidence for every thing we teach in science, we would never get

through the text book.

Given the "information explosion" in science this

is no doubt true, none the less, at least one instance of critical

inquiry seems a highly desirable educational experience. Perhaps we

teach too much codified information and have failed to teach students

how to think on their own and critically evaluate evidence. If we were

to pick one topic to critically examine, we could do no better than the

subject of evolution for all of the reasons sighted above, but most of

all, this subject has more profound implications than anything else we

teach in school.

How we view our origins affects our entire world view;

where we came from, why we are here, where we are going, and the

purpose of life. If we can't take the time and effort to deal with the

subject of our origin in a critical way, perhaps it would be best not

to deal with it at all.



1. Thompson, W.R. Foreword to The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

(Dutton, N.Y.) 1965.

2. Stanier, Roger Y. Symposium of the Society for General Microbiology

20:1-38, 1970.

3. Moorhead & Kaplan, eds. Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian

Interpretaion of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, Philadelphia) 1965

4. Muller, H.J. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 11:331, 1946.

5. Huxley, Julien. Evolution in Action (New American Library, N.Y.) p.

11-12, 1953.

6. Kelvin. "On the sun's heat" In popular lectures and Addresses

(Macmillian, London) p. 415, 1889.

7. Raup, David M. "Conflicts between Darwin and Paleontology" Field Museum

of Natural History Bulletin. 50:22-29 January 1979.

8. Raup, David M. "Probabilistic Models in Evolutionary Biology" American

Scientist 166:57 January/February 1977.

9. Gould, Stephen J. "Evolutions erratic pace" Natural History 86:12-16 May


10. Gould, S.J.

11. Patterson, Colin, from transcript of speach at the American Museum of

Natural History, New York City on November 5, 1981.

12. Gould, Stephen J. "The ediacaran experiment" Natural History 93:23,

February 1984.

13. Kemp, Tom. "A fresh look at the fossil record," New Scientist 108:66,

December 5, 1985.

14. Ehrlich, Paul and R. Holm. The Process of Evolution p.66, 1963.

15. de Beer, Sir Gavin. Homology, an Unsolved Problem (Oxford University

Press, London) p. 15, 1971.

16. Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Burnett Books, London) p.

289, 1985.

17. Farris, James S.. "Distance data in phylogenetic analysis" in Advances in

Cladistics Funk & Brooks eds. (The N.Y. Botanical Gardens) p. 3-23, 1981

18. Watson, D.M.S. Nature 123:233, 1929.

Index - Evolution or Creation

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