or Two views on how life came to be:
Your world view is extremely important. In fact, it may be your most important belief. It gives your thoughts structure, and is your basis for interpreting the world around you. It is your belief of what is truth.
Your world view includes the abstract and philosophical assumptions that you have. From these you build up a model of the world. The model includes your learning and experiences, and it enables you to make predictions about objects and situations. The view and model might be thought of as being at the ends of a continuum: the world view works with big truths and the model works with details of operation.
There is a lot of randomness in our world. Detecting what is real in all this noise is not easy. Our world view and model of the world work together, as a system that allow us to recognize what we consider is important and ignore the rest. Since we cannot handle what does not fit, our world system also limits us. We reject the anomalies or interpret them into something that does fit. Therefore we may not be able to recognize anomalies for what they truly are. This means that having a correct world system is very critical.
I will discuss my origins world view, and then the Darwinian world view to provide a contrast. I will compare them to evidence of today, then draw conclusions. 1
The primary assumption of my origins world view begins with a person. He exists entirely outside of the realm of matter and time and has matching power and authority. By them he called this universe of time and material into existence and sustains it. One of his names is El. 2
El has certain character traits:
El's character traits are critical because they provide me with some key assumptions about the universe. El is rational, orderly and consistent. Therefore I assume that what he has made is rational and orderly. It will also be consistent: its laws will be consistent and its matter will be consistent everywhere.
El expects us to be able to understand what he has told us about himself. Therefore I also assume that the world he made is something that I can understand. This gives me motivation to try and understand it.
Since he was the common maker of the environment and the organisms in it, there should be a high level of optimization between them. The earth would be tuned to support life. The optimization would include compatibility between the various forms of life.
Through his intelligence, knowledge and power, El created the universe without trial and error. Correspondingly he created it in a limited time. 4 It was good when he made it, but defects were introduced after the fact, and continue to be introduced.
Since El was the common maker of all the life forms, it would make sense to have similarity between them. By re-applying his building blocks for life (but with variations), he made many kinds of organisms. He made organisms that were similar and some that were very different from any others. He made some organisms with similar genetics produce very different body forms, and other organisms with very different genetics produce body forms that appeared alike. For some organisms, the variations between kinds were modest, so there was a range of similar types.
El created the original kinds of organisms. They were very adaptable because they had ideal genetic content in them from the beginning. After several generations of descendants, variations within kinds began to be evident through normal biological processes such as random inheritance from parents or mutations.
Randomly inherited traits of some organisms enabled made them be specialized to certain environmental niches. They dominated there over the other more generalized peers though natural selection. However, by becoming specialists, they became generally less adaptable. 5
Natural selection also performed the important task of preservation of the most robust genes. Errors occur during the re-copying of the genetic data at each generation. Mutations introduce deviations from the original genetic data. Overwhelmingly, the mutations cause undesired defects. Together, these errors cause a gradual deterioration of the genes of all organisms. Natural selection helps preserve the genes that retain the best quality data.
However, sometimes natural selection is so adverse that none of a species survives. Our earth has seen a number of catastrophes in the past: global ice, major meteorite hits, volcanoes, floods. Ancient literature documents some of these as global catastrophic events, in particular a flood that caused massive extinctions. Then from it came rapid burial of all sizes of organisms in sedimentary material laid down by the water. Organisms would be buried at various layers depending on their living environment, mobility and size.
Sometimes, the environment was favorable to certain kinds of organisms only in certain places. They did not survive elsewhere, so those became the only locations in which they were found.
A Darwinianist assumes naturalistic processes are the sole explanation for this world. He assumes the universe came into existence by itself out of nothing. 6 In a Darwinian world, therefore, there is no particular philosophical reason to believe the laws of the universe are are orderly and understandable or are even consistent everywhere.
The Darwinianist assumes that life spontaneously started from non-life. In a Darwinian view, our world is not particularly special and only had to have presented the proper conditions for life to start and continue.
The Darwinianist assumes that life forms became progressively more competent and complicated through time. 7 He assumes that the earth is very old to allow time for this sequence to have occurred. He assumes that fossils of increasing biological complexity were buried through time in a consistent and distinctive geologic column.
He postulates that mutations are the engine for addition of beneficial new information to genetic systems. It functions under the decisive review of natural selection.
The Darwinianist assumes that different kinds of organisms descend from common ancestors. He assumes that organisms can be changed from one kind into another kind by a continuous sequence of intermediate steps. He also assumes that the intermediate forms could be viable organisms. This explains the origin of species and the similarity between kinds.
The Darwinianist assumes that the selection force of unique environments accounts for the emergence of organisms unique to those environments.
Finally we arrive at today. We see evidence around us which we interpret to fit our model.
We live in an orderly and understandable world. The beauty of its order is quite magnificent (as for example in visible nature, in math and physics).
Biology is made up of comprehensive systems that would fail if they were not fully integrated. Living organisms contain huge stores of information. Their intricate biological processes rely on data that is complete, accurate and precise. In addition, they contain adaptive systems that allow biology to be fault-tolerant, degrading gracefully.
Biology is extremely complex. We humans continue to learn very quickly about how it functions, but there is much that is still far beyond our understanding.
Organisms adapt and change. The range of adaptation is limited to the range afforded by the genetic information pre-existing within them.
New species due to gene flow have been observed, however new taxonomic orders have not been observed. (See note 2 here.)
Some environments host completely unique species.
Mutations damage the genetic content of organisms much faster than adding beneficial new content. 8
The quality of genetic information in very many organisms is decreasing, not increasing. This occurs through random selection, genetic drift and mutations.
Natural selection performs the function of eliminating various organisms that are unfit for an environment. Natural selection helps to preserve the best-quality genetic information (because of increased mortality in defective organisms). Sometimes it also brings about extinction.
There are many combinations of similarities between organisms and differences between organisms. As such there is no clear progression to explain a common descent.
Smooth transitional forms in the fossil record between all of the kinds of organisms do not exist.
The earth is rich in fossils buried in in sedimentary rock layers. We know that organisms are not preserved into fossils unless the conditions are right. (They quickly decay - especially the large ones.) Since we find many large fossils, they must have been buried very rapidly to avoid decay (on the order of days).
Organisms are generally buried with the apparently more complex organisms above less complex.
What is called the geologic column is a general pattern of geologic strata. In some cases observed strata order does not occur in standard geologic column order. Strata rock types are not each distinctive although rock sequences may be. (See here and here.)
Both world views rely on assumptions. My world view assumes a creative outside agent. The Darwinian view was developed so as to be able to reject such an agent.
Both world views make an explanation for what we observe in the world around us. There is no proof, or mechanism for the initial causes of either system. The likelihood of either is improbable. However, after the initial causes the Darwinianist's view continues to rely on mechanisms with high improbability. In addition, some of these postulated mechanisms are not observable in present time. The creation world view does not have these on-going difficulties, therefore it fits better with what we observe in biology and with statistics.
The Darwinian view predicts evolutionary improvements to the gene pool, not the consistent degradation that is being observed. If natural selection therefore cannot even retain existing genetic quality it is doubtful that it has selection power to retain genetic improvements. In this, the creation model fits best with what we observe.
In my world view, the world is very extensively fine-tuned to support life. The Darwinian view did not predict this.
Transitional forms between organisms are completely missing in some cases. In other cases, they appear to exist, but with significant intervals of form. This is a difficulty for the Darwinian view because it predicts continuous transitional forms. The creation view can explain this either by assuming that a more dense variety of organism forms were created in some cases, or by assuming that derivative organisms from the originally created organisms are unevenly spaced.
Since the evidence of transitional forms between organisms is fossils, there is no genetic information to study. 9 Therefore, only the form of the organism can be used to place it in a transition order. We already know that similarity of form does not necessarily parallel genetic similarity. Therefore, even if there were a continuous series of forms in the fossil record, that would not be evidence that there was a progressive series of genetic transformations. 10 This then makes the fossil record effectively unusable to argue for genetic evolutionary change.
Regarding explanations for the geologic layers of the earth (the geologic column), there are improbabilities in both world view models. The vast quantities of fossils that exist in sedimentary layers is very improbable under an evolutionary gradualism model. (Decay occurs instead - unless there is catastrophic preservation.) On the other hand, though global catastrophes such as a flood or astronomical collision are improbable, they do explain fossilization. The first model has operational improbabilities that go against the observations we make today. The second model has historical improbability, therefore it can be neither proved nor disproved. Ignoring the difficulties, I do acknowledge that both models offer an explanation for the existence of fossils such as we discover them today.
Both world views rely on non-naturalistic beginnings. Neither story can be verified or falsified. Both proposals for the origin of the universe and the origin of life are highly improbable. After the time of origin, the creation explanation is highly probable but the Darwinian one is not.
The controlling difference between the two is the first assumption regarding an outside agent. In my observation and experience, the most ardent promoters of either world view are primarily motivated by this initial assumption. To put a fine point on it: highly motivated Darwinianists are primarily motivated by their philosophical and spiritual world view, and not by hard science.
The Darwinian view of origins ignores a plain understanding of biological processes. In so doing, it distorts truth and limits a clear understanding of the world.
I believe the creation origins world view and the corollaries from its assumptions fit best with observations of our current world. Therefore it is the best origins model.
1 All explanations for the origin of the universe and of life are historical theories and are conjecture. There were no human observers, and those events cannot be repeated. Even if a mechanism were discovered for creating a universe or for creating life, it cannot be known that it was the means our universe and our life came into existence. In fact, we could not even be sure that with our universe established in existence and with life in it, that the original mechanisms are repeatable or remain functional.
2 El says that he is self-existent. That is not possible in the realm of matter and time. Here, all things must have a beginning and a cause. However, El exists outside of the realm of matter and time. Therefore the rules of cause and of beginning have no meaning; he is not being illogical. Unless we simply reject his existence, we have no rationale for disbelieving him.
Our realm of matter does not have common dimensions with his realm. However, translations can be made from his realm into ours. This can be illustrated by analogy: Love is dimensionless in our realm, and yet it can be translated into the material world.
This universe El made is unimaginably large. For this and other reasons, many people believe that we are not special in the universe, and life must exist in other places. However, just because the universe is large does not imply that we are ordinary or common. Creating the whole thing did not tax El. Making all of it just so that we would exist would have been "easy".
Another analogy to illustrate: I may turn on my computer to write a short email to my friend. That simple task literally causes millions of bits of information to come into realization (be implemented). And yet they all came into being just to serve a simple communication, for the purpose of furthering a relationship. Just because the computer might have been able to have served other purposes, did not mean that it actually was used for anything else while it was turned on.
From this we could assume that El is the kind of person that we would want to have in control. He cares about others, and he does not fail. Since he keeps his promises, we can be certain that sunlight and seasons and rains will continue to the end of time as he has promised.
However, this does require trust because he is greater than his creation and does not have the same purposes that we may have. Having to trust him and having to be accountable to him cause many people to reject him.
Note that if he exists, any person rejecting him does not cause him to stop existing. Therefore the questions of whether he is real and whether to acknowledge him may be the most important decisions a human can make!
If life was created, there is no need for the earth to be as old as is commonly claimed. There are a variety of indicators for the age of the earth and the age of the universe. Some seem to indicate a young earth (~ 10,000 years old); others seem to indicate an old earth (> 4.5 billion years old). Even these general indications are based on prior assumptions.
Darwinianists require an old earth to make the concept of self-generated life be plausible. Therefore, they quote the indicators of old age, but ignore, re-interpret or ridicule the indicators of young age.
One of the strongest old-earth indicators is based on radioactive decay rates. However, the RATE project or the changing Zero Point Energy model show that even these processes could be consistent with a young earth model. For other indicators of an old earth, some are not conclusive depending on your initial assumptions.
There are also strong indicators of a young earth. Here is an article that lists 14 of them.
To assign dates to samples from geology and paleontology, Darwinianists use the concept of the geologic column. The column was invented as a means to classify geologic strata. However, its purpose has been extended to support evolutionary assumptions of uniformitarianism, progressive common descent, and the long periods of time needed to make Darwinianist origins plausible. (See also geology, paleontology and misconceptions.)
The evolutionary long-age system has become a standard for accepting and rejecting other methods of dating. Since the introduction of Darwinian time scales, the rest of the physical sciences have re-calibrated their time scales into line with evolutionary time scales. They do this to avoid conflict, even though there might be no particular new evidence in that field to indicate the long ages.
An extremely adapted organism has been bred by its environment to only retain the genetic information that specialized it for that niche. However, it's advantage disappears outside of its niche. Therefore, an organism extremely well-adapted to a specific niche environment is (in general) actually less fit to survive. The genetic information giving it the ability to be a generalist, is bred out. It's descendants will also be generally less fit for survival elsewhere because the latent information needed to adapt to a new environment will no longer exist in them.
6 This subject matter is actually part of the realm of cosmology. Although it is not part of the Darwinianist's discipline, it is the explanation that they generally accept because it is consistent in their world view.
The dominant cosmological explanation these days is the Big Bang model. However, this model starts at some finite period of time after the absolute beginning. There is nothing but speculation about the absolute origin of time and matter; possibly it occurred out of some random quantum fluctuation.
Unfortunately, natural laws would not govern any such an event since natural laws do not exist before a universe. Therefore there ARE NO naturalistic explanations for the existence of the universe.
7 The Darwinianist actually would say that descent with modification occurred. Both positive and negative modifications would be introduced, but the negative modifications died out at the same rate that they were introduced. The positive modifications survived to provide an increase in competence.
Regarding becoming more complicated - the evolutionist would say they do not claim that. What they mean is that they claim the average level of organism complexity has remained constant. However, in their history of life, the maximum level of complexity is shown as increasing.
8 Radiation causes increased mutations, and evidence shows that increased exposure to radiation causes reduced health and lifespan. For this reason, modern X-ray machines have been required to produce less exposure, a thinning atmospheric ozone layer (that protects us from solar radiation) is undesirable, and people leave places where the local radiation is high. Since these things are true, mutations cannot produce effects that are on average neutral to positive.
Mutagens are chemicals that increase the frequency of mutations. Quoting wikipedia, "Mutagens can cause changes to the DNA and are therefore genotoxic".
Mutations mostly cause problems.
9 Some fossils have been found with preserved soft tissue that contains DNA. This had been considered an impossibility due to the long ages required by evolution. Either science doesn't understand biological decay processes, or we have mis-understood the age of the fossils.
10 There are evolutionary problems even if we only look at the transitions of forms: As an example, in the ordered series of species by which the modern horse is to have evolved, "Eohippus [Hyracotherium] had 18 pairs [of ribs], Orohippus had 15 pairs, Pliohippus jumped to 19 pairs, and the modern horse [has] 18" (ICR). These random rib counts imply that this sequence is not transitional at all.