In the early 1600s, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei received word that a Dutch lens grinder had made an important discovery in optics. The Dutchman discovered that when certain lenses were combined, distant objects were made to appear closer. Upon hearing this news, Galileo applied himself to the study of refraction and attempted to replicate the Dutchman’s discovery.
Galileo prepared a tube out of lead and fitted a concave lens at one end and a convex lens at the other. So effective was his telescope design that he had more built and sold them to interested persons. While others were mainly interested in using the telescope to view objects on land and sea, Galileo turned his telescope toward the heavens.
For more than 2000 years the heavens were believed to be perfect and unalterable. Contrary to expectations of the moon being smooth, Galileo observed a rough surface covered with cavities and jagged peaks. He also noticed that the sun wasn’t a flawless sphere. Rather the sun had dark, irregular blemishes (sunspots) that moved across its surface. And contrary to the belief that everything in the heavens revolved around the earth, Galileo saw small stars (moons) moving around Jupiter, and saw Venus progress through moon-like phases, an observation that could only be reasonably explained if Venus moved around the sun.
Because Galileo’s observations contradicted long-held philosophical and religious beliefs about the nature of the heavens, his discoveries were not widely accepted. Some argued that his observations were illusions created by his telescope. Others said that the rough surface of the moon was covered by a smooth, transparent material, thus preserving the traditional view of a perfect heavenly sphere. Even the leading philosopher at Pisa, Italy refused to look through Galileo’s telescope for fear of what he might find.
Evolutionists certainly feel that their theory is facing the same kind of resistance from religiously-minded folks that Galileo faced years ago. Some evolutionists believe that if religious people would only look at the evidence, they would realize that Darwin’s ideas are true. Then believers would join the ranks of those who declare with joy that our ancestors were knuckle-dragging hominids. This is a reasonable claim. Many rational and religious individuals have hopped on the evolutionary bandwagon after considering the evidence for evolution.
Are the rest of us who continue to reject evolution like the 17th century Italians who would not accept Galileo’s evidence? Are we like the Pisa philosopher who would not look through the telescope for fear of what he might find? Perhaps some of us are apprehensive about taking a close look at evolution’s evidence for fear of finding compelling evidence that contradicts our cherished religious beliefs.
In reality there is nothing compelling to be found. To make this point, let’s take a brief look at recent evolutionary science. Let’s peer through “Darwin’s telescope,” so to speak, and examine the evidence. A review of the facts will show that the current body of evidence does not lead to the inevitable conclusion that evolution is true, despite the fact that many have accepted it as such.
To begin with, evolutionists typically point to the fossil record in the geological strata (ancient layers of dirt) as some of their best evidence. Researchers repeatedly locate simpler species in older, lower sedimentary layers and more complex species in newer, higher layers. This fossilization pattern seems to suggest that simpler species came before more complex species as evolution supposes. This observation is often cited as demonstrating change across life forms over time.
While convincing to some, it is important to note that this pattern of fossilization is not direct evidence of evolution. No one saw creatures evolve from one form into another before becoming fossilized in layers of sediment. No one was alive when our supposed fish ancestor(s) developed lungs, ventured onto land, and became an amphibian before being fossilized.
Concluding from fossilization patterns that one life form evolved into another over millions of years is what philosophers of science call an inference to the best explanation. An inference to the best explanation, or abduction as it is sometimes called, infers past events from facts or clues that were left behind. Because past events were not viewed and are no longer observable, we cannot be certain about the exact nature of the events that left the evidence. This explains why Darwin’s description about what happened in the past is a probable, not a certain explanation. No one can be certain that the pattern of fossilization in the geological record resulted from evolution.
If the simple-to-complex pattern was not created by evolution, then how did it come about? There are other explanations for the fossil record. One alternative explanation is that the Flood caused much of the fossilized layering. Another is that the layering is the result of a sequence of increasingly complex preparatory species being brought to the earth by the Lord during the creation periods, an explanation addressed in the final chapter. Nevertheless, until the Savior returns and reveals secrets in the earth (D&C 101:33), we may be left to guess about how the fossilization pattern came into existence.
Another oft-mentioned proof of evolution is biological similarity between species. Different species resemble each other anatomically (e.g., two eyes, two forward limbs, one head, one heart). Species also appear to follow similar phases of embryonic development in the early stages of life. There are also genetic similarities between species (e.g., humans and apes are about 96% genetically similar), including shared genetic anomalies (i.e., mutations) and so called “junk” DNA (i.e., DNA for which there is no known purpose). According to evolution, humans are anatomically similar to other species because we came from the same ancestor.
In reality biological similarities exist because all life was created by the same Designer who apparently saw no need to reinvent anatomical structures each time a new species was created. The idea of common design is not entertained by science because it assumes intelligent creation, a notion expelled from science long ago.
People who vigorously oppose intelligent creation are keen to point out that if our bodies had been created by an omnipotent Deity, they would have no imperfections. If there is an all-powerful Creator, as the believers suppose, then surely He would have used His wisdom and power to design a more perfect body. But our bodies are not perfect. We are subject to diseases, maladies, and aging.
Supposedly we also have vestigial (useless) structures and “junk” (useless) DNA. A classic example of a vestigial structure is the tail bone. The tail bone seemingly serves no purpose to humans. Why would an intelligent being outfit us with vestigial structures? Evolutionists have an explanation for the tail bone: it is a structure left over from when our animal ancestors used tails to swing through trees.
Such criticisms of divine creation stem from ignorance about God’s purposes. The existence of seemingly unnecessary DNA and so-called vestigial structures is the result of mankind’s limited understanding of the Lord’s purposes, not the result of evolution. Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. We need not assume that God would create things in a manner consistent with mankind’s expectations. Neither should we assume to fully understand the manner and purposes of His creation. Moreover, saying that our bodies would be better built if we were created by Deity also reflects a lack of understanding about the Plan of Salvation. We were placed on an imperfect world with imperfect bodies so that we can grow and prove ourselves worthy of exaltation amid the toils of mortal life. The perfect bodies that evolutionists suppose we should have if we were created by an omnipotent being will eventually come, after the resurrection.
Best Evidence for Evolution
If the fossil record and anatomical similarities do not qualify as direct evidence for evolution, then what does? Direct evidence would be studies showing significant change through real or manmade evolutionary forces. Such evidence is the holy grail of evolutionary research. Researchers know this, which is why they’ve carried out several studies in an attempt to show that evolution can produce morphological change.
Evolutionists point to studies showing speciation as direct evidence for their theory. It is important to note that their working definition of speciation is usually the creation of a reproductively isolated population. Reproductive isolation refers to not being able to reproduce with other, similar creatures.
An example of reproductive isolation is the Californian salamander. Long ago a species of salamander in northern California split into two groups as it followed two southern migratory routes, one east of Central Valley and the other west of the Central Valley. The region west of the valley is coastal while the region east of the valley is forested. Different environmental pressures on both sides of the valley led to the evolution of different species of salamanders. Where the migratory paths of the two species merge at the south end of the valley, the two species do not interbreed successfully.
Is speciation in salamanders evidence of evolution? Yes, of the microevolutionary sort where changes occur within similar life forms. However, speciation resulting in reproductive isolation hardly qualifies as direct evidence for macroevolutionary change. No matter how often we come across different species of salamanders that do not successfully reproduce, the creatures are still salamanders. Compelling direct evidence for macroevolutionary change would be research showing one life form changing into a different life form. I call this the holy grail of evolutionary research. This research has been attempted.
In 2013, Casey Luskin, research coordinator for the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington, thoroughly reviewed several research articles purported to provide some of the best evidence for macroevolutionary change. The papers he reviewed were cited on a pro-evolution website called TalkOrigins. Luskin’s findings are revealing.
According to Luskin, only a small number of the studies showed minimal evidence of speciation in the sense of reproductive isolation. More importantly, not one study produced significant morphological change, the kind expected if evolution were real. When anatomical change was observed, it was very limited. For instance, in one study where artificially-induced reproduction pressures increased the number of hairs on the backs of fruit flies, no major anatomical changes were observed. The fruit fly was still a fruit fly. An increase in the number of hairs on the back of a fruit fly no more comprises a new life form than new hair growth on the back of a middle-aged man comprises a new life form, unless, of course, he is also going through a midlife crisis ;)
Luskin also reviewed studies on bacteria. Bacterial studies are especially interesting because they enable researchers to observe numerous generations over a relatively small period of time, thus increasing the chances of identifying morphological change. In one study survival pressures were artificially placed on a population of bacterium through the introduction of a ciliate predator. Because larger size increased the chances of survival in the presence of the predator, larger bacteria were more likely to survive and replicate than smaller bacteria. The end result was a population of larger bacteria. However, the bacteria were still bacteria. Repeated failures to produce significant morphological change in bacterial studies led one prominent British bacteriologist to declare: “Throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another.”
In all the studies that Luskin reviewed not one showed “significant morphological change.” The absence of direct evidence demonstrating change from one life form into another remains just as much a challenge today as it has in the past. Indeed “we are in a situation today similar to that experienced by Darwin more than a century ago [wherein] differentiation of species is inferred from copious indirect evidence, but has not actually been observed.”
Despite repeated attempts to replicate macroevolutionary processes, researchers have not demonstrated change across life forms. This means that it is perfectly reasonable to reject evolution as an explanation for the origins of species. Latter-day Saints need not feel “unscientific” for rejecting the idea that our ancestors were cave-dwelling hominids. A species has never been shown to evolve into a different life form as evolution supposes.
We’ve looked through “Darwin’s telescope” and found the evidence lacking. There are no studies that seriously challenge the traditional gospel understanding of the Creation.
 Commentary, Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, eds. Martin Curd and J.A. Cover (New York: Norton & Company, 1998), 1236–1237.
 Casey Luskin, Specious Speciation: The Myth of Observed Large-Scale Evolutionary Change: A Response to TalkOrigins’ Observed Instances of Speciation FAQ (2012), accessed 10/30/2014, http://www.discovery.org/f/8411
 Alan Linton, “Scant Search for the Maker,” Times Higher Education Supplement, April 20, 2001, 29.
 Luskin, Specious Speciation, p. 37.
 Theodosius Dobzhansky, and Olga Pavlovsky, “Experimentally Created Incipient Species of Drosophilia,” Nature, 230 (1971), 289–292.