Problems of Building a Consistent Evolutionary Tree

"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it si not utterly absurd."   ---- Utterly Russell

Top of page The Problem of the Evolutionary Tree

When scientists classify groups, they can classify them by various characteristics—for example, by field characteristics, bone patterns, internal organs, or other methods. But these different methods lead to different conclusions about taxonomy, suggesting that life forms are non-branching—a problem for the evolutionist. For example, Parker explains that when his students classified lizards by different systems, they noticed that, "The pattern is not a branching one suggesting evolutionary descent from a common ancestor; rather, it is a mosaic or modular pattern ... suggesting creation." (14, pgs. 41-42)

Every student has been shown the "evolutionary tree," with a nice sequence of life from ooze to zoo to you. That tree does not exist in the real world, as those simple illustrations would have us believe. Denton devotes an entire chapter (2, pgs. 119-141) demonstrating the numerous problems with Haeckel's famous evolutionary tree. Some of his comments are: "..many groups are so isolated and unique and of such doubtful affinities that there is complete disagreement as to where they should be placed in the tree." And, he says, "direct evidence for evolution only resides in the existence of unambiguous sequential arrangements, and these are never present in ordered hierarchic schemes." He quotes Patterson as to ancestors, "they exist not in nature but in the mind of the taxonomist, as abstractions ... yet they are always discussed as if they have some reality."

Top of page The Problem of Biased Assumptions

Evolutionists rely heavily on similarity to demonstrate evolution. Apes have much in common with man, they point out, including their genetic makeup. While apes and humans are similar in some ways, they are very different in other ways. But to conclude evolution is the cause of the observed similarity is a matter of assumption (preconception).

Similarity does not prove evolution, but merely proves similarity. If anything, similarity provides evidence of creation. A fork and a spoon may look similar, but that is not evidence of a common ancestor, but rather is evidence of a common designer using common materials. (14, pgs. 38-47)

Denton is more scientifically critical. He points out that what appear to be similar structures or organs develop from different embryological paths or even different genes. For example, forelimbs appear similar to hindlimbs, but nobody believes that one evolved from the other.

Marvin Lubenow in his interesting book (Resource List) points out a fundamental flaw in the logic of evolutionists. He notes that studies on the anatomy of living primates are used to support evolution. But all of these studies are fundamentally flawed in regard to a rule of logic called "begging the question." In begging the question, one assumes to be true the very thing you are trying to prove.

Top of page The Problem of Pre-Cursors

Evolution is sometimes explained by the notion of "pre-cursors." At first glance, a bicycle seems enough like a motorcycle to be its precursor. On deeper investigation, while a bicycle resembles a motorcycle, the parts of a bicycle cannot be molded into a motorcycle by a process resembling evolution. As explained by Behe, a bicycle has nothing that can be modified to become a gasoline tank, for example. He states: "A bicycle thus may be a conceptual pre-cursor to a motorcycle, but it is not a physical one. Darwinian evolution requires physical pre-cursors." (1, pgs. 44-45)

As an example, Denton discusses mammalian hair, and points out that there is no evolutionary pre-cursor. While hair comes in different varieties—from quills in porcupine to soft fur of a kitten—no structures are known which can be considered in any sense transitional between any other vertebrate structure and hair. (2, pg. 106)

Or consider the metamorphosis of the butterfly. There is no conceivable evolutionary precursor to this astounding event. Biology is fraught with such problems for evolution.

Top of page The Problem of Molecular Isolation

Denton also devotes a detailed chapter in his book about the biochemical matrix of organisms. He insists that, "There is not a trace at the molecular level of the traditional evolutionary series: cyclostome [invertebrate] to fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal." In fact, he says that studies of the dispersion of molecular characteristics is so great, that "Each class is isolated and unique. No classes are intermediate or partially inclusive of other classes." Denton believes that this information is so devastating to the theory of evolution, that were it known when the theory of evolution was being developed, the idea of organic evolution would never have been accepted. (2, pgs. 274-307)

Top of page The Problem of Sudden Appearance in the Fossil Record

If evolution were true, we should find a few simple lifeforms in the lowest level of the geologic strata, with a consistent upward progression of lifeforms of a more advanced nature in the next highest strata, etc. But we don't find that at all. Instead, what we find is the "Cambrian Explosion," the existence of many and varied lifeforms found together near the bottom of the geologic column. It is well known by paleontologists that virtually all the plant and animal "phyla" (basic body plans) appear suddenly in the rocks of the Cambrian era. (7, pg. 87, 3, pg. 123)

Evolutionist Stephen J. Gould acknowledges this severe problem for evolution. He said, "In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and 'fully formed'." (5, pg. 50) Gould is here admitting that the fossil record does not record gradual evolution. The geologic column as shown in textbooks is an example of artistic speculation.

When asked why they believe in evolution, many people simply say "dinosaurs," without having really thought through why they think dinosaurs indicate evolution. It is important to see dinosaurs for what they were—part of the process of decline (including extinctions) that has been going on since creation. The Bible outlines a process which began with creation as a completed event in the past, then then decline set in.

Instead of expanding the numbers of organisms over time as predicted by evolution, we find the fossils substantially present early in the fossil record, then a decline in the number of organisms over time (extinction). The fossil evidence better fits the biblical model than the evolutionary model.

Top of page The Problem of the Missing Links

Where are the missing links? Darwin recognized that his theory implied that "the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great." And yet he acknowledged that the missing links were not to be found. Darwin himself wavered over his theory and asked, "Why if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined." (5, pg. 46)

Darwin could only assume that over time, we would find the missing links in the form of fossils. But, a century and a half later, the fossil record is empty of such missing links—not only between man and apes, but also between all other groups.

This is not just the view of creationists, but is widely acknowledged by evolutionists. Evolutionist R.B. Goldschmidt said "...practically all orders or families known appear suddenly and without any apparent transitions." (3, pg. 377) Evolutionist David B. Kitts said, "evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them." (3, pg. 378) Evolutionist Stephen J. Gould, described "the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record" as "the trade secret of paleontology." (5, pg. 59) A paleontologist at the University of Texas candidly admitted to the author of this essay that not only are there no missing links found in the fossil record but, "We gave up looking for them years ago."

No link has been found from fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to mammals, etc. According to creation scientist Duane Gish, the two most notable gaps in the fossil record are (1) the gap between microscopic, single-celled organisms and the complex, multicellular invertebrates (jellyfish, etc), and (2) the vast gap between these invertebrates and fish. These gaps "are so immense and indisputable that any further discussion of the fossil record becomes superfluous." (3, pg. 115) Further, these breaks establish "beyond doubt that evolution has not occurred." (3, pg. 127)

Gish explains that there should be billions times billions of intermediates between these major groups, if evolution was true. But there is not a single one! It is impossible, given the evolutionists' time scale of millions of years, that not one intermediate could be found. Gish has challenged evolutionists in debates for years to offer examples, but evolutionists have none.

Evolutionist Steven Stanley put it this way, "The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphological transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid." (2, pg. 182)

Examples of animals once held up as intermediates have systematically been thrown out. You may ask, "What about such examples as Archaeopteryx, the flying animal with some reptilian features?" Archaeopteryx is now widely admitted to be a bird, plain and simple, complete with feathers. (14, pgs. 148-150 and 2, pgs. 175-178) In an article in the Wall Street Journal ("Bye Bye Birdie: Famed Fossil Loses Avian Perch," October 23, 2009), we read this: "There are lingering doubts that birds today are descendants of dinosaurs. Researchers at Oregon State University recently argued that the distinctive anatomy that gives birds the lung capacity needed for flight means it is unlikely that birds descended from dinosaurs like archaeopterix and its kin."

Using Archaeopteryx as an example, scientists now know that the problem of getting a reptile to evolve into a bird is horrendously problematic. Here are some of the difficulties: (1) Feathers are fundamentally different structures than scales, arising from different layers of skin. Scales are merely folds in the epidermis, while feathers and hairs develop from follicles. (3, pg. 323) (2) In theory, feathers may have arisen from frayed outer edges of scales, but it is difficult to understand what the adaptive value of frayed scales would be to an organism. (3) To get from a reptile to a bird, you need more than feathers. A bird has very different respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, and gastrointestinal systems than a reptile. At this point one has again run into the problem of irreducibly complex systems.

But the problem is more than just a few critters in the fossil record that don't appear to fit neatly into well-defined classifications. Darwin's theory implied not merely that fossil transitionals would be found, but it predicted that a truly complete fossil record would be mostly transitionals. The world's museums should be bursting at the seams with transitional fossils. Instead of transitionals, the fossil record shows completely formed organisms, well adapted to their environments—just as we find today.

The most logical conclusion is that the so-called missing links were impossible creatures that never existed.

Quoting Glenn S. Sunshine from his book Why You Think the Way You Do (page 168), "It also sounds like special pleading, a 'Darwin of the Gaps' explanation, to say that the fossilization of the transitional forms predicted by Darwin never had the opportunity to take place in the emergence of any species on the planet, past or present. Nor is it much better to say the fossils are there but haven't yet been found. This is a statement of faith, not fact."

Top of page The Problem of "Ape-Men"

Many people still believe in evolution based on fossils of "ape-men." One by one, each of these has subsequently been discredited. Piltdown Man, "discovered" in 1912, turned out to be a deliberate hoax, but was not realized as such until the 1950s. Over that period, an estimated 500 doctoral dissertations were written on him. Piltdown Man is now considered the most successful scientific hoax of all time. (9, pgs. 39-44)

See The Piltdown Warning.

Nebraska Man, like Piltdown Man, was an influence during the famous Scopes trial in 1925. But Nebraska Man was based solely on a tooth, which was later determined to be the tooth of a pig.

Recent analysis of Australopithecus ("Lucy") demonstrates its strong apelike characteristics. The evidence indicates that this beast is an extinct orangutan or close cousin (not an ape-man).

On the other hand, other candidates have turned out to be truly human—Java Man, Peking Man, and Homo erectus, for example. Similarly, Neanderthal Man was once considered to be an intermediate ape-man, based on an ape-like posture. But the original conclusion, now discarded, was based on a specimen that had severe arthritis, which gave him a stooped posture. Neanderthal people had certain unique facial and perhaps even identifiable DNA characteristics, but they lived at the same time as modern man and, they are generally considered part of the human family. They interbred with modern men and may have been as intelligent (9, pgs. 36-39). 

In other cases, mislabeling has occurred. Homo habilis is now recognized as a "waste bin of various species." It is not a separate and single species at all, but consists of pieces from at least two different animals—one human and one nonhuman. Homo habilis is flawed and cannot be considered an ancestor to man. (9, pgs.157-166)

It is important to recognize that there is great variability within living humans. For example, modern humans have a cranial capacity ranging from about 700 cubic centimeters to about 2200 cc, the range being unrelated to intelligence. The same would be true about fossil men.

Every candidate once proposed as the evolutionary ancestor of man has been knocked off the list. (14, pgs. 155-168) Yet each one of these examples in its time was heralded as convincing proof of evolution. They became so much a part of the scientific psyche that it affected two generations of students. And every so often the popular press creates (and probably will continue to create) a flurry of public interest in a newly discovered fossil. But the press seldom prints the eventual follow-up story that discredits the find when more evidence is in. (For those interested in this aspect of the creation/evolution debate, we highly recommend Lubenow's book from the Resource List.)

The evolutionary family tree of man has evaporated. Even famous paleontologist Mary Leakey admitted this in a 1984 book when she stated, " the present state of our knowledge, I do not believe it is possible to fit the known hominid fossils into a reliable pattern." (9, pg. 182)

Why have scientists tended to jump so quickly at these examples on such flimsy evidence? Perhaps prestige, or even money? Research funding demands some evidence of progress. These fossils provided what was needed.

Link: Genetics Challenges Ape Theory

Top of page The Problem of Stasis

As acknowledged by evolutionist Gould, "Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless." (5, pg. 50) The fossil record shows stability, not change.

The problem of stasis in the fossil record is particularly evident in plants. Though unwilling to give up on evolution, Professor of Botany, E. J. H. Corner of Cambridge University, admitted, " the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favor of special creation." (14, pg. 148)

Top of page The Problem of Convergence

Convergence is similarity without a common ancestor. The eyes of vertebrates and the eyes of squids have many similarities. Evolutionists, however, cannot find or even imagine a common ancestor that would explain their similarities. This problem is common in morphology. Of course, convergence in the sense of similar structures to meet similar needs would be expected on the basis of creation according to a common design, but creates problems for the evolutionist. (14, pg. 42)

Top of page The Problem of Symbiosis

There are many examples of how different animals cooperate. For example, certain fish have smaller fish that clean their teeth of parasites. The larger fish could eat the smaller fish, but do not. Evolution cannot explain this, as there is simply no common ancestor for these two separate organisms.

Many species of wildlife have white underbellies. By an apparent coincidence, this helps scavenger birds and animals find the dead species. There is no conceivable morphological (evolutionary) relationship between scavenger and prey. But this makes perfectly good sense when viewed from a Special Creation standpoint.

Top of page The Problem of Embryology

In an idea that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," students have been taught that embryos show evidence of evolution. The idea was that embryos of advanced organisms go through developmental stages similar to evolution. Thus, while in your mother's womb, you go through a fish stage, with gill slits and even have a tail which you outgrow, etc.

The only problem with all of this is that it is not true. This idea was an unsophisticated notion that was discarded by embryologists over 50 years ago. Yet students are still taught this myth sometimes, and it has been stuck in the consciousness of many people as evidence for evolution. (14, pg. 47-56)

In fact, we had a friend who rejected Christianity over this very issue. He was taught this myth in college, and went to his grave as an unbeliever as a result.

Not only has this theory been totally discarded, it is well known that organisms undergo development characteristics of their own class. Fishes follow one pattern, amphibians another, birds yet another. Modern embryology tends to confirm the separate nature of animal kinds, rather than the similarities hoped for by evolutionists.

Top of page The Problem of Vestigial Organs

It was once believed that there were numerous organs in the body that had no function, the appendix being an example. This supposedly was evidence for evolution, as these organs were left over from the process of evolution. Science has eliminated all such idea, as all 180 organs once listed as having no function in human beings have been found to have significant functions.


Many of these false ideas just won't die. Evolutionists will cling to anything to try to validate their theory. The saddest thing is that these outdated ideas are still taught to students in a way that forces them to accept them without challenge. Fortunately, in this age of information, people willing to think things through critically are beginning to see the gaping flaws in evolutionary dogma.