A fellow Center for Inquiry (CFI) member and friend had long been troubled by Creationist claims that scientists cannot demonstrate evolution in the lab before their eyes. Creationists demand that they need this kind of proof if they are to accept evolution. The following is my reply to my friend and to all Creationists.
Creationists demand to see evolution for themselves if they are to believe. Their question is: “Can science show us evolution in progress, right before our eyes?” They demand to see a new “species” or new “kind” of animal evolve in the lab or during field research. As you and I know, and probably they, this can’t be done with animals such as elephants and humans that have slow reproduction rates. On the other hand, if their question is “Can evolution create a new ‘species’ or ‘kind’ of animal or plant in the lab or during field research?” then we can definitely say “Yes, it can.”
Unlike you, creationists tend to be insincere. Scientific proofs of evolution will not necessarily satisfy them as it would you. Their emotional belief is not based upon fact and science; it is immune to reason; and it survives fossil, geological, cosmological, and biological evidence. It easily survived the flat earth debacle and the farce of the egocentricity of the earth. There is no evidence that will assuredly convince them. In your case, however, evidence reigns supreme; you have an open mind that can be changed as new evidence is discovered through scientific inquiry. So, the following response is to your open ears and mind, not to their blindness.
First, we need a clarification of what is meant by “species” and “kind.” The pre-evolution concept of “species” was rejected by Darwin:
For if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear … it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would blend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties … In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect; but we shall at last be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.
The species concept is based upon Creationists’ false claim that species are not related. Evolutionists, of course claim that all life is related, having arisen from a common ancestor. The modern biological definition of species is: “populations of animals or plants that breed successfully together.” According to this concept there never is a point where a new species comes into existence except for hybridization or symbiogenesis. The biblical term “kind” is ambiguous and useless; it usually refers to the pre-Darwinian definition of “species.”
When next you discus evolution with a Creationist and he challenges you to prove that evolution can create a new “species” or “kind” of animal, answer him by saying:
Here is how a new large mammal can be created, if not in the lab then in the barn. “The Good Lord,” in His wisdom had old Noah load on board the Ark two of each kind of animal. That means two donkeys and two horses, and two bison and two cattle, among many other animal pairs. It is fair to assume “God” apparently considered donkeys and horses as separate “kinds” or “species.” If so, when the first fertile mule or hinny was born, as occasionally happens, a brand new animal has been created that was not created during creation week. How about a lion and tiger hybrid, a llama and camel hybrid, a bison and cattle hybrid, or the thousands of plant hybrids? Any reasonable person must acknowledge that they are new animals and new plants that were not present a million years ago, or even six thousand years ago. Hybridization occurs in many wild and domestic animals as well as in plants, and each time it does, a new entity is born. Depending upon environmental conditions, the new creature or plant will survive and thrive, or become extinct, at least until the next hybrid is born. It is a perfect example of how evolution and DNA replication, recombination, and natural selection work.
New “kinds” of plants also occurred in the lab when Wild Mustard plants were purposely bred into cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. Grocery stores are filled with new genetically designed fruits and vegetables that were not created during creation week. Ask a Creationist how it is possible that the earth contains many animals and plants that were designed and produced by science. Are they not obvious products of evolution? Ask them how it is possible that organisms exist today, such as the euglena, that are neither animal nor plant; or neither male nor female, such the asexual amoeba. God must have loved one-celled creatures because He made so many of them, a million times more than all the other life on the earth. As I recall, there was no mention of one-celled organisms being loaded on the ark. Shouldn’t we assume they were created and evolved after the creation? What other explanation can there be?
Many new “kinds” of birds, fish, and amphibians, have been recorded and documented during our lifetime by laboratory and field studies. Blind cave fish are a good example of evolution. Natural events washed them into dark caves where they did not need their sight so they actually lost their eyes. Recently, scientists have brought several populations of blind cave fish back into the light and stimulated them to evolve back to having eyes. This seems to be a great example of evolution in an aquarium lab where Creationists can actually witness it.
Here is a partial list of new “kinds” or “species”documented in lab and field studies: Blind cave fish and amphibians, many species of birds (including Darwin’s finches) have evolved to a point where a distant generation no longer mates with its progenitor. Several “species” of fish (including guppies), many kinds of bacteria, thousands of symbiotic animals and plants that, like hybrids, were newly created when they combined. Lichens are a combination of two other organisms; algae and fungus depend upon each other for survival but can be separated in the lab and coaxed to live on their own. Salamanders are the first vertebrates that have been found to have incorporated chloroplasts into their cells and thereby became able to utilize the energy of the sun through photosynthesis. Slugs with chloroplasts no longer have to eat; they just lie in the sun to soak up energy like a plant.
Evolution has happened and is happening all around us, in the lab, in the field, and in the barn. Animal and plant populations are constantly diversifying along their own evolutionary line, creating new species over time. Occasionally, their distinct lines merge back together creating another new species. New species never occur within one or a few generations, however, unless it is through hybridization or symbiogenesis as previously discussed.
Also Joe, don’t let Creationists fool you with micro and macroevolution. There is only one kind of evolution regardless of how long it takes. Evolution usually progresses slowly in step with the changing environment, but Occasionally, it speeds up with punctuated equilibrium, symbiogenesis, and epigenetics. Although it is true that animals such as alligators, sharks, and coelacanths persist from the ancient past into present with little change, keep in mind that evolution is always in operation keeping the mutating DNA in step with their (relatively) static environments. Darwin’s theory has now been enhanced with the new concepts of hox genes, symbiogenesis, and epigenetics.These new discoveries help to explain the diversity of life and the speed with which it has inhabited our good earth. The average person has difficulty understanding the new discoveries and new evolutionary science, so we cannot expect Creationists will understand or be willing to learn about the wonders of science and the awesome beauty of the natural world.