CHALLENGES TO DARWINISM
(Investigator 27, 1992 November)
DARWINISM = EVOLUTION + NATURAL SELECTION
Charles Darwin (1808-1882) formulated the idea of "Natural Selection".
Natural Selection is the theory that:
- Individuals in populations are variable in their characteristics;
- Since resources are scarce and predators and natural hazards often plentiful some variations will be such that the possessor will likely contribute proportionately more offspring to the next generation than other variations;
- Such variants will therefore increase proportionately and are said to be "selected".
Natural Selection, said Darwin, began with an original ancestor and over long ages of time led to the millions of species now existing. The process was gradual and therefore there was a continuous array of forms leading step by step from the original ancestor to present-day species. Natural Selection, then, is the alleged process or method by which alleged evolution – the development of higher organisms from lower – occurs.
Darwinism consists of two central ideas:
(1) The alleged fact of evolution;
(2) The major mechanism – Natural Selection.
It also included the concepts of gradual change, common descent, and formation of new species.
Nineteenth century biologists sought to unravel the evolutionary history of various species and other categories by means of comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, systematics (= science of classification) and paleontology (= study of fossils).
Darwinism has faced many challenges:
FIRST CHALLENGE – KELVIN
Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), discoverer of the second law of thermodynamics, calculated in 1866 that planet Earth would have cooled from a molten state to present levels in only 20 million years. Darwin called this result "one of my sorest troubles" since it denied evolution the long time periods it needed.
Most leading evolutionists tried to cram all evolutionary history into Kelvin's limits. However, in 1903 radium was discovered. New Zealand born, British, physicist Earnest Rutherford (1871-1937) argued, in 1904, that radioactivity in the Earth's crust constantly generates new heat. Radioactivity not only destroyed Kelvin's argument but also provided a "clock" to measure Earth's age! The constant rate of radioactive decay could measure back billions of years.
NEXT CHALLENGE: BLENDING & CONTINUOUS VARIATION
Darwin initially did not have a theory of inheritance. It was generally assumed that an offspring was a blend of the two parents as when, for example, a red and a white primrose together produce a pink primrose. The problem with this blending theory for Darwin is that the beneficial changes – which Natural Selection required – would be blended out. This was pointed out by a Scottish engineer Henry F Jenkin (1833 - 1885). The amount of variation would be halved in each successive generation.
To the apparent rescue came Gregor Mendel (1822-1884). Mendel was a monk in Vienna who bred plants in the monastery garden and kept records of the pedigrees. His work showed that character differences occur in discrete and often large jumps. Mendel inferred that unit heredity factors (= genes) are transmitted from parent to offspring. This was the "particulate theory of inheritance", namely, that one gene controlled each characteristic and that the characteristic varied or changed according to the "allele" (different variations of the one gene) at the gene site. Mendel's work was ignored until about 1900 and then rediscovered. His work refuted the blending theory thus removing an objection to Natural Selection.
The combination of the two theories – Natural Selection and Mendelian Genetics – came to be called "Neo Darwinism".
However, if genes were discrete non-blendable units, argued the "Mendelians", then evolution must occur in hops and jumps and not as Darwin said "by slow degrees". The debate between blending theorists (also called "biometricians") and the Mendelians has been called "Darwin's Thirty Years War" and lasted c. 1890 - 1920.
Biometricians pointed to the evidence of continuous variation. Sizes of individuals in a population do not all differ by discrete amounts such as 1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches, etc, but may have any value in between. Similarly with weight, colour and many other characteristics. This observation counted against Mendel's "particulate" theory.
In 1909 Wilhelm L Johannsen (1857-1927) investigated the inheritance of bean weights. He found that when many genes contributed to a characteristic then the measurements are "binomially distributed" and resemble continuous variation. In the 1920s the English statistician/geneticist R A Fisher (1890-1962) demonstrated this mathematically. Mendel, therefore, seemed right.
Johannsen also obtained pure lines of beans producing small seeds and pure lines of beans producing large seeds. Self-pollination of such pure lines gave progeny similar to each other and similar to the parents. In other words new genetic variation followed by Natural Selection was apparently failing to occur. Similarly, American zoologist Herbert H Jennings (1868-1947) selectively bred the microbe Paramecium to increase the body size. He found that after several generations a limit was reached and Selection had no further effect.
Mendelism, therefore was apparently refuting Darwinism. Many scientists thought that this was the end of Darwin's theory. Geneticist Theodore Dobzhansky wrote in 1971: "Approximately between 1900 and 1925, the reputation of the selection theory was at its lowest ebb."
TRANSMITTING AND ACQUIRING NEW CHARACTERISTICS
The problem was that if genes are passed unchanged from parents to offspring and from offspring to further offspring (i.e. the "genotype" remains constant) then new (or improved) characteristics in the physical organism could not occur in the first place nor be transmitted if they occurred. Mendel's and Johannsen's research in effect both helped Natural Selection (by refuting the blending theory) and undercut it (by apparently showing that genes stay unchanged).
There used to be the idea that characteristics acquired during a lifetime (such as faster running speed by much training or higher IQ by much study) were transmitted to offspring. This theory was called Lamarckianism or Lamarckism and came to be accepted by Darwin. Chevelier de Lamarck (1744-1829) had argued that an animal which strives in a particular way such as a short-necked giraffe reaching for higher leaves would produce offspring with an increase in the new quality – in the case of the giraffe example a slightly longer neck. Mendel's work, however, also implied that Larmarck was false. After all, if the characteristics inherited by offspring are limited to what's transmitted via the genes, as Mendel discovered, then acquired abilities could not be transmitted.
Further evidence showing Lamarckism false was the experiment of cutting off the tail of new born mice for generation after generation after generation.
If Lamarckism were true, it was reasoned, then acquired characteristic of having no tail would gradually be passed on and lead to shorter tails as generations went by. This, however, didn't happen. Common observations such as the son of a body-builder not becoming even stronger than the father refuted Larmarckism. In France and Russia, however, Lamarckism remained the accepted theory into the 20th century. This connection of Darwinism to something false of course wasn't good for Darwinism!
Meanwhile, to the rescue in explaining the origin of new characteristics came the evidence of mutations. Occasional damage occurs to genes in the sex cells – the sperm or the egg. The damage may be spontaneous or be due to radiation or chemicals. Usually such mutations are harmful and the resulting organism will be less likely to reproduce than his healthy rivals and the new variant will thus be extinguished from the population.
But sometimes a mutation in the genes of the sex cells of the parent will result in offspring which are advantaged so that they are more likely to reproduce than others without the mutation. The new variation then starts to spread in the population.
The leading researcher in mutations, early in the 20th century was American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945).
From 1907 to 1917 Morgan researched mutations in fruit flies (Drosophilia). He uncovered many different "lethal mutations" which killed the offspring. Other mutations included changes in eye colour and shape, body colour and shape, patterns on wings, missing wings, number and shape of bristles, damaged gonads, deformed mouth parts, damaged digestive system, damaged muscles, etc.
Morgan found that alterations in genes causing non-lethal changes to the offspring may be transmitted to subsequent generations. Morgan summarized his work in his 1934 book Embryology and Genetics. He concluded that mutations in genetic material supply the variation on which Natural Selection operates. In other words, because inherited characteristics are genetically coded they constitute the variation needed for Natural Selection.
Mutations provide variation and the environment acts like a net which tends to decrease the proportion of some genes and promotes increase in frequency of others.
In 1937 the book Genetics and the Origin of Species by Theodore Dobzhansky (1900-1975) outlined the "Synthetic Theory of Evolution". Another important book was Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942) by Julian Huxley (1887-1975). The "synthesis" combined Neo-Darwinism with research in mutations and population genetics – the study of the mathematics and causes of changes in gene frequency in natural populations. This was still Darwin's Natural Selection but with much explanatory detail added to it.
HOAXES, FRAUDS and ERRORS
Another challenge to Darwinism was hoax and misinterpretations. When evolutionists succumbed to hoaxes and errors it decreased their credibility. One error by Darwin, for example, was to accept Lamarckian inheritance (which Darwin called "Pangenesis"). This was refuted around 1900.
In 1869 the Cardiff Giant, a "fossilized man", was found in New York State. A lot of people were misled. It turned out to be a stone carving, artificially aged, and buried in 1868.
The Calavaras Skull was found in California in 1876 and convinced some evolutionists that humans had lived in the area 2 million years ago. The finder claimed he found the Skull among ancient fossils. The Skull was actually the skull of an Indian uncovered when a burial ground was flooded. The truth came out in 1911.
Nebraska Man, discovered in 1922, consisted of a tooth. This was presented as evidence of man's ape ancestry at the Scopes "monkey Trial" in 1925. In 1927 the tooth was shown to be from an extinct pig.
Piltdown Man – a human cranium combined with an orangutan jaw – was found in 1912 and fooled evolutionists for over 40 years!
The Tasaday Tribe of "stoneage cavemen" discovered in the Philippines around 1965 was even written up in National Geographic. The "cavemen" were a hoax and the actors were local peasants. The intent was to get international aid and money for the Philippines. The main con man in this was an official of the Marcos Government, H Elizalde Jr., who skipped the country with $35 million of the National Minority Protection Bureau.
There have been numerous alleged ancestors of humankind. For example Simons (1977) writing about "Ramapithecus" in Scientific American commenced:"This extinct primate is the earliest hominid, or distinctly manlike, member of man's family tree."Later it turned out that "Ramapithecus" was actually connected to orangutans. Many other examples could be given!
Some Darwinists performed deliberate fraud. The "Biogenetic Law" of German embryologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was that "ontogeny" recapitulates phylogeny". This phrase which was memorized by generations of school children means that the development of the embryo/fetus in the womb is a speeded up replay of the evolution of the species. Haeckel's law, which he supported by doctoring his illustrations of embryos of various species to make them look more similar, was a major proof of evolution in the 19th century. By 1910 the "law" was virtually discarded by biologists but kept appearing in school textbooks!
Spiritualism started in 1848 – before Darwin published Origin of Species in 1859. Seeming manifestations of "Spirits" produced by Spiritualists appeared to prove the existence of the supernatural. This implied that an invisible Spirit World could influence the physical world. Indeed if there was life after death then there might also be a God who created everything – including species – which would make the origin of species by Natural Selection false. This possibility was strengthened by the existence of the other challenges to Darwinism.
Some evolutionists tried to combine Natural Selection and Spiritualism. Alfred R Wallace (1823-1913), an English naturalist who had proposed Natural Selection independently of Darwin, was a Spiritualist who believed the "unseen world of spirit" guided evolution. Most evolutionists saw this approach as a silly attempt to link testable science with untestable metaphysical claims.
The many debunkers of Spiritualism therefore, appropriately, included some evolutionists.
Edwin Ray Lankaster (1846-1929) was a dedicated follower of Darwin. In 1876 he exposed the spirit-medium/psychic Henry Slade. Slade posed questions to his dead wife who allegedly produced written answers on slates. Professor Lankaster attended and during a seance snatched the slate from Slade's hand and exposed a written answer prior to the question being asked! Lankaster took Slade to court as a "common rogue". Darwin himself attended the trial and helped to fund the prosecution. Slade later went to America where he continued to act the rogue but was repeatedly exposed.
Another evolutionist to investigate "fraudulent psychics" was Thomas H Huxley (1825-1895). This evolutionary biologist was also a friend of Darwin and even learned to snap his toes and thus confound Spiritualists at seances by imitating their "rapping" sounds. Nowadays Spiritualism is discredited and no longer a threat to science including Darwinism.
The anti-Spiritualist campaign by evolutionists may have led to the Piltdown Hoax. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) invented Sherlock Holmes, believed in fairies, and was a Spiritualist. There is evidence that Doyle was involved in the Piltdown Hoax perhaps even masterminded it. His motive could have been to make monkeys out of evolutionists to repay their exposing of his friends as frauds.
HOPEFUL MONSTERS and PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM
Another challenge to Darwinism – by this time amended to the Synthetic Theory – was the idea of rapid morphological change.
Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958) was a German geneticist who fled Nazi Germany and continued his work in the USA.
Goldschmidt (1940) gave a long list of features which he thought could not have evolved gradually by Natural Selection such as the eyes of mammals, the wings of birds, etc. He then suggested that evolution occurred by sudden and extensive reshuffling of genetic material. Goldschmidt's idea came to be called "the hopeful monster theory". This is because extensive changes in the genes would mostly result in terribly deformed offspring with only the occasional one having a chance of surviving and reproducing.
In 1972 palaeontologist Niles Eldredge and zoologist Stephen J Gould argued for "Punctuated Equilibrium". This referred to rapid evolution in small populations in small geographical areas interspersed with long periods of little or no change. Darwin had used Natural Selection to explain both adaptation and diversity. The idea of Punctuated Equilibria retains Natural Selection to account for small changes associated with adapting to the environment but provides a different explanation for the diversity in nature and the large differences between major categories.
The "hopeful monster" and "Punctuated Equilibria" ideas seemed necessary because a century of hunting for the fossils which linked all present-day species to ancient species failed to find them. Darwin himself complained:"But I do not pretend that I should ever have suspected how poor was the record in the best preserved geological sections, had not the absence of innumerable transitional links between the species which lived at the commencement and close of each formation pressed so hardly upon my theory." (Graebner 1921)Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a zoologist who researched fossils and climatic changes, was one scientist who saw no continuous lineages.
Perhaps 10,000,000,000 fossil finds have now been made but, generally speaking, they still do not reveal ancient species changing gradually, through thousands of shades of change, to emerge as modern species. What the fossil record shows are groups of species which survived millions or even hundreds of millions of years and became suddenly extinct, and others which apparently originated suddenly, but with few (or no?) clear intermediates linking the later ones to the previous ones.
The 1200km long, 600km wide Karroo Basin, which stretches across South Africa, North of Cape Town, has been estimated to contain 3 trillion (3,000 billion) fossils. Yet even here the missing links remain missing! Biologist G H Hardin lamented:"It is exasperating to the biologists that so many of the key advances in evolutionary history should have taken place without leaving a trace." (1961)
Another blow to "gradualism" was when population geneticists studied micromutations – small measureable changes in individuals and/or populations. At first they assumed that small changes would add up into large changes and completely new species. But this didn't happen.
This same problem of billions of fossils, of which most were unhelpful to evolution theory, provided ammunition for yet another challenge to Natural Selection/Neo Darwinism. This challenge is Creationism and the Bible.
Nineteenth century Christianity opposed Natural Selection on the authority of the Bible. There was little attempt at scientific investigation. The Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925 marked the demise of this approach.
For several decades after 1925 Fundamentalists, sectarians, and the Evolution Protest Movement (founded in Britain) conducted subdued opposition to the prevailing theory of evolution.
Then in 1972 the Institute for Creation Research was founded in California. It is one of a number of organizations which defend "Creation Science". By 1980 the ICR had about 500 "scientists" as members and had conducted debates in 200 universities and 20 countries. (Morris & Rohrer 1981)
The Creation Science scientists are mostly members of Fundamentalist Protestant groups such as Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ, etc.
Their belief system includes the following claims:1 The evolution of complicated organisms would be contrary to the second law of thermodynamics;
2 God originally created a genetically rich flora and fauna which has since simplified;
3 A "water canopy" was originally suspended around the Earth in the upper atmosphere providing a Greenhouse effect and a world-wide warm climate;
4 The canopy crashed down causing a world-wide flood which created all the geological strata, coal beds, fossil layers, etc.
5 The Universe including planet Earth is less than 10,000 years old and was created by God in a period of six literal days.
The Scientific Creationists like to quote evolutionists who express doubt or ignorance in any part of the theory. A typical quote might be: "Unfortunately, the origins of most higher categories are shrouded in mystery…" (Raup & Stanley 1971)The Creationists do, and publish, some actual experiments such as floating seeds of plants in salt water for a year and then trying to germinate them or subjecting models of Noah's Ark to the equivalent of 100 metre waves, etc. (Lammerts 1971)
Another attack of Creationists is to call evolution "non scientific" and label belief in it as "faith". They sometimes even cite Charles Popper. Popper is a philosopher who specialises in the philosophy of science. He produced the principle of "Falsifiability". According to this principle a statement is only scientific if it is testable and therefore falsifiable. A hypothesis is never proven but only "retained" so long as it passes all tests. A scientific theory, then, is one that is falsifiable but currently unfalsified. Popper claimed that the theory of evolution does not satisfy the principle of Falsifiability. Whenever a weakness is revealed in evolution it is always quickly covered with a new assumption. In other words, the theory of evolution is neither testable nor falsifiable.
However, if assumptions are always made to cover weak points it indicates that the weak points were indeed testable and failed those tests. Therefore component parts of the theory of evolution are indeed testable and are being falsified. Perhaps Popper's principle does not apply to the broad generalizations we call "paradigms". Creationism per se is not testable by a single experiment either.
Creation Science is itself often contrary to science. They commence with an interpretation of the Bible and build upon it by using whatever science supports their prior beliefs and ignoring the rest.
The usual way of science, in contrast, is to start with observations and experiments (assisted by scientific instruments and mathematics), then explain the observations by means of a hypothesis or theory, then make predictions from the theory, and then do further experiments to test the predictions.
Using these procedures there is no way we can come up with the basics of Scientific Creationism such as the idea of God making the Universe 10,000 years ago in six days.
What motivates the "Scientific Creationists"?
When the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957 an American response was a more vigorous emphasis on science in schools. Evolution theory, being linked to the sciences of biology, geology, paleontology, etc was naturally included. But this theory was a threat to Fundamentalist faith especially to school-children of Fundamentalist parents and so had to be openly resisted.
Secondly the rise of Israel seemed to confirm the authority of the Bible which predicted a restoration of Israel. This stimulated Fundamentalists to new boldness.
Thirdly, various evolutionists such as Crick, Hoyle, Eisely and Conklin were claiming that a chance origin of life was almost impossible. Conklin, for example, compared it to the: "probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop."
Creationists aimed to advertise their views via the educational institutions. In a Democracy voting is not random. An organised and vocal minority voting in "block" fashion can sometimes ensure the result. Therefore, persons sympathetic to Creationism could be elected to the board of education or even the presidency. This was an aim of Creationists which, if it succeeded, would in turn assist Creationists in getting equal time with evolution in schools. Such equal time was indeed the intent behind the court case in Arkansas in 1981. (Time Australia 1981 December 21)
Furthermore, California has 10% of the text book market. If equal teaching time could be achieved in that state then Creationist ideas would get into books used all over the world. Other publishers would have to do the same for economic reasons.
Two other motivators of Creationism are politics and morality. Politicians of the political right have adapted Darwin's Natural Selection to support political views. Such adaptations include "Social Darwinism" which in an extreme form was used to justify Hitler's racial policies. If Natural Selection and evolution were false then certain political positions would be undermined. Furthermore, if humans could be set apart from all other living things and this done on the authority of the Bible backed by science, then the choice of moral standards becomes comparatively simple. We could let our text books on ethics gather dust while we study God's absolute standards in the Bible. Questions on divorce, abortion, religious authority, welfare, comparative merits of different religions and cultures, etc, become easier to handle.
In the 1970s taxonomists (classifiers) known as Cladists sought to classify organisms by evaluating characteristics numerically. They listed all sorts of characteristics in which organisms differ to each other including biochemical differences in genes, proteins and serum albumin reactions. The organisms were then classified and their evolutionary relationships inferred from the number of differences.
Data about evolution from other disciplines such as paleontology, genetics and anatomy was ignored and the starting assumption made that all species are unrelated.
The intention behind Cladist efforts was to avoid circular reasoning. If taxonomy is based on characteristics thought to be related by evolution and then tree diagrams drawn accordingly which show relatedness of various species and then the tree diagrams are used as evidence for occurrence of evolution the argument is circular – a tautology
In 1980 the British Museum of Natural History produced a new exhibition based on Cladism. The organisers argued:"We assume that none of the species we are considering is the ancestor of any of the others."At the very least the Cladist approach denied that evolution occurred gradually via slow changes over long ages. After all, most of the characteristics used in taxonomy whether morphological or biochemical were either there or they weren't. Vertebrates, for example, have a whole backbone, or an entire system for suckling the young (in the case of mammals) and not a ½, ¼, 1/10, 1/100 or whatever of the characteristic.
When the museum went further and assumed for the purpose of their exhibition that none of the species were ancestor to any others many Darwinists were upset. They in turn pointed out that Cladists could never know when all relevant characteristics have been identified.
In 1980 L B Halstead linked the Cladist position to the Marxist prediction of human societies facing drastic change by revolution. Karl Marx (1818-1882) had compared Natural Selection to the class struggle and the triumph of Communism. Marx had written:"Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural selection for the class struggle."The belief that changes in human societies proceed by the same laws as Natural Selection is called "Social Darwinism". By denying gradual change in evolution Cladists implied abrupt change. Halstead saw an analogy between the abrupt changes in evolution and the abrupt changes (predicted by Marx) by revolution. Of course, linking biology to politics in this way is a pseudo science. Such an approach had been very unpopular ever since the racist theories of Adolf Hitler!
SOME FURTHER QUESTIONS
Another challenge to Darwinism are unanswered questions.
Consider the idea of "Adaptation". Woodpeckers have a chisel-like beak, a shock-absorber neck, a thick skull, claws like grappling hooks, stiff tail feathers and a long tongue barbed at the tip. These adaptations enable it to reach insects in bark.
Is adaptation evidence for evolution as is often claimed in wildlife films and in books?
If we say "Yes" the problems include:
1. Extinctions – 97% of species ever to exist are extinct. Does this mean they were not adapted?
2. The same sort of structure may be used differently in different species. Wings for example may be used to fly, wade, swim, shield against glare, etc.
3. What comes first, a new behavior or a new structure? A behavior without the structure – like trying to fly without wings – might lead to death or injury. Alternatively, having wings and not needing them would not be adaptive.
4. If an organism seems adapted to its environment how could we know that it's not just due to luck (in the sense that superior rivals died in some calamity)?
5. Did adaptive structures develop gradually? S J Gould once asked, "What good is forty percent of a wing?"
It seems then that apparent adaptation of an organism to its environment is not proof of evolution!
Uniformitarianism – that slow geological processes currently observed account for the way the Earth is – is also under attack from the theory of asteroid impacts. A layer of iridium (of the platinum family and common in meteors) was discovered sandwiched between 65-million-year-old strata. 65 million years ago is the time when the dinosaurs perished. In 1987 a U.S. Geological Survey discovered shocked Quartz – quartz crystals altered through impact pressure – in the iridium layer.
The Bible implies a catastrophic past! (See Genesis 1:2; Job 38:8; Psalm 104:5-9)
If a major principle such as Uniformitarianism to which Natural Selection was linked is false, or has to be redefined so as to include catastrophism, then once again Darwinism is undermined.
Other problems still unanswered on scientific grounds include the origin of sex, origin of Phyla, and origin of language.
The Creationists argue that God created at most several thousand basic "kinds" – sufficiently few to fit into Noah's Ark. After the Flood each kind was able to diverge into new variations. An original cat-like animal, for example, gave rise to lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, etc. (Marsh 1971) Of course, for a few thousand creatures to give rise to millions of species in only a few centuries implies evolution at such an explosive rate as to dumbfound Goldschmidt, Eldredge, Gould the Cladists and every other evolutionist!
How then do the Creationists respond to this charge that they teach evolution? They distinguish "variation" from "evolution". Variation, according to them, is lateral leading to no new complicated structures. Evolution, in contrast, is vertical and implies increase in complexity. (Morris 1973) Limited "micro evolution" occurs within each discrete "Kind". It is limited in that no "Kind" can change so much as to be confused with another "Kind".
Scientific Creationism thus differs from Darwinism in ideas about the rates of change and the degree of change. Creationists and Darwinists and Cladists and Gould and Eldredge are all allies, however, in their need to postulate mechanisms of change.
The challenges to Darwinism which I've discussed are the Earth's rate of cooling; Blending; Mendelism; Lamarckism; Mutations; hoaxes and errors; Spiritualism; Hopeful Monsters; the fossil record; Falsifiability; Creationism; Cladism; and questions regarding adaptation, extinctions, etc.
Just as Creationism arose in a social and political milieu so did Darwinism. Precursors of Darwin included French naturalist Georges Buffon (1707-1788), Chevelier de Lamarck, British population theorist Thomas Malthus (l766-1834) and Scottish geologist Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875). Important stimuli were modern criticisms of the Bible, which had already gone on for two centuries, the loss of power of the Church, and the need for a paradigm or unifying theory of biological science other than the Bible.
Darwinism in the form of the Synthetic Theory continues to be the prevailing theory for the origin of species. But it's a theory under siege. The relevant fossils which might prove the theory are missing and missing in millions. And there is continued failure to duplicate alleged evolution in the laboratory via mutations. Despite all the changes inflicted upon the genes of fruit-flies the offspring continued to be fruit-flies – although very damaged ones. Experiments with bacteria got their progeny to adapt to many sorts of chemicals that had previously killed the species but they still remained bacteria. However, this at least demonstrated the existence of a limited process of adaptation – or limited evolution.
Darwinism has also failed to explain the origin(s) of life itself. Quotes like the following are plentiful: "Much of the origin of life, therefore, remains unexplained and what explanations we do have are based on conjecture..." (Wallace et al 1984)Astrophysicjst Fred Hoyle (b. 1915) and scientist Chandra Wickramasinghe revived a late-l9th century theory of Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) that interstellar space is crowded with micro-organisms which are swept up by comets and planets and get life started rapidly on all suitable planets.
This theory proved negative when tests for the presence of life on Mars were done. After all, conditions in some areas of Mars are only marginally more hostile than conditions in Antarctica. Why then isn't life established on Mars if all planets are continually bombarded by interstellar organisms?
Another problem is Ecology. Great numbers of life forms on Earth are organized into complex interdependence. It seems doubtful that there exists on Earth an organism which could survive for long in isolation on Earth – that is in an Earth-type environment kept sterile of other life. Only large networks are viable. This could be a point for the Creationists since their Bible refers to God creating large numbers of organisms simultaneously.
So-called Scientific Creationists promote only one interpretation of the Bible stories – and not necessarily the best interpretation. Their defeat, therefore, would not necessarily mean a defeat for the Bible. In many points they've lost already. For example, the seemingly human footprints which overlapped dinosaur footprints at the Paluxey Creek in Texas – which to Creationists meant dinosaurs still existed 5,000 years ago – are really the footprints of a small dinosaur. A Flood of a size as to create all the fossil layers is untenable on the basis of physics. Falling objects convert much of their kinetic energy to heat due to friction with the air and also on impact. If 400 metres of water fell everywhere on the planet during 40 days, temperatures may rise several thousand degrees!
Darwinism has faced many challenges, some of which still seem insurmountable. However, Scientific Creationism in its current version is not an adequate substitute.
Dobzhansky T 1970 Genetics of the Evolutionary Process, Columbia University Press, USA p. 98
Eldredge N and Gould S J 1972 Punctuated Equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism. In: Models in Paleobiology T J N Schopf (ed.), Freeman, USA
Goldschmidt R 1940 The Material Basis of Evolution, Yale University Press, USA
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Hitching F 1982 The Neck of the Giraffe, Pan, Britain
Johanssen W Summarised in Strickberger H W 1976 Genetics, Second Edition, Macmillan p. 276
Lammerts W K (Ed.) 1971 Scientific Studies in Special Creation, Baker Book House, USA
Marsh F L 1971 The Genesis Kinds in the Modern World. In: Scientific Studies in Special Creation, Lammerts, W K (Ed) 1971 Baker Book House
Milner R 1990 The Encyclopaedia of Evolution, Facts On File Inc., USA
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Rasmussen J 1935 Studies in the Inheritance of Quantitative Characters. In Pisum Heriditas Volume 20 pp. 161-180
Raup D M and Stanley S M 1971 Principles of Paleontology, Freeman, USA p. 206
Simons K 1977 Scientific American May pp. 28-35
Wallace A et al 1984 Biosphere The Realm of Life, Scott, Foresman & Co., USA
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