Sunday, 29 January 2012

It’s Difficult to Believe in Evolution

Why do most people reject Darwin? NPR blogger asks. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

NPR blogger Marcelo Gleiser wrote an interesting blog post, asking why it is difficult to believe in evolution. Yes, he used the word ‘believe’.

He lamented that only 39 per cent of Americans believed in Darwinian evolution.

The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. It's in the fossil record, carefully dated using radioactivity, the release of particles from radioactive isotopic decay, which works like a very precise clock. Rocks from volcanic eruptions (igneous rocks) buried near a fossil carry certain amounts of radioactive material, unstable atomic nuclei that emit different kinds of radiation, like tiny bullets,” Gleiser says.

However, precise dates can be very misleading. At the Creation 2011 Super Conference in Canada, nuclear physicist Jim Mason discussed the problems involved in radiometric dating and concluded that scientists could be – and have actually been – ‘precisely wrong’ in their dates.

In other words, although dates might look precise they can still be incorrect – they can be off by many millions of years.

It is not possible to test the credibility of any of the assumptions behind radiometric dating but they are often held to be true without evidence. Contrary to assumptions

- Rocks are by no means closed systems
- No one can be sure of the amount of parent isotopes in a rock
- Decay rates might have changed

In addition, “bad dates” are commonplace.

Next, Gleiser moves on to antibiotics resistance:

But evidence for evolution is also much more palpable, for example in the risks of overprescribing antibiotics: the more we (and farm animals) take antibiotics, the higher the chance that a microbe will mutate into one resistant to the drug.”

While antibiotic resistance is often touted as evolution in action, there are problems with this view. In 2011 a paper in the journal Nature suggested that antibiotic resistance predated the discovery of antibiotics:

Vanessa D’ Costa and colleagues reported on

targeted metagenomic analyses of rigorously authenticated ancient DNA from 30,000-year-old Beringian permafrost sediments and the identification of a highly diverse collection of genes encoding resistance to β-lactam, tetracycline and glycopeptide antibiotics. Structure and function studies on the complete vancomycin resistance element VanA confirmed its similarity to modern variants.”

They concluded that:

These results show conclusively that antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon that predates the modern selective pressure of clinical antibiotic use.”

Antibiotic resistance is not evolution in action. Georgia Purdom, who has a PhD in molecular genetics, writes:

Mutation and natural selection, thought to be the driving forces of evolution, only lead to a loss of functional systems. Therefore, antibiotic resistance of bacteria is not an example of evolution in action but rather variation within a bacterial kind. It is also a testimony to the wonderful design God gave bacteria, master adapters and survivors in a sin-cursed world.”

Far from being overwhelming, the evidence for evolution is questionable.


D’ Costa, Vanessa M. & al. 2011. Antibiotic resistance is ancient. Nature 477, 457–461.

DeYoung, Don. 2005. Thousands … Not Billions. Green Forest, AZ: Master Books.

Gleiser, Marcelo. 2012. “Why Do So Many Have Trouble Believing In Evolution? NPR (18 January).

Purdom, Georgia. 2007. Antibiotic Resistance of Bacteria: An Example of Evolution in Action? Answers 2 (3), 74-76.