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Discussion 3 to Meditation 447
Shaken faith

by Dan Shanefield (Website)

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My faith in Darwin's "theory of evolution" has just been shaken a little bit, by the latest issue (March 13, 2006) of the widely respected magazine, "Chemical And Engineering News." This is the house organ of the American Chemical Society, and letters to the Editor are not usually printed there unless the facts have been checked by expert specialists. On the few occasions when those letters have been about subjects within my own scientific specialty, I have agreed with the claims. (I am a physical chemist and engineer.) Therefore, I tend to take such letters seriously.

Three letters were published in that issue (starting on page 6), claiming that Darwin's famous book, "The Origin Of Species," is mistakenly titled. The claim is that the fossil evidence shows stepwise evolution, but only within a given species. Whenever a new species has arisen in the distant past, the fossil evidence only can demonstrate that the new species popped up fully formed, ready to go. Later genetic changes within the species were indeed small-step evolutions, possibly caused by random mutations. However, there has never been any fossil evidence for small-step changes to an entirely new species, according to these letters.

A given species cannot mate with another species to generate fertile descendants. Thus, even though various animals might all have horns, cloven hoofs, and eat grass, they are not necessarily of the same species, and there are qualitative differences such as the ability to mate successfully for reproduction. (I have to admit that I am not an expert on this subject, and I am just going by what I have been reading recently.)

The letter writers say that Darwin's book did not show the "origins" of any "species" whatsoever. It just presented evidence for stepwise small changes within a given species, and all the newer evidence is of the same type.

Supposedly there is no real evidence about the origins of life itself, even simple bacteria or viruses. They just seem to have popped up, ready to go, from whatever we can analyze in ancient fossils.

This is only quite-indirect evidence regarding "intelligent design," --- not any direct evidence of it, and certainly not any "proof." But I do think we need to keep things straight about the fossil record of evolution.

By the way, you can look at that the current issue of the magazine on the Chemical and Engineering News website, but you can't read the actual letters unless you are an ACS member. Well, it's something to think about, anyhow.