A Major Blow to Evolution

In "The Emperor's New Clothes" the deceivers' spell is broken by a simple child's cry. In science, evolution's spell could be broken by some simple youth textbooks-new biology books in Texas that expose evolution's inability to explain the complexity of the cell. The texts were written to new standards that were adopted in March 2009. Science, immediately grasping their significance, reported "New science standards for Texas schools strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution."

Charles Darwin did not even know the cell needed an explanation; it went unmentioned in The Origin of Species. As details of the cell's complexity became known, one would have intuitively thought that scientists would have reconsidered Darwin's hypothesis. How could natural selection, evolution's main mechanism, have created such gargantuan complexity? Instead, already confident in the certainty of evolution they look for bits and pieces of cell biology for confirming evidence. Thus, they miss the big picture and do not seem to realize they offer no explanations for the origin and development of the cell's organelles, biochemical pathways and complex molecules.

Science tests explanations-classically, with controlled experiments, and historically, by collecting evidence that supports or rejects predictions. Genetics is an excellent example of classical testability. Gregor Mendel, in 1865 after growing 29,000 pea plants, empirically deduced the basic laws of inheritance-becoming the father of genetics. And as a result, almost nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of genetics. Continental drift is an excellent example of historical testability. The obvious fit of the coastlines of Africa and South America with similar corresponding geologic formations, along with the eventual discovery of the Mid Atlantic Ridge and sea-floor spreading make a convincing argument. Likewise, evolution is tested historically; thus, evolutionists need to present convincing evidence.

What must the evidence explain? In 1998, Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, gives us a good idea as he described the cell as a collection of protein machines.

"…the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines… Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like the machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts."

We will evaluate the evidence provided in one of the new textbooks. The author is Kenneth Miller, a prominent evolutionist who served as the plaintiff's lead expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Intelligent Design trial. Science, in June 2009, reported his prediction that "The new Texas standards leave plenty of room for the authors to explain the robustness of evolutionary theory…." Therefore, Miller's explanations provide a fair sample to test evolutionary evidence concerning the cell.

What evidence does Miller present? In seven pages, he cites only two specific facts: (1) a single cell organism engulfs an alga that then acquires the photosynthetic ability of the alga, and (2) two distinct classes of bacteria share some similar enzymes. Would finding a radio in an automobile and finding identical bolts and nuts in a lawnmower and a scuba tank explain their complexity? And, they can't even reproduce.

Miller also explains that scientists have discovered that: (1) several cell organelles have their own DNA, (2) special molecules are vital in protein synthesis, (3) some biochemical pathways may have "borrowed" proteins from another pathway, (4) a bacterium adapts to a new food source-man-made nylon, and (5) "borrowed" proteins might have been used to form a new protein machine. That's it for the evidence he cites to test the evolutionary hypothesis.

His predicted "robust" explanations have failed science's requirements for historical testability; the evidence is simply insufficient. This is not a surprise; it was expected. In that June 2009 Science article, I also made a prediction: "The explanations offered [in the texts] will be so weak that students who are skeptical of evolution will see the weaknesses for themselves."

Even evolutionists should find this analysis useful. In an interview in 2009, Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, stated "professional evolutionists don't seem to know what the supporting evidence is: many of them just take it on faith, that is, on the authority of their forerunners." Maybe we should have less faith and more evidence.

This issue is even bigger than evolution; scientific integrity itself is at stake. If, for example, evolution has trouble explaining the origin of a cell nucleus or protein machines, scientists should say so. Texas students, understanding that science demands testability, can now use the evidence presented and test evolution's explanations for themselves. This is the way science operates. Actually, those 2009 standards did not "strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution;" they restored its integrity.