In touting his creationist book "In the Beginning," Walter Brown has uploaded a list of "20 Questions for Evolutionists" onto the net. The objective is clear: ask questions for which there may be no answers in order to attack evolution be discrediting science. The basic premise is that if any information is unknown, then what is known is incorrect. Most of the questions are not relevant to the basic issue: Did present day living things evolve from primitive ancestors?
For more detailed background information on creationist claims, click on Lenny Flank web page.
The following is a list of Brown's 20 questions and my response.
1. Where has macro evolution ever been observed? What's the mechanism for getting new complexity such as new vital organs? How, for example, could a caterpillar evolve into a butterfly?
Changes in class or order require much too long a time to have been observed and recorded in historical times. Why can't a series of small changes (so-called microevolution) over a long period of time result in a large change? (so-called macroevolution) What would make a series of microevolution changes stop before reaching the stage of macroevolution? The only response creationists can give to these questions is that they don't believe the earth is older than a few thousand years. However, this opinion is refuted by the evidence, which shows that life started about 600 million years ago. I don't know how a caterpillar evolves into a butterfly, but the fact remains that it does.
2. Where are the billions of transitional fossils that should be there if your theory is right? Billions! Not a handful of questionable transitions. Why don't we see a reasonably smooth continuum among all living creatures, or in the fossil record, or both?
There is no basis in fact for the claim that there should be billions of transitional fossils. Fossilization is an extremely rare event. Most fossils are still in place, embedded in to earth's crust and inaccessible. Also, some creatures are more likely to be fossilized than others. The statement that there is only a handful of questionable transitions is another gross exaggeration. Thousands of fossils have been discovered, and we do see a reasonably smooth continuum in the fossil record for some species where sufficient fossils have been found. In other cases where the fossil record is incomplete, it is not possible to demonstrate a smooth transition. Creationists would have us believe that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The argument that we should see a smooth continuum for all species doesn't wash.
3. Who are the evolutionary ancestors of the insects? The evolutionary tree that's in the textbook: where's its trunk and where are its branches?
This is another variation of the creationist argument that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The fact that that information may not be known does not in any way discredit the information that is known.
4. What evidence is there that information, such as that in DNA, could ever assemble itself? What about the 4000 books of coded information that are in a tiny part of each of your 100 trillion cells? If astronomers received an intelligent radio signal from some distant galaxy, most people would conclude that it came from an intelligent source. Why then doesn't the vast information sequence in the DNA molecule of just a bacteria also imply an intelligent source?
The basic premise of evolution is only that present day species have evolved from primitive ancestors. Evolution does not require, repeat, does not require that this had to occur by chance. There is nothing in evolution that rejects the possibility that God created all life. This point has been made over and over again, yet is always ignored by creationists. Why? Because they can only conceive of two possibilities: "Godless" evolution or creation in strict accordance with the Biblical Book of Genesis.
5. How could organs as complicated as the eye or the ear or the brain of even a tiny bird ever come about by chance or natural processes? how could a bacterial motor evolve?
See answer to (4) above.
6. If the solar system evolved, why do three planets spin backwards? Why do at least 6 moons revolve backwards?The assumption is made that if the solar system was formed by the coalescing of planetesimals, then it would not be possible for some planets to rotate backwards and some moons to revolve backwards. This assumption is completely wrong. If the solar system planets were formed by the coalescing of planetesimals, then the early stages would have to be characterized by catastrophic collisions of proto planets. For example, the moon is thought to have been formed from debris ejected when a Mars-sized object collided with the earth. Collisions of this magnitude could result in some planets rotating in an opposite direction. There is no evidence whatever that this could not have happened.
At least 6 moons revolve backwards around the larger planets. More than likely they are captured asteroids, and the direction of revolution would depend on which side of the planet was approached by the asteroid when it was captured into orbit. Three planets rotate backwards: Venus, Uranus, and Pluto. The rotation period of Venus is almost the same as its period of revolution around the sun. The axis of Uranus is tilted 98 degrees; if it were not tilted to more than 90 degrees, it would not be rotating backwards. Pluto's axis is tilted 120 degrees! It is possible that Pluto may have once been a moon of Neptune.
7. Why do we have comets if the solar system is billions of years old?
The Oort cloud theory is a reasonable explanation. The cloud of dust (Oort cloud) is occasionally perturbed by a passing star, dislodging material which then orbits the sun as a comet in an extremely long elliptical period.
8. Where did all the helium go?
Gas molecules at any given temperature have the same kinetic energy of translational movement. If vibrational and rotational movement of the molecule takes place, additional energy is allocated to account for that movement; monatomic molecules like helium do not exhibit rotational and/or vibrational movement. This can only occur in the case of polyatomic molecules. This means that heavier molecules, move more slowly than lighter molecules. (formula E = 1/2MV2, where M is the mass and V is the velocity). Helium is a very light atom; the ratio of the average of the weights of oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air to the weight of the helium atom is 29/4 = 7.25. Therefore the ratio of the velocity of the helium atom to the average velocity of the air atoms is approximately equal to the square root of 7.25, or 2.7 times as fast. Because of its higher velocity, helium can escape from the earth's gravitational field much more readily than oxygen or nitrogen.
9. How did sexual reproduction evolve?
The question implies that sexual reproduction could not have evolved through evolutionary change. This assumption is not supported by any factual evidence.
10. If the big bang occurred, where did all the information around us and in us come from? Has an explosion ever produced order? Or as Sir Isaac Newton said, "Who wound up the clock?"
Here again, Brown assumes that evolution requires creation by mere chance. This is not so: it does not, repeat, does not require creation by mere chance. Whether by chance or by God's will, the factual evidence supporting evolution remains the same.
11. Why do so many of the earth's ancient cultures have flood legends?
Because they experienced catastrophic floods. This does not support the concept of a universal world-wide flood.
12. Where did matter come from? What about space, time, energy, and even the laws of physics?
Science does not deal with matters of ultimate origins. This question is completely irrelevant with respect to the evidence supporting evolution.
13. How did the first living cell begin? That's a greater miracle than for a bacteria to evolve to a man. How did that first cell reproduce?
Evolution means only, repeat only, that present day species evolved from primitive ancestors. There is nothing in evolution that rules out creation by God. Evolution only disputes the dogma that creation occurred as described in the Book of Genesis. Even creationists have to admit that at some time in the past the first cell was formed. Just how it was formed may an interesting subject to debate, but it doesn't change the fact that the cell was formed, and it doesn't affect the evidence supporting evolutionary change. So the question is not how did the first cell begin, but rather, did it evolve?
14. Just before life appeared, did the atmosphere have oxygen or did it not have oxygen?
It is believed that it did not have significant oxygen, and the oxygen now present in the atmosphere was formed through photosynthesis by plant life in the oceans.
15. Why aren't meteorites found in supposedly old rocks?
Meteorites imbedded in rock strata are hidden from view. Meteorites found on the ground are not. Of course much rock has been "recycled" into igneous and metamorphic strata. That would destroy any meteorites present.
16. If it takes intelligence to make an arrowhead, why doesn't it take vastly more intelligence to create a human? Do you really believe that hydrogen will turn into people if you wait long enough?
Here we go again! Please refer to answers number 4, 5, 9, 10, and 13. Do you really believe that dirt can be transformed into the first man?
17. Which came first, DNA or the proteins needed by DNA-which can only be produced by DNA?
I don't know. But evolution does not require an answer to the question, since evolution starts with the first single celled organism. Just how that organism came into existence does not affect the evidence that it did evolve into higher forms of life.
18. Can you name one reasonable hypothesis on how the moon got there-any hypothesis that is consistent with all the data? Why aren't students told the scientific reasons for rejecting all the evolutionary theories for the moon's origin?
Science can only deal with whatever factual evidence is available. At times the evidence is not sufficient to formulate a clear-cut theory. In cases like these a number of different theories may be debated in scientific circles. The above question is distorting a lack of complete unanimity into the implication that there is no reasonable hypothesis among scientists, and therefore all "evolutionary theories" should be rejected in favor of the creationist model.
19. Why won't qualified evolutionists enter into a written, scientific debate?
They do so constantly. Check out talk.origins newsgroup, Fidonet
evolution, skeptic, and controversial conferences. Also Intelec issues
and debate conference. Check out the following web pages:
20. Would you like to explain the origin of any of the following twenty-one features of the earth: [list of: Grand Canyon, mid-oceanic ridge, continental shelf, ocean trenches, seamounts, earthquakes, magnetic variations on ocean floor, submarine canyons, coal and oil formations, glaciers, frozen mammoths, major mountain ranges, overthrusts, volcanoes and lava, geothermal heat, metamorphic rock, strata, plateaus, salt domes, jigsaw fit of continents, and fossil graveyards] If so, I will point some obvious problems with your explanation and refer you to 77 pages that explain them all as a result of a global flood.
OK, let's select the Grand Canyon. Length: 280 miles; average width: 9 miles; Depth: 1 mile; number of solid rock strata: 12. These strata extend for thousands of square miles in the same sequence of solid rock formations and are continuous with the Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon systems. These systems contain additional rock strata deposited in the mesozoic era in a consistent series. The strata in the Grand Canyon system are limited to the previous era, the Paleozoic era. Some strata, like the Coconino Sandstone, were formed on dry land, as indicated by the fossil content. Other strata, like the Redwall Limestone, were formed by ocean deposition. The canyon was formed by the disintegration of the walls by weathering, carrying the weathered rock down to the Colorado River, which acted as a "conveyor belt," carrying the weathered material into the Gulf of California, where it was deposited in reverse order: material from the lowest rock strata is on top, the material from the highest rock strata is on the bottom of the delta deposit. This process probably required hundreds of thousands of years.
The creationist model for the Grand Canyon system is that all of the various layers of solid rock, and the canyon itself, were formed in a one-year period of catastrophic events. The creationist model of origins postulates that all geological formations were formed as the result of a series of catastrophic events during the one-period of the Genesis flood.