More Trouble for Darwinism

Species Pairs & The Waiting Time Problem

These days, many more scientists are becoming aware of problems with the theory that life evolved by a mindless process over billions of years, as Neo-Darwinism insists. Much of the time, their arguments involve a re-hash of the many old chestnuts skeptics have raised over the years, but a recent article by the distinguished palaeontologist Dr. Gunter Bechly has opened up a new can of worms for those who continue to hold onto a purely mindless, materialistic account of the origin of species.

In “Species Pairs: A New Challenge to Darwinists” at Evolution News & Science Today, Bechly brings our attention to an excellent online resource and shows how it creates new problems for the Darwinian paradigm. TimeTree is a data base of more than 97,000 living species that provides information on the tree-of-life and evolutionary timescales. Created by evolutionists, it can be used to show how long two closely related species took to diverge from each other in the fossil record, according to the best current molecular clock data. Using that data, Bechly highlights a generous sample of closely related species (from a Darwinian perspective at least), and their estimated divergence time in millions of years.

Playing the Waiting Game

To fully grasp Bechly’s insightful point, it’s best to first discuss what is called the “waiting time problem.” Even a small change in an organism’s body plan requires many co-ordinated mutations. Population geneticists have performed calculations to work out how long it would take for a series of necessary mutations to occur simultaneously in order to produce those changes in body plan. Back in 2008, a team of scientists from Cornell University, working on Drosophila (the fruit fly), showed that a few million years was required to get just two coordinated mutations. They calculated that, when translated to human biology, with their much smaller populations and longer generation times, the waiting time for two coordinated mutations worked out to more than 200 million years!

Since major changes in body plans require far more than two coordinated mutations, it seems incredibly unlikely that such coordinated, multi-gene changes could occur to produce the necessary changes over the course of billions of years, let alone millions. Thus, the waiting time problem stretches scientific credulity to the very limits.

The problem for the Darwinists is that the fossil record attests to many biological “big bang” events in which new lifeforms have appeared abruptly – within a few million years of each other or less, often without any credible antecedents, in utter defiance of the main results of the waiting time calculations.

What Dr. Bechly pointed out in his article is that when one compares closely related species from the TImeTree website and looks at their time of divergence based on the best available molecular clocks, very long periods of time appear to be required for even small, almost indistinguishable morphological changes. For example, the fossil record shows that a complete re-engineering of the mammalian body plan from fully terrestrial wolf-like creatures to fully aquatic whale-like animals took place in only four million years, yet according to molecular clock calculations, species like the House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow took 10.2 million years to diverge! As a keen birder, I find it difficult to distinguish these species at the best of times. The same appears to be the case in the world of plants; firs and cedars, for example, apparently diverged 141 million years ago, but still look very much alike. This represents a timescale more than 30 times longer than the wolf-whale transition! This is good evidence for long periods of stasis and suggests that the comparatively rapid emergence of whales from wholly terrestrial creatures is far more likely to have happened by design that by accident.

So, can you see the overall problem? Bechly clearly does!

In his own words:

Here is my explanation. Darwinism is wrong, and this applies not only to the neo-Darwinian process of random mutation and natural selection but to any unguided evolutionary processes including those suggested by proponents of the so-called Extended Synthesis. …

There is no evolutionary reason why the creative power of this process should have been active over all of Earth history but then ceased to function within the past 10 million years. Intelligent design proponents can easily explain this pattern: there was creative intelligent intervention in the history of life, but this creative activity deliberately ceased with the arrival of humans as the final telos. Any further explanation would have to transgress the methodological limits of the design inference, but Judeo-Christian theists will certainly recognize an eerie correspondence with the Biblical message, which says that God rested from his creative activity after the creation of humans (Genesis 2:2-3).

What an amazing conclusion! The biblical record says God ceased from creating new lifeforms as soon as humankind appeared on the scene.

That’s a powerful message, and the best available palaeontological science has turned up evidence consistent with the biblical Creation account. Who says science and faith cannot be bosom buddies?

is that author of eight books on amateur and professional astronomy. His latest book is Choosing & Using Binoculars, a Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts (Springer Publishing, 2023).

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