The Case Against Perloff
by Adam Crowl

[Revised 19 August 2003]


Why the facts refute the new myth-makers

In his popular work Tornado in a Junkyard, [1]  James Perloff argues against the fact of evolution and the theory of Charles Darwin that seeks to explain it. In this essay I will examine an Internet article in which he details his arguments against Darwinism and evolution. As I will show the quality of argument in his essay casts serious doubt over all the arguments he presents in his book.

Perloff writes on evolution issues for WorldNet Daily, a conservative Net magazine. In his July 2001 article, The Case Against Darwin, [2] Perloff claims that the decline of the American life-style, as known in the 1950s presumably, has been largely due to a loss of moral foundations. I wonder if there are not other causes involved, such as the steady decline in real wages of the average worker over the past 25 years, or the ever increasing tax-breaks to the wealthy and big corporations that have taken away that wage from the workers?

That Perloff should exaggerate and lie about the facts of evolution is no surprise. Simple answers to complex problems have great public appeal. But there is no guarantee that those problems have simple solutions. Perloff claims to have marshalled some pretty convincing facts against evolution, but in reality he has misrepresented the evidence badly. Let's see just how badly, using his subtitles.

Roots of decline

Myths keep a society together in times of hardship, and all societies impose sanctions on those who don't accept the myths that underpin the common 'history' of that society. In America a countermeasure was introduced to halt the worst excesses of the social-sanctioning process that powers myths – it was called freedom of religion.

Perloff concludes, after superficially looking at Marx, Stalin and Hitler -

'…there is no denying that the Darwinist worldview - which sees man as an animal and God as an irrelevancy - has had a profoundly negative social impact.'

So evolution, as an explanation for the world without God, becomes associated with evil in Perloff's easy reading version of history. But in our modern times there are six-day Creationists who have inflicted havoc upon millions – witness the acts of fundamentalist Muslims who believe in Creation by God. If we were to tally up the millions slaughtered by the monotheistic faiths in the name of the Creator then the distinction between theists and atheists would be very blurry. Ideologies that espouse God, or not, have both committed crimes against humanity.

But evolution, as a scientific fact, is another issue.

Neither Nazism nor Marxism became popular movements through the scientific method, and none of their claims were ever confirmed by real science – that is, by subjecting their basic theories to experimentation, scholarly argumentation and refinement as new facts emerged. Instead both were movements driven by the same blind certainty of faith that drove those passenger planes into the World Trade Centre's towers on September 11 2001. Both took root amongst troubled people by offering myths, not real facts, to explain the problems of the complex world those people were experiencing.

Survival of the evidence: Genetics

Perloff claims quite specifically -

' ...overwhelming evidence has arisen in recent years discrediting Darwin's theory.'

'Overwhelming evidence'? Like what?

Does Perloff's presented evidence overwhelm, or is it non-evidence? First he starts with an area of science that most people have heard opinions about, but not a lot of real facts – genetics -

'We'll start with genetics. Darwin's theory says fish evolved, through many intermediate steps, into human beings. The question thus arises: How did fish acquire the genes to become human beings? A creature cannot be anything physically its genes won't allow it to be.'

There are a lot of steps that Perloff has glossed over between fish and humans. When compared, the human and fish genomes share a large number of genes that are almost exactly alike and that carry out many similar functions. Fish and humans have many genes unique to themselves, but the many genes they have in common as revealed by the Human Genome Project indicates some sort of genetic relationship. Humans and fish also share more genes together than they do collectively with worms, fruit flies and yeasts – other organisms that have also had their genomes decoded -

'Genetics was not developed as a science in Darwin's day, and he assumed that animals essentially had an unlimited capacity to adapt to environments -- unaware that no change could ever take place without the right genes being there.

'To resolve this dilemma, modern evolutionists asserted that the fish's genes must have mutated into human genes over eons. Mutations, of course, are abrupt alterations in genes.'

Essential to Darwin's theory was the whole process of inheritance, the passing on of characteristics from one generation of a species to the next, without which natural selection could not happen. Darwin didn't understand genetics but then no one understood the process in his day, the 1840s to the 1870s. Then between 1900 and 1930, the main features of the process of inheritance were worked out, and in the 1930s and 1940s this new understanding was fully incorporated into Darwinian evolution.

Darwinists assume that genes can vary 'randomly' in their characteristics, and this variation might be beneficial, detrimental or – usually – neutral in effect on an organism. By 'random variation' Darwinists are simply stating that the mutations (i.e. changes) that appear are not produced in direct response to some environmental pressure outside the organism. Mutations are instead caused by well-understood error-causing processes in the genomes of living things.

Animal breeders notice changes all the time in their animals – changes in colour, coat, ears, behaviour and so on. I know of plenty of examples in the rats and budgerigars that I keep. But none of the genetic changes in animal breeds seem to be direct responses by genes to outside forces. Genes definitely change, but not in intelligent response to outside pressures of life.

However, certain genes that encode for antibodies in mammals do change in response to infections. By varying their DNA sequences randomly, antibody genes produce an immense range of antibody proteins. These are then selected by the body for their affinity for the targeted foreign protein in the animal's body. Your body demonstrates that random variation can produce useful proteins every time you fight off a cold virus or the flu.

To attack these well known facts of genetics Perloff drags out the work of information theorist Lee Spetner. Dr Spetner has previously claimed (unsuccessfully and unrepentantly) that the first known Archaeopteryx fossil is a fake, [3] a claim thoroughly refuted by the British Museum, the fossil's owner. Dr Spetner claims that mutations never produce new information in genes, as Perloff summarises -

'Dr. Lee Spetner, who taught information theory for a decade at Johns Hopkins University and the Weizman Institute, spent years studying mutations on a molecular level. He has written an important new book, "Not by Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution." In it, he writes, "In all the reading I've done in the life-sciences literature, I've never found a mutation that added information… All point mutations that have been studied on the molecular level turn out to reduce the genetic information and not increase it.'"

Notice that Dr Spetner is only talking about 'point mutations' whereas in real life, mutations can also duplicate and rearrange whole segments of DNA.

How did Dr Spetner come to his conclusions? And how widely accepted are his findings? Have other scientists verified his claims through experiments? Has Dr Spetner performed experiments that have been repeated by other scientists?

Quite simply Dr Spetner developed a method of measuring information content in genes based on just a few features of proteins produced by genes. He doesn't measure the actual information represented by the amino acids that encode the gene in an organism's DNA. Instead he measures features of proteins, like their specificity and claims that no increase in specificity has ever been observed. At least by him - and that's the problem. [4]

As Ian Musgrave explains Spetner is inconsistent in using his own measures of information. Perloff claims that Spetner has shown that bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic effects of Streptomycin by losing information, but by what measure? Spetner swaps his measures of information when the specificity measure gives an actual increase in information.

'Streptomycin-binding ribosomes turn out garbage proteins because streptomycin messes up the proof-reading centre (which is how streptomycin kills bacteria). The mutant version which doesn't bind streptomycin is actually MORE accurate, i.e. more SPECIFIC, than the wild type. The wild-type proof reading centre makes a few mistakes even in the absence of streptomycin, and the mutant forms make even fewer mistakes than the wild type( roughly 85% fewer).

'This is a clear increase in Spetner's binding specificity:
1) The mutant gene product doesn't bind streptomycin at all (it has one ligand rather than two)
2) It binds the substrate peptidyl tRNA more accurately
3) It catalyses more accurate peptide synthesis).'

His system of measurement is not a widely accepted system amongst biologists, evidenced by the fact that he is the only researcher to have published work based on it. He has used an idiosyncratic system that has not been cross-checked by other researchers. In science, new claims and techniques are only widely accepted and validated after being tested carefully time and time again by other scientists. And this is not the case for Dr Spetner's measurement of information.

New proteins and enzymes are produced by biochemists all the time using techniques inspired by Darwinism. They vary segments of DNA randomly and then test proteins produced from that DNA for desired levels of enzyme/protein specificity. How do these work if Spetner's claim is true? Simply, he is a lone voice speaking sweet words to Creationists like Perloff, but otherwise ignored by scientists who know better through their own work in the field.

Perloff goes on, based on this rather shaky evidence -

'Why is this a problem for evolution? Because if Darwin's thesis is correct, and all life began as a single organism, then chance mutations must have produced nearly every feature of life on Earth, from the remarkable sonar system of the dolphin to the ingenious pacemaker and valves of the human heart.'

While the mutations are produced by 'chance' their selection and enhancement over time is not a chance process. How are new genes really created over time? The creation of new genes with new functions is not a process that can be easily observed in today's living things – we see the end products of that process and must reconstruct what happened as best we can, based on what we know to be biochemically and biologically plausible. Here's a summary of the current best hypothesis from Dr. Edward E. Max, [5] [section 1.2.2] -

'Gene duplication, mutation and selection are all known to occur due to natural biochemical processes in a variety of organisms studied in the laboratory. Many gene families are known with members that encode proteins having related structure and related but distinct function. Each family can be explained by multiple gene duplications followed by random mutation and differentiation of the functions of the individual gene copies. Clearly the expansion from a single primordial gene to a large family of genes with distinct functions represents an increase in genetic information.'

To illustrate this hypothesis Dr Max quotes several well-documented examples, [5] [section 1.2.2 continued] -

'The gene for a primordial oxygen-carrying protein is thought to have duplicated leading to separate genes encoding myoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein of muscle) and hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein of red blood cells). Then the hemoglobin gene duplicated, and the copies differentiated into the forms known as alpha and beta. Later, both the alpha and beta hemoglobin genes duplicated several times producing a cluster of hemoglobin-alpha-related sequences and a cluster of hemoglobin-beta-related sequences. The clusters include functional genes that are slightly different, that are expressed at different times during the development of the embryo to the adult, and that encode proteins specifically adapted to those developmental periods. Other examples of gene families that appear to have developed by such duplication and differentiation include the immunoglobulin superfamily (comprising a large variety of cell surface proteins), the family of seven-membrane-spanning domain proteins (including receptors for light, odours, chemokines and neurotransmitters), the G-protein family (some members of which transduce the signals of the seven-membrane-spanning domain family proteins), the serine protease family (digestive and blood coagulation proteins) and the homeobox family (proteins critical in development).'

Homeobox proteins demarcate specific body regions of developing embryos and mutations in them allow for evolution of wholly new species and body structures. Dr. Max continues and addresses specifically Dr. Spetner's criticisms of evolution -

'A large part of the increase in information in our genomes compared with those of "lower" organisms apparently results from such gene duplication followed by independent evolution and differentiation of duplicated copies into multiple genes with distinct function. If an information theory analysis claims that random mutation cannot lead to an increase in information but the analysis ignores gene duplication and differentiation through independent mutations, such an analysis is irrelevant as a model for gene evolution, regardless of its mathematical sophistication.'

Dr. Max is a researcher in the field so he is directly involved in biochemical studies that look at the direct consequences of genetic changes, while Dr. Spetner is an information theorist and neither a biochemist nor a microbiologist.

Perloff continues to misrepresent the facts -

'Yet mutations always delete -- never add -- information to the genetic code. And what are mutations actually observed to cause in human beings? Hemophilia. Sickle cell anemia. Cystic fibrosis. Down's Syndrome. Sterility. Death. The genetic code is designed for the perfect running of an organism -- mutations delete information from the code, causing defects.'

Firstly, Down's Syndrome is due to a mutation that produces an extra copy of chromosome 23 – it’s hardly a deletion.

There are a lot more mutations in the real world than Perloff describes. Haemoglobin, for example, has over 250 different versions in the human population. Most genes have multiple versions, called alleles, and there are more alleles than can be accounted for by human origins from one original human being, as Perloff would have us believe the Bible tells us. To believe this he needs real, beneficial mutations to have occurred.

God, the Genesis story tells us, produced Eve from Adam's own flesh, so she had the same genes – bar a missing male sex chromosome. Human beings, according to the Bible, began with, at most, two alleles of their genes.

Then the Flood of Noah reduced every (unclean) animal kind to a single breeding pair. This would be expressed in their current genetics as very low diversity of gene alleles – a population 'bottleneck' that would stand out for all species. But only a few species today have low gene diversity - the rest are incredibly diverse. For example, of all the big cats only the Cheetah has suffered a recent decrease in diversity. So where did all the new gene versions and varieties come from, if the Bible is true? The Bible records no genetic miracle working by God in the wake of the Flood, so gene alleles must have arisen via non-harmful mutations as many other Creationists acknowledge. So are mutations ALWAYS harmful? Certainly not, as even the Bible's stories require.

Perloff continues -

'To advance their view, evolutionists have long pointed out that mutations sometimes make bacteria resistant to antibiotics -- and so, the argument goes, "If mutations can make bacteria stronger, they must be able to do the same for other creatures." Dr. Spetner points out that this is based on a misunderstanding of antibiotic resistance.

'To destroy a bacterium, antibiotics like streptomycin attach to a constituent of the bacterial cell called ribosomes. Mutations sometimes cause a structural deformity in ribosomes. Since the antibiotic cannot connect with the misshapen ribosome, the bacterium is resistant.

'But even though this mutation turns out to be beneficial, it still constitutes a loss of genetic information, not a gain.'

It is a loss only according to Dr. Spetner's dubious information measurement, which actually has different results to what Spetner and Perloff want us to believe, as mentioned above. [4] Notice also Perloff’s pejorative language which describes the mutant ribosomes as “deformed” – in actuality the changes are minor and in no way a deformity.

'No "evolution" has taken place; the bacteria are not "stronger."'

They are resistant and survive when the normal variety doesn't. And their ribosomes actually work better than the original variety. The resistant variety spreads rapidly throughout the population while it is under threat from antibiotics. Evolution is not just about mutation. Natural selection means that a new mutant variety is established in a population by surviving better than the old variety -

'In fact, under normal conditions, with no antibiotic present, they are weaker than their non-mutated cousins.'

As natural selection would lead us to expect – after all the only advantage the new variety has is its antibiotic resistance! Take away the selection caused by the antibiotics and the advantage disappears!

Perloff then quotes a Nobel prize-winner, Ernst Chain, who died in 1979 – not exactly an up-to-date source for current scientific opinion -

'Ernst Chain, who shared a Nobel Prize for his work in developing penicillin, obviously knew much about bacteria and antibiotics.'

He obviously knew nothing new after 1979 -

'To postulate that the development and survival of the fittest is entirely a consequence of chance mutations, or even that nature carries out experiments by trial and error through mutations in order to create living systems better fitted to survive," he wrote, "seems to me a hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts."'

When Chain made this claim (Perloff neglects to give a date) he might have represented the opinion of biochemists of his time, but he certainly doesn't represent them today.

Survival of the evidence: Biochemistry

Perloff then uses the recent work of Michael Behe, who claims that evolution can't produce various biochemical marvels in living things. But what do real biochemists think of Michael Behe's claims? Perloff says -

'Biochemistry is also giving Darwin problems. Michael Behe, biochemist at Lehigh University, has written a book entitled "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution." In this book, Behe describes how certain biochemical systems are so complex that they cannot have evolved step-by-step; he calls this "irreducible complexity."'

The fact is that the complex biochemical machines Behe says can't evolve step by step actually can. Some of the possible steps are known from nature. Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University, in his work Finding Darwin's God, points out numerous examples of where Behe has quite simply misrepresented the facts by claiming a lack of steps. [6] David Ussery, a biochemist, has detailed arguments against Behe's claims online, explaining Behe's misunderstandings further. [7]  Ian Musgrave has also produced strong arguments against Behe's claims about bacterial flagella – intermediate steps do exist contrary to Behe's claims. [8] Behe claimed that no one has been able to produce scientific arguments describing the evolution of his supposed 'irreducibly complex' systems, whereas researchers have been working on them for years and have had recent successes explaining the evolution of such systems and of other complex biochemical systems. Perloff adds to the error by misrepresenting Behe's work as unassailable scientific fact, whereas it is really just one man's currently unsubstantiated opinion -

‘For example, blood clotting swings into action when we get a cut. The formation of a blood clot is a complex, multi-step process that utilizes numerous proteins, many with no other function besides clotting.’

Closely related proteins DO have other functions. Gene duplication caused by mutation would allow these to have evolved into the clotting variety as Dr. Miller explains at his web-site detailing how clotting probably evolved - [6]

'Each protein depends on an enzyme to activate it.'

Most proteins ARE enzymes -

'So to paraphrase Behe very simply: What evolved first - the protein or enzyme? Not the protein; it cannot function without the enzyme to switch it on. But why would nature evolve the activating enzyme first? Without the protein, it serves no purpose.'

Perloff's claim has been refuted because the proteins, via their immediate precursors, do have other functions -

'Furthermore, if blood clotting had evolved step-by-step over eons, creatures would have bled to death before it was ever perfected.'

His claim is false, because animals do exist with simpler clotting systems. Initially animals might have relied on sticky blood cells to block breaks in blood vessels, as seen today in some animals. Then a simple clotting response could be developed via certain enzymes being produced in the blood stream as well as their usual organs of origin. These would cut-up other proteins analogous to the proteins that make clots today any time blood fluids were exposed to tissues [i.e. a break in the blood vessel], forming a simple clot. The multi-step cascade in advanced blood clotting is more specific, and acts to amplify an initial clotting response - so evolution has merely increased the volume range of the amplifier, so to speak, as animals have developed higher pressure blood vessels. Simpler organisms with lower blood pressure wouldn't need the amplifier system - [6]

'The system is irreducibly complex.'

Behe's claims of irreducible complexity (IC) are unproven and unconvincing for most other scientists working as biochemists. Quite simply he provides no objective means of determining irreducible complexity. A biochemical mechanism can be claimed to be IC but then scientists imagine ways of producing that system bit by bit from simpler systems and so it is no longer IC. To quote Ian Musgrave - [8]

'The eubacterial flagellar system is also interesting as it shows how misleading "design" thinking is. In this case what is defined as IC depends on our point of view. When viewed as a motile structure, the flagellum is IC. Remove the motor, it stops functioning, remove the hook (universal joint) it stops functioning, remove the filament it ... well, it still works sort of :-). Viewing the flagellum as a motor, and an IC motor at that, provides no insights into the origin or functioning of this structure.

'But view it as a secretory structure, it is NOT IC, remove the filament and it still works, remove the hook and it still works, remove the motor and it still works, not as well as with the motor, but it still works.

'Thus, if the flagellum is a secretory system that has been co-opted for a motile function (while still retaining some of it's secretory function), then the ICness of the system is in the mind of the beholder, and a clear path for its evolution is opened up.'

Perloff continues, oblivious to the counter-evidence -

'Behe demonstrates that other human biochemical systems, such as the immune system and vision, are also irreducibly complex -- they cannot have evolved step-by-step -- and give clear evidence that they resulted from intelligent design.'

Behe believes that clotting and other molecular systems are IC, but has not demonstrated it in any fashion that other scientists can verify. Hence Perloff has made another unsubstantiated claim -

'Even larger difficulties arise with the Darwinian idea of life's origin.

'Charles Darwin and his contemporaries thought cells were rather simple, and that it would thus be feasible for chemicals in a "primordial soup" to come together and form one.

'However, through advances in microbiology, we now know that even a simple cell contains enough information to fill a hundred million pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.'

Encyclopaedia Britannica has about 10,000 symbols per page, including spaces, as word-processor files do. ASCII is a widely used computer code that uses strings of 8 bits (a byte) to represent 256 symbols. Therefore one page of Encyclopaedia Britannica is represented by 10,000 bytes. So, 100 million pages is a trillion bytes worth of information or a million megabytes.

How much information is in living cells?

To encode the molecular structure of a cell in exhaustive detail might take 100 million pages, but cells themselves can get by on a lot less because many of their components are repeated millions of times. Cells, like computers, use information compression to store the information they need to reproduce and survive.

Information that cells use to make all their components is stored as a sequence of DNA base-pairs – Adenine-Thymine and Cytosine-Guanine, which only join together in these combinations. DNA code uses the four bases in sets of three base-pairs, called codons, with a total of 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 codon combinations. The 64 different codons code for only 23 'symbols', namely 21 different amino acids and 2 stop symbols. In binary computer code 64 symbols can be encoded in 6 bits. As anyone in the computer industry can confirm six bit codes haven't been used for years. Hence a six-bit DNA 'byte' is 75% of an eight-bit extended-ASCII byte used by more current computers. Extended ASCII is itself an 8-bit improvement on the old six-bit ASCII. For this comparison, though, imagine that ASCII bytes and DNA codons are equivalent.

The simplest bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium, has about 600 thousand base-pairs of DNA, making just 517 proteins. That's 200 thousand codons, or just 200 ASCII kilobytes, just 20 Britannica pages – over 5 million times less than the figure quoted by Perloff. He has made quite an exaggeration.

Most bacteria are more complex than mycoplasmas. Escherieria coli, a common bacterium in human colons, contains some 4,639,221 base-pairs of DNA in its genome – all the information it needs to make its 4,288 proteins. That's about 1.55 million bytes, or 155 Britannica pages. About 640 thousand times less than Perloff's figure.

Human beings are far more complicated than bacteria, with about 10 to 20 times the number of genes - a recent estimate says about 25,000 genes. The human genome is encoded in 3 billion base-pairs – or a gigabyte of ASCII. But human genes are coded in only about 1.5% of our DNA – some 15 megabytes of ASCII. Using our rough measure that's just 1,500 pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, just 0.0015% of the figure Perloff quoted. To say he has exaggerated is an understatement -

'Cells consist essentially of proteins; one cell has thousands of proteins, and proteins are in turn made of smaller building blocks called amino acids. Normally, it takes chains of hundreds of amino acids to make up a protein, and these amino acids must be in precise sequence.'

This is false. Most proteins can vary substantially in their amino acid sequence and still function perfectly. As Douglas Theobold notes - [9]

'Decades of biochemical evidence have shown that most amino acid mutations, especially of surface residues, have no effect on protein function or on protein structure. A striking example is that of the c-type cytochromes from various bacteria, which have virtually no sequence similarity. Nevertheless, they all fold into the same three-dimensional structure, and they all perform the same biological role.'

Cytochrome-c is a protein present in all living things – it's that vital – and it is about 104 amino acids long in humans. It is also massively redundant, as Theobald explains further - [9]

'With this in mind, consider again the molecular sequences of cytochrome c. It has been shown that the human cytochrome c protein works just fine in yeast (a unicellular organism) that lacks its own native cytochrome c gene, even though yeast cytochrome c differs from human cytochrome c over 40% of the protein. In fact, the cytochrome c genes from tuna (fish), pigeon (bird), horse (mammal), Drosophila fly (insect), and rat (mammal) all function well in yeast that lack their own native yeast cytochrome c. Furthermore, extensive genetic analysis of cytochrome c has demonstrated that the majority of the protein sequence is unnecessary for its function in vivo. Only about a third of the 100 amino acids in cytochrome c are necessary to specify its function. Most of the amino acids in cytochrome c are hypervariable (i.e. they can be replaced by a large number of functionally equivalent amino acids). Importantly, Hubert Yockey has done a careful study in which he calculated that there are a minimum of 2.3 x 10^93 possible functional cytochrome c protein sequences, based on these genetic mutational analyses. For perspective, the number 10^93 is about one billion times larger than the number of atoms in the visible universe. Thus, functional cytochrome c sequences are virtually unlimited in number, and there is no a priori reason for two different species to have the same, or even mildly similar, cytochrome c protein sequences.'

The same is true for many other proteins, they can be varied substantially and still perform the same function -

'According to the evolutionary scenario, then, how did the first cell happen? Supposedly, amino acids formed in a primordial soup, and since millions of years were involved, eventually they came, by chance, into the correct sequences, and the first proteins were formed and hence the first cell.

'But Sir Frances Crick, who shared the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the structure of DNA, has pointed out that that would be impossible. He notes in his 1981 book, "Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature," that the probability of getting just one protein by chance would be one in 10 to the power of 260 [i.e. 10^260] -- that's a one with 260 zeroes after it.'

Any particular protein sequence is fantastically unlikely. This is why biochemists believe chimps and humans are related – we have so many nearly identical proteins that we must be closely related, since similarity can't be due to mere chance. Inheritance is the ONLY feasible natural explanation for large-scale similarities between the gene codes of organisms. Knowing this, if we are created, then God has left no evidence for creation by choosing to use very similar gene codes between species.

Back to Crick's problem, from a 20 year old reference. As we have seen, many other proteins can do the same job that any particular protein does. Here's an analogy – draw out all 52 cards from a poker deck. The odds against that particular sequence of 52 cards is incredibly large (about 10 to the 65 [10^65] to 1 against.) Yet you have that sequence before you! Incredibly unlikely, but also inevitable if you aren't picky about the sequence of cards you draw. Proteins aren't picky about sequence either. Quite simply the odds are in favour of 'random' sequences of amino acids having some sort of viability as proteins, because so many useful ones are possible. Ian Musgrave expands on this at his web-page [10]  – the problem of life's probability is far smaller than people realise.

Even more importantly, as I have mentioned, the 3 base codon system of the DNA code has 64 different combinations but only produce 23 different symbols – hence the DNA code itself is highly redundant. Any protein can be rewritten by totally different codons and still be the same protein! Doug Theobold [9]  expands on this point -

'The genetic code itself is informationally redundant; on average there are three different codons (a codon is a triplet of DNA bases) that can specify the exact same amino acid. Thus, for cytochrome c there are approximately 3^104, or over 10^49, different DNA sequences (and, hence, 10^49 different possible genes) that can specify the exact same protein sequence.'

Comparing chimps and humans, again, there is no coding reason why, if we needed functionally very similar proteins, that they could not be encoded entirely differently and so provide clear evidence of creation. Even IF our cytochrome c amino acid sequence had to be IDENTICAL, the genetic coding in our DNA could be COMPLETELY different. But they're hardly dissimilar at all – chimp and human cytochrome c, for example, differs by just one codon!

Over all, across thousands of DNA genetic sequences, humans and chimps differ by a tiny percentage in their coding. In anatomical terms the differences between the two species are matters of size and proportion – in almost all other respects our bodies are the same, which matches the molecular evidence. If we were created separately then why are humans and chimps so similar? Why is Creation not more obvious? This fact – continually confirmed by every new organism with sequenced DNA - settles the argument for me personally.

Then Perloff
further displays his ignorance of current data and theories by claiming there was free oxygen in the early Earth's atmosphere. Actually he parrots this argument and several others directly from Jonathan Wells' book Icons of Evolution, unacknowledged in this article. [11] Contrary to Wells and Perloff virtually all geochemical evidence indicates very little free oxygen in Earth's early atmosphere, but plenty in the form of oxygen compounds - carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and water - [12]

'Furthermore, suppose there really were some basic organic compounds formed from the "primordial soup." If there was any free oxygen in the atmosphere, it would oxidize those compounds -- in other words, it would destroy them. To resolve this dilemma, evolutionists have long hypothesized that there was no free oxygen in the Earth's ancient atmosphere.'

Currently the first atmosphere is thought to have been carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water and some methane, as produced by volcanoes even today -

'However, geologists have now examined the Earth's oldest rocks and have concluded that the early Earth was probably rich in oxygen.'

Rich in chemically bound oxygen, yes, but not 'free oxygen' -

'Still, let's say the evolutionists are right -- there was no free oxygen in the early Earth. Without oxygen, there would be no ozone layer, and without the ozone layer, we would receive a lethal dose of the sun's radiation in just 0.3 seconds. How could the fragile beginnings of life have survived in such an environment?'

The planets Mars and Venus both have ozone layers and very little oxygen, since ultraviolet light acting on carbon dioxide alone can produce ozone. In fact the oxygen they do have probably comes from ozone breakdown! The early Earth had an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide and so it had ozone. Also a shallow depth of water provides an excellent UV shield. Also UV energy causes certain gases, like methane, to actually form organic compounds - [13]

'And cells need more than proteins -- they require the genetic code. The genetic code of a bacterium is far more complex than the codes for Window 98. Does anyone think the program for Windows 98 could have arisen by chance?'

Perloff exaggerates again. As we have seen bacteria have gene codes that are about a million codons in length, or about a megabyte. Windows 98 needs 225 eight-bit megabytes for an average installation. Proteins in modern living cells are encoded as DNA sequences, genes, within those cells. Proteins are just long strings of amino acids that fold-up to form a certain structure or enzyme. Genetic 'code' involves sets of 3 with 4 possibilities each – 64 combinations. These encode 23 different 'symbols'. In computer terms this is a very simple six-bit code. Computer code can encode many more symbols – Unicode, for example, encodes over 60,000 different symbols as 16 bit strings.

Secondly, he confuses the link between proteins and their genetic codes. Genetic 'code' is what genetic 'programs' are written in, just as computer programs are written in computer codes and languages. But genetic 'code' and its 'programs' have a physical connection between them based on chemistry, while the physics of a computer matter little to the program. Genetic code programs are the proteins themselves, which are far more flexible than computer programs in terms of how they can be written in their code. As we have already seen, many, many different sequences can code for the same protein, unlike computer programs.

In fact computer programmers use genetic algorithms to develop solutions to complex problems. These involve program generators that produce random strings of code initially, then select partly working code according to performance, reproduce these with some variation, and go through a new round of selection – just like Darwinian evolution. See this web-page on Genetic Algorithms.

More importantly no evolutionist claims that life arose as a fully functioning modern bacterium. [10] The current best theories imagine systems of a few self-replicating chemicals that became encapsulated in a primitive cell-wall, developed primitive metabolisms, then developed a few enzymes based on RNA, that in turn became a simple gene code, that eventually produced simple cells. Those are a few of the many, many steps along the way – not one utterly impossible jump - [10]

'But wait! Cells need more than the genetic code. Like any language, it must be translated to be understood. Cells have devices that actually translate the genetic code. To believe in evolution, we must believe that, by pure chance, the genetic code was created, and also, by pure chance, translation devices arose which took this meaningless code and translated it into something with meaning.'

Cell devices that 'translate' the code are actually different varieties of genetic code – the various RNAs that convert DNA strings into strings of amino acids (proteins). Origin-of-life researchers have found self-replicating RNA molecules that are effectively their own translators and shapers. More to the point, the origin of the genetic code is an area of active research that has yet to come across any evidence that the code could not have evolved from simpler systems of replicating chemicals.

And that's the crucial issue – lack of contrary evidence. Perloff wants his readers to believe, without presenting any evidence to prove his claim, that the genetic code could not have evolved from simpler beginnings. But if chemicals, like RNA, can copy themselves, then what's to stop successively more complex systems of interacting chemicals from arising? Absolutely nothing has been demonstrated to halt such a process. Perloff, however, wants his audience to share his personal incredulity rather than think for themselves -

'Evolutionists cannot argue that "natural selection would have improved the odds." Natural selection operates in living things -- here we are discussing dead chemicals that preceded life's beginning.'

Natural selection is routinely used by biochemists to make new proteins from 'dead chemicals' – all selection needs are imperfect replicators, not fully developed life forms. A number of self-replicating biomolecules have been made via artificial natural selection in laboratories. They could plausibly be produced by natural processes. [10] The formation of simple replicators by natural means doesn't stretch chemistry or physics -

'But let's say that somehow, by chance, a cell really formed in a primeval ocean, complete with all the proteins, amino acids, genetic code, translation devices, a cell membrane, etc. One would think that this little cell, floating on the waves, would have been very short-lived. But it must have been quite a cell -- because within its lifetime, it must have evolved the complete process of cellular reproduction. Otherwise, there never would have been another cell.'

This is a ridiculous caricature of what scientists currently believe happened as chemicals gave rise to life. Self-replicating chemicals probably formed systems of interacting and replicating chemicals that were then encapsulated in primitive cell-walls. Cell walls actually form spontaneously from the right chemicals. As these primitive precursor cells grew, their cell walls would spontaneously divide - as observed in naturally formed cell walls - and form two new cells. There is plenty of mystery involved, but that's why it is an active field of research. Contrary to Perloff's claims there is no physical or chemical reason why this scenario is impossible.

Perloff's attitude would claim it was impossible from the very first and do no research at all – which is not science. Knowledge doesn't advance by claiming 'I can't imagine how it happened, so it didn't happen.' Nature is far more surprising than human imagination!

For example, one origin of life theory holds that RNA preceded DNA and the proteins that DNA codes for. To do so RNA would have to behave like a protein and so function as an enzyme, a protein machine. Prior to this theory no one thought such a thing possible, but now many RNA enzymes have been synthesised in the laboratory thanks to a willingness to say 'what if it could?' -

'And where did sexual reproduction come from? Male and female reproductive systems are quite different.'

In more complex organisms they are. In the simplest sexually reproducing organisms they are identical -

'Why would nature evolve a male reproductive system? Until it was fully functional, it would serve no purpose -- and it would still serve no purpose unless there was, conveniently available, a female reproductive system -- which must also have arisen by chance.'

The origin of sexual reproduction has been researched for over a hundred years and a very clear picture has emerged. The very simplest sexually reproducing multi-cellular organisms have no distinction between male and female – the sex cells are alike in size and shape. But it is advantageous for the success of offspring if they get a head start and a large egg cell is produced. But it is also advantageous if lots of sex cells can be produced, so we get males who produce lots of small sperm, and females who produce a few, much larger eggs.

Sexual  machinery began very simply as free-swimming sex cells that detached from the parent and found their opposite numbers at random. Anything that improves the chances from that point on can be selected for by evolution and gradually modified over countless generations to produce the dizzying array of sexual styles in the natural world. All styles work, but differently for different contexts. [14]

All Perloff has shown is his total ignorance of the literature on the subject, plenty of which is online if he can't be bothered opening university textbooks -

'Although we have touched on only a few of the problems of "chemical evolution," we can see that the hypothesis is, at every step, effectively impossible. Yet today, even 1st-grade children are taught the "fact" that life began in the ancient ocean as a single cell -- with the scientific obstacles rarely if ever mentioned.'

Oddly my first-grader hasn't been taught evolution yet at school. The books on prehistoric life he loves to read at home, however, do tell the story of life.

Boning up on the facts

Perloff so far has quoted dodgy scientists, has misrepresented the facts and has exaggerated some very basic issues. What next? -

'What about the fossil record? Does it document evolution?

'According to Darwinism, single-celled organisms eventually evolved into the first invertebrates (creatures with no backbones, such as jellyfish). But invertebrate fossils appear suddenly in the fossil record with no visible ancestors -- in the so-called "Cambrian explosion."'

Back in Darwin's day this might have seemed true, but we know now that the 'Cambrian Explosion' was preceded by millions of years of diversification of living things in the late Pre-Cambrian. [15] Hence another so-called 'fact' of Perloff's is another misrepresentation -

'Supposedly invertebrates evolved into the first fish. But despite millions of fossils from both groups, transitional fossils linking them are missing.'

False. While fossils probably number in the billions the total number of described fossil species is only a few hundred thousand. Amongst them are represented the various invertebrates that are closest to vertebrates. Vertebrates belong to a larger group called chordates, which in turn are linked to echinoderms (e.g. starfish) via a number of lesser groups that combine features of chordates and echinoderms. All these linking groups are known from the fossils. If you want a transitional fossil, take your pick.

What did Darwin expect to see in the fossil record? Did he imagine that the direct lines from ancestor to descendent species would be found? Or was his fossil evidence more general? Here's a quote from the 1872 edition of his The Origin of Species.

'...we ought to find in nature, not the actual transitional gradations by which each complex instinct has been acquired - for these could be found only in the lineal ancestors of each species - but we ought to find in the collateral lines of descent some evidence of such gradations; or we ought at least to be able to show that gradations of some kind are possible; and this we certainly can do.' (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1872, p. 320)

What Darwin expected to see and did see in the fossil record were organisms that showed the kinds of gradations needed to step between different types of organisms. He didn't expect the direct ancestors of species to be easily found. But anti-evolutionists like Perloff frequently misrepresent Darwin and evolution as requiring the discovery of the exact genealogical record of every species in the fossil record.

Just what is a valid transitional fossil? The term has acquired two meanings that creationists confuse to dupe their audiences. The first means a form that links two closely related species - say horses and donkeys. Such transitional fossils are fairly rare, but for a quite simple reason – the fossil record isn't perfect.

Only a tiny percentage of animals ever end up as fossils and only a tiny percentage of fossils have been dug up. To fully document a species-to-species transition, hundreds of fossils across the geographic range of the two species in question have to be dug up. This is not usually done, since it is a very big task, and has only been undertaken seriously since the early 1980s. Several hundred species-to-species transitions have been documented in this way.

The other meaning of transitional form means a fossil (or series of fossils) that is intermediate between two higher taxonomic groups – such as the species that link reptiles and mammals. [16] While many creationists claim this type of transitional form doesn't exist as fossils, in actual fact the reptile-to-mammal transition has been known for over a century and has been steadily fleshed out in detail as more species that form the link have been found. [17]

However the exact lineage of hundreds of particular species that document every species-to-species step from reptile to mammal can probably never be found. Not every species that ever was has made it into the fossil record, nor has every fossil species yet been found. But for Darwinism to be seen in the fossils, the exact species lineage doesn't have to be found. Darwin himself said that all that was needed was species that documented, in general outline, the kinds of changes that one group had to undergo to become another. In the case of reptiles-to-mammals this has been done. The known intermediate species between the two groups (technically called Classes) have filled in the details of the many small anatomical changes that Darwinism requires -

'Insects, rodents, bats, pterodactyls and numerous other life forms appear in the fossil record with no trace of fossils showing how they developed.'

Insects do have intermediates in the fossils – recently identified forms known as euthycarcinoids. Rodents have a clear fossil record that leads back to a quite general mammalian ancestor. Bats and pterodactyls both appear suddenly, but then evolve from clearly primitive to more specialised forms through time. What isn't documented is just how they evolved their wings – which are what chiefly distinguishes bats and pterodactyls from other animals. But does that prove they didn't evolve?

There's nothing anatomically or biochemically unique to bats that is not similar to what is found in other mammals – the novelties are just exaggerations of the basic mammalian form. Modern bats are not born fully able to fly. Their wings and flying ability continue to develop after birth, which means many young bats don't make it to adulthood while first learning to fly. Clearly they have yet to achieve 'perfection' as flyers, but those that survive do so by beginning with less than whole wings. It is only a few steps backwards from their juvenile abilities to more primitive gliding and leaping that are assumed to be prior to full flight. For Darwinism to work, each step – from leaper to glider to clumsy flyer and so on – has to be advantageous, and there is no reason to doubt this was so in the case of bats. [18]

Perloff quotes a number of scientists who sound like they believe there are no transitional forms -

'As Gareth J. Nelson of the American Museum of Natural History pointed out, "It is a mistake to believe that even one fossil species or fossil 'group' can be demonstrated to have been ancestral to another."

'Likewise, Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, wrote, "Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils. As a paleontologist myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of identifying ancestral forms in the fossil record. …I will lay it on the line -- there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument."'

What do these researchers mean by 'ancestral'? Nelson and Patterson worked together in the 1970s and 1980s on a new technique for determining evolutionary relationships, called cladistics. Cladistics analyses features that organisms share, and differ in, to make clear evolutionary relationships. What they don't do is make clear ancestor-descendent relationships. So Nelson and Patterson have been grossly misrepresented as anti-evolutionists, which is far from the truth. [19]

In both quotes what Nelson and Patterson really mean is the exact ancestral species of another, later species is impossible to determine. Philosophically it is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove that one fossil is the direct ancestor of another. Fossils don't come with pedigrees. But this is the case for fossils from even the same species separated by any length of fossil time. Most members of a natural population at any one time will not have any descendants in future generations – it's a simple fact of genetics. Nelson and Patterson are trivially correct – no fossil can be shown to be the direct ancestor of any other. But relationships between them can be organised via cladistics to show the steps between two or more different species.

Time and fossilisation destroy the exact details of ancestry, but they do preserve the general details. If we dig up a fossil animal in recent sediments that is similar to a living form then we don't worry that we can't identify its next-of-kin today. Fossils that show the necessary step-by-step changes between different forms are all that is sufficient to document evolution for Darwinism, even when the relationship is not a direct ancestor-to-descendent relationship -

'Many other paleontologists have made equally strong affirmations.'

Mostly misunderstood cladists, no doubt. Another palaeontological 'fad' in the 1970s and 1980s was punctuated equilibrium, developed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge. Both scientists are Darwinists, but have also been misrepresented as anti-evolutionists, just like the cladists Nelson and
Patterson -

'Of course, this certainly does not mean that there are no transitional forms claimed today by evolutionists. But in a number of cases -- such as the Piltdown Man, coelacanth, and most recently, the Archaeoraptor -- cited transitional forms have turned out to be errors or even hoaxes.'

Perloff quotes one fake, one case of mistaken identity and one composite – 'Archeoraptor' was several REAL fossils put together, as identified by evolutionist scientists. However hundreds of valid intermediate forms are known today linking higher groups that creationists once believed couldn't be linked. Whales are a perfect example. Until the 1980s there were no fossils linking whales to land-going mammals, but since then dozens of species linking terrestrial to marine whales have been discovered.[17]

Why aren't these links more widely publicised you might wonder? They are well published in specialist journals and advanced textbooks, but popular palaeontology books tend to go for familiar names and species rather than mind-boggling quantities of details. However I have noticed a trend that more and more species names turn up in my son's favourite dinosaur books. Keep your eyes open -

'The main point: If evolutionary theory is true, we should find the innumerable transitional forms Darwin predicted would be in the geologic record. We shouldn't find just a handful, but billions of them.'

Darwin didn't predict that innumerable transitions would be found as fossils. He expected the fossil record to be quite incomplete because the rate and location of fossilisation through time is highly variable. He noted that the new varieties within a species that eventually become a new daughter species are often restricted to a smaller region than the parent species and so are less likely to be fossilised. He expected only the general outline to be preserved, as indeed it has been.

Also, since palaeontologists have named and described only a few hundred thousand distinct species Perloff exaggerates badly once again -

'Instead, the fossil record shows animals complete -- not in developmental stages -- the very first time they are seen.'

Developmental stages in biology imply animals at different stages of their growth. Fossil egg cells and embryos have been found, as well as juvenile forms, so he is wrong when he says incomplete animals haven't been found. [20] If that's not what he means then he is using imprecise terminology merely to confuse. If by developmental stages he means intermediate forms, they are well-documented. [21] Hence Perloff has made another unsubstantiated claim -

'And this is just what we would expect if the Bible is right and God created animals whole.'

Contrary to Perloff's claims the fossils support Darwin. Instant creation is not a very clear explanation of the patterns seen. For example, in the last 6 million years there have been 22 different species of elephant – why would God create them, wipe them out, and leave just three modern species today? Every large animal group that fossilises well has left far more diversity of species buried in the ground than are alive today. If they were all individually created God has made a lot of prototypes that he has trashed in order to create today's animals and plants. Divine Selection at work, maybe?

Darwin's developing problem

Perloff then engages another dubious source,
Dr Michael Denton, who is now an evolutionist.  [22] Much of what he wrote in the book Perloff makes so much out of Denton has turned his back on -

'Corroboration of this comes from yet another scientific sphere. Molecular biologist Michael Denton studied cellular structures from various animals on a molecular level, and found no evidence for the classic evolutionary sequence: fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal.'

Since there is detailed fossil evidence that links these four groups it's hard to see exactly what Perloff is claiming -

'In his book, "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," [first published in 1985] Dr. Denton writes, "Instead of revealing a multitude of transitional forms through which the evolution of a cell might have occurred, molecular biology has served only to emphasize the enormity of the gap. … [N]o living system can be thought of as being primitive or ancestral with respect to any other system, nor is there the slightest empirical hint of an evolutionary sequence among all the incredibly diverse cells on earth.'"

Dr. Denton's claim is massively inaccurate. Evidence for cellular evolution does exist, though not as his straw man argument against evolution would have it. An argument he has since discarded mind you. When the number of cell types in organisms is plotted through time a rising curve can be seen. Cell types have increased in number through time as organisms have diversified. [23]

Also there is strong genetic and morphological evidence that complex cells evolved through serial endosymbiosis, [24] a process that has been directly observed in the laboratory today. Cells more complex than bacteria are composed of several sub-cellular components called organelles. Several organelles are similar to certain types of free-living bacteria, which implies they are now living as symbionts within larger cells. By acquiring useful free-living bacteria, cells became more complex. Plants, fungi and animals share one type of endosymbiont called mitochondria, which help their cells use oxygen in their metabolism. Unique to plants are chloroplasts, the photosynthesis units in plant cells, which are so similar to photosynthetic bacteria that they have genes in common with several known species -

'Embryology is a field that evolutionists long used to make a case for Darwin's theory. Most of us have seen those pictures in biology textbooks of developing human embryos next to developing animal embryos, and the human embryos and animals look indistinguishable. This was said to demonstrate that we share a common ancestry with these animals and thus prove the theory of evolution.

'These pictures were designed by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel. What few people know is that they were fakes.'

True. Here's a web site that explains what one biology textbook has done to fix that problem, Haeckel and his Embryos -

'At Jena, the university where he taught, Haeckel was charged with fraud by five professors and convicted by a university court.'

In actual fact the REAL act of fraud continues today based on a confused reading of Dr. Michael Richardson's original discussion by creationists and subsequent sloppy scholarship. Once again Perloff is using arguments lifted straight from Jonathan Wells' book. [11] As for fraud, here's a quote from Troy Britain on Haeckel, [25] which makes things clearer -

'Michael Richardson recognized his error in repeating this undocumented story and wrote a retraction shortly thereafter:

"I am concerned to find that I may have helped perpetuate a Creationist myth… The claim that Ernst Haeckel was convicted of fraud was made in The Times. I relied on that statement in a subsequent publication without seeking a primary source -- clearly a mistake on my part." (Richardson 1998a, p.1289)

'There appears to be no evidence that Haeckel was ever tried for fraud in the Jena university court, much less that he was convicted of it. This appears to be a persistent creationist myth, like Darwin's supposed deathbed conversion. If the anti-evolutionists want to use this claim, it is incumbent upon them to produce references to primary material that would substantiate it. None to our knowledge have ever done so.'

Perloff, by not checking his primary references, continues to inflict this fraud on the unsuspecting public. By not checking responses to Richardson and subsequent debate he has shown a total lack of scholarship. Perloff continues -

'His deceit was exposed in "Haeckel's Frauds and Forgeries" (1915), a book by J. Assmuth and Ernest R. Hull. They quoted 19 leading authorities of the day. Anatomist F. Keibel of Freiburg University said, "it clearly appears that Haeckel has in many cases freely invented embryos, or reproduced the illustrations given by others in a substantially changed form." Zoologist L. Rόtimeyer of Basle University called his distorted drawings "a sin against scientific truthfulness."'

'In spite of his conviction for fraud, [sic] and in spite of the exposure, Western educators continued using Haeckel's drawings in biology textbooks as proof of the theory of evolution.

'The matter has finally been settled by Dr. Michael Richardson, an embryologist at St. George's Medical School, London. He found there was no record that anyone ever actually checked Haeckel's claims by systematically comparing human and other fetuses during development.

'He assembled a scientific team that did just that -- photographing the growing embryos of 39 different species. In a 1997 interview in The Times of London, Dr. Richardson stated, "This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud. It's shocking to find that somebody one thought was a great scientist was deliberately misleading. It makes me angry. … What he [Haeckel] did was to take a human embryo and copy it, pretending that the salamander and the pig and all the others looked the same at the same stage of development. They don't… These are fakes."'

What Perloff doesn't tell you is that Richardson didn't find Haeckel's main claims to be totally false. Here's what he really concluded - [25]

'On a fundamental level, Haeckel was correct: All vertebrates develop a similar body plan (consisting of notochord, body segments, pharyngeal pouches, and so forth). This shared developmental program reflects shared evolutionary history... Haeckel's inaccuracies damage credibility, but they do not invalidate the mass of published evidence for Darwinian evolution.' (Richardson et al. 1998, p. 983-984)

Haeckel was correct? If Richardson is calling Haeckel a faker, how can he say this? The truth is that Haeckel wasn't the only researcher on embryology last century and he certainly wasn't the major voice for biology on this issue. Current opinion finds strong evidence for evolution in the similarities that embryos visibly share, as seen by this explanation of the current view - [25]

'The ideas of Ernst Haeckel greatly influenced the early history of embryology; however, his ideas have been superseded by those of Karl Ernst van Baer, his predecessor. Van Baer suggested that the embryonic stages of an individual should resemble the embryonic stages of its ancestors (rather than resembling its adult ancestors, a la Haeckel). The final adult structure of an organism is the product of numerous cumulative developmental processes; for species to evolve, there necessarily must have been change in these developmental processes. The macroevolutionary conclusion is that the development of an organism is a modification of its ancestors' ontogenies (Futuyma 1998, pp. 652-653). The modern developmental maxim is the inverse of Haeckel's biogenetic law. "Phylogeny recapitulates Ontogeny," not the opposite. Walter Garstang stated even more correctly that ontogeny creates phylogeny. What this means is that once given knowledge about an organism's ontogeny, we can confidently predict certain aspects of the historical pathway that was involved in this organism's evolution (Gilbert 1997, pp. 912-914). Thus, embryology can provide confirmations and predictions about evolution.'

After so much misinformation from Perloff what's next? -

'And then there is common sense. In a popular evolutionary explanation, here's how reptiles evolved into birds: They wanted to eat flying insects that were out of reach.'

Actually that idea has been out of fashion since the 1970s. Current theories centre on proto-birds as either arboreal leapers, or running hunters who flapped their wings for extra push - [26]

'So the reptiles began leaping, and flapping their arms to get higher.'

Even the insect idea didn't have proto birds leaping after insects. Instead their scales elongated to provide catches for 'scooping' insects out of the air. Currently scientists believe that feathers were first used for insulation and display - the other uses of feathers in living birds - [27]

'Over millions of years, their limbs transformed into wings by increments, their tough reptilian scales gradually sprouting soft feathers.'

Chemically certain types of scales, called scutes, and feathers are identical. [28] Early proto-dinosaurs, called thecodonts, have been found with elongated scales that look like viable proto-feathers. [29] More recently
actual dinosaurs with feathers have been found, one example of which was one-third of the infamous Archaeoraptor – a real feathered dinosaur had been broken up to make a more valuable 'fake' - [30]

'But the theory suffers when scrutinized. According to natural selection, a physical trait is acquired because it enhances survival. Obviously, flight is beneficial, and one can certainly see how flying animals might survive better than those who couldn't, and thus natural selection would preserve them.'

Flight is not the only trait that a proto-bird would find useful in its wings, as we shall see -

'The problem is wings would have no genuine survival value until they reached the point of flight. Birds' wings and feathers are perfectly designed instruments. Those with crippled or clipped wings cannot fly, and are bad candidates for survival.'

Perloff claims that wings would have no survival value until whole – this is nonsense. In flightless dinosaurs their proto-wings would be forelimbs, which have quite obvious survival value for hunting, even when reduced in size. If a land-going dinosaur flapped its feathered wings it would get a boost as it ran. Eventually it might leap and glide short distances as it attacked its prey, or evaded a predator, all quite obviously valuable survival traits of 'half wings'. Whether dinosaurs began leaping on the ground, or in the trees, part-wings would have advantages right from the start up until full, flapping flight -

'Likewise, the intermediate creature whose limb was half leg, half wing, would fare poorly -- it couldn't fly, nor walk well.'

He makes a ridiculous statement, considering flightless birds like kiwis, rheas, ostriches and emus, and the bipedal dinosaurs. They've done quite well as flightless birds and bird-like forms with half-leg/half-wings -

'Natural selection would eliminate it without a second thought.'

After the bipedal dinosaurs, giant flightless birds were the largest land carnivores for a very long time. In South America a whole group of flightless bird species, called Phororhacids, [31] remained the dominant carnivores until recent times -

'Let's raise an even more fundamental question: Why aren't reptiles today developing feathers? Why aren't fish today growing little legs, trying to adapt to land? Shouldn't evolution be ongoing?'

Perloff again betrays his ignorance of biology and evolutionary concepts by arguing from a common misconception. Firstly the 'reptiles' of today are not the same group that gave rise to birds, since they have evolved alongside modern birds. Birds have so successfully filled all the air-borne ecological niches that an upstart species wouldn't get a chance – that's why bats are nocturnal and avoid most bird ecological niches.

As for fish with legs I can visit my city's mangrove-flats and see fish with legs – mudskippers. But more importantly the fish of today are not the ancestral forms that become land-going vertebrates. All living groups have evolved since the land-vertebrates and fish parted company 370 million years ago. One dominant group of fish, the Tetrapods, filled all the niches on land, so that all other fish groups are left with the mangrove swamps -

'And why is man so incredibly different than all other animals? What animal can solve math equations? Write poetry? Laugh at jokes? Design computer software? How can we say that man is merely "one more animal, just more highly evolved?"'

Good questions, but modern education was not suddenly created by God. Humans have had 10,000 years of civilization to drive them to greater levels of sophistication than a basic hunter-gatherer society. And language use is a skill that is uniquely human. Darwin never imagined that we were 'mere' animals – we are walking, talking, social animals. We are unique, regardless of our similarities with other mammals.

Even in the Bible humans are said to have made their own cities. God didn't give us all our amazing human abilities all at once.

Truth decay

'Americans adhering to traditional values continue to oppose many things -- abortion, pornography, the radical homosexual movement, etc. -- and are constantly losing ground. They are losing ground because these issues are peripheral.'

And in a modern, liberal democracy they shouldn't be as big a deal as many make them out to be -

'These movements do not budge because they are rooted in something deeper: disbelief in God, which leads to moral relativism on all issues. And unbelief is largely stemming from children being massively indoctrinated in the "fact" of evolution. Students are taught that they are simply animals, the products of chance mutations from an ancient slime -- which implies that life is meaningless.'

Alternatively, children could be taught that they are merely animated dirt and are unable to reason morally for themselves and so must swallow a range of preconceived values without question – that is what Perloff and his ilk would like to preach to kids. 'Man is but clay', according to the Bible. The Hebrew Scriptures make no distinction between the breath of God that animates humans and the same that animates all animal life, so how is human dignity improved by the Genesis story?

But evolution doesn't merely imply that humans are animals. Humans ARE animals. Like all living species, we are the inheritors of a long successful lineage that has survived the trials and perils of the last a half-billion years of Earth's history. In Darwin's mind that was a more ennobling view of all living things. Children could be taught that their ancestors won through millennia after millennia of peril, a view perhaps better than believing we are the equivalent of claymation characters that were thrown away by their maker -

'Why should we care about Clinton's scandals? After all, morality itself evolved by chance -- therefore, there are no moral truths.'

Morality evolved by chance? Perhaps, but that's not a scientific claim made by Darwinism. Some theorists believe that certain social behaviours have possible Darwinian explanations, but this is far from being scientifically proven.

Besides, Darwinism is not merely about chance mutation since new varieties must be selected in order to survive. Successful variations are accumulated over time, and older variations lost as they become redundant. If morals have evolved, they have survived by being useful to those who believe them, or else they would have been discarded long ago. That's Darwinism – what works, endures -

'But there are truths, and one of them is: Charles Darwin's theory is crumbling under contrary evidence. Americans need to be aware of this, because until the scientific case against Darwinism becomes widely known, our nation's political prospects, like its morality, will continue to decay.'

The real truth, as we have seen, is that some people will misrepresent and distort facts for the sake of moral and political agendas. Could that be one cause behind much of the moral and political disillusionment amongst today's youth? How many political leaders must be exposed as hypocrites and liars before things change?

To make him sound like an anti-evolutionist Niles Eldredge has been misquoted by creationists time and time again. He is, in fact, a Darwinist. What he says about school teaching and creationism sums up the situation, and applies equally to all countries -

'We will not go very far if we pretend to teach our kids that we cannot tell the difference between real and phony science. Yet that was the gist of all those "equal time" laws in the 1970s and 1980s: the Arkansas and Louisiana legislatures were actually telling the teachers in their public schools to pretend not to know the difference between real science - flaws and all - and outmoded or simply bad science. I cannot imagine anything more perverse, more deliberately harmful, than teaching kids that their elders cannot tell the difference between the real and phony. Some of them, of course, cannot. But all but the relatively few creation-leaning science teachers throughout the fifty states most assuredly can, and requiring them in essence to lie to their students sends about the worst message imaginable to the younger generation. And kids, of course, can see right through that.' [Page 152 of The Triumph of Evolution, and The Failure of Creationism, by Niles Eldredge, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, 2000].


[1] Check out Amazon Books and their range of reviews of Perloff's book.  Perloff also argues against modern geological dating and the Big Bang theory, but neither depends on Darwinism in any way. Ironically, many Creationists think the Big Bang theory supports the existence of God, and the current favoured Young-earth cosmology of Russell Humphreys is essentially the Big Bang.
[Return to Text]

[2] See James Perloff's July 2001 article The case against Darwin  [Return to Text]

[3] The following article, On Archaeopteryx, Astronomers, and Forgery discusses Spetner's spurious claims against the Archaeopteryx fossil.  [Return to Text]

[4] Ian Musgrave points out Dr. Spetner's inconsistent application of his information here,  Spetner and Biological Information.

Dr. Edward Max debates Dr. Spetner at this page, The Evolution of Improved Fitness - Correspondence with Critic Lee Spetner.  This article is quite long and in depth, so I have summarised Dr. Max's main points as my argument against Dr. Spetner's claims.  [Return to Text]

[5]  See Dr. Max's earlier article on how evolution really works, The Evolution of Improved Fitness - By Random Mutation Plus selection. A common tactic of all creationists is to claim that Darwinism implies randomness, but this is nonsense. Variation is random, but the selection of varieties is non-random. The production of living bodies from genes is also a non-random part of the process that is also often overlooked. [Return to Text]

[6] Dr. Kenneth Miller is a Christian who has argued against Michael Behe several times. Here is his review of Behe's book and here he explains a detailed Darwinian scenario for evolving blood clotting and argues why Behe's counter-arguments are wrong. [Return to Text]

[7] Dave Ussery is a biochemist who has covered the arguments used by Behe in detail.  [Return to Text]

[8] Ian Musgrave's article discusses
Evolution of the Bacterial Flagella  [Return to Text]

[9]  Douglas Theobald's article gives 29 Evidences for Macroevolution. He discusses  cytochrome c and DNA redundancy in some detail. [Return to Text]

[10] Ian Musgrave discusses misleading statistics about the origin of life at Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations. [Return to Text]

[11] See Jonathan Wells' book Icons of Evolution, (for a detailed review see Nic Tamzek's response, Icon of Obfuscation).
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[12] James Kasting is an atmospheric physicist who studies the atmospheres of the Earth and other planets. In Reflections From a Warm Little Pond he speaks about the early Earth.  [Return to Text]

[13] Nic Tamzek shows how Wells has misrepresented the facts about the early Earth.  [Return to Text]

[14] Ken Harding briefly covers the the Marsupial Transition between Reptiles and Placental Mammals[Return to Text]

[15] Glenn Morton, geophysicist, explains why the Cambrian explosion isn't a big problem for evolution. 

Recently Deng Shu and Simon Conway-Morris have uncovered evidence for new intermediate forms linking the chordate/vertebrates and invertebrates such as echinoderms. These new forms are known as Vetulicolians. Here's a brief report on Shu and Conway-Morris' theory: Giant Tadpole   [Return to Text]

[16] Clifford Cuffey details the extensive fossil record of the
reptile-mammal transition
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[17] Douglas Futuyma on Whale evolution and Hans Thewissen on fossil whales[Return to Text]

[18] Learn about Chiropteran Flight
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[19] Henry Gee's book In Search of Deep Time covers the research of Gareth Nelson and Colin Patterson as they developed cladistics from Henning's earlier work
. Lionel Teunissen shows how Creationists have misquoted Colin Patterson.
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[20] For example, animal embryos have recently been found in Pre-Cambrian phosphate deposits in China. [Return to Text]

[21] Kathleen Hunt covers vertebrate intermediates here.  [Return to Text]

[22] Michael Denton's latest book Nature's Destiny makes it clear that he is an evolutionist, as this review explains.  The same web-site covers his earlier book and explains its errors.  [Return to Text]

[23] Glenn Morton discusses the evolution of cell types over time.   [Return to Text]

[24] A brief introduction to serial endosymbiosis.   [Return to Text]

[25] Troy Britain's arguments and reference details of Dr Richardson's work can be found at Troy Britain's web page.
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[26]  The Evolution of Flight at UCMP. [Return to Text]

[27]  Fossil birds and their feathers
.   [Return to Text]

[28] Jeff Poling explains the relationship between scales, scutes and feathers
.  [Return to Text]

Half-evolved feathers on Longisquama? [Return to Text]

[30] Luis Rey's beautiful paintings of feathered dinobirds [Return to Text]

[31] Titanis walleri is a North American Phororhacid [Return to Text]