Keith Blanchard is not a biologist. He’s not a scientist of any kind as far as I can tell. So when he begins explaining details about evolution I feel like we’re at least on the same level. In an article posted August 4th, 2014 on ‘The Week’ entitled “Why You Should Stop Believing in Evolution”, Keith takes on the task of explaining to us how “belief” is the wrong word to apply to evolution. As he explains, “that’s like asking, ‘do you believe in ‘blue’.” Only problem is, the evolution that Mr. Blanchard thinks he’s describing in his article isn’t the type of evolution that he… believes in.
Mr. Blanchard begins by laying all his cards out on the table…
“Humanity, after all, is but one ugly branch on the big tree of life. Go back far enough, and you’ll find an ancestor common to you and to every creature on Earth. You are related to your cat… you are related to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and to the mosquito you just murdered, and to your houseplants.”
Some in the science community have recognized the extreme improbability1 of life as we know it all originating from one single-celled organism. Due to this, some have postulated that random mutation must have occurred in multiple places at multiple times. Because just like with time, if you just add more, then anything is possible, right? Anyway, what he’s describing here is what has become popularly known as ‘macro-evolution’, or General Theory of Evolution.2 It’s the theory (an evolutionary scientist’s word, not mine) that “all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.“ Jumping species is totally cool with this theory.
Mr. Blanchard goes on to claim the truth of evolution is “easily demonstrated”. He claims that Pangea and a single dinosaur bone are proofs of it. He even does the hard work of explaining how it is that life goes from a houseplant to a mosquito to a cat to a dinosaur to human beings…
Here are the rules, in a nutshell:
• Genes, stored in every cell, are the body’s blueprints; they code for traits like eye color, disease susceptibility, and a bazillion other things that make you you.
• Reproduction involves copying and recombining these blueprints, which is complicated, and errors happen.
• Errors are passed along in the code to future generations, the way a smudge on a photocopy will exist on all subsequent copies.
• This modified code can (but doesn’t always) produce new traits in successive generations: an extra finger, sickle-celled blood, increased tolerance for Miley Cyrus shenanigans.
• When these new traits are advantageous (longer legs in gazelles), organisms survive and replicate at a higher rate than average, and when disadvantageous (brittle skulls in woodpeckers), they survive and replicate at a lower rate.
So now I have a pretty basic idea of how brittle-skulled woodpeckers become long-legged gazelles. Right? Not quite. You see, what Mr. Blanchard has done here is describe a process commonly known as ‘micro-evolution’, or Special Theory of Evolution (ibid, Kerkut). Practically all people subscribe to this type of evolution, as it is observable (testable) over time. At the onset of Mr. Blanchard’s article he stated that I am related to a dinosaur, a cat, even my houseplants. Yet here, and for the rest of his piece, he simply describes how strawberries become bigger strawberries, or how dogs are bred to produce other dogs for a specific purpose. At this point it should be clear that the evolution that Mr. Blanchard takes to be fact, is not the type of evolution he believes he’s describing.
To continue building on this foundation of sand, even the word “species” is troublesome…
“The very notion of “species” is even a little misleading — a discrete-sounding artifice created for the convenience of people who live about a hundred years. If you had eyes to see the big picture, and could watch life change on a geological time frame, you’d see constant gradual change, as generations adapt to circumstance.”
Hmmmm… Now again, I’m no scientist, so I say this with caution, but perhaps it is the case that this notion of “species” is tied to some significant and intrinsic biological difference between things that are actually different and not something we pesky humans just labeled because, well, we don’t live very long. His appeal to “geological time frame” vision gave me a chuckle. Did he obtain that ability through a radioactive spider bite? The fact is he’s limited by the same eyes that all of us have. Eyes that do not and have not ever witnessed inter-species evolution, but have only postulated it based on small changes within species. You know, like how a moth on one island might find it advantageous to blend in with certain surroundings but a moth on another island would need to blend in with different surroundings. That moth didn’t evolve into a Rottweiler then back to a different colored moth. It’s a moth. Always has been, always will be.
Finally, Mr. Blanchard would be derelict in his duties without calling for “people of faith” to abandon foundational tenets of their faith in favor of the “fact” of macro-evolution…
“Reconciling is easy: Believe, if you want to, that God set up the rules of evolution among His wonders, along with the laws of physics, and probability, and everything else we can see and measure for ourselves. But don’t deny evolution itself, or gravity, or the roundness of Earth…”
There are a couple of problems here; the first one is the not-so-easily-swept-under-the-rug fact that every major religion establishes man as a unique creation by God separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, not a product of gradual changes to the animal kingdom. Besides that, did you notice what else he did here? He puts evolution, and here he means macro-evolution, on equal ground with gravity and the shape of the earth. So he believes that things we can observe, test and repeat are of equal consideration with the notion that one species literally becomes another species. Forget about being testable and repeatable. Forget about the unprovable notion of abiogenesis.3 Show me one time where we have observed a species evolve into an entirely different species. Perhaps Norman Geisler and Frank Turek got it right in their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
If you’re interested in a seriously thorough look at whether evolution is a fact of science, give this article by Bert Thompson, Ph.D., a read.
1 “The Mathematical Impossibility of Evolution”, Henry Morris, Ph.D., Institute for Creation Research, http://icr.org/article/493/
2 “The Implications of Evolution”, G.A. Kerkut, 1960, p. 157
3 “The Law of Biogenesis [Part 1]”, Jeff Miller, Ph.D., Apologetics Press, http://tinyurl.com/ldz6uex