This is troubling to watch. Maybe it’s because the misrepresentations are in a living color video rather than the usual black-and-white text. Maybe it’s because Schloss is so well-spoken. Maybe it’s because it is a friend doing the misrepresenting. Maybe it is because it was probably something like this that Schloss presented last week in NYC, which Christianity Today referred to as “elegant” and what no doubt so impressed the largely non scientific crowd, save NT Wright hopefully. At the [0.34] mark the Professor and Chair of Biology at Westmont College explains:
Evolution in the sense of whether that genetic change over time has resulted in the diversity of species, we see now, which is the proposition of common descent, that is an idea. That is an interpretation. But the evidence for the truth of that interpretation is overwhelming. And it ranges from biogeographic evidence, or where the species are located all over Earth, to the fossil column, to more recently the discovery of profound examples of genetic fossils. So that idea is very firmly established. And it is central to our understanding of how organisms work and how they are structured.
This is the middle of three meanings or senses of the word “evolution” that Schloss explains. He begins with genetic change over time which, Schloss explains, is simply an empirical fact. Then, at the [0.34] mark, he moves on to the idea that this genetic change over time is the cause of the diversity of species. And finally, Schloss moves on to the explanations for what caused this genetic change over time which, Schloss explains, is largely mutations plus natural selection, but that a range of other factors currently under study were probably at work as well.
What Schloss does not explain in this video is that in recent decades evolutionists have increasingly acknowledged that the vast change evolution requires did not, in fact, likely arise from the usual suspects of mutation, selection and adaptation. This is not a minor point of dispute. It is a fundamental problem of how new designs arose.
As for common descent, again, this has increasingly been questioned even by evolutionists. Why? Because the evidence does not fit the model very well. What is needed are vast amounts of lateral or horizontal evolution, to fill the gaps in the vertical (common descent) model. So evolutionists have increasingly and more liberally dipped into the soup of horizontal gene transfer as a way of making sense of the evidence from an evolutionary perspective.
This horizontal gene transfer explanation is problematic. First, it is a complex mechanism that evolution would somehow had to have created. Second, it means that evolution created a complex mechanism so that evolution could occur—evolution created evolution. Third, evolutionists need to use the mechanism to a far greater degree than is realistic. You can read more about this here, here and here.
In fact common descent’s model of an evolutionary “tree” has also been increasingly questioned by evolutionists. As one evolutionist explained, “incongruities can be seen everywhere in the universal tree,” and another explained that:
Hierarchical structure can always be imposed on or extracted from such data sets by algorithms designed to do so, but at its base the universal TOL [tree of life] rests on an unproven assumption about pattern that, given what we know about process, is unlikely to be broadly true.
You can read more about this here.
In fact there are monumental problems with common descent. For instance, identical DNA sequences show up in distant species with little functional constraint (something that an evolutionist once told me would falsify the entire theory).
Likewise, strikingly similar, incredibly complex, designs show up on distant twigs of the tree. For example, the human and squid vision system are uncannily similar. This cannot be explained as arising from a common ancestor. Nor is this is a rare or uncommon finding in biology. Such contradictions to evolutionary expectations seem to be never-ending in biology.
On the other hand, otherwise very similar species (which evolution would assign as neighbors on the evolutionary tree) have big differences. From completely different development patterns to completely unique, different genes, these differences make no sense on common descent and evolution.
The list goes on and on. Evolutionists have imposed a model on the evidence which does not fit very well. Only by ignoring these problems or describing them as evolutionary “noise” can the models work.
And what about Schloss’ evidences? Do evidences such as biogeography, the fossils and genetic comparisons make the case for common descent? These are all circumstantial evidences. Biogeography tells us what species were located where and when. It doesn’t tell us how those species got there.
These evidences are often consistent with evolutionary expectations, so that is a plus. But evolutionary expectations are incredibly broad. A great many patterns would work. So the confirmed prediction is not particularly strong. We could say the sunrise is a confirmed prediction of geocentrism, but a great many different sunrises would be.
Indeed, there are some evidences from biogeography that do not work very well and are, as evolutionist Ernst Mayr once put it in his book What Evolution Is, “indeed almost unbelievable.” He called one example of lizard dispersal “truly miraculous.”
And in his book Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution Douglas Futuyma wrote that “The molelike and wolflike animals of Australia are marsupials, clearly related to each other, because only marsupial ancestors had reached Australia.” Once again, forcing the evidence into the evolution paradigm failed as a few years later placental fossil species were discovered in Australia.
Similarly the fossil record tells us what species were there, but not how they got there. And here there are a great many problems. More advanced versions sometimes appear earlier in the record, other organisms appear abruptly, and in general the findings do not form the expected tree pattern. Instead, evolutionists switch to a “bush” metaphor which has a great many twigs going in all directions. And the fossil record reveals a series of diversity explosions followed by extinctions that winnow out the diversity—precisely the reverse of the original evolutionary expectations.
The genetic fossils Schloss mentions are better evidence. But of course, these are the evidences we understand the least. And there are occasional problems here as well, where these “fossils” are found in patterns that violate common descent. These circumstantial evidences could be explained by common mechanism as much as by common descent. Granted we do not know what that mechanism is, but we also do not know what mechanism could evolve the species.
It is not that there is no evidence for evolution and common descent. There is quite a bit of evidence. But there also is quite a bit of evidence for geocentrism, and a host of other rejected theories. It is crucial to take the entire scientific record into account rather than picking and choosing our favorite items as though we were in a cafeteria.
It seems to me that there simply are no easy scientific answers available at this point. I certainly do not have any. But there is no question that evolution and common descent are not scientific facts, as evolutionists insist. When such claims are made, that cannot be justified on the empirical evidence, it is an indicator that there is more than mere science at work.
It is crucial for scientists, who hold specialized knowledge and who are asked to explain what we know to non technical audiences, not to violate that public trust. When Schloss explains that the evidence for the truth of common descent “is overwhelming,” I do not think he is providing a balanced, objective explanation of the science.
Unfortunately, this is the history of evolutionary thought. For centuries religion has held sway and mandated an evolutionary narrative. The metaphysical certainty that Schloss so confidently asserts goes back centuries. That certainty did not come from genetic “fossils,” the fossil record, biogeography, or any other scientific evidence. It came from theological convictions imposed on the science.
Religion drives science, and it matters.