Friday, April 11, 2008

Evolution: How Could Earth Have Evolved into Existence?

I've studied a bit about evolution, and:
  • I can see how it is possible that animals evolved (in fact there's ample evidence of that).
  • I wouldn't be too troubled to find out that man evolved from lower hominid forms.
But I guess I'm not smart enough to figure out how solar systems--especially the planets in them capable of sustaining life--could have evolved. In other words, I have a sneaking suspicion that earth and our solar system is quite good evidence that there must be a God out there someplace.

I'm in the middle of reading two very interesting and antithetical books. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is one that I have read before. I am also reading the answer to Dawkins' claims--The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, by David Berlinski. Needless to say, I am immensely intrigued and entertained by my study in contrasts.

In his defense of the claim that truth can emanate from both science and religion (a claim that I agree with), Berlinski quotes Sir Isaac Newton:
...Newton in writing Principia Mathematica [exclaimed] "The most beautiful system of the sun, planet, and comets...could only proceed from the counsel and domination of an intelligent and powerful Being."

The Devil's Delusion
, page 52
Although I'm sure he does not intend to, Dawkins tends to lend credence to the idea of an intelligently created Earth as well. He states rather incuriously that
We exist here on Earth. Therefore Earth must be the kind of planet that is capable of generating and supporting us.

The God Delusion
, page 135
Dawkins then speaks of "Goldilocks Zones" or orbits of proximity to the right kinds of stars--such as our sun--such that a planet would be able to sustain life. He agrees that these kind of planets would be very rare, but that it's logical to assume there would be more of such planets in the universe than just Earth. I agree with that.

But then Dawkins goes right on talking about how life might have evolved separately on each of these "Earths" (which I have no problem with) without contemplating how this Earth--and potentially others--got into their orbits in the first place.

I agree with Berlinski. I agree with Newton. God did it.

The prophet Alma agrees, too. In The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, he explains the evidence to Korihor, the "anti-Christ" who thinks that it evidence is only that which we can see, and that thus, simply, there can be no God.
...what evidence have ye that there is no God..? I say unto you that ye have none save it be your word only

...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
Makes a lot of sense to me. Mr. Dawkins, am I missing something?




33 comments:

  1. Why is it necessary to "contemplat(e) how this Earth--and potentially others--got into their orbits in the first place"?

    Newton, Berlanski, Alma . . . all opinions. I have no problem saying that I have no idea how planets came into existence. But in my opinion, it makes a lot more sense that there likely isn't any such "God" putting "Earths" in their rightful orbits.

    Not knowing is not evidence for something unknown.

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  2. The probability that the earth would be at this distance from the sun, and that it would contain an atmosphere of ingredients that make life possible is improbable. But it doesn't mean that this improbability means that a more improbable liklihood is responsible, that a God planned the whole thing.

    Dawkins talks about probabilities alot in the God Delusion. The probability that any of us would exist is very low. Given the large number of sperm aiming for the egg released in our mother's tubes, our own existence is highly improbable. It is much more probable that someone with similar DNA would have been born rather than us, but yet here we are.

    I think Don makes a good point. "Not knowing is not evidence for something unknown" and incidently not falsifiable. A basic rule of science is that anything not falsifiable, is not worthy of consideration.

    Atleast that is my take.

    Best regards.

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  3. Don and Obi Wan,

    Thanks for the discussion. You are correct that "Not knowing is not evidence for something unknown." But it is also not evidence that something does not exist.

    Don,

    Why does it make more sense that there is no God? Why couldn't the pinnacle of evolution be God?

    Obi Wan,

    The improbability of it all is one of the fascinating parts of our existence. I think God is just as improbable (i.e. just as probable). For the scientific method, it's probably wise that "anything not falsifiable is not worthy of consideration". However, outside the realms of science I hope that Dawkins and others are a bit more curious than that.

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  4. Lots of very intelligent scientists and many theologians pretend that there is no conflict between science and religion.

    The truth is, you can subscribe to one or the other, not both. Obi wan explains why: "A basic rule of science is that anything not falsifiable, is not worthy of consideration."

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  5. Frank,
    I don't know why it makes more sense to me that there isn't a "God," it just does. Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that there couldn't be some sort of god-like force; it just seems less likely than the alternative. That's just the way my mind works I guess; I haven't been conditioned to think otherwise.

    As far as evidence goes, I'm not in the habit of requiring evidence to prove that things don't exist. Lack of evidence is good enough for me.

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  6. Richard,
    I don't think you have to choose between science and religion. You can subscribe to both; you just shouldn't mix them up.

    As long as religion keeps itself in the realm of the unknown (and currently unknowable) and as long as its adherents keep it between themselves and aren't harming others, then I really don't have a problem with it.

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  7. Dawkins was interviewed on Bill Maher's HBO show, and of course he stopped short of saying there isn't a God. He also said he couldn't disprove the existence of pink unicorns.

    But that just comes back to: "Not knowing is not evidence for something unknown."

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  8. I think most religionists believe they have other evidences for the existence of God (i.e. revelation from the Holy Ghost). Such 'evidences' are not testable, provable, or disprovable. But that doesn't mean they are unworthy of consideration. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that they are unworthy of scientific consideration.

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  9. I've had a couple of thoughts while contemplating this topic, and while reading the comments.

    The first is... Are religion and science fixed schools of thought, or or they both involved in the process of seeking for more and more truth. I think that while they should be the latter, all too often though, rather than a journey or quest, they become fortresses that people lock themselves into, and then defend vigorously against anything that would appear to challenge them.

    Second and probably less significant. The argument that the earth is the perfect distance from the sun to sustain life and other arguments along those lines... The problem is that we are assuming that all life would have to be just like us. Is it not conceivable that life may be possible under many circumstance, ours just seems to work well under the ones we find ourselves.

    I personally think there is a higher power involved in the process, but I think we might be surprized to find how little control that power exerts over us and nature. Free agency is a principle that appears to extend throughout nature and the universe.

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  10. Richard,

    True science and true religion are compatible, because both are true. It's just finding out what really is the truth. Ultimately, I think, everything will be falsifiable--if we develop to our full intelligent potential, i.e. if we become Gods ourselves.

    Don,

    I think (and I wonder if this fits your situation) that a lot of people don't believe in God because of the strange ideas that other people have about God, none of which make a lot of sense (that he's an old grandpa figure, that he sits at the top of a topless throne, that he is a bachelor, that he is some ethereal essence comprised of part Father, part Son, and part Holy Ghost--etc.)

    Koda,

    You are so right. I'm not sure why so many of us cling to our ideas in fear that we may be wrong. If we are wrong, we should be the first to welcome a clarification of the truth. But so many scientists and religionists are afraid of admitting that they may have been in error.

    Reach,

    There are evidences of things religious and things scientific. I agree that religious things are not as eminently provable as scientific things, but then again there are some scientific hypotheses that require just as much faith to believe.

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  11. Indeed you are correct.

    A few years ago, the National Geographic had a fascinating article about the Big Bang theory. Per the theory, the entire mass of the universe was once contained in a particle smaller than a proton. Then for some unknown reason, it began to energetically expand. The article said that some scientists refer to this point in 'time' (because time as we know it didn't yet exist) as k^-127.

    A reader wrote in and said something like, "k^-127? Certainly religion has no corner on faith."

    I agree with UK, that both religion and science should be systems that seek truth. Although some disagree, I believe that both systems are highly useful. I particularly appreciated Richard G. Scott's October 2007 thoughts on this matter.

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  12. Both atheism and theism are based on preconceived assumptions. There is no scientific way to prove or either disprove the existence of God. I chose for a variety of reasons to believe in God, but readily acknowledge that I largely base my belief on rather subjective information.

    I'm comfortable accepting a combination of evolution and "Intelligent Design." in my own life. However, as it is based on subjective belief, I would not support any effort to have Intelligent Design or other belief-based "science" to be taught in a science classroom.

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  13. Derek,

    I agree with Reach Upward's last comment that

    religion has no corner on faith

    I don't know enough about Intelligent Design yet, but for the reason of science requiring faith, I tend to think that ID should be taught in schools as well as Evolution.

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  14. Exactly. As I said, both atheism and theism are based on preconceptions. Both are based on subjective perception.

    Science, however, is not. For example, the big bang theory is based on objective evidence. When theists claim that the big bang was caused by the finger of God, they are inserting subjectivity into the debate, and it is no longer science--just as atheists are inserting subjectivity into the debate when they claim that the big bang was solely caused by random chance. True physics leaves out both, not trying to make a judgment on things for which there is no objective evidence.

    I've no problem in theory with theistic concepts like Intelligent Design, being taught in social studies classes (in practice, deciding which theistic concepts is another whole can of worms; best save that for families and Church). But NOT science class.

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  15. Berlinski's book, "The Devil's Delusion" (which I refer to in the main article) makes a pretty good case that the Big Bang theory is based largely on anything but objective evidence. He claims that it takes a much faith to believe that as it does to believe that God created the universe.

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  16. Evidence that planets evolve: plate tectonics. Our planet went from being a molten ball of magma up to 400 km thick, to the series of interconnected plates it is today. Whether God made it so...doesn't really matter. It just is.

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  17. Ryan,

    You raise a good point. Planets are evolving. But, just like the ape-man thing, it's hard for me to imagine how earth initially made the jump to a full fledged planet capable of sustaining life--without the help of an intelligent power.

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  18. Frank,
    Yes, humans have come up with some pretty strange ideas about who or what a "god" might be. That doesn't have anything to do with me being an atheist.

    I am wondering though, you seem to think other people's manifestations of "God" are strange. Could you explain your idea of "God" in a way that doesn't sound strange? Or were you including yours among those that don't make a lot of sense (to other people, that is)?

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  19. Frank, in response to your comments to Koda and Reach,

    True scientists are not afraid of being wrong. They probably relish being wrong just as much as being right because that means they are learning more about whatever it is they are studying.

    Scientific hypotheses don't require faith because they are always being tested. If they fail under scrutiny then they are no longer "believable" under scientific pretenses. If someone wanted to cling to a failed hypotheses as being true, then they would be acting on faith.

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  20. Derekstaff,
    Atheism, in its most general sense, isn't based on any preconceived assumptions. Atheism is simply not believing in what humans have termed "gods". Atheism does not require a preconceived notion that gods absolutely do not exist. Atheists aren't in the business of disproving the existence of "God".

    I think you are distilling atheism a bit too much. What you are describing could be called "strong atheism" but atheism itself requires no affirmation that "there are no gods."

    I disagree with your comment that both atheism and theism are based on subjective perception. My atheism is an objective response to the fact that there is no objective proof for the unknown.

    Frank,
    I'd like to see some evidence for your assertion that science requires faith. Just because someone posits an outlandish hypothesis of some sort and others take it at face value for scientific purposes that does not mean it is accepted on faith. As I mentioned before, hypotheses are always open to being proven or disproven based on new knowledge. Religion and "God" seem to be exactly the opposite.

    As far as Intelligent Design goes, I agree with Derek; teach it in Social Studies or a class on religions along with other religious/theistic concepts. ID has no basis for being in a science class.

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  21. Frank,
    The "ape-man" thing? A common misconception among Evolution skeptics is that Evolution claims that humans evolved from apes. This is not the case. Apes and humans did share a common ancestor at one point, but have followed their own evolutionary paths since that time.

    As I said in one of my comments from last week, I haven't been conditioned to believe that a higher intelligent power is responsible for things that are seemingly unbelievable. By implication then, it is my opinion that many believers have been conditioned to accept that conclusion. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but just that it may help explain why you lean toward believing while I lean toward not believing in such a higher intelligent power.

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  22. Frank, Ryan’s point is exactly the right one, and is correct. The objective evidence suggests that planets have evolved. Whether or not God had a role is impossible to determine from the objective evidence, and so should be excluded from scientific discussion, including science class. If you (as I do) chose to believe God had a role in that evolution, fine. But we cannot claim this is based on objective evidence. Given an infinite period of time and space, it is just as plausible that our planet could evolve life randomly as it is to be guided by a higher power. Same goes for organic evolution. Scientific evidence indicates that organic life has evolved. Scientific evidence suggests that man and apes had a common ancestor. We can believe that God had a role in that evolution, or we can believe it happened randomly, but neither belief is really supported by any evidence. It is all how we choose to view the issue. Because it is so subjective, original cause is not a valid discussion in scientific circles, including science class.

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  23. Don,

    Maybe "ape-man" is not the appropriate jump. Maybe "hominid-man" is a better explanation. At any rate, I believe in evolution to a great degree, but I believe that man was formed in the likeness and image of God (I don't claim to know the details of exactly what that means).

    As to your question about my views of God, hopefully here, here, and here will help.

    Derek,

    I essentially agree with Ryan. Evolution has its merits, but what I completely agree with (if I understand you correctly--that by "randomly" you mean "natural selection") is your statement that

    We can believe that God had a role in that evolution, or we can believe it happened randomly, but neither belief is really supported by any evidence.

    There are some things masquerading as science that require a LOT of faith to believe.

    I think that Intelligent Design should be taught in the schools, and I wouldn't have any problem if it were taught in Social Studies. What I am surprised by now is how scientists seem to try to suppress any promulgation of ID.

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  24. Frank,
    I read the links you provided and I'm still not sure how you would represent your idea of "God". You distilled others' beliefs into some neat little nuggets: old grandpa figure, sits at the top of a topless throne, the Trinity, etc. I'm wondering if you could do the same for your own beliefs.

    From what you've written, if I were to encapsulate how you view God, I'd say that you believe God was once a man but that he has evolved to a greater level of intelligence and somehow he now rules over an Earth. Furthermore, we men on this Earth are here as part of that evolutionary process and can possibly become Gods ourselves to someday rule over our own "Earth".

    Is that even close?

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  25. "There are some things masquerading as science that require a LOT of faith to believe."

    Such as? You keep saying this but I don't know what you're talking about.

    Scientists don't try to suppress any promulgation of ID; they try to suppress its promulgation as science. If ID pushers weren't trying to sneak their way into science classrooms then I'm sure most scientists wouldn't care one iota about ID. Scientists care about the scientific method. ID makes scientific claims with no scientific evidence to back it up. Therefore, I'm not surprised that scientists have a problem with it.

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  26. Don,

    My comment about science requiring faith was in direct relation to Derek's last comment, but perhaps more specifically to what Reach Upward said on 4/18 at 9:03 AM about the Big Bang theory.

    Also, your summary of what I perhaps believe about God:

    I'd say that you believe God was once a man but that he has evolved to a greater level of intelligence and somehow he now rules over an Earth. Furthermore, we men on this Earth are here as part of that evolutionary process and can possibly become Gods ourselves to someday rule over our own "Earth".

    is very close--so close as for me to say its accurate!

    I'm not sure what connotation you attach to the word "rules" however. God is not heavy handed. He believes in letting us have free choice. He evolved to his perfection (with his wife) in part by developing perfect love. He wants us to gain eternal life just like they have.

    One more slight correction: I believe that God has created and presides over a multitude of Earths throughout the universe, and that the universe, because it is infinite in size, can accommodate a multitude of Gods, who can only reach Godhood once they understand and abide by all the universal (natural) laws.

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  27. I don't place any importance or connotation on the word "rules," it's just what came out at the time. "Created and presides over" works just as well as far as I'm concerned.

    So I guess that leads me to a point. While I was typing that up, I was thinking to myself, "That's a pretty strange idea about God. I wonder if this is what Mormons really believe." The point being, you think other peoples' ideas about gods are strange but not your own. They probably feel the same way about yours but not their own. I feel that way about all of them.

    As for your comment about science requiring faith, what exactly about the Big Bang theory requires faith? As I said before, just because an unbelievable hypothesis is presented and even used for scientific purposes, that doesn't mean scientists are accepting it on faith.

    Going back to Derek's comments, if something is unknowable or untestable then you use the best available objective evidence to lead to a logical conclusion. You then search for evidence that either proves or disproves that conclusion.

    I'm not a student of the Big Bang, so I don't know what the evidence is, but I gather that many scientists are constantly challenging the relevant hypotheses in order to further refine the evidence that supports it and discard that which does not. The existence of "God" isn't tested that way. The only evidence for "God" is subjective. Science doesn't deal in subjective evidence and therefore does not require faith that any conclusion based on such evidence is true.

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  28. I appreciate you saying that you think all ideas about God are strange, and not just those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. To me, however, it is eminently logical. Nature is generally in a state of entropy, except that man has the ability to become better. This is the whole purpose of life, to understand the laws of the universe and to become more circumspect in our behavior toward our fellow human beings and everything else in nature. The pinnacle of this evolution is Godhood.

    It doesn't make sense to me that we're just here for a few days on earth and then we no longer exist.

    Is that what you believe? Or am I putting words in your mouth?

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  29. Yes, you're putting words in my mouth. But they happen to be more or less correct, so I don't mind. ;)

    All religion is illogical to me. I don't contemplate the "purpose" of life. Life just is. We have the ability to reason and the ability to empathize. That's enough reason for me to become more circumspect in our behavior toward our fellow human beings and everything else in nature.

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  30. Frank, I would agree there are academic disciplines in which "There are some things masquerading as science that require a LOT of faith to believe." Chief among these disciplines would be economics, in which the free-market theories of the "Chicago-school" economists are passed off as the result of objective, hard science rather than merely subjective, faith-based theory.

    I use the term "random chance" because the atheist perspective boils down to random chance. It was random chance that our planet just happened to coalesce at just the right distance from the sun, with just the right mass, at just the right angle, etc, to permit the development of life. It is random chance that humanity evolved bipedally, with larger brains, binocular vision, etc, which then was favored via natural selection. Given an infinite amount of time and possibilities throughout the universe, it is perfectly rational to believe such things could happen randomly somewhere. I chose to believe in the hand of God not because it is more rational or provable, but rather based on entirely different, more personal and subjective criteria.

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  31. Don,

    I can respect that.

    Derek,

    I disagree with your observation of the Chicago economists.

    But I completely agree with the rest of your comment.

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  32. Islam And Darwinism

    Islam believes in the theory of creation and Darwinists believe in the Theory of Evolution. In this article briefly it is discussed that the life on earth is created by God; it is not accidental or by chance. The atheists and the materialists negate the existence of God and consider human life and even mind to be a form of matter. Darwin’s theory of Evolution has influenced the minds of people and their character has been influenced as well. Such people do not believe in divine morals and values. They do not believe in God, soul and Hereafter. Islam says that God has created this universe and Humans with a specified goal. In Sura the Heifer in verse 117 the Quran says: “To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: when He decrees a matter, He says to it: “Be”, and it is.” Similarly in Sura Yasin in verse no. 82 the Quran announces: “Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is, “Be”; and it is”. The Quran has used two words for creation “Khalaq” and “Amr”. “Amr” is immediate command and immediate creation. Suppose about the creation of soul the Quran says: They ask you about soul, say; the soul is the command of my Lord” – All humans and the cosmos has been regarded as “Khalq”. The man comes in to being through a proper natural system. Without sexual intercourse and conception no life can take shape. But when the Quran refers about the birth of Jesus Christ; it is not natural or usual way of birth. It is through special command. Similarly the mothers of Yahya and Ishmael had gone old and barren and could not produce children. But the Quran mentions about their birth through special command. The natural laws and usual system of creation is regarded as Khalq. Hence the Quran in Sura Al-Imran in verse 190 says; “Behold! In the creation of heavens and the earth, and the alternation of Night and Day – there are indeed signs for men of understanding.” There are many verses in the Quran dealing with the subject of creation. Then there is also the concept of evolutionary process in creation but it is not in Darwinian sense but in the sense of developing stages of cosmos. The Quran in Sura The Height in verse 54 announces; “Your Guardian – Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days.” Then in Sura “the cattle” in verse 2 the Quran says; “He it is who created you from clay; and then decreed a stated term) for you). An there is in His presence another determined term; yet you doubt within yourselves”. The six days and stated term indicate the process and stages of creation by God. The creation of the universe in six days is the Biblical concept as well. Man is the blend of Matter and Soul. When God created Adam out of clay he infused his spirit in it. The Quran very explicitly narrates the story of the creation of Adam. The materialists do not believe in creation and spirit and regard the universe only the product of blind material forces. Now let us discuss what Darwin propounded. Darwinism bases on materialism. The ancient Greek materialists like Democritus believed in Evolutionary Naturalism. Besides the British scientist Charles Robert Darwin (1809 – 1882) and the British philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903), a number of other eminent philosophers supported the theory of evolution. Hegel’s theory of cosmic evolution is its offshoot. Nietzsche applied the concept of evolution to ethical theory. Karl Marx and Engels adopted it to socio – political philosophy. Thomas Henry Huxlay humanized it. Henri Bergson became one of its most influential exponents and Samuel Alexander developed it into his novel theory of emergent evolution. French Zoologist Jean de Lamarck (1744 – 1829), in 1809 presented his pioneering theory of evolution. Charles Darwin, in his “The Origin of Species” 1859) and “The Descent of Man” 1871), presented his theory of evolution. He presented the theory of the Mechanism of Natural Selection or survival of the fittest. Darwinism maintains that living things were not created but came into being by chance. Darwinism, materialism and communism believe in matter not in spirit. Darwin himself regarded his theory based on assumptions. Darwinism has been scientifically rejected. The defeat of Darwinism in the faces of science can be reviewed under three basic topics:

    1- The Darwinism theory cannot scientifically explain how life originated on Earth.

    2- No scientific finding shows that the “evolutionary mechanism” proposed by the theory have any evolutionary power at all.

    3- The fossil record provided proves the exact opposite of what the theory suggests.



    The evolutionists’ claim that the universe started from “first atom” and life started from “first cell”. Who created the atom and cell, the evolutionists cannot answer. Inanimate matter must have produced a living cell as a result of coincidence in the belief of the evolutionists. Modern biologists have rejected this claim. Life comes from life has been proved. The theory of “spontaneous generation”, which asserts that non-living materials came together to form living organism has been rejected. In a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1864, Pasteur said; “Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow struck by this simple experiment.” The great evolutionists like Russian biologist Alexander Oparin and American chemist Stanley Miller experimented to prove that a living cell could originate by coincidence but failed and they admitted their failure. Oparin in “Origin of Life” and Stanley Miller in “Molecular Evolution of life” discuss it in detail. Jeffery Bada in his book “Earth” admits: “we still face the biggest unsolved problem that we had when we entered the twentieth century: how did life originate on earth.” The conditions required for the formation of cell are too great in quantity to be explained away by coincidences. The DNA molecule is so complex that it cannot be accidental or coincidental. Mechanism of evolution has been also rejected. No deer becomes horse and no ape becomes man. It is a fallacious theory having no historical and scientific evidence.



    Lamarck and Darwin believed in the transferring of traits of one species to the other. They maintain that living creatures passed on the traits they acquired during lifetime to the next generation. Giraffes evolved from antelopes and bears transformed into whales. However, the laws of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884) and verified by the science of genetics have nullified the theory of evolutionary mechanism. Neo-Darwinism advances the Modern synthetic Theory”. Mutations, i.e.; genetic disorders do not cause living beings to develop on the contrary they are always harmful. The fossil record theory of Darwin, which was a basic contention, has been rejected on scientific grounds. According to this theory, every living species has sprung from a predecessor. No “Transitional Forms” have yet been uncovered. On the contrary, the British Paleontologist, Drerk v. Ager in “The Nature of the Fossil Record” admits that the fossil records shows not gradual evolution but the sudden explosion of one group at the expense of another. This is just the opposite of Darwin’s assumptions. Douglas J. Futuyma, an eminent evolutionist biologist in his book, “Science of Trail” announces organism as the creation of some omnipotent intelligence. Fossils show, writes Harun Yahua, in his book, “The Importance of Conscience in the Quran”, that living beings emerged fully developed and in a perfect state on the earth. That means, that the Origin of Species, contrary to Darwin’s suppositions, is not evolution, but creation.” On the wonders of creation the Quran in Sura Rehman aptly announces: “He has created man. He has taught him an intelligent speech.” Then in the same Sura in verse 13 God announce; “Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny.”

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