Problems with the Darwinian Mechanism

"Darwinism was an interesting idea in the 19th century, when handwaving explanations gave a plausible, if not properly scientific, framework into which we would fit biological facts. However, what we have learned since the days of Darwin throws doubt on natural selection's ability to create complex biological systems--and we still have little more than handwaving as an arguent in its favor."  -----Dr. Colin Reeves

Top of page The Problem of the Obvious

The question of evolution versus creation is fundamentally about this question: Is life the result of random chance, or is life the result of specific intelligent design for a purpose, by a magnificent Creator?

On a very elementary level, one is faced with the obvious—that there at least appears to be intelligent design. Order and design surround us. Famous evolutionist Richard Dawkins in his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker acknowledges this problem when he admits, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." (7, pg. 76)

When looking at rocks near the bank of a stream one can obviously tell the difference between a rock that has been randomly formed by the erosion of sand and water, and an arrowhead. One is the product of natural processes; the other is the product of intelligent design.

If one asks an evolutionist if the watch he is wearing created itself, he will say no. Such a conclusion is obvious. But the chemical systems that are components of biology are vastly more complex than a watch. It should be equally obvious that a hand, or an eye, or even an amoeba must be designed.

Likewise, when one sees a bird's nest, everyone naturally assumes that there is a bird that built it. The existence of a computer demands a computer designer. Creation demands a creator.

Top of page The Problem of Reverse Complexity

Biochemist Michael Behe wrote a book in 1996 entitled Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. The book is a landmark work on the issue of evolution.

In the book, Behe explains that the theory of evolution was formulated on an assumption that life was built on levels from simple to complex. That is, the earliest forms of life were simple, and more and more complexity was added as the evolutionary process continued. Further, this assumption said that modern cellular life is simple, and that complex beings were merely combinations of simple cells. But since the invention of electron microscopes in the 1950s, we have been able to look into the cell and see that this assumption, which is fundamental to evolution, is incorrect.

A single, simple cell contains as much data as all the individual letters in the world's largest library—that's about a trillion bits of information. (10, pg. 110) We are overwhelmed and awed at chemical coding devices, nucleotides, genomes, neural transmitters, ribosomes, and the other discoveries, which demonstrate the magnificence of the cell. Life at the microbiological level is incredibly complex.

Here's an example of what scientists are discovering: Genome Scrambling and Encryption

Top of page The Problem of Irreducibly Complex Systems

Behe further explains that life at the cellular level is not merely complex, but "irreducibly complex." He explains the idea this way. Take a mousetrap. The trap is actually made up of several parts that must function together—a platform, a bait catch, a spring, a hammer, and a holding bar. Each component is necessary for the trap to work. But all of these parts must be present in the correct way, at the correct strength, at the same time, etc., for the trap to function. A partially complete mousetrap is not partially workable—it is not workable at all.

All parts of a complex system would have to have developed simultaneously. The problem for evolution is this, the theory is based on minute independent mutations which do not have a designed plan. But the very existence of complex systems, with dependent parts, severely challenges the theory. Could independent, random activity produce irreducibly complex systems?

In his book, Behe details the chemistry of several complex organic systems, including blood clotting, cilia, flagella, and immune systems. Each system is delicately interrelated and complex. So complex, in fact, that given our modern knowledge of biochemistry, evolution becomes intellectually untenable, if not impossible.

A flagellum, for example, consists of numerous specialized and interrelated parts, working together as a tiny machine. Such molecular machines defy a Darwinian explanation. An illustration given by Behe is an animal trap found in the woods. The trap consists of a small tree bent down to form a spring mechanism. At the top end of the tree is a rope to catch the prey. And there is a release mechanism allowing the trap to spring when an animal sets foot in it. If you see such a trap in the woods, you could only conclude that it was intelligently designed, not a result of accidental processes.

Or consider the human brain. The total number of connections in the human brain is around a thousand million. Our three pound brain can think, plan, and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. Its memory can retrieve a name that has been stored for 50 years. How could the human brain have been created by lifeless matter without the aid of any kind of supernatural intelligence? One is free to believe what he wants, but we submit that neither common sense nor analysis supports the idea that complex living systems created themselves from nothing by chance.

But the issue is even more significant than irreducible complexity by itself. In addition to the complexity issue, we see that biological systems are also functional. The term that is used for this is specification. Specification combined with complexity demonstrates purpose, as if there were a "wiring diagram." Such cannot be generated by unguided natural processes. This is discussed in some detail by authors Leslie Orgel (The Origins of Life) and various books by William Dembski.

Top of page The Problem of Survivability of Intermediates

A major reason irreducibly complex systems create such a challenge for evolution is the problem of survivability of intermediate life forms. Evolution says that by a process of minute changes over very long periods of time, organisms were built up. But evolution requires that organisms with each minute change survive, that is, the change must have survival value. In addition to survival, each step in the process must be able to reproduce itself. Darwin himself stated: "Natural selection can act only by the preservation and accumulation of infinitesimally small inherited modifications, each profitable to the preserved being."

Looking at each component of the mousetrap example, one can understand that there is no survival value of each individual component apart from the complete system. Further, for the system to function, all components must be there together. If even one is missing, or is not an adequate size and shape, the organism won't work. If the mousetrap were a living system, to have evolved, each component as it developed would have had to have "waited" patiently on the development of the other components. But without a master plan, a "design" if you will, they would not have waited—they would have died.

In the case of a living organism, the "intermediate" components most likely would have been detrimental to survival. For example, in blood clotting, the mechanism is extremely delicate. Too much clotting or too little clotting and the organism dies. An intermediate system with either too much or too little clotting would not have the necessary survival value to carry on the "experiment" to try to find the precise combination. The evolutionary process would have aborted.

The concept of irreducible complexity is easily understood in large systems. Evolutionists suggest, for example, that an animal's forelimbs evolved into wings. But that process would have had intermediate life forms that became awkward for climbing or grasping long before they became useful for gliding, thus placing the hypothetical intermediate creature at a serious disadvantage, not at an advantage for survival.

Gary Parker, a biologist (and former evolutionist), uses the example of a woodpecker. (14, pgs. 56-61) He explains that a woodpecker needs a combination of adaptations—a heavy-duty skull, a tough bill, shock absorbing tissues, a long sticky tongue, and nerve and muscle coordination. The bird might have all of the other features, but without the heavy-duty skull, for example, it's skull would collapse when it hammers wood with the tremendous force that it uses. There would be no survival value of the intermediate form of woodpecker, so no offspring would be produced to continue the process of evolution to a "completed" woodpecker.

If you have ever examined a model of a human knee in a doctor's office, you must be impressed with the combination of cartilage, muscle, ligaments, and bone that in a precise combination allow the knee to work. If just one ligament was too weak, the whole thing would fail, and the survivability of not only the knee but the animal itself would be in question.

For another example, the human eye is so complex that Darwin himself, even with his limited knowledge of chemistry, saw the human eye as an enormous problem for his theory. The eye is capable of focusing at various distances and of controlling the amount of light it receives from total darkness to bright sunlight while delivering images in living color. A sophisticated camera could only exist as a result of intelligent designers and builders. Rationality demands that we concede the same of an even more complex eye.

Evolutionist F. Hitching was still pondering in a 1982 book entitled The Neck of the Giraffe, "Is it really plausible that thousands upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens and the retina, which cannot work without each other, evolved in synchrony? What survival value can there be in an eye that doesn't see?" (1, pgs. 36-39) And these men didn't even consider in their statements the chemical complexity of the eye. It takes Behe two pages in his book just to describe the biochemistry of vision. (1, pgs. 18-22)

Molecular biologist Michael Denton makes an analogy with language. He explains that in sentence structure, it quickly becomes obvious that there are limits in getting from one sentence that makes sense to another by changing one letter at a time. For example, how can one get from "He sat on the mat" to "He stood on the mat"? To do so, you would have to go through four changes, each of which would make no sense. (The first change might be "He stt on the mat.")

While complex systems can undergo a certain limited degree of functional change, there is invariably a limit. "He sat on the mat" can get to "He sat on the cat" in one step, but it cannot get to "He stood on the mat" in single steps required by evolution. (2, pgs. 87-91)

Top of page The Problem of the Missing Models

Behe challenges the scientific community for its lack of mechanistic models for evolution. He says that no models have been built to explain the details of the evolution of specific systems.

For example, he points out that in the past several decades, probably ten thousand papers have been published on cilia. Yet, as of the date of his book, not a single credible paper had even attempted to guess at an evolutionary mechanism for the system. The literature of evolutionary biology is typically little more than fuzzy word pictures. For example, he says all that scientists can come up with when describing blood clotting is that the tissue factor "appears," fibrinogen is "born," antiplasmin "arises," a cross-linking protein "is unleashed," and so forth. (1, pgs. 67-69, 93) He flatly states that, "The fact is, no one on earth has the vaguest idea how the coagulation came to be." (1, pg. 97)

Behe further exclaims that "In fact, none of the papers published in JME [the Journal of Molecular Evolution] over the entire course of its life as a journal has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual, step-by-step Darwinian fashion... The very fact that none of these problems is even addressed, let alone solved, is a very strong indication that Darwinism is an inadequate framework for understanding the origin of complex biochemical systems." (1, pg. 176) He makes the quite dramatic claim that, "There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems." (1, pg. 179)

In a 1997 radio interview, Behe said that his public challenges to the scientific world to come up with specific models have been unmet, confirming that none exist! Even the nonscientist must begin to ask, "Is the theory of evolution scientific or is it something else?"

See these admissions from scientists:

Evolutionists' Admissions in Private

No Scientist Understands Microevolution



Top of page The Problem of First Life

The failure of scientists to produce life in the test tube is notable. After a flurry of excitement of the possibility in the 1960s, the following quote expresses the current state of affairs. It was written by Klaus Dose, a prominent biochemist working in the field:

"More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance." (1, pg. 168) Modern science has confirmed the principle of biogenesis, that life only comes from life.

Concerning the prebiotic soup from which life supposedly arose, there is no reason to believe that it even existed or that life has a tendency to emerge even when the right chemicals are present. Modern chemistry now indicates that, in fact, organic compounds produced on the early earth would be subject to chemical reactions making them unsuitable for constructing life. As such, the scientific evidence continues to mount against evolution. (5, pgs. 102-112; 14, pgs. 17-38; and 2, pgs. 249-273)

In fact, as of 2011 it is now safe to say that chance as the engine for first life has been universally rejected.

But the question must be asked, if scientists actually do produce life in the lab, would that prove evolution or would it prove the importance of intelligent interference? We submit that it would merely demonstrate the latter. For now, the world waits for evolutionists to show us some evidence for their theory.

Top of page The Problem of Deleterious Mutations

Evolution relies heavily on mutation to produce improvements in organisms through random chance. But, the evidence doesn't support this. Instead of improvements, mutations tend to show deterioration. Indeed, 99.99 percent of mutations are harmful, even lethal. As explained by Parker in his book (14, pgs. 95-104), almost every mutation we know is identified by the disease or abnormality it causes, not its benefits. For example, in humans hemophilia is a mutation of a clotting factor. Tay-Sach's Disease is apparently a mutation in the gene for producing an enzyme crucial to brain function.

Indeed, human beings are subject to some 3,500 mutational disorders. The reason they don't show up more often is that we have two sets of genes, and the good set tends to cover up the bad set.

About the only example ever given of a positive mutation is sickle-cell anemia. People carrying sickle-cell hemoglobin are resistant to malaria. But sickle-cell anemia is a disease; it kills people. Further, the mutation does not produce genetic information that leads to a new species. It is thus an inadequate example to support evolutionary theory.

Bad mutations are 1,000 times more prevalent than good ones. To believe that mutations are the mechanism for evolution is comparable to saying that standing in front of an x-ray machine long enough will lead to positive health benefits. Or, since mutations are just mistakes, you could say evolution is comparable to a really bad typist who is re-typing a dime romance novel, and produces a Shakespearean play by chance. It is no more likely that random changes (from whatever cause) in genetic information will benefit an organism, than random changes in a TV's circuitry will make a better TV.

Pierre Grasse, considered the "dean of French zoologists," said that mutations are "merely hereditary fluctuations around a median position; a swing to the right, a swing to the left, but no final evolutionary effect." Further, he says, mutations are not complementary, nor are they cumulative." That is, they don't add up to anything. While Grasse is still looking for a mechanism for evolution, he admits that mutation/selection cannot be it. (14, pgs. 104-110)

Evolution is about how new organisms developed via a greater quantity and quality of genetic information. We suggest that the notion that mutations could even theoretically produce a greater quantity and quality of genetic information approaches the level of absurdity.

There is an online program called Mendel's Accountant that demonstrates this problem as the fatal flaw for Darwinian theory. The program is available at When biologically realistic parameters are selected, Mendel's Accountant shows consistently that genetic deterioration is an inevitable outcome of the process of mutation and natural selection. The primary reason is that most deleterious mutations are too subtle to be detected and eliminated by natural selection and therefore accumulate steadily generation after generation, and inexorably degrade fitness.

According to Larry Vardiman, PhD., in an article in Acts & Facts magazine (July 2008), "Mendel's Accountant provides overwhelming empirical evidence that all of the "fatal flaws" inherent in evolutionary genetic theory are real. This leaves evolutionary genetic theory effectively falsified—with a degree of certainty that should satisfy any reasonable and open-minded person."   

Lastly, it can be argued that the existence of mutations presupposes creation. Mutations are only changes in genes that already exist. Mutation, therefore, is a result, not a cause.

This point cannot be over-emphasized. Modern evolution—the so-called neo-Darwinian Synthesis—rests solely on mutation and natural selection. But neither mutation nor natural selection is capable of producing the greater quantity and quality of genetic information necessary for evolutionary higher-order development. Further, these processes operate on existing structures, and do not have the power of creation of new structures. This conclusion should be obvious enough for a thinking middle-schooler to grasp.

As explained by Phillip Johnson, "The only reason to believe that mutations of the kind and quantity needed for blind watchmaker evolution to actually occur is that the theory requires them." (7, pgs. 80-81)

And consider this amazing statements by scientists:

Scientist: Nobody On Earth Understands Macroevolution

What Scientists Say in Private

Top of page The Problem of Mathematical Improbability

Many mathematicians have looked at probability science for help with evolution. Could it have occurred by chance?

Below are some numbers. To illustrate the magnitude of these numbers, for the sake of comparison, be aware that the number of electrons in the universe is believed to be 1080.

Mathematician William Dembski calculated that if the probability of something occurring is less than one in 10150, it has no possibility of happening by chance at any time by any conceivable process throughout all of cosmic history. He further estimates that the probability of evolving the first cell is no better than one in 104,478,146. (Source: Impact magazine, November 1999)

In regard to the universe occurring by chance, researcher Hugh Ross explains that there are actually two sets of odds that interrelate: first, the unique characteristics that must be fashioned to explain the earth's capacity to support life, and second, that life could arise even on a suitably configured planet by random chance. He calculates the odds for life as remote as 1 in 10100,000,000,000. (Source: Facts and Faith magazine, Second Quarter 1998)

Yet some say that, well, given enough time, evolution could occur. But it would be like saying that putting the parts to a computer in a washing machine, and given enough time that they will assemble themselves into a functioning computer. It won't happen—no matter how much time.

Mathematician/astronomer Fred Hoyle put it this way. He said that the probability of evolution creating the living world by chance is like believing that "...a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." (See Evolution from Space, Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasingne, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1981).

Denton concludes that probability science comes "very close to a formal disproof of the whole Darwinian paradigm of nature. By what strange capacity do living organisms defy the laws of chance which are apparently obeyed by all analogous complex systems?" (2, pg. 316)

Evolutionists have been faced with such figures for many years. If they could come up with a number within the realm of possibility, they would be crowing about it. But they have not been able to do so. Life was designed; it did not evolve. The correctness of this conclusion is the inverse of the probability that eliminated evolution, that is, 104,478,296 to one.

There is one thing we can say further. Given the probabilities against evolution, if evolution did occur, it would constitute a miracle—convincing proof of God's existence.

Top of page The Problem of Cosmology

Cosmology is the study of the principles of the universe. The laws of physics, assuming no outside interference by God, predict a uniform and homogenous universe. This is based on the uniformity of the gas that the evolutionists believe originally filled the universe. But instead of uniformity, the universe is lumpy, with areas of emptiness and areas with galaxies. In fact, the mere existence of galaxies, stars, and planets is a great puzzle for evolutionists. (3, pg. 155)

There are numerous evidences of apparent fine-tuning of the universe that suggest intelligent design. Hugh Ross (in the Moreland book from the resource list) lists over fifty scientific laws and parameters that are so tightly precise that without them life could not exist. These include: nuclear force constant, electromagnetic force constant, polarity of the water molecule, ratio of protons to electrons, velocity of light, oxygen to nitrogen ratio in the earth's atmosphere, star color, etc. (11, pgs. 160-168) For example, it has become clear that the odds of a life-sustaining universe resulting from the (alleged) Big Bang are minute. If the expansion rate after the Big Bang had been one part in a hundred thousand million million weaker, the universe would have collapsed. But if it had been one part in a million stronger, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for stars to form. The Bible says that "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). God reveals himself to us in such clear and convincing ways through the things He has made, that the Bible further says that the person who can't see it is without excuse. He is willfully blind. Because of the philosophical position he holds he is seeing what he wants to see and closing his eyes to the rest (Romans 1).

For more on this, we recommend Hugh Ross' website