Science in Christian Perspective



R. L. Mixter

From: JASA 6 (March 1954): 26-28.

I. Regarding logic
The principle of parsimony requires that the simpler mechanism should be used to explain the facts of nature. This is a good principle and should be applied as long as it works. I maintain that evolution works within the groups which are separated by gaps in the fossil record and which are distinguished by structures not derived from previous ones by known genetic mechanisms. To illustrate: evolution explains the development of the first horse into the modern horse for the first horse is connected to the modern horse by a series of fossils, and genetic mutations could account for the modifications necessary to produce this amount of change. But the first horse is separated by a structural difference from other orders of animals and this difference is of the type that is not bridged by mutations. There is no fossil series connecting the horses to another order of mammals. Here, then, is where creation could have occurred, and the inability of mutations to produce new forms suggests that creation is needed to produce them. This reasoning does not give a proof but a possibility of creation. The real reason for believing in creation is that the Bible presents it and I take that to be a revelation that gives an explanation which is to be added to observations of living things.

Consider now the critic's statement that gaps are like his not seeing a person going to Wheaton College, so he must not have been there. I would say that if I had not seen someone at a college, he may, not have been at that college. Notice the reserve in my actual conclusion... until bridges are found, one may hold that the groups so separated have arisen from independently created kinds". It isn't proof that creation did occur but it would be a place f or its need if it is really needed.

My critic says, "A fair summary would be, 'Either evolution has occurred . . . or God has made the creatures of the world in such a way that we cannot distinguish the order from an evolutionary one." I think my paper shows that evolution does account for part of the variety of animal life but that the many breaks in the record (gaps between orders) permit one to believe that something else besides evolutionary forces are necessary for the complete account of what has happened. Members of an order of protozoa could have come from one species, but no mutations are known which could have added stinging cells containing nematocysts to protozoa so they could evolve into coelenterates of even the simplest sort. I say that until the gaps are bridged or a sufficient mechanism is described, one may be logical in his belief that evolution is not all that is at work. The evolutionist believes the gaps were not real, the creationist that many gaps were real; neither can prove his case, but neither can the evolutionist say that the creationist could not be right. He can only say, "He may not be correct."

The idea that science progresses by trying to find mechanistic causes for natural phenomena is good. But I object to saying that mechanistic causes can be the only causes. A scientist would have to be omniscient to say this.

Consider the argument that a machinist is necessary to explain machinery. The principle of parsimony would suggest this. We have seen men make watches; we have seen men construct levers and we know of nothing making levers except men. So when we see muscles work on the lever principle, we are entitled to assume that something with as much intelligence as a man designed the muscular lever. Then we read the Bible which says that God designed man. Revelation caps the argument.

Next my opponent claims I am inconsistent. His first example is a misunderstanding on his part probably caused by an ambiguous statement on my part. I do not believe that Hawaiian species were created in Hawaii; rather, I believe they were derived from mainland species probably South American. My statement about Hawaiian species was an attempt to show a creationist that he could not believe in the creation of species on the Hawaiian islands because the islands are not old enough. They did not exist when creation was occurring, which I assume was when the first members of the orders appeared. Modern orders of birds arose way back in the tertiary and the islands came out of the sea more recently than that. I apologize for giving the wrong impression and I appreciate very much the very careful reading my opponent has given to my manuscript.

The second inconsistency concerns the statement made by a world famous evolutionist who said "it would be a miracle that a mutation causing diversity would also cause convergence for an adaptive end." I did not use this statement to deny the possibility of any evolution but I used it to substantiate my claiming that the mutations which have occurred are not good enough to produce onward and upward evolution. The statement merely shows one of the inabilities of mutations. If I have confused the reader, I am sorry.

II Regarding similarities

Both of us agree on the occurrence of similarities. I also recognize the use the evolutionist makes of the sum total of likenesses. I do, however, point out that not every similarity means kinship and the sum total need not be taken to mean kinship, unless the kinship is demonstrated by hybridization. When the kinship cannot be demonstrated, then the evolutionist infers it from the sum total of similarities. He could be right, but the sum totals could also be the result of creative activity - as are the resemblances between automobiles the result of the creative (constructive) activity of men.

The one who is quoted in my work as saying, "Design of creation is a psychological argument which cannot be definitely disproved" is the same world famous evolutionist who was quoted previously in regard to mutations producing adaptations. He was aware of this logic of creationist's viewpoint on similarities, but held that vestigial organs favored the evolutionist.

Vestigial organs may have functions. Apparently my critic does not object to my remarks on the appendix. Vestigial organs may be remnants of formerly more complete organs. The reduction may have been caused by mutation which is what I had in mind when I said that vestigial organs are genetic abnormalities. There is no contradiction here.

We agree regarding the "necessity to put labels on things being a source of much difficulty in understanding evolution." I went into this situation to some extent to try to show one kind of creationist, who believes all species were created, that he cannot hold such a position. That is, I was trying to convert some creationists to a limited form of evolution.

III. Regarding gaps in the record

My critic has helpful material here. Too many of us creationists do not appreciate how lucky we are to have any fossils and enough men to study them. The significant point about the gaps is that they are so consistent in the positions they occur, that is between orders, and classes and phyla. He says the links are missing because they occurred in small numbers. It is neither in the small nor the very large population that evolution is likely to occur but "probably the best chance for recombination is in a rather large population more or less broken up into local are s in which the frequencies of allelic genes are different." (Shull, "Evolution" 1951, p. 187) The size of a breeding population could be in the vicinity of 500 to 2000 individuals. It is reasonable to expect in 30,000,000 years that there would be a few specimens giving some hint of how feathers may have evolved -so far as I know, no such fossils have been found. The first birds had feathers which appear as complicated as the best of feathers today. Archaeopteryx is separated from their ancestral reptiles by a striking gap. The evolutionists (such as Heilmann in "Origin of Birds") say that the real missing link is the proavis, which would be intermediate between reptiles and Archaeopteryx. So I hold that Archaeopteryx does not prove birds came from reptiles; it merely emphasizes the problem of gaps.

The reference to graphite being as much as 13 thick is a revelation to me. Apparently the footnote I quoted should be omitted. I am also grateful for the evidence that there was much plant life preceding the Cambrian animals.

I shall not comment any guesses as to the origin of life except to say that such works as duNouy's "Human Destiny" and A. Cressy Morrison's "Man Does Not Stand Alone" show the extreme improbability of getting living things by chance happenings. The quotation at the end of my booklet is by a professor of botany at the University of Illinois. His statement admits that a belief in the creation of first protoplasm is as logical as a faith in spontaneous generation.

Wheaton, Illinois