Evolution's Weaknesses Exposed

In March 2009, the focus of the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution was on Texas as the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science standards that challenge evolution. The new standards require evolutionists to provide scientific explanations for what other scientists say are glaring weaknesses in the theory. The adoption of these new standards was seen as a significant victory for the evolution skeptics; Science (Bhattacharjee 25) reported "New science standards for Texas schools strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution.…"

In a second story, two months later, Science (Bhattacharjee 1385) reported prominent evolutionist and textbook author Kenneth Miller's confident prediction that the new standards "would leave plenty of room for the authors to explain the robustness of evolutionary theory."  The story also reported my prediction that "The explanations offered [in the new texts] will be so weak that the students who are skeptical of evolution will see the weaknesses for themselves."  The new texts have been written; my prediction has come true: Evolution's explanatory "robustness" has been found wanting.

One of the key new standards challenges the textbook authors to provide evolutionary explanations concerning the complexity of the cell. Here is an analysis of Miller's explanation for this complexity as presented in his new text. He approaches this challenge by first asking "Is the living cell simple or complex?"  Interestingly, instead of a direct answer, his immediate response is "Cells vary in complexity."  He eventually seems to admit they are not simple as he states "… all living cells are complex in their own way."  He next downplays the cell's complexity by describing how scientists can make a "new organism" in a very sophisticated modern laboratory.  In truth, this illustration actually seems to be a better example for an "intelligently designed" organism.  It is also noteworthy that he seems to endorse Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity" as he points out that the scientists' success depends "upon having all of the working parts of a living cell ready to receive the new DNA molecule they had made in the lab."

After this introduction, Miller proceeds to take on the main challenge required by the standard, which is to answer the next question he raises "How did cellular complexity come about?"  He first correctly observes that the main evidence for evolution overall-the fossil record-provides "few clues."  He then makes his case by presenting evidence in a discussion including "Endosymbiosis," "Ribosomes," "The Krebs Cycle," and "Flagella and Cilia."

Miller begins with "Endosymbiosis." This is the idea that eukaryotic cells (with a nucleus) formed from the symbiotic relationships of prokaryotes (no nucleus)-where one prokaryote swallows another. Significantly, he does not address and is silent about the origin of the complexity of the original prokaryotes.  He also gives no hint as to how an ingested prokaryote can change into a cell nucleus. Like a magician, he just waves a magic wand of words, presents a simple illustration and apparently hopes the students do not see he has only provided a weak explanation for the origin of the eukaryotic cell.

In discussing "Ribosomes"-some of the most complex organelles in a cell and absolutely necessary for every protein now created-Miller does admit that their origin "has long been a mystery."  He states "Thus, it seems likely that the earliest cells may have produced proteins using RNA alone.  Over time, ribosomal proteins were added gradually to these protein-producing rRNAs in a way to stabilize the structure, increasing both the efficiency and complexity of the process."  Amazingly, after this sleight of hand of gradually adding proteins with no explanation, he dogmatically states "Therefore, the complexity of today's ribosome is the result of an evolutionary process that started with simple rRNA molecules."  This is another weak explanation.

In discussing the "The Krebs Cycle"-the second stage in cellular respiration, Miller asks "How can such a complex biochemical system have arisen?"  His answer?-they were simply "'borrowed' from other pathways in the cells."  Yet again, he is silent about the origin of the complexity of these original pathways or how they were borrowed or added.  Still, he confidently boasts "…the Krebs cycle was built through 'processes of evolution by molecular tinkering,' using existing genes and proteins to produce a complex new biochemical pathway."  And once again, the magic of words offers only a weak explanation.

Miller concludes his evolutionary explanations for the complexity of the cell with a discussion of "Flagella and Cilia."  Once again, like a magician with a magic wand of words he argues that they were built from substances already present in the cell, and also again, he uses the word "borrowed" to explain the flagellum.  He is silent on how the complexity came to exist in the original "borrowed" components.  This final explanation ends up as weak as all the others.

Miller has now completed his treatment of evolutionary explanations for the complexity of the cell; it seems that all he has done is shine light on the weakness of evolution to explain complexity. Thus, Science was correct in 2009 when it reported that "New science standards for Texas schools strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution." The new standards have challenged the evolutionists to give us their best; their best is incredibly weak.

Don McLeroy
Former Chair and Former Member
Texas State Board of Education