Consider the peacock's tail

Wikimedia / B S Thurner Hof: 'Peacock displaying his tail, Duisburg Zoo,' 2005.


Consider the eye on the tail of the peacock. Technically known as an ocellus, it is a thing of awesome beauty, an intensely blue centre surrounded by iridescent concentric coloured circles, to be enjoyed many times over as the peacock raises and displays his plumage. It seems to have no purpose but to please the observer. Darwin called the peacock the most splendid of living birds. He writes: "That these ornaments should have been formed through the selection of many successive variations, not one of which was originally intended to produce the ball-and-socket effect, seems as incredible as that one of Raphael's Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of paint made by a long succession of artists, not one of whom intended at first to draw the human figure."

Obviously, even Darwin had trouble in believing in his theory of natural selection.

Nevertheless, natural selection and sexual selection as described by Darwin do operate by chance. A brighter colour or more beautiful design appears by happenstance, (or, as we would say today, by some quirk of a gene) and appeals to the peahen so that the more elegant peacock pleases her most and wins the opportunity to pass along his genes to the next generation. Darwin attributes to the peahen an apparent delight in beauty, which he also considers strange. Unlike the cock, the peahen remains drab, her colouring protecting her as she nests and cares for her young.

The peahen choosing the more beautiful male is an example of sexual selection. The survival of the hen and chicks because their drabness hides them from predators would be considered an example of natural selection.


It boggles the mind that there are those who would believe this marvellous arrangement of minutiae to produce an ocellus came about as the result of the random activity of atoms.

Consider again the eye on the tail of the peacock and the feather on which it is found. A feather consists of a central shaft with barbs on each side equipped with barbules which turn bear barbicels which interlock, velcro-fashion, with similar structures on the adjacent barb, producing a continuous vane. No person comes along and paints the ocellus on this plume after it has formed. No, each individual barb must "know how" to produce the right colours in the right place to achieve the overall ball-in-socket effect. It boggles the mind that there are those who would believe this marvellous arrangement of minutiae to produce an ocellus came about as the result of the random activity of atoms.

It likewise boggles the mind to think that your eye (the kind in your head) with eyelid, lens, pupil, iris, retina and optic nerve gradually evolved over millennia. Any of these parts without the other would be useless and would not have persisted by natural selection. Evolutionists need a scenario that will demonstrate how all the parts of a functional eye could come about at the same time just by accident. Darwin also had trouble with this, stating "the belief that an organ so perfect as the eye could have been formed by natural selection is enough to stagger anyone…"

Many genetic mutations are harmful, causing disease or death, others are neutral, but among random mutations one might occasionally occur which would seem to be advantageous. It has been estimated that only 1 out of 10,000 mutations would be considered beneficial. We know that natural selection, or artificial selection by man, can, within a species, cause considerable diversity–witness Mendel's peas, various breeds of dogs, the development of drug-resistant bacteria. No one really has any problem accepting such diversification within a species. This is known as "micro-evolution" and has been well demonstrated.

Natural selection and geographical factors have allowed populations within species to drift in different directions and mutate to such an extent that they can no longer interbreed, producing a subspecies or even a new species. Micro-evolution is a scientific fact, only resulting in minor changes. Frogs always give rise to frogs, and dogs to dogs. No matter how much one radiates fruit flies to get them to mutate, they always give rise to fruit flies. Sometimes they are very sad specimens but they are undoubtedly fruit flies.

The problem of macro-evolution

It is macro-evolution that presents the problem. Macro-evolution extrapolates from the known variations within a species to the theory that all diversity in life – plants, reptiles, birds, fish, mammals – all evolved in similar fashion from some prehistoric archetype. This is another problem that Darwin himself puzzled over. He noted the lack of evidence for transitional forms between classes in the progression from single-celled organisms to man, stating, "Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?" Darwin died expecting the fossil proof of his theory would be forthcoming.

It was not. Evolution is a theory being increasingly questioned by a number of honest scientists. In 1980 Darwin's theory that one species evolved into another over billions of years was rejected by a conference in Chicago of "160 of the world's top palaeontologists, anatomists, evolutional geneticists and developmental biologists," Newsweek reported. It continued: "Evidence from the fossil record now points overwhelmingly away from the classical Darwinism which most Americans learned in high school; that new species evolve out of existing ones by the gradual accumulation of small changes, each of which helps the organism survive and compete in the environment." Because of the embarrassing absence of fossil evidence they supported instead "punctuated equilibria", which says that evolutionary changes occurred by quantum leaps, so fast that they didn't leave any fossil record. The foremost advocates of punctuated equilibria, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, recognized that species in the geological record remain remarkably constant over millions of years, showing little appreciable change. In Eight Little Piggies (1993) Gould writes, "Nothing much happens for most of the time when evidence abounds; everything happens in largely unrecorded geological moments."

As recently as 1995, Eldredge, in Reinventing Darwin, again notes the absence in the fossil record of gradual evolution as described by Darwin and posits, rather, evolution in brief spurts, during periods of major habitat disruption, with eons of stasis in between. These brief spurts, from the viewpoint of palaeontologist Eldredge, may take from five to fifty thousand years, as compared to the millions of years when evolution apparently goes nowhere.

This new theory of punctuated equilibria does not alter the fact that Gould and Eldredge still believe in evolution and the fossil evidence is still missing. One commentator went so far as to describe their theory of punctuated equilibria as "evolution by jerks!"

In Darwin on Trial (1991) Philip Johnson writes: "If evolution means the gradual change of one kind of organism into another kind, the outstanding characteristic of the fossil record is the absence of evidence for evolution. Darwinists can always explain away the sudden appearance of new species by saying that the transitional intermediates were for some reason not fossilized. But stasis – the consistent absence of fundamental directional change – is positively documented. It is also the norm and not the exception."

Order from disorder?

Some years ago I worked on the Great Books Syntopicon, indexing the biological works contained therein, including those of Darwin. I found Darwin to be a brilliant and honest man whose prodigious wealth of data was very convincing. It is only in recent years that my thinking became more critical and I realized that accepting Darwin's Origin of Species required jettisoning other pretty well established physical laws. Order from disorder?

The second law of thermodynamics states that all things naturally, over time, degenerate from order into disorder–into randomness– unless there is input from outside the system. Not so long ago the idea of spontaneous generation was ridiculed by scientists. Now we are supposed to accept, as an article of faith (because there is no proof) that life arose spontaneously in some prebiotic broth and evolved ever upward by random acts of atoms. Evolutionists theorize that somehow organic compounds formed, merged, and discovered how to replicate themselves, producing the first living cell. Never mind that scientists, with all their technology, have not been able to achieve purposely what is supposed to have occurred long ago by chance. No amount of chemical soup zapping has yet produced a single living organism (i.e., one that can grow and reproduce.) In the famous Miller-Urey experiments in the 1950's the best they could come up with were amino acids. Nevertheless, what was once deemed impossible must now be considered, given enough time, to be not only possible but probable. As one writer put it, we are asked to believe that "falling up a ladder" can be achieved if it is just done "rungwise."

The basic cell design of all living things is the same, but even the cell of the tiniest bacterium is, according to molecular biologist Michael Denton, "a veritable microminiaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the nonliving world." Moreover, the oldest rocks known to palaeontology have failed to reveal the kind of organic compounds that would have been needed to form the first living cell. There is, therefore, no evidence whatsoever of the required primeval super soup. All is conjecture, yet biology texts and the popular press write about the spontaneous development of the first living cell from some inorganic muddy puddle as a fait accompli. And even though they don't know how life happened to develop on earth, they send expensive gadgets to outer space to see if the conditions are right for it to happen there, too!

David Raup, renowned palaeontologist, wrote in Science in 1981: "A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology and palaeontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks, semi-popular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general these have not been found, yet the optimism died hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks…"


'An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.' - Francis Crick

Francis Crick, biochemist and Nobel Prize-winning co-discoverer of DNA, wrote in 1981 (in Life Itself, Its Origin and Nature, p.88): "An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going." Modern molecular biology has not been kind to evolutionary theory – the missing links – the necessary intermediate classes – are just as missing on the molecular level as on the morphological level. Molecular biology has only served to emphasize the marked discontinuity between life and non-life, and between major natural divisions.

The above-mentioned molecular biologist, Dr. Michael Denton, created quite a stir in 1985 with his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. In what I consider his most fascinating chapter, "The Failure of Homology," he deals with one of evolution's strongest arguments, the structural similarities between different organisms. As the Encyclopedia Britannica puts it: "…the bones of the upper arm, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers all…can be matched, bone for bone, in rat, dog, horse, bat, mole, porpoise or man. The example is all the more telling because the bones have become modified in adaptation to different modes of life but have retained the same fundamental plan of structure, inherited from a common ancestor." (Emphasis added).

Denton describes an amazing lack of that same homology at the embryological level. "There is no question that, because of the great dissimilarity of the early stages of embryogenesis in the different vertebrate classes, organs and structures considered homologous in adult vertebrates cannot be traced back to homologous cells or regions in the earliest stages of embryogenesis. In other words, homologous structures are arrived at by different developmental routes." And, "the evolutionary basis of homology is perhaps more severely damaged by the discovery that apparently homologous structures are specified by quite different genes in different species." Darwin describes homology as the "relationship between parts which results from their development from corresponding embryonic parts." According to British embryologist, Gavin de Beer, that is exactly what homology is not. This is a truly an astounding – and unexpected – finding.

Die-hard Darwinian, Richard Dawkins, in his 1995 effort, River Out of Eden, does not acknowledge Denton's book nor does he attempt to answer most of his objections to macro-evolutionary theory. He does try to deal with the difficulty of accepting chance as the cause of a structure as beautiful and complex as the human eye. He accuses those who think that it must have been designed by a superior intelligence of the fallacy of the "Argument from Personal Incredulity”. This argument states: "I cannot even begin to imagine the steps by which this eye could have evolved from an eyeless being and therefore I don't believe it could have happened."

Transitional forms: still missing

Evolution by gradual changes through natural selection might be accepted today beyond any reasonable doubt, even without the fossil evidence of intermediates, if it could be shown that the great divisions of nature could at least theoretically have been bridged by inventing a really convincing series of hypothetical and fully functional transitional forms. (After all, time has passed and things do decay – there's that second law of thermodynamics again.) However, this has not been achieved. A theory that asks us to believe that order proceeds from disorder, that design arises without a designer, and doesn't show us how, requires an unwarranted leap of faith.

Dawkins offers a computer model by Swedish scientists, Dan Nilsson and Susanne Pelger (1994) suggesting the steps by which a simple eye consisting of a flat retina atop a flat pigment layer covered by a protective transparent layer could conceivably have evolved into a vertebrate "camera" eye in less than half a million years. They assume that each generation experienced a beneficial mutation which was passed on. I cannot blame them for starting with a simple three-layer eye. Producing the scenario by which an eye evolved from some eyeless ancestor would certainly have been a much more difficult accomplishment. A computer model showing how a more advanced eye could evolve from a simpler eye simply does not cut the mustard.

It is posited that the first birds evolved from prehistoric reptiles and that reptilian scales are precursors of the feathers of birds. Just imagining the gradations and mutations necessary to convert a scale into an aerodynamically plausible feather, with functional intermediates, is well nigh impossible.

Albert Einstein is widely quoted to have said: "The probability of life originating from an accident is comparable to the probability of an unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in the printing shop." It seems more likely that this was written by Edwin Conklin, author of three books on evolution, and perhaps more equipped to comment on the subject than Einstein. In like manner, British astronomer and agnostic, Sir Fred Hoyle, after years of study concluded: "The probability of evolution [explaining creation] is equal to the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747." (The Intelligent Universe, 1983)

They say that the genetic information in each human cell would fill thousands of volumes. This occurred by chance? I would as soon believe that a Pentium chip occurred as a result of the waves lapping on the sand through the ages.

The missing links are still just that, despite years of search. The Piltdown man is a proven fraud, the tooth of Nebraska man turned out to be from a pig, Neanderthal man and Cro-Magnon man seem to belong to our species, the fossils of Peking man have disappeared. Missing links between man and monkey burst upon the scene, a tooth here and a jawbone there, are interpreted and re-interpreted, and then fade away as they fail to fill the bill. Evolutionists have a hypothesis to confirm and tend to put their own spin on archaeological findings.

A theory for avoiding the unacceptable alternative

The logical consequence of Darwinism is that the universe operates on blind chance, without design or purpose. Evolution is a theory scrambling for facts because the alternative is considered unacceptable. What is the alternative? It is that God created each creature according to its kind, as we read in Genesis.

In recent years geneticists seem to be moving toward the creationists' belief that all races of mankind are the progeny of an original man and woman. Mitochondrial Eve, postulated as the mother of all known humans, has been making the news. By studying mitochondrial DNA which is passed on from mother to daughter geneticists have concluded that all women are descended from one woman who lived over 50,000 years ago. It is not supposed that there was only one woman way back then, however; rather it is presumed there were many but the progeny of the others died out along the way. Similarly, they have deduced that all men had a common male ancestor by studying genetic mutations of the Y chromosome which is passed only from father to son.

Scripture states, and it is a matter of faith for believers, that God played a direct role in the fashioning of a man and woman from whom all humankind is descended. (Gen.3:20, Gen.5, Tobit 8:6, Rom. 5:12-19, 1 Cor. 15:21-22). It is necessary to accept at least this much "creationism" or all of Christianity, with its original sin and need for redemption, falls by the wayside.

In the wake of the 1980 Chicago conference on evolution, Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, admitted that he had only recently woken up to the fact that “what Darwin was doing was trying to replace the creationist paradigm by a positivist paradigm, a view of the world in which there was neither room nor necessity for final causes.” He added, "All my life I had been duped into taking evolution as revealed truth." (Speech given at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, November 5, 1981)

Dr D. N. S. Watson writes: "The theory of evolution is universally accepted not because it can be proven true but because the only alternative of special creation (by God) is clearly incredible.”

Douglas Futuyama, in Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution, states: "Some shrink from the conclusion that the human species was not designed, has no purpose, and is the product of more mechanical mechanisms – but this seems to be the message of evolution." As Dawkins put it in his recent book: "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." In essence, then, evolution is more of a philosophy of life than an explanation of it.

Over 50 years ago Pope Pius XI, writing about communism, stated: "According to this doctrine there is in the world only one reality, matter, the blind forces of which evolve into plant, animal and man… In such a doctrine, as is evident, there is no room for the idea of God; there is no difference between matter and spirit, between soul and body; there is neither survival of the soul after death nor any hope in a future life." In the same encyclical on atheistic communism he describes what he calls a "conspiracy of silence" on the part of the secular press regarding any critique of this “doctrine”. It is apparent that not much has changed.

To go beyond randomness means to accept God. The above-mentioned Francis Crick was so awed by the difficulty of explaining the origin of life on earth that he postulated beings from another planet sending us primitive life forms to begin the whole evolutional spiral. Surely this is a deus ex machina solution – which is what creationists have been saying all along.

In 1987 a U S Supreme Court decision barred public schools from teaching "creation science" but permitted the discussion of "scientifically valid" alternatives to evolution. In 1989 a group of biologists presented arguments for the theory now famous as intelligent design, only to be attacked by the ACLU for writing a "stealth" book seeking to introduce God into the curriculum without mentioning his name. (Of Pandas and People by Charles Thaxton, Percival Davis, and Dean Kenyon) Kenyon, who had previously published a book describing the evolution of a living cell from inorganic chemicals, found himself no longer able to support that hypothesis and began to point out to his students its weakness. He was rewarded for his integrity by being suspended from San Francisco State University. To dare to suggest that the politically correct theory of evolution might be questioned and was still a theory was equivalent to a thought crime. He has since been reluctantly reinstated.

Evolutionists try to disparage critics of Darwinism by calling them religious fanatics who refuse to look at the scientific data, preferring blind faith. There is, however, an ever increasing number of scientists who are looking at the scientific data and rocking the evolutionary boat. Secularism, communism, modernism need evolution's philosophy to counteract biblical Christianity. They hold that there is no alternative and they will not accept God.

Raphael's Madonna, an unabridged dictionary, a Boeing 747, a Pentium chip – these speak of the intelligence of man behind the material thing. The human mind has not yet begun to plumb the secrets of an atom, a single living cell, the ocellus of the peacock, the eye of man, the genetic code, the expanding universe. These speak of an intelligence far beyond ours. We stand in awe of their beauty and their complexity. We seek to reveal their patterns and discover their laws, and we do not doubt such laws exist. Some we have learned; some we haven't. Is there a designer, a lawgiver?

Blind chance or intelligent design? Darwin or God?

Dorothy Vining once worked for the philosopher Mortimer Adler on the Syntopicon, an index to the ideas in the 54 volume set of The Great Books of the Western World. As her field was the biological sciences, she was assigned to index the biological works of Aristotle, Hippocrates, Harvey, Galen, and Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man. An enthusiast then, she became increasingly critical of Darwin’s theories. She blogs at Musings at 85


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